Walnut Farm Montessori School in Bentonville, Arkansas, is the first and only Montessori school in the state accredited by the American Montessori Society. Working with toddlers and elementary-aged children, Walnut Farm Montessori offers a mixed-age environment that emphasizes discovery, social sensibility, reasoning and imagination.
Established in 1991, the Walnut Farm Montessori School provides students with a full Montessori Curriculum as well as enrichment programs in music, art and Spanish. With the mindset that learning is an experience, the Montessori philosophy adheres to the belief that education is a natural, interactive process between children and their environment.
[caption id="attachment_4680" align="aligncenter" width="563"] “Children need nature for healthy development of their senses, and, therefore, for learning and creativity.” Richard Louv, author of “The Last Child in the Woods.”[/caption]
Q & A with Amy Davis
Accreditation Specialist at Walnut Farm Montessori
First of all can you explain more about the Montessori philosophy?
The Montessori philosophy acknowledges that every child is unique and is naturally driven to learn and grow. Simply stated, “Follow the Child.” The process instills an intrinsic drive to do meaningful work and a love of learning. At the core of Montessori philosophy is a respect for self, the physical environment and others.
How would you explain the benefits of this education style to a new parent?
There are thousands of benefits to the Montessori method, so I would like to focus on the benefits of hand to brain development. Simply put, if you want your child to learn about geometry do you want the child to draw a square or have a weighed cube in her hand?
When students hold Montessori materials in their hands there is a direct imprint on the brain. These materials are designed to spark the interest of the child in any given area of the curriculum. They are also designed in a way that leads to meaningful, purposeful work, without the traditional “teacher” telling a child what they should or should not be working on. This “follow the child” format leads to an intrinsic drive to learn that is unmatched in other education methods. Do you want your child to work out math problems because they seek the answer or because they get a smiley face or sticker on their worksheet?
Could you illustrate the average classroom experience at Walnut Farm?
One of the important elements of an authentic Montessori experience is the uninterrupted three-hour work cycle. A child may come into the prepared environment, greet friends and the Montessori guide then choose purposeful work. For example, a five-year-old may use materials to work on dynamic division for the entire work cycle, or a younger child may work on a variety of materials in the curriculum. Practical life, sensorial and basic language work would be visible at all times in the beehive community of the classroom. Children have many opportunities to have a snack, assist younger children with beginning lessons, and even spend time in our outdoor classroom for gross motor skills. All of these wonderful tasks can be viewed or, for the child, experienced during a classroom work cycle.
How do teachers manage the different needs of each learner?
The Montessori guide is specifically trained in the skill of observation. All children have their own set of interest. By observing the child in the prepared environment of the Montessori classroom the guide is able to spark the learning process through each child’s shown interest.
What is so special about the discovery process and how does it relate to Montessori?
Montessori emphasized learning through all senses. Children in a Montessori setting learn at their own pace, and are carefully guided through their own choices. This can lead to an exciting discovery process, which in turn leads to a strong intrinsic drive to learn. This drive to learn supports and builds on a high level of concentration at a very young age.
Lastly, can you tell us about the outdoor classroom and the natural playground at Walnut Farm Montessori? How does this type of environment contribute to higher learning?
The outdoor environment at Walnut Farm is an incredible, unique experience for our community. Our campus is made up of over eight acres of natural, wooded area. We have an outdoor classroom that is a one-of a-kind for a school in our area. Students may work in our outdoor classroom as part of their routine work cycle. What a joy to have the opportunity to problem solve while sitting under a tree! If the need is large movement, or high concentration, it can be found and witnessed in Walnut Farm’s outdoor classroom.
The Walnut Farm playground is also a unique asset for our student body. We have a natural setting with boulders, wooden decks and an oversized sand pit. The playground even has theatre type setting for community gatherings.
Limited spots for full and half-day enrollment are currently available in the Walnut Farm Montessori toddler program. Interested parents are encouraged to take a tour of the school. To learn more about Walnut Farm, visit http://www.walnutfarmmontessori.com/.
Amy Mills, VP and Executive Broker at Steve Fineberg & Associates, is Vice President of the board of trustees at the Walnut Farm Montessori School. Learn more about Amy Mills and the rest of Steve Fineberg & Associates team by visiting the Our Team Page.