Mountain Village Charter School Educational Mission:
The Mountain Village Charter School is an educational community engaging the child through a nature-based, Montessori approach. The curriculum inspires abstract thinking by exploring creative thought and critical reasoning. The approach places equal emphasis on rigorous academics, artistic expression, social development and community service.
In the early 1900s, Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female medical doctor in Italy, developed a comprehensive and world renowned system of education [from birth to adulthood] that uses careful observation of a child’s needs and development as a way to assess and offer him/her developmentally appropriate curriculum and instruction.
Montessori education is characterized by:
• A child-centered, individualized and hands-on curriculum;
• The classroom as a “prepared environment” which encourages independence, freedom within limits and a sense of order.
• Specially designed, hands-on materials that enable students to self-correct as they learn.
• Multi-age groupings/classrooms that foster peer learning and concept mastery.
In this educational environment, children are allowed to develop at their own, natural pace and specially trained teachers help guide them toward discovery with materials designed to cultivate concentration, motivation, self discipline and a love of learning.
Today, the Montessori method is used worldwide in both public and private settings, educating children from birth through high school. There are over 4, 000 Montessori schools in the United States, just over 200 of them are public.
Here is a short video showing many of the unique aspects of a Montessori classroom:
Nature-based education uses a hands-on approach to experiencing the natural world. Nature-based education is learning about nature, and also learning through nature. Through active work and learning play in natural environments, children learn about themselves, their peers, and the world in which they live.
Many influential philosophers of education have placed experiential learning by and through nature at the heart of their arguments. These philosophers include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Johann Pestalozzi, John Dewey and Kurt Hahn. In addition, Maria Montessori herself advocated for elements of a nature-based approach.
Education research in the last few decades supports these philosophical arguments for a nature-based approach, especially for children aged 412. Working and playing in natural environments is a universally preferred activity for all children across cultures. It increases a child’s motor skills, collaboration and creativity. These same children have greater ability to concentrate, act autonomously and resist life stresses. They also show a greater tendency toward empathetic and compassionate interactions with their peers and other adults. And
as they mature, these children are more likely to develop caring attitudes toward the environment, and more likely to develop positive environmental life habits.
Nature-based education changes the way that children approach learning. It energizes students to learn in all subject areas, and it empowers them to become active explorers of their own world.
Below is the trailer from a recent movie called “Mother Nature’s Child” with examples of nature-based education.
The Goal of Integrating these Approaches:
Nature experiences reduce many barriers to learning, including stress and attention deficit, which encouraging the full use of the senses. A cornerstone of the Montessori philosophy is its focus on sensorial education, making the combination of these approaches supreme. This integrated approach to learning emphasizes the child’s relationship to the natural world thereby promoting respect for the environment, the self and our global community.
Mountain Village Charter School will open in late August 2014 with two, mixed-age class of 24-28, 1st – 3rd graders. In the first year, we will offer spaces across all three grade levels. Fall 2015, we will add one upper elementary classroom for our 4th graders. We will continue to grown one grade level per year, maintaining the multi-age classrooms and eventually becoming a fully inclusive K-8 school.
In our subsequent years, we will grow approximately 150 K-8 students.
As a state-authorized public charter school, Mountain Village Charter School is tuition-free and open to all NH residents. Should the number of potential students exceed availability, a blind lottery will be conducted to determine which of the students would be invited to enroll.
Our Students: Drawn Together from Many Corners:
The Mountain Village Charter School aims to be a welcoming community with a diverse student body. To be successful, we recognize the need to begin as a modest sized school as we will be mixing learning styles, experience, economic status, race and ethnicity — differences that often divide communities. We will have to grow responsibly, making certain to provide sufficient resources to our students, their families and the School’s faculty and staff.
With no public Montessori or Nature-based schools in our area, only a small percentage of New Hampshire families have the resources necessary to send their children to private Montessori or Nature-based programs. We see the Mountain Village Charter School as an option for all families interested in a Nature-based, Montessori education.
Shape and Size of Our Classrooms:
As stated earlier, the Montessori classroom is a mixed-age classroom. Over time, the goal is that each classroom will become a community of learners, and that students remain together (as much as possible) with the same teachers and classmates as they progress through each 3-year block (grades 1-3 and grades 4-6). Once we are past our first few years, this goal will be achievable at Mountain Village Charter School.
To build successful Montessori teaching environments, we will aim to have twenty eight students in each lower and upper elementary classroom. Each classroom will have one Lead Teacher and one Assistant. This class size plan will provide teachers with opportunities to provide individualized attention to their students and to observe each child, each day. It will also enable small-group work, as well as full-group work and projects.
A great article on the student to teacher ratio can be found here.
We will administer the same tests that the other public schools in NH take. We believe that our program will help children prepare for these tests without “teaching to the test”. We will have practical skills on how to read the tests, but otherwise we will make sure the information is in our scope and sequence that is aligned with the NH Common Core.
Students will be evaluated by their progress on the scope and sequence. We will provide three progress reports per year and have two formal parent – teacher conferences. We expect open communication within our community; however, formal conferences make sure that nothing is missed.
Creating 21 Century Thinkers:
The primary goal of the Mountain Village Charter School is to help each child reach
his/her full potential so that they become independent, lifelong learners who take responsibility for themselves, for their classmates and for their surrounding environment. During their educational journey, students will lay the foundation to become 21st century thinkers with higher order critical thinking, analytical and collaborative learning skills. On this path of self improvement and self discovery, they learn that they are not alone and that encouraging, supporting and working together with other learners not only leads to success for themselves, but for their classmates and their society as well. As they grow to understand their connection to, and responsibility for, their world, their appreciation for the gifts others have to offer is increased.
Our students experience learning as something to be loved and cherished, something that is beautiful, and something they are doing for themselves.
We believe in appropriate use of technology in the classroom, and that computers should not replace tangible, concrete learning experiences. The state requires 3rd grade testing take place on computers. We intend to have the computer access to allow our students to meet these competencies, and where appropriate to complete their lessons.
Our nature-based pedagogy embraces the natural world in the out of doors. Our students will spend a significant amount of time outside in all seasons – at least one hour a day, often much more. We view the outside as our classroom, too.
Our main rule is “Respect yourself, others, and the environment.” We use a query approach to help students develop self discipline; i.e. “Is that being respectful of yourself, your friends, or the environment?”
We use natural and logical consequences. An example of natural consequence is going outside when it is cold without a coat – you will feel cold. A logical consequence is something that is directly related to the situation. If a student is interrupting the class by running around, the child will be asked to run around outside until that child is ready to settle back into their lessons.
We try use redirection first and then separation from the situation. In other words, the teacher tries to observe when a situation looks like it might get out of hand and invite a child for a lesson distraction. If the situation does go farther, than the teach will separate the child from the situation, much like the example above.
We always attempt to tell the child what is expected of them, instead of what we don’t want them to do. For instance, “Please, walk.” instead of “Don’t run.”
We will seek educators who will serve as leaders, guides and role models, and who will challenge our children to challenge themselves.
Our Lead Teachers will preferably hold, at minimum, 4-year liberal arts degrees and will have or be willing to pursue Montessori training. They must understand and believe in nature-based and Montessori philosophy and materials and be familiar with individualized observation and record keeping. They must also be able to adapt Montessori methods and curriculum to the New Hampshire Core Curriculum and vice versa. Mountain Village Charter School teachers will be inquisitive, reflective, creative problem solvers, and committed to the school’s mission.
Our Assistant Teachers must demonstrate their ability to embrace Montessori and nature-based approaches and will be expected to fully support the Mountain Village Charter School Mission.
As per New Hampshire’s charter school statute, RSA 194B:14. IV, a minimum of 50% of our Lead Teachers will hold New Hampshire teaching certificates or have at least three years of teaching experience.
The Mountain Village Charter School will follow a 180-day school year, following the calendar of our host district, Plymouth.
Our school day is 8:15am – 2:45pm. Our morning grace period begins at 7:45am.
Students picked up after 3pm will need to be enrolled in after-care.
Our school will be open from 7 am to 5 pm. We will offer a fee based before and after school care program. We will also offer after school enrichment courses which students may take one afternoon a week. These courses will be developed based on student and teacher interest.
We will offer 8 one week summer camp sessions starting in the summer of 2015.