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Sierra Leone News: Montessori preschool will open in September

Montessori preschool

Montessori preschool

A new Montessori preschool will open near the Freetown Secondary School for Girls in September. The American Montessori Leadership Academy will serve children aged 3 to 6 using an alternative educational curriculum based on the worldwide Montessori method.
Montessori schools were first developed by Italian doctor and educator Maria Montessori in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the Montessori model of education, children spend time learning through play and direct experience.
“The whole concept is to work with every child as they are and help them to progress,” said Joyce Brown, founder of the East Fort Worth Montessori Academy in Texas, who is working to establish the Montessori school in Freetown.
Children at the preschool will spend their time in one of two classrooms, which have no textbooks or blackboard, but are divided into different areas. These include practical life skills, sensory development, math, language and culture, and each is filled with colorful toys, objects and exercises for children to play with. There are plans to create an area for outdoor learning, where children can learn to grow plants and cook with them.
Montessori schools are about more than just learning facts and information, Brown said. The goal is to teach children to have an enquiring mindset.
“Being in a Montessori classroom, the children develop a love for learning,” Brown said. “We begin to teach the children what they have a love for, what they’re interested in, and to seek that knowledge. So we work with each child one on one.”
It’s also about helping children discover that they’re passionate about and tailor teaching to this. Brown, who has taught for 25 years, remembered how she helped develop this in some of her students. One young student was obsessed with cooking, so Brown taught her using cooking as a basis. Now this student is a chef in New York, Brown said.
According to Brown, there’s a need for Montessori schools in Sierra Leone, because children need to start school ready to learn, and most children in Sierra Leone start at age 6 or 7.
“Unfortunately for some of those children, that’s the first time they are being exposed to formal education,” she said. “We believe, and research has shown, that the optimum for learning is the early years, between birth through age six.”
Gladys Pratt, a retired school principle, will serve as head teacher of the school.
“The kids are going to learn to do things by themselves, have their own initiative  they’re not going to be spoon fed,” Pratt said. “They will learn as they grow.”
The school will be open to boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 6, of any nationality or faith.
Tuition for the program is 1 million Leones per academic term, of which there are three each year, plus a registration fee of 1 million Leones. Parents are also expected to pay for uniforms. Since the goal of the Montessori schools is to serve all children, Brown said, the Academy is working on raising money for scholarships for low income children. Any parents who are interested will be given a tour, and they will find a way to let their children attend.
“It is a misconception that people think that Montessori is only for the rich — it’s not,” Brown said. Of the two Montessori schools she heads in Texas, she said, about 65 percent of students are from low income families.
“We want to make sure that we serve all the children whose parents are interested.”
Sierra Leone’s first Montessori school will pave the way for much more Montessori education in the country. There are plans to bring Montessori schools to the provinces. And though the new school is only for children between 3 and 6, they hope to set up schools for the next stages, ages 6 through 9 and 9 through 12. They also hope to create a program for infants in the future.
By Chetanya Robinson
Thursday August 11, 2016

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