Providing access to a quality, early childhood educational program. That is the goal of one small school located in St. Louis.
In addition to high quality and fidelity, the school seeks to bring a program that is affordable to many families, and one that has a proven track record of educational success – a Montessori education.
“It’s all about access,” said Kimberly Kendle Roberson, head of school and teacher for the primary program. “Our goal is to bring Montessori to as many families that we can who traditionally have been unable to access it for various reasons.”
As the new school year gets underway, Baden Montessori is making final preparations for welcoming its first class of students, ages 2 ½ to 6. The school is a nonprofit organization located in the Baden neighborhood. Applications are still being accepted.
“We plan to have a rolling-admissions policy until we meet full capacity, which will be no more than 10 students this year,” Roberson said. “This small cohort of students was intentional, even before the pandemic, as we wanted to ensure quality over quantity, in a warm, welcoming environment designed around the needs of the child.”
In the United States, Montessori is experiencing growth. Today, there are about 4,500 Montessori schools, according to the North American Montessori Teachers’ Association. The Montessori Method, as it is often referred to, was founded and developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907.
“We now have studies that show Montessori levels the playing field for low-income students and students of color in closing the opportunity/achievement gap,” Roberson said. “To get there, families have to have a way to access that education.”
To do that, tuition will be based on a sliding scale, with no tuition charged for families at or below the poverty level. To help subsidize the cost, tuition will be paid via state subsidy for those who qualify, along with funds raised from public and private donations, Roberson said.
But what exactly is Montessori?
“I get asked that question a lot,” Roberson said. “Basically, a Montessori education involves having scientifically made materials in a prepared classroom environment that is specifically designed to satisfy the developmental needs of the child. Because the materials are designed for them, children are able to explore and learn independently, as well as in groups.”
In a fully implemented Montessori program, children learn within their appropriate mixed-age groups: 3-6; 6-9; 9-12, adolescent, or middle school, and high school. The teachers are called guides, as they are guiding the children towards their own academic growth and independence, Roberson added.
“The lessons start out in a very concrete manner that develops the child’s senses during what Maria Montessori called the ‘sensitive periods’,” Roberson said. “Gradually, those lessons evolve into more abstract concepts, and those concepts get reintroduced in broader and deeper forms as the child moves from primary to elementary to adolescent ages, if they continue Montessori into elementary and middle or high school.”
With the school currently poised to open within the next month, Baden faces the extra hurdle of finishing preparations in the midst of a pandemic. A part of this challenge involves extra thought being given in how to create a safe learning environment and monitor the well-being of students and families.
“I plan to check in with not only the students, but also their families about their health and general wellbeing. The school will be a safe space for students and a resource for families,” Roberson said.
Health and hygiene will be emphasized in the classroom. Roberson said she also plans to provide interactive lessons on hygiene, information on Covid-19 that is easy for kids to understand, and immune system-boosting healthy snacks.
In general, there is a serious lack of funding for quality early childhood education in the United States, and the pandemic has highlighted this problem even more so, Roberson said.
“Most states, Missouri included, do not provide enough funding for early childhood education, even though studies show that the investment pays for itself,” Roberson said. “This lack of funding prevents many families, particularly families of the global majority and those with low incomes, from accessing any early childhood education program.
“And now with the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for all families to have safe, affordable access to high quality, early childhood education in the communities where they live and work,” Roberson said. “Our school’s mission seeks to change that by making Montessori financially feasible, while giving parents a peace of mind as they continue to work outside the home or as they return to working in person. We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to make our world better than we found it. A Montessori education helps achieve that.”
For more information, contact Kim Roberson, head of school, at 314-266-8176.