Montessori school brings hands-on learning to preschoolers - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

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Montessori school brings hands-on learning to preschoolers

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Posted: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 8:00 am

A new preschool is aiming to bring the Montessori method to Ahwatukee Foothills’ youngest students.

Inspire Kids Montessori opened in June to bring hands-on Montessori-style learning to kids ages 3 to 6. Owner Diana Darmawaskita first became involved in Montessori education about 10 years ago, a couple of years after her oldest daughter was born. She had come from a completely different path – civil engineering – but becoming a mother sparked an interest in early childhood development.

After completing research on different methods of teaching, she concluded the Montessori method was what she wanted to pursue.

One of the biggest appeals to this method was a student-driven environment. Teachers work with students based on their strengths and the topics they are interested in and tend to thrive in.

“In traditional education, students have to sit and the teachers teach, whether they like it or are ready,” Darmawaskita said. “In Montessori, the teacher has to observe first.” Of course, students still have to learn every subject. So if a student isn’t drawn to a particular subject – math, for instance – the teachers will incorporate that subject with something the student is drawn to in order to draw the student’s attention, Darmawaskita said.

For instance, if a child is interested in cars, a beginning math lesson could involve counting cars, she said.

Education also becomes about teaching kids things like fine motor skills, empathy and refining all of their senses, Darmawaskita said.

That’s an approach parent Jennifer Schmidt likes. Schmidt is a Montessori teacher herself, having taught at different schools for several years before taking four years off to spend time at home with her kids, Landon, 3, and Kate, 2.

Schmidt and her husband toured several schools before deciding on Inspire Kids Montessori.

Schmidt said the new, clean environment and staff’s work and qualifications were two of their biggest factors for choosing the school for their kids – and for Schmidt herself, who will be on the staff.

“I love the staff, I love the way the staff interacts with my kids,” she said. “(Early education) is an investment you don’t get to do over. If they don’t have an exceptional first experience, that will follow them their whole school career.” Darmawaskita said, being able to offer that new environment with big, open classrooms and teachers who are all certified in the Montessori method is part of her vision for the center.

And that vision, in turn, was a big factor for opening the school. Darmawaskita has worked in other Montessori, but this is her first time as an owner.

“My children are older now, so I can dedicate more time to the business,” Darmawaskita said. Plus, the economy is helping lower start-up costs.

Darmawaskita’s target is younger kids. She has classes planned for 2- to 3-year-olds and 3- to 6-year-olds. She’ll have an initial summer program next month, then half-day programs for the school year.

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