Kindergarteners tackle STEM at Inspire Kids Montessori

Inspire Kids Montessori kindergarten students who are learning some basic STEM principles include, from left, Caitlin Zhu, Mila Sproul, Devin Keshishi, Jacob Rodriguez and Brian Li. (Special to AFN)

Move over ABCs and “Jack and Jill.” Here comes motion, friction and cause and effect.

At least that’s what students at Inspire Kids Montessori at 4025 E. Chandler Blvd., Ahwatukee, are learning – along with those subjects normally associated with classrooms of kindergarten children.

The school’s kindergarten class is exploring math and physics by observing the speed of toy cars on various surfaces as part of a creative Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) project.

“For their end-of-year project, our kindergarten class will be observing how the speed of an object — in this case toy cars on special ramps — correlates to the use of different surface textures and ramp heights. They will also learn how to measure the results,” explained Diana Darmawaskita, who founded Inspire Kids in 2010 after a successful career as an engineer.

The school offers programs for children 6 weeks through 6 years of age that incorporate STEM principles into a curriculum based on the teachings of Italian educator Maria Montessori.

According to Darmawaskita, students will present their findings to parents and classmates in May to introduce the kids to public speaking.

“These projects truly engage students and help them develop critical thinking skills. It teaches them, from an early age, that math and science can be fun,” Darmawaskita said.

Past end-of-year projects have included “The Layers of the Ocean,” “Catapults,” among other STEM topics.

Such topics just aren’t for kindergarten students either.

Toddlers in the IKM Primary Program have studied the impact of pollution through hands-on activities involving water and objects resembling debris. Students in their infant program are introduced to the study of nature by touching and observing soil and plants and through other activities.

In addition to a core Montessori curriculum with an emphasis on reading, writing and math, the preschool incorporates music and movement, the exploration of other countries and cultures, gardening and other subjects into their programs.

Students are also introduced to fine art. As one example, the children learned to paint upside down using special desks and materials to teach students how the artist Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel.

Practical life skills are another staple of Montessori early education taught at the preschool.

“Students are shown how to care for themselves and the environment,” Darmawaskita said. “They learn to cook, clean, and how to greet other children and adults. These are important skills they will use all their lives and it teaches them to be respectful of others.”

For its innovative approach to education, Inspire Kids Montessori was recently nationally accredited by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation Commission, placing it in the top 10 percent of schools nationwide.

The school offers early childhood education programs for infants (six weeks to 18 months of age), toddlers (15 months to 3.5 years of age) and primary-level children (3 – 6 years of age).

The campus also offers open classrooms designed for collaborative learning, enhanced security measures, back-to-nature playgrounds for different age groups and school gardens which the students tend.

Information: 480-659-9402, or

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