By Ali Schratt
The Growing Concern School is a Montessori preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school located in Tannersville, Pennsylvania. Although a private school, this non-profit organization is licensed by the PA Department of Education. They have been using the Montessori method of educating children from preschool through elementary for more than 40 years. The Montessori philosophy is simple; Dr. Maria Montessori believed that no human being can be educated by another person. The student must educate himself. Montessori believed truly educated individuals continue learning long after the hours and years spent in the classroom, because they are motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr. Montessori felt the goal of early childhood education should not be to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate her own natural desire to learn.
In the Montessori classroom this objective is approached in two ways: first, by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by his or her own choice rather than by being forced; and second, by helping each child perfect their natural tools for learning, so that his or her ability will be at a maximum in future learning situations. The Montessori materials serve this dual long-range purpose in addition to their immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child. There are two classrooms at Growing Concern: three to six years and first through sixth grades. The younger kids work a predominantly activity-based schedule while the older children begin to work in group lessons. Montessori discovered putting older and younger ages together helped them learn from and teach one another. The older kids help and teach the younger kids which builds their confidence and the younger children, in turn, have role models to look to for guidance and reassurance. Another major difference of Montessori is there are no grades. The belief is that grades focus too strictly on results and become a point of stress, which distracts the child from his or her natural joy of learning.
On observation of the classrooms, I couldn’t help but notice the calm focus of the children. Without being told, they push their chairs in, put their supplies away and are respectful of each other and of their teachers. They move around the classroom working on their daily projects under their own direction. When a child has a question or is stuck on solving a problem, the teachers will guide them or ‘coach’ them through the issue. Each child works at hiw own pace. “Through the various hands-on learning activities and group lessons, the children start to see things at a concrete level,” explained Suzie, the first through sixth grade teacher. She continued, “It’s visual learning so they see the whole picture. They understand bigger concepts as they go deeper into their projects. The children take ownership in their learning and their self-confidence soars.” There are three elementary teachers: Sharon Potter, Nancy Holtzman and Suzie Silva. The Pre K teacher is Raheela Chaudry and there are currently three aides in the room. Some of the educator and administrators have been with the school for over 30 years.
The Growing Concern School serves the Pocono Mountain Region of Northeast Pennsylvania including Monroe County, Pike County, Carbon County, and Northampton County. The school is also a short drive from the Lehigh Valley and western New Jersey. Elementary and kindergarten students living in some areas of Northeastern PA are eligible for transportation from their school district. The Pocono Mountain, Stroudsburg, East Stroudsburg, and Pleasant Valley School Districts currently provide transportation.
To learn more about The Growing Concern, visit them at
www.GrowingConcern.org. To schedule a time to observe the classroom, phone 570.629.2754. Follow them on Facebook
@growingconcern to stay up-to-date on their activities.