Montessori in Moscow

MT
In an open, shelf-lined classroom, a preschooler builds a tall, complex tower out of different-sized wooden blocks, matching her work to a picture in an instruction manual. At a table, a 6-year-old boy gently traces a 5-year-old boy's finger over a sandpaper letter "B."

In another classroom, using a different methodology, about 10 pupils sit on two benches facing a teacher. The children shout out the names of the colors on cards the teacher holds up. A string of alphabet letters hangs along one wall, haphazardly obscured after the letter "P" by a whiteboard in the corner.

The first classroom uses the Montessori method, while the second is a traditional British nursery school.

"When you ask a child in the British class to tell you who teaches them to count, they will tell you Ms. Sandra. When you ask a Montessori student to tell you who teaches them to count, they shake their heads, confused, and will answer you, 'I taught myself how to count,'" said Natalya Galayeva, the director of the Montessori Studio school, which teaches both methods, near the Barrikadnaya metro station.

Italian educator Dr. Maria Montessori founded her first school 101 years ago in January. "Education is not something the teacher does. It is a natural process, which develops spontaneously in the human being," was one of her maxims.

Following the belief that the human individual is a natural learner, Montessori classrooms are set up accordingly.

Instead of rows of desks and lots of rules that hamper a child's natural movement and exploration, a classroom usually has an open plan and shelves filled with activities.

Preschool and kindergarten classrooms are generally divided into practical life, sensory, geography and language areas but can also include mathematics and biology areas. All of the furniture is child-sized. It is a microcosm of the natural world for the child to explore.

In the language section, for example, large wooden tiles with sandpaper letters on them help a child learn the alphabet not by rote as in a regular school, but through the combined senses of touch and sight.

The practical-life section has a tower of frames that allow a small child to practice zips, buttons and snaps. A large conch shell is set up in a wash basin, teaching a child the process of washing things.

It may sound simple, but the results are there and easily seen.

At the Schastlivy Rebyonok Montessori club in the southeast of Moscow, 2-year-old Asya Olevleva washed a plate in a child-sized sink. She reached for a bunch of butter knives next.

Her mother did not even flinch.

"She's already asking to wash dishes at home, I suppose?" Yekaterina Seleznyova, the deputy director of the club, asked Asya's mother, Olga.

"Oh, she's already been doing that for a long time," Olga laughed.

From these activities children gain confidence and develop organizational, logical and motor skills and master their environment.

"Children begin speaking earlier. Everything is earlier. We get great results," Seleznyova said.


Montessori studio
During this year's Halloween party, children from Montessori Studio wore their national costumes, representing more than a dozen countries including Russia.
After working with three children the Italian government had deemed "defective" and having them score above average on state tests in the early 1900s, Montessori set up the Casa dei Bambini in 1907 in a slum on the outskirts of Rome.

Montessori schools can now be found on six continents.

Although Galayeva, the director of the Montessori Studio, said the results in the long run were the same from Montessori as from a traditional education, her analysis may be too modest.

According to an empirical study carried out by U.S. researchers and published in the journal Science in September 2006, "Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools."

By the end of kindergarten, the report reads, Montessori children "performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in more positive interaction on the playground and showed more advanced social cognition and executive control. They also showed more concern for fairness and justice."

The researchers noted that by the age of 12, "Montessori children wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school."

Currently there are four or five government-certified Montessori schools in Moscow, said Larisa Klimanova, the Moscow representative of the Association of Montessori Teachers of Russia. A Montessori education is only available in Moscow up to age 6, but Klimanova said there were plans for a Montessori school up to the 12th grade.

Schooling in Moscow varies according to age and location, but the average cost for a full day of classes five days a week ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 rubles a month.

Contacts



The Association of Montessori Teachers of Russia can provide a list of Montessori schools, with and without certified teachers, 778-1632, montessori@yandex.ru, www.montessori.ru.

Schools with certified teachers include:

Montessori Studio, 108-2088, 786-6711, monstudio@mail.ru, www.monstudio.ru.

Schastlivy Rebyonok Montessori Center and club, 133-4506, montessori@magichild.ru, www.montessori.magichild.ru.

Shkola Malenkikh Volshebnikov, www.newchild.ru.

Sozvezdiye, www.center-sozvezdie.ru.

Yelisa School: 581-9463.

For more information on a Montessori education:

www.montessori-ami.org

www.montessori.edu

www.montessori-namta.org

www.amshq.org