Preschool lowers age threshold
After more than 30 years in business, Courtyard Montessori Preschool is changing its model from accepting children when they are close to three years of age, to now accepting two year olds with a brand new, purpose built classroom designed specifically to suit both the educational and caretaking requirements of the younger age group.
The team at Courtyard Montessori Preschool is excited about rising to the new challenge of catering to a different level of learning, and also to appealing to a greater market of families.
“For a while now we’ve had families showing an interest in coming to Courtyard Montessori, but because their child wasn’t old enough or wasn’t toilet trained, they’ve gone on to a waiting list. In the meantime, the child settles in somewhere else,” says Courtyard Montessori Preschool Principal Shelagh Powell.
“Now we’re responding to the market and recognising our competition, and there is plenty of that. We’ve sat traditionally where we are for a long time, and we’ve now stepped out of our comfort zone.”
The new classroom, designed by Noel Strez Architects, is being built by Bushnell Builders on the Courtyard Montessori site.
It is attached to the existing homestead in such a way its complementary to the villa that already exists on site.
It will be ready for use in August, and will cater for two to three year olds, with a quiet area for naps and a bathroom geared towards changing nappies.
“It’s going to be a lovely place for children to develop a sense of wellbeing and belonging in conjunction with basic skills and routines for when the time comes to transition into the three to six classroom,” Shelagh says.
She says Courtyard Montessori decided on a new age limit of two years rather than babies, since that’s the age kids start to show more of their social skills.
They want to interact with other children, and are comfortable being separated from their parents or caregivers. As a Montessori school, Courtyard Montessori Preschool does things a bit differently from the free play model of your standard preschool.
The method of Montessori education is a child-centred educational approach, with particular didactic models placed in a prepared environment and structured into different curriculum areas of numeracy, literacy, environmental, practical life, sensorial, and art.
Children work with a variety of activities within these areas that emphasise learning as a process determined by the age, stage, and level of development of individual children, according to their interests and skills.
All activities across the curriculum areas start simply and grow in complexity, thereby keeping children interested and challenged.
“Our teachers are always watching and introducing children to activities they are showing an interest in,” Shelagh says.
“The Montessori method affords children independence in regard to their own learning, and fosters curiosity and exploration in children. There is a sense of order in the classroom, as children complete each activity before moving on to the next stage, and we teachers can be very quick to recognise where there could be issues for some children.”
With three to six year olds in the same classroom, the younger children learn from the older ones, and the older children become the helpers and the role models for the younger children.
From its location in the heart of Somerfield in Somerfield Street, Courtyard Montessori is close to Cashmere, Thorrington, and Somerfield Schools, and Shelagh says the general feedback is Montessori children transitioning to school have initiative, show resilience, and practice a high level of independence.