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Montessori School to Open in Springfield

A Montessori school uses an educational approach based on the research and experiences of the Italian educator Maria Montessori. One such school has been forming in Springfield for the past two years. Now, founders are setting their sights on the fall of this year to open its doors. KSMU’s Matt Evans has more.

Julian is a playful 3-year-old boy perched in a stroller engaged with a toy car. His brother, Elias, is 11 months old and sits on his mother’s lap, happily nursing his pacifier.

Michelle Clayton is the mother of this bunch and she credits her two children for being the main reason she wants to open up a Montessori school in Springfield.

“In Cincinnati, there are over 30 Montessori Schools. So I was just surrounded by Montessori as an option. And I just assumed my children would go to Montessori schools. And then we came here and I was surprised that there wasn’t even a single one.”

Clayton, the head of the new Discovery Garden Montessori School, was a Montessori teacher in Cincinnati.

The schools will use more hands-on learning and be more focused towards the individual child than a traditional school.

“Within a Montessori school, the focus is not on the teacher. Sometimes parents come to visit and they don’t initially see the teacher because she’s down on the floor working with a child.”

Clayton says a Montessori classroom looks much different than a traditional classroom. Instead of children sitting in rows of desks, Clayton says the students usually spread out and do their work on the floor. Clayton was in a Montessori school until her family moved during her early elementary years, but says she wishes she could have stayed in the Montessori program.

“I did notice a big difference in how engaged I was as a student. When I was in the Montessori school I always had different things that I could work on. I was always engaged. Once I was done with one thing, I could move to another activity and another activity.”

She says when she went to a traditional school she began developing bad study habits because once she was done with her work, she had to wait for the rest of the class to finish their work.

Over the past two years, Clayton has been working to bring that Montessori education to Springfield. She says most of the background work is done. In January, the school was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in Missouri. Earlier this month, the school’s board submitted the application for federal 501 (c)(3) status.

Clayton says there is still some work to be done before the school opens. The school still needs a site, and the board needs more money.

“Once we have the funds and the location, we’ll be able to move quickly so we can get everything else in place so we can open this fall.”

The school will initially have two classrooms: one for toddlers and one for pre-K and Kindergarten students. Clayton says as the children age, an elementary program will be added.

Clayton calms her children as they get restless. She hopes she can soon provide them with the learning skills she believes are the best available.

For more information on the Discovery Garden Montessori School, you can visit www.dgmontessori.webs.com.

For KSMU News, I’m Matt Evans.