Have you thought about what you want in the ideal learning environment for your child? Of course you have! You have likely spent hours thinking about how you want your child to spend their foundational educational years. Here are some key reasons Escuela del Sol Montessori is that place.
Montessori classrooms are designed as smaller community groups within a larger one; each community or classroom is comprised of a multi-age group of students. Grouping students by three-year developmental planes supports social and cognitive development. Multi-age settings facilitate leadership and mentoring: older children can teach and guide younger children; at the same time, younger children observe and learn from older children about their role in the functioning of the classroom. Children work with a variety of peers, motivated by interest and ability, not just age.
A mixed-age class also supports relationship building and continuity. Each year about a third of the class moves on and a small group of new children join the community. Returning students welcome new friends and teach them about their classroom. Teachers really get to know and understand each student by developing relationships built on trust and mutual respect. Strong relationships between teachers and parents also develop, supporting children to be their best selves.
Within the classroom, children engage in group projects and independent quests. These kinds of activities foster curiosity, creativity, intrinsic motivation, and self-discipline. Children play an active role in maintaining their classroom and are encouraged to care for themselves, their environment, and the people around them. Every classroom is a community that works as a unit to maintain a dynamic work environment, and a kind, collaborative social environment. All these factors more accurately mirror real-life.
Individualized Education & Assessment
Escuela del Sol’s Montessori teachers consider the strengths and needs of each individual student, as opposed to a “one size fits all” approach. Because our teachers work with students over a multi-year cycle, and because lessons are given to individuals and small groups, teachers are able to develop a deep and broad understanding of each student’s interests and skills. They use this knowledge to personalize lessons and work plans according to each student’s needs, interests and abilities. Teachers use observation, conversation, and small-group or individual interaction to get continuous feedback from each child about how they are thinking and what they are understanding. This form of assessment happens over time and is far more accurate and nuanced than conventional testing. We know that human development is not linear; there will be times when more time with a concept is needed to ensure understanding, and times when a child’s momentum should not be slowed by the pace of the group. At Escuela del Sol Montessori, learning expands on solid foundations that facilitate discovery in leaps and bounds.
Students at Escuela del Sol Montessori take charge of their learning and become accountable partners in their progress. In our dynamic classrooms, students work at an individualized pace, encouraged by teachers who understand their strengths. They grow into self-aware, self-directed learners who also understand their own unique interests and abilities. Work is driven by student desires and inclinations, as well as responsibilities and requirements. Montessori materials give students access to advanced concepts and understanding through personal, hands-on discovery, not just shallow memorization. A depth of understanding is our aim.
Students learn from their peers and teachers while observing and actively engaging within the ever-changing world around them. The Montessori setting stimulates academic, emotional and social growth and development. We want students to feel confident asking questions, taking appropriate risks, and finding new ways to think and solve problems.
We also want students to look critically at their own work and develop resilience and a friendliness with error. We expect them to recognize mistakes and learn from them. Relationships students form with their adult guides and peers are based on mutual respect, and give them the framework and safety to make mistakes, try again and ultimately find success in their academic and social endeavors. This holistic approach emphasizes personal accountability and helps shape students into reflective, strong, independent thinkers.
Music and art are integrated into every classroom in ways that vary depending on the age group. Primary students enjoy lessons with our Spanish and Music instructors. An integrated curriculum of exploration, creation, and expression related to language and the arts supports critical thinking, communication, and encourages students to venture outside the box. In Elementary, these offerings expand to include additional instruction in the arts. Elementary students learn to play instruments, write their own songs and plays, create costumes and sets, and perform for the Winter Program and Variety Shows. Students are introduced to the work of canonical, contemporary and local artists. They learn techniques in a hands-on, experimental and experiential way, creating solo and collaborative pieces. Spanish is taught using a combination of vocabulary, conversational practice, music, crafts, stories and cultural lessons from around the world. This continues, growing in sophistication, through Jr. High, where Studio arts are dedicated classes, and also skills woven throughout the curriculum. Jr. High students write music and play instruments both as soloists and as a cohesive band.
The Harwood Art Center
Escuela del Sol classrooms offer a rich, integrated curriculum that incorporates the arts and social responsibility. This kind of knowledge and exploration helps students grow in curiosity and form connections with a variety of disciplines. The dynamic Harwood Art Center is the community outreach arm of our organization, providing daily living examples of life-long learning in a diverse community. The Harwood is integral to the educational life of the people who study and grow up here at Escuela, and helps us expand the voice of our collective mission through outreach, enrichment, exploration and expression, and relationship building. Even our youngest students are exposed to fine art through gallery tours where they learn about artists, techniques and context, and talk about what pieces they respond to and why. They discuss and explore colors, shapes, textures and sizes found in the work they are experiencing.
Starting in Elementary, students begin to participate in Harwood exhibitions alongside professional artists. Elementary students create solo 6×6 pieces for the Harwood Art Center’s annual 12×12 fundraiser. Jr. High students create 12×12 art pieces similar to the ones submitted by local artists. They also plan, collaborate and create an interactive installation for Harwood’s Encompass exhibition, and Elementary students contribute to this as well. These are just a few examples of the dynamic interplay within our organization.
Along with exhibitions, students can also take advantage of having a variety of artists in proximity. The Harwood Art Center houses studios for over 40 artists. Students have worked with fiber artists, painters and sculptors to explore ideas, learn techniques and share inspiration. Over the years, many of Escuela’s teachers and parents have also had studios in Harwood. Families can also take advantage of Art & Sol, an after school visual, craft and performing arts program, and Harwood Art Camps, offered over the summer. All Escuela families receive membership to the Harwood Art Center, which gives them access to community classes at a discounted price and keeps them in the loop for upcoming gallery shows. Creativity, expression, and communication are essential parts of the Montessori curriculum and the Escuela culture.
There is no question that humans learn through experience. At Escuela students learn not only in the classroom, but also in many different outdoor settings, on and off campus. Each classroom has outdoor work spaces, as well as access to the broader campus that includes art galleries; a commercial kitchen; chickens; gardens and an Urban Farm; friends, mentors and guides in other classrooms. In addition, we partner with Cottonwood Gulch to facilitate expanded outdoor education experiences that include hiking and camping for Elementary, and extended backpacking excursions for Jr. High. These treks provide unparalleled access to hands-on, place-based geology, ecology, history and cultural studies.
Studies from UW Stevens Point show us that outdoor experiences increase school performance. They found that,
“Research has documented increased standardized test scores, enhanced attitude about school, improved in-school behavior, improved attendance and overall enhanced student achievement when students learn in and about nature.”
In addition to all these benefits, we know that time outside contributes to overall health and happiness. Relative freedom of movement (for all freedoms are relative and tied to demonstrated responsibilities) is one of the many ways children practice and develop self-regulation. When dressed properly for the weather, we all enjoy the freedom to move between indoor and outdoor spaces.
Urban Life and Gardens
Escuela del Sol Montessori is a natural haven in a rich urban setting. Students can find quiet spaces for writing, reflecting, or even bird watching. Students grow food, and raise chickens and bees on the Jr. High Urban Farm. Jr. High students use food they grow in the lunches they prepare together. They learn business skills through Microeconomy, marketing and selling produce from their Urban Farm as well as creating other products (soaps, lotions, candles, etc.) to support their business. This component of the curriculum includes planning, collaboration, marketing, and economics, both globally and specific to their business.
The campus is within walking distance of the downtown library, Tiguex Park, the Albuquerque Museum, The Museum of Natural History and Science, and Explora. In recent years, students have attended the “Davinci – The Genius” exhibit at the Museum of Natural History and Science, as well as “30 Americans” at the Albuquerque Museum. We have formed strong relationships with community partners. Our Senior Elementary class has partnered with Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless for over two decades, supporting ArtStreet and creating a Winter Store, which gives homeless families an opportunity to shop for the holidays free of charge. Jr. High students have worked with a variety of professionals including architects, farmers, yoga instructors, optical engineers and more. Our location and unique campus offer a range of opportunities.
Another benefit of joining Escuela del Sol Montessori School is the multi-generational community that has been part of Escuela since its inception. Students and parents make life-long connections surrounded by classmates and families who have shared values, ideals and priorities. Our teachers are an integral part of the community; they are dedicated professionals who take a vested interest in childrens’ success and well-being. Our alumni return to Escuela to visit, bring their children to school, and even teach!
The Escuela community is multi-age, multicultural, interconnected, and open to alternative ways of thinking, learning, and problem-solving. Elementary and Jr. High students partner with local businesses, artisans, experts, and Escuela community members to explore questions and interests. They have explored aeronautics using drones, architecture, circus artistry, and even ice skating, all stemming from connections found in our special downtown location or in our own Escuela parent community!
Our unique pre-K through Jr. High continuum means continuity for parents as well as students. Parents and teachers work as a team over three-year developmental cycles to facilitate the most ideal and successful learning experiences for each student. Escuela students get to stay in the nurturing and challenging environment that is our school until they are fully prepared for high school. And even after they graduate from Jr. High, they are always part of our community. You can hear directly from our graduates in this article about Life After Escuela.
If you are looking for a Montessori school in Albuquerque, contact us today at 505-242-3033. You can also visit our admissions page to schedule a personal virtual visit. We would love to discuss how our philosophy will benefit your child this year and in the years to come.
*Because of Covid-19 movement and interaction have been limited, and fall treks were canceled. Escuela keeps the doors and windows to all classrooms open for ventilation. Students are using outdoor classroom spaces and well-ventilated indoor classroom spaces. Along with a stringent sanitizing protocol, proper mask use and social distancing we strive to insure the safety of our students. Details of our Covid safety procedures can be found here.