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Madison Montessori School (MMS) Reaches Globally With Yearlong Study of Tanzania

Elizabeth DiGiose

Saturday, September 14, 2013 • 12:00am

MADISON, NJ- September 12, 2013,  -- Madison Montessori students and faculty are set to begin a yearlong in-depth study of Tanzania.  Each year, for more than 25 years the pre-school and kindergarten for children age two and a half through six has chosen a country and studied it extensively in all area of its curriculum. This close look at Tanzania, a country of spectacular beauty, promises to be thrilling for students, faculty and parents.

As MMS Director and co-founder, Terry Armstrong explains, there are more than a few reasons to be excited about Tanzania being a centerpiece for learning this year, “ We love the geography with its mountains, lakes, grasslands and islands.  We'll certainly learn about the wildlife and hope to find out more about Jane Goodall and her studies of chimpanzees.  We also hope to learn some Swahili words, learn about African music and learn about folktales from the region.” There are many things about Tanzania that promise to enliven the classroom experience.

The school-wide country study helps make each school year unique and original for the children and that the entire adult community learns as well. “We all get travel fever from our study. Many students, staff and parents long to visit a country after we study it for a year.  I know of one alumnae, now a college student who will visit his kindergarten county when he has his junior year abroad,” Armstrong says. 

MMS students have most recently studied Guatemala, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Iceland.  Each year MMS tries to move to a different continent so a child spending four years there will have been introduced to at least four countries from four continents in an in-depth manner.  Alumni visiting after many years still remember and often tell Armstrong, “The year they were in kindergarten we studied "x" country.”  The MMS country study seems to stand out in a very special way when children attend kindergarten.  Perhaps, it is because the kindergartners perform a folktale on stage from the country as the finale of their drama class. The younger children have the opportunity to perform folk dances for the parents, while the youngest children might not have a performance, but they will learn about the animal life or learn some songs or vocabulary.  The program definitely builds according to the age of the child.

Learning that takes place through all the curriculum areas gives teachers an opportunity to dig a little deeper.  MMS teachers hope that a yearlong study will invite children and families to bring information to the school community rather than it all coming from staff to students. Armstrong observes, “While we grow closer as a community as we learn together, we also get to know people outside our community. We love to invite "experts" to come share their insight and experiences with us.”  The study culminates with a "festival" at the end of the year.  Special foods are prepared, crafts and games, and decorations are readied, and all are enjoyed on our playground with the help of staff and some parent volunteers.

 Founded in 1981, Madison Montessori School models the philosophy of Maria Montessori, who recognized that children develop and learn at different rates and that an enriched environment has more benefits to the developing brain. Montessori education provides an unparalleled foundation for academic, social and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success.

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