The Montessori Village brand was born in Madrid in 2011. Founding partners María Giménez and Ana Monmeneu have based the educational programmes on Montessori pedagogy. There are several schools in Madrid and Barcelona. Here Arancha Rosa Serván, Head Teacher of Montessori Village Torrelodones talks to MumAbroad Life about the Montessori philosophy and environment.
When and how did you decide to start up this Montessori Village?
Our Montessori Village school opened three years ago in Torrelodones, after finding this special space. Our school is the first faithfully Montessori Project in the area that encompasses the Early Childhood Education stage (from 0 to 6 years old). Montessori philosophy is a great educational method to prepare children for the present and future.
Are you affiliated to any official body?
Montessori Village Torrelodones (MVT) follows the Spanish Montessori Association (AME) principles, which is the representation in Spain of the AMI or International Montessori Association.
The staff working in our school, in addition to the official qualifications necessary to practice as teachers or educators in our country, have specific training in Montessori methodology and philosophy.
What is the Montessori Philosophy?
It is the philosophy developed by Dr. Maria Montessori throughout her career, studies and her experience in working with children of different ages, conditions and abilities. It is based on rigorous, scientific observations of the learning process of a person, specifically a child, in different evolutionary stages.
Through this philosophy, we are able to identify the needs of the child and respond to them using preparation of the ‘environment’, understood as the context generated by the accompanying adult, space and teaching materials, that were also developed by Maria Montessori herself. The method is based on promoting the autonomy of the child, allowing them to do, on their own, everything they are capable of, always supporting development at the pace of each individual.
Maria Montessori believed that Education was an instrument to achieve peace for humanity. That’s why her philosophy is inspired by a deep respect towards oneself, others and the environment that surrounds us.
What are the differences between the 3 stages you offer: Nido, Infant Community and Children House?
Each stage responds to the evolving needs of the child. The ‘Nest’ welcomes children from 4 to 18 months. In it, we work especially on their wellbeing and physical and emotional security, because this is a very delicate stage. The space is prepared for children to move and explore freely, to the full extent of their abilities, around a safe space with materials that guide their development.
In ‘Children’s Community’, there are children who already walk with stability and dexterity. They are usually between 18 months and 3 years old. In this stage, they can find in the room a wide range of teaching materials to chose from, that includes art, language, sensory material and practical life. The last one is very typical in Montessori, and consists of sets of tools to be used for basic tasks such as preparing meals (banana split, making juice), taking care of the space (watering plants, sweeping up, cleaning the tables) or taking care of yourself (washing your hands, practice boards for dressing themselves, drinking water).
‘Children House’ is where the children from 3 to 6 years old are. In the room they can find teaching materials they already worked with in ‘Children’s Community’, but a bit more elaborated. For example, with language materials they can learn to read and write; with practical life they do more complicated tasks, like making bread, making tea, cleaning shoes, washing dishes. Besides, in this stage, we add mathematics and geography materials.
How easy is it to keep order within the classroom with the Montessori method?
María Montessori explains that during these first 6 years of life, the child lives through a period where they are very sensitive to order. External organisation helps him/her to establish an internal order that provides confidence, allowing the child to be more open to explore the novelties that the environment offers.
That is why the creation of order is so particularly taken into consideration in a Montessori school. Each teaching material has its assigned place in the room and the way that sets are presented always has the same order. After using them, sets are always left in their places, as a way to be ready for when another child wants to use it. Teachers guide the children in this process, facilitating, little by little, how they assimilate the importance of the creation of order.
What is the average teacher/student ratio?
In ‘Nest’ the ratio is 4 children per teacher/guide. There are two teachers in the Nest, therefore there is a maximum of 8 children. In ‘Children’s Community’ there is a maximum of 8 children per teacher/guide. In this room, there are two teachers and a maximum of 16 children. At ‘Children’s House’, the ratio is 15 children per adult. There are two guides, therefore there is a maximum of 30 children.
How can you prepare children for a more traditional educational system when they leave the Montessori environment?
During the first 6 years of life, the child builds up an identity, a personality. It is a particularly delicate and important moment, in which basic and deep questions can be fixed for the person.
The major objective of the Montessori method is that the child feels capable of working and being alone, therefore developing his/her full potential. From this point of view, each problem and each change is seen as an opportunity to learn and as a way to strengthen each child’s abilities and self-esteem.
Thus, the Montessori method prepares the child, so that they can deploy all the tools, within a traditional educational system or in any other context.
Do you offer training for teachers or parents?
The people who form the MVT team have specific training, as Montessori guides or assistants. We also continue doing courses on various subjects connected to our everyday practice such as ‘Positive Discipline’, ‘Autism’ and others. In addition, during the quarterly meetings, when the whole team is present, we work a lot on the personal part.
Regarding the parents, each trimester we offer a thematic workshop to families, on topics that may interest them, mainly about the Montessori philosophy or methodology, such as ‘Montessori in the Home for Nest and Children’s Community’, ‘Mathematics Workshop in Children’s Home’, ‘Presentation of the Method and the Montessori Philosophy’ or ‘Workshop on Boundaries’.
How do you create a family community at Montessori Village?
The relationship between the families and the MVT’s team is very close. It is a small school in which we all know each other well. In addition, we hold several meetings throughout the course. At the end of August, just before the course starts, we have a party to start, to chat quietly and dissolve the nerves of the first day of children and adults. In December, we also celebrate the winter solstice together and share a snack, breakfast and some action by families or team members. Last year, for example, we premiered “The Day of Families”, inaugurating “La Plantá” at the common garden . Finally in mid-June, we say goodbye to the school year with a summer party.
The children’s birthdays are also important. They are held in a special way with the whole group, guides and parents invited to share the moment.
How much interaction do you expect from parents?
It is important to us that the families of the school can attend meetings of each class, where they talk about the growth of the group, how the routines are addressed in the school, the methodology and other matters related to the ‘day to day’. Besides, they can attend individual tutorials with the Guides, to discuss the growth of each child.
We are also open to receive family members who want to come to share something special with the group, for example, to talk about what they do in their jobs, or if they want to participate in school parties by sometimes playing an instrument or gardening with the children.
Where is your centre?
MVT is located 30 km north of Madrid. It is in an enclave of the Sierra de Madrid, particularly well connected to the area, where numerous educational projects are located, some of them of an alternative nature. It is a wonderful environment surrounded by extensive areas of scrubland and some interesting villages.
What are your plans for Montessori Village in the next 12 months?
In the coming months we will start cooking in our own kitchen, which is finally fully equipped. We give much importance to what children eat, giving preference to homemade, healthy and balanced food, and of course, we prioritise the Mediterranean diet.
In addition to this improvement, we would love to find an investor to start a new project, a Montessori Primary (Workshop) school, to compliment the neighbourhood, where soon a Montessori Secondary School will be built. This is a very interesting project, that we especially like.
In three words, please describe Montessori Village.
Solid, Alive and Special