COLUMBIA — “We’re finished!” exclaimed Mary Windmiller, the director of Windsor Street Montessori, a new school in the area between Lions-Stephens Park and Stephens' stables.
Children’s House introduced its sister school, Windsor Street Montessori School, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
The new school at the corner of Windsor and Ann streets enables students who started out at Children’s House, which enrolls children starting at age 2 and holds classes for students up to age 6, to continue their Montessori theory-influenced education until junior high.
The school’s ability to cater to each student’s specific learning needs usually “over-prepares them for junior high,” Mendy Hyatt-Hensley said. She will be the upper-level teacher at Windsor Street Montessori, and she will focus her lessons to suit students ages 9 to 12.*
“We teach algebra, chemistry and physics, so when they see it on paper in junior high, they can think back to the hands-on activity we introduced to them here,” Hyatt-Hensley said.
Community members and parents gathered outside the school before the ribbon-cutting to listen to the students sing a song they wrote — with the help of music specialist Margaret Waddell — thanking all the people who contributed to the completion of their school.
Students from all levels worked together on the song, which mirrors Windsor Street Montessori’s ideas of integrating a variety of ages together.
“The kids see themselves as teachers and problem-solvers,” Windmiller said.
Riley Kerns, an 8-year-old student, said, “I like that we’re learning things fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders get to do.”
Letting the students develop and work at their own pace is a priority at a Montessori school, according to Marie Hunter, an involved parent at the school.
“Students need to explore things when they’re ready,” she said.
About 100 people came for the ribbon-cutting, Hyatt-Hensley said. Those in attendance toured the school, where they checked out features like interactive white boards, a new innovation in education technology.
Community members Linda and Ken Green stopped by even though they don’t have a child enrolled in the school. Linda, 68, and Ken, 69, chose Montessori schooling for their son, who is now in his mid-30s. They were delighted to see that Children’s House is expanding its educational services.
“Kids have a lot of individual freedom to choose their own work. They work on things of interest,” Linda Green said. “There’s a nice balance between freedom and discipline in Montessori schooling.”
The ultimate goal of Windsor Street Montessori is to teach students to be well-rounded, rather than making learning solely about books and projects. Montessori schools strive to teach respect, manners and responsibility as well, Hyatt-Hensley said.
“We’re trying to teach them to be part of a community here and in the world,” she said.
In order to keep the community involved in the students’ growth, frequent field trips are taken to the Benton-Stephens Community Garden, Boone Hospital Center and Stephens' stables. In warm weather, students get to enjoy a weekly trip to the Stephens Lake Park Spraygrounds.
“We use the community because it offers a lot of diversity,” said Michelle Mustain, a lower-level educator at Windsor Street Montessori.
Although the official school year is coming to a close, Windsor Street Montessori and Children’s House will be running a summer preschool and elementary program. This year’s theme is “Nature Unleashed” and will run through June and July. After further enrollment in the school, the staff is hoping to open the summer program to the public in the future, Hyatt-Hensley said.
In the meantime, Windsor Street Montessori is offering options for students and parents.
“It’s an opportunity for a choice for parents that would like a choice,” Windmiller said. “It offers alternatives for education that offers fantastic learning experiences.”
Anyone with questions or interest in enrolling children in Windsor Street Montessori or Children’s House should call Mary Windmiller at 443-2825.