News 12 This Morning at 6 o'clock// Monday, February 8th, 2011
BARNWELL, SC --- A South Carolina school is taking a new approach to education, through the use of Montessori classrooms, which allow students to work at their own pace. Barnwell Primary has started one of the first public programs in the area.
Enter Ms. Carla Moore's classroom at Barnwell Primary and you'll see students much younger than the average kindergartner. Leisa Clamp, the principal at Barnwell Primary explained, "The Montessori program allows us to get children in at age three."
It's one of the first Montessori classrooms to be implemented in a public school in our area. Inside, the students lead the lesson, by choosing activities that interest them. Four year old Mattie Waller has a few favorites she chooses from, "Hundred squares, the cubes, the ten bar," she said.
"Children work at their own pace at their own level," said Carla Moore, the teacher certified to teach the class. "I work one on one with every child in very small groups."
The Montessori model isn't a modern approach. Allowing children to work at their own pace and be independent are techniques developed in the early 1900's.
South Carolina is testing the Montessori style in classrooms as they look to bring it to more schools. One problem though, it takes more money to start up a Montessori classroom. "Budget issues, that is always a concern, but it's something we feel strongly about," Clamp added. "We've seen the progress the students have made and how much it's added to our school. We are hoping to expand the program."
Mattie's vocabulary and knowledge of the world has already expanded, more than most her age. At age four she already knew all seven continents around the world, "South America, Europe, Asia, Africa," she started to sing.
"A lot of the children are free to move and at a young age that is very important. A lot of research has been done on movement in classrooms. The more they move the more they retain," explained Moore.
In a classroom with few desks, the focus isn't on test scores. It's on keeping students motivated to learn through the rest of their educational careers.
If you have an application from Barnwell Primary for the Montessori classroom you have to turn in your documents by March 16th to be eligible for the lottery. The school is hoping to expand the program into higher grades once they are able to assess to success of the pilot program.