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Sewickley Montessori to add middle school program

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Sewickley Herald
Montessori Children's Community on Chestnut Street in Sewickley will be adding seventh- and eighth-grade classes in the future. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald

As Montessori schools around the world celebrate 106 years of the educational philosophy founded by Maria Montessori, staff at Montessori Children's Community in Sewickley are starting to plan their own historic celebration.

Starting in the fall, the local school will be the first in the Pittsburgh area to offer a middle school program for seventh- and eighth-graders, the school's head said.

The local school, founded by Terri Modic, school head and head teacher, has been in Sewickley for 21 years. It has 106 students from preschool through the sixth grade and stresses an individualized, independent approach to education.

In the new middle school program, community activities will be more prevalent, Modic said.

Students will follow Montessori's Pedagogy Place philosophy, where lessons revolve around what surrounds them.

“They might study physics in the morning and apply what they learn to the engineering of the Sewickley Bridge. They might study chemistry in the morning and take water samples from the Ohio River in the afternoon,” she said.

Students also will study the history of the area relating to the railroads, the steel industry and Native Americans, along with the area's geography and biology.

Modic said she began thinking about including a middle school program more than a year ago. It moved forward in the fall when parents started to express their desire for the seventh and eighth grades.

There now are at least four Montessori students interested and a few from other schools.

Some parents say they think it's a “fantastic” idea, including Shannon Williams of Pine Township and Lauren Lapinski of McCandless.

Both women attended Montessori's 106th anniversary celebration at the school, where children sang and expressed their thoughts about what the school meant to them.

They talked about peace, respect, harmony, learning to be responsible, freedom to move around and to work on whatever project they want, and feeling comfortable talking about problems with others.

Both Williams and Lapinski said their children's love of the school is one of the reasons why they want Montessori to expand to the seventh and eighth grades.

“The longer they are at Montessori, the better off they will be,” said Williams, who has two children at the school, Kieran in fifth grade and Cara in first.

“We dread them leaving after sixth to go to a traditional school.”

Lapinski, whose children, Drew, a fifth-grader, and Leah, a third-grader, also attend the school, agreed.

“It's the best education we could have found for our children,” she said.

The women talked about their children learning to be confident leaders, be innovative, think creatively and work independently.

“Substance is what you get here — and friendships. They know everyone in their classroom so well because there is so much collaboration; yet it's individually based, too,” Lapinski said.

Williams said Montessori is “a small but strong school.”

“It never feels too small. The kids are so happy, and the teachers know everyone.”

For more information, call Montessori Children's Community, 474 Chadwick St., at 412-741-8982.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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