Note: This outline is the next step for Great Beginnings and our school's expansion.
Our school is opening a 1st - 8th grade modern, one-room schoolhouse for 2019/20.
Q. Why is GBMS launching a Micro-school?
A. The Gallatin Valley hosts a handful of thriving one-room school houses, great public schools, Christian schools and active homeschool networks. Why another alternative?
Based on GBMS’s 2+-year wait list, growing parent interest and Gallatin Valley’s growth, the GBMS Board of Directors recognizes this is an ideal time to expand GBMS’ successful learning model and launch a Montessori influenced 1st-8th grade micro-school. The school offers a personalized, intentional learning environment that addresses and serves the whole child in a small school setting. The Micro-school embraces a multi-age learner driven community where students take an active role in their own education.
Q. Is the Micro-school a Montessori school?
A. The GBMS Micro-school offers the best combination of modern Montessori teachings enriched with activities and extensions to provide students an outstanding, stimulating, exciting classroom. The curriculum is guided by a combination of professional Montessori manuals and Global Village’s Whole Child Healthy Planet 1st-8th grade curriculum guides. The classroom set up is a combination of classic Montessori themed lessons for individual exploration as well as space for small group work, projects, circle time and quiet reading.
Q. What is the Montessori Method?
A. Named for its founder, Dr. Maria Montessori, the Montessori method is based on two simple truths: That children must be respected, and that children spontaneously love learning. These principles and careful observation form a child-centered method that Montessori called an “education for life.” Its goal is the finest development of the whole human being – emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually – toward the nurturing of peaceful, caring citizens. Maria Montessori was a three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize- 1949, 1950, and 1951.
Q. What does the community think about this Micro-school?
A. As part of our process, we created two "think-tank" sessions. The first group was 15 parents with children 1st - 8th grade, with many GBMS alumni families. The second group was approximately 20 teachers from local public and private elementary schools. We also received input from educators familiar with the one-room schoolhouse model. We asked both groups the questions: How can the Micro-school better serve the children of Gallatin Valley? What un-met needs need to be addressed? Check out their answers HERE.
Q: What kind of kids are a good fit for the Micro-school?
A: Our families are interested in the Micro-school for many different reasons, including:
Well-rounded education: A Micro-school experience allows students to play a greater role in their own academic success. As a result, we believe our students will be uniquely prepared to succeed in their secondary education and career experiences.
Student Athlete: Our Micro-school offers flexibility for student athletes who balance education with pursuing their outside talents and interests. Our courses are asynchronous, meaning students can complete their work on a flexible schedule.
Individualized instruction: Students thrive in an environment where they are regularly challenged to realize their full potential. Our connection with the Global Village curriculum is designed to challenge students to discover, explore, and grow. Because the micro-school provides individual instruction, students are able to work ahead in particular subjects or take additional time on a lesson if needed. Students thrive with the opportunity to move at their own pace.
A Family That Travels: We envision that many of our families will take advantage of our Personal Project Portfolio elective to synthesize their travel experiences with topics they are studying in the Micro-school.
Gifted and Talented: At GBMS, we understand the opportunities that can accompany educating gifted children. Too often, traditional schools fail to offer enough flexibility to accommodate the development of gifted children, who may need higher level or accelerated courses. Gifted children frequently waste precious learning time in classes that move too slowly for them, or cover material that they have already mastered.
Homeschool Families: We are dedicated to providing your child with personalized curriculum, caring teachers, and a philosophy of education that honors each child’s gifts and talents. We provide you with the peace of mind of a fully accredited school with curriculum and highly qualified teachers. We believe that life experiences are part of every child’s education and consider life and learning to be one and the same.
Q. Three campuses? What happens if GBMS outgrows the Micro-school?
A. GBMS has signed a 5-year lease for the Micro-school space and a 5-year lease for the Foothills campus. The Board committed to this course to give families peace-of-mind and allow our school to conintue to grow. However, we recognize that three campuses is less-than-ideal and we would like to continue our search to be under one roof.
GBMS Audacious Goal:
To provide a Pre-K – high school education for students to challenge the mind, nurture the heart, discover the world, care for the earth, and celebrate human dignity.
Q. How can GBMS effectively teach a 1st grader and an 8th grader in the same environment?
A. Great Beginnings' collaboration with the Global Village School allows our school to provide curriculum guides for each child, which are specific for each grade.
Grade K-3: For the younger grades, the curriculum guide is very flexible, geared toward following students interests, seasons, and diving into ‘living books’.
Grade 4-8: For the upper grades, the Global Village curriculum provides suggested units for academic school year.
Depending on each child's grade level, the size of the "living book" novels, and the individual stage of each learner, each unit provides recommended novels. Each unit is built around a "core novel", which is a suggestion based on themes (and alternatives) within each Curriculum Guide.
Traditional subjects per grade are covered: Social Studies, Language Arts, Science, Art, Math.
Q. How will you work with my middle school-er?
A, As students reach adolescence, their brains begin a shift from understanding the world through the concrete things around them to thinking about the world through abstract ideas.
At this stage in their education, students are using resources such as books, technology, and the world around them to create their own learning materials, rather than learning from the experiential materials in their previous years.
At GBMS, the middle school environment supports the students on their journey to self-discovery, giving them the tools, information, and resources they need to function independently and answer their own questions. The classroom is set up to foster growth in skills such as organization, time management, personal accountability, and perseverance.
Our teachers provide the following elements our middle school-ers:
interdisciplinary courses that tie in social, political and environmental topics
experiential learning opportunities that foster emotional connections
mixed age classes
individual and group work
free time to to pursue art, music, engineering and business projects
spaces for specialized activities like art and theater
Q. Will students take standardized tests?
A. While the Micro-school’s curriculum will meet and exceed the state standards, students will not participate in grade specific standardized tests. A strong alignment to the competencies is identified by more than a test grade. Student competency is measured through performance-based proficiency, rubrics, checklists and reflection prompts. Students progress as they develop mastery. Students may be asked to repeat and/or participate in more lessons within their unit until they fully understand and mastered concepts before moving on. This strategy helps them understand that students are the center of learning.
Q. How do the teachers teach?
A. The mixed-grade Micro-school brings students of all ages into the same classroom and uses personalized instruction, student-centered learning, and technology to cater the curriculum to each child's needs. Teachers serve as facilitators, rather than lecturers, and kids learn through projects, not memorization.
Q. What are the key teaching methodologies?
A. Limited to 16 children, the Micro-school at Great Beginnings Montessori School calls upon a blend of Montessori- influenced instruction paired with the Whole Child Healthy Planet curriculum and guides by Global Village, an accredited education organization. Similar to GBMS mission, the WCHP curriculum “combines a student-centered approach with an emphasis on peace, justice, diversity, and sustainability.”
The micro-school’s key teaching methodologies include:
Socratic dialogue: Our teachers lead students in vibrant discussions that encourage critical thinking, communication and objectivity. Their role is as a learning coach, guiding students to find deeper understanding and knowledge by asking challenging questions. A similar student-led dialogue is used for narrative learning assessments.
Project-based learning: Hands-on personalized instruction and assignments engage a variety of skills and inspire curiosity and problem solving. Such methodology provides self-defined clarity on how students are going to use their new understanding in the real world.
e-Learning: Technology has the power to transform teaching by facilitating “connected teaching.” This model links teachers to their students and to professional content, resources, and systems to help them improve their own instruction and personalize learning. GBMS will utilize intentional technology to help students learn mastery-based skills like math, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary with the competency-based curriculum.
Q. What is the school's view on risk and play?
A. GBMS understands the many roles risk can play in learning and childhood development. This is why we take a balanced approach to risk in all our learning environments. Students are shown how to use tools and materials, then invited to use them. This includes the use of knives for cutting, hammers for pounding nails, ropes for tying knots, saws and trimmers for cutting branches, garden tools for digging and planting, kitchen gadgets for preparing meals. We even go so far as to include logs, boulders, loose parts and hills in our playgrounds to invite students to develop their gross and fine motor skills while mastering appropriate use of tools and materials during lessons and free play.
For more fabulous information and research on the importance of risk in childhood, we invite you to read further on, a world leader in the role of risk in childhood development:
“Children hunger for a taste of freedom. They are strongly driven to get to grips with the people, places and things around them. To figure stuff out for themselves, to learn new skills, and to build their self-confidence and their sense of what they are capable of. Much of this figuring out, this learning, this confidence-building, happens when children are playing, exploring, experimenting, and testing themselves…. In the end, the only way children grow to be resilient – to be ready for the everyday challenges that life will inevitably throw at them – is by being given the freedom to learn from their own efforts, and their own mistakes.”
--‘Rethinking Childhood’ by Tim Gill
Q. What about art?
A. Our long-term vision is to have murals, drawings, glass work, quilts, tiles, forged items, and pottery made by students and staff on display throughout the campus. We envision that students will be guided by trained artists, and they will be able to discover creative outlets for self-expression that both inspire them and help them feel accomplished.
In the future, we hope our Micro-school can provide a variety of visual arts and crafts spaces. Imagine if each studio was maintained by the students and staffed by trained artists. This is the next phase of our dream of the school, because when students feel like the spaces are their own, they feel safe to be creative and let their personality emerge through self-expression.
Q. What are the immunization requirements?
A. The Micro-school at Great Beginnings adheres to the Montana Immunization Program and school vaccination requirements and the administrative rules for Montana schools. Great Beginnings adheres to a philosophy that vaccines are important for maintaining high levels of immunization and our school supports reducing the occurrence of vaccine preventable diseases among school-aged children. In addition to protecting children who are immunized, our school supports the science that vaccinations are necessary to protect children and staff who are unable to receive vaccination for medical reasons. Our school has enrolled several children who have compromised immune systems due to childhood cancer.
At the discretion of the local health department, children who are not vaccinated may be excluded from child care, school, sporting events, or other organized activities during disease outbreaks or because of illness.
The School Immunization Assessment documents immunization coverage for vaccines is required for school entry. Medical or religious exemptions may be submitted in lieu of the required dates of immunization for students enrolled in preschool through 12th grade.
Medical exemptions may be granted if a child has an allergy to a component of a vaccine or a medical condition that is a contraindication to receiving the required vaccine. The medical exemption form must be signed by a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) and includes a designated expiration date for the exemption. Religious exemptions require a parent, guardian, or an emancipated minor to complete and sign a religious exemption form in the presence of a notary, stating a religious objection to one or more vaccines, allowing the child to be exempted from vaccine requirements. Religious exemptions must be completed each academic year.
The majority of required vaccines include multiple doses. For students who have received at
least one dose of a required vaccine, GBMS allows conditional school enrollment if
the student continues to receive the remaining vaccine doses on a defined schedule.
Subsequently, school staff are required to monitor the progress of conditionally enrolled
students until they are fully vaccinated.
Key Components in the
Green Theme: Nature-Based Programming
Our students seek opportunities to build confidence through physical and social experiences. Our Micro-school trips provide students with a chance to build relationships in smaller groups, to learn new skills, and to challenge themselves. Students feel responsible to the group, seeing the direct impact of their contributions to each trip’s success.
In addition to numerous day hikes and weekend excursions, our outdoor experiential education program for our older kids offers three extended trips each year: three days, six days and eight days.
Local Connection: Service Learning & Community Involvement
By doing community service regularly, our students grow into adults who find joy caring for the people and places around them. They learn to give of themselves to make the world better. Examples of community service include:
maintaining mountain trails
conducting roadside cleanup
planting a garden at a local day program for adults with disabilities
volunteering with local nonprofit organizations
Beginning in our Toddler Program, children are exposed to world language and culture through songs, games, and celebrations.
As the students move into the elementary program, their language skill instruction is formalized through Conversation Class and integrated with understanding different cultures.
In a multi-age classroom, the kids become a large family. The older students act as leaders for the younger students.