EASTON — Christ Church Day School will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a celebration from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, 114 S. Washington St., Easton.
The fundraising event will include catering and oysters by Blue Heron Catering, and music by Mule Train. Tickets are $60 per person and $100 per couple.
Money raised from the event will go to fund school supplies of Montessori equipment, music enrichment for students, and playground upgrades and improvements. It also will fund staff enrichment, which includes mindfulness workshops for teachers to pass onto the children through curriculum initiatives and online Montessori training for teachers and the school’s new director, Susan Tiffany.
Tiffany came on board in 2016, and with her, brought the Montessori-inspired teaching method the school recently adopted. She was the founder and director, and a teacher, at Easton Montessori School for 25 years, from 1987 to 2010; and also a founding board member of Montessori Schools in Maryland.
“The Montessori sets (Christ Church Day School) apart,” Tiffany said.
According to the American Montessori Society website, www.amhsq.org, “The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood.”
Some of the benefits listed on the website include learning order, coordination, concentration and independence at an early age; learning a child’s unique learning methods and valuing those qualities within the child; and children learning to self-correct or self-assess in the classroom setting and beyond.
Christ Church Day School’s website, www.christchurchday school.org, said this method of learning helps the child transition into more abstract learning as they grow.
Christ Church Day School was established in 1957 as an Episcopal preschool with support from Christ Church Easton. Today, the school, a mission of the church, serves preschool students ages 2 through 4.
Christ Church Easton was founded in 1687, and the current building, constructed in 1840, was restored in 2015. Since the day school’s inception in 1957, many Easton natives have joined the CCDS community and many have returned with their own children, eager to pass on the experience.
Tiffany said the church, its rector, Father Bill Ortt, and a parent advisory committee support the school, and have been instrumental in its reinvention as a Montessori-inspired preschool. She said the vestry governs the school, while the executive advisory committee overseas the school, and both have been valuable in providing her with advice when she needs it.
Tiffany said she spent most of her first year with the school observing.
“The teachers are fantastic. They have incredible projects and they’re creative, and innovative and fun,” Tiffany said. “I thought ... it would be a great marriage with the Montessori equipment ... I think what they were doing was very well connected to Montessori, but nobody knew that.”
Montessori equipment began being introduced to preschool classrooms this past week. Tiffany said there are several major areas of focus for Montessori-inspired education, including practical life, or fine tuning gross and fine motor skills; and sensory, or a way for children to categorize their environment. She said there also are many mathematical and geographical components to the Montessori-inspired style, and many of the activities encourage an enhanced vocabulary and build confidence.
Practical life activities include individual trays, set up left to right, based on how children eventually are taught to read, and top to bottom. The individual trays are meant to teach students about boundaries, Tiffany said. She said most of the work or activities take place on the floor.
Tiffany said one of the activities is spooning, where children take tot-sized spoons and pick up beans or other small items and move them from one container, usually a bowl, to another. Right now, Tiffany said the students are using small pumpkins or orange pom-poms during October. The activity also is designed to inspire a pincher movement with children’s hands and fingers, similar to the way they will hold a pencil eventually.
Another activity is pouring, where a child pours liquid, now orange for the fall season, or lentils, also orange, from one pitcher to the next, or using an eye dropper to move the liquid from one container to the next.
“Most of the work, from beginning to end, is thinking about what you’d like to do — going to the cabinet, taking it out, putting it on your placemat, doing the work, putting it back, putting your placemat away,” Tiffany said.
Sensory activities include taking cylinders and fitting them into the appropriate hole, from biggest to smallest. Tiffany said the activity is self-correcting, because students can see when a mistake is made.
Visual activities include matching color tablets or mixing color tablets to make secondary colors. Sound boxes help children match sounds using boxes with different contents or cylinders with different grains of sand, beans or beads. Smelling activities include matching different smells.
Tiffany said these activities encourage students to be more aware of the world around them.
“In a Montessori class, there’s always a hum ... it is never quiet,” Tiffany said. “In a way, it’s a little magical, because you’re fine tuning and encouraging them to understand why listening is very important.”
She said the teachers have been gradually working on these skills through class activities since the beginning of the school year. Over time, the teachers will work one-on-one with students, introducing the new Montessori items to each student through individual lessons.
“Some kids are observers — you’re just sort of observing their style. Those kids will sit next to you and watch. Others might be really anxious to have a lesson. So you try to tread water a little bit by identifying someone’s style,” Tiffany said. “The kids inspire one another, and they’re curious.”
She said changing the color or style of the Montessori school supplies helps kids look forward to change, even though they will be working on many of the same skills.
“One of the most important things that happens for the kids, is a mistake is an opportunity to learn,” Tiffany said. “They just repeat it, again and again and again, and they master it — and they feel really wonderful.”
She said she thinks the greatest difference between traditional education and Montessori is students who receive Montessori-inspired education are learning instead of being taught.
“I believe that what you learn, you keep with you,” Tiffany said.
She said being taught something may not be as easily recalled by a student as learning something by doing that activity may be.
The hardest thing about Montessori-inspired education is not saying anything, and allowing the children to discover the process themselves, Tiffany said.
“To let them figure it out — this sort of personal victory — is really wonderful,” Tiffany said.
Tiffany said Montessori-inspired learning typically is for every child because Montessori teachers work to make sure they are sensitive to the learning style of each student.
In the future, Tiffany said the preschool will move to mixed age classrooms, instead of the children being separated by age.
One of the most unique aspects of the learning style, Tiffany said, is the children are free to move around and make choices.
“The kids are free to learn that we make bad choices sometimes. It’s not the end of the world,” Tiffany said. “It’s self-regulating. And there are some times you just need to throw the towel in and take them for a walk to look at pine cones or look at leaves. It is taking ourselves out of the equation of our plan is most important ... and you start learning the kids ... that’s the beauty of going with their flow.”
Tiffany said the school hopes to “be an incredible resource for parents in Talbot County.”
“The reality is, kids are going to make a difference in this crazy world,” Tiffany said, “and this is their first community. Our responsibility to each other is to be kind. Rather than constantly saying, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ you approach it positively ... really pulling from them the notion of self-regulation and what it means to be a responsible member of the community.”