Education, social work, psychology, and environmental policy students at Champlain Abroad Dublin are offered the chance to take the EHS 300: Community Advocacy and Inquiry course that has a half day placement requirement as a way to connect with a community while studying in Dublin. My placement is at the Rookery Montessori & Crèche in an affluent suburb in north Dublin called Clontarf. You can follow the trip to my placement on the google map HERE
In Ireland, the government provides all children over the age of 3 one free year of early childhood education as a part of the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE). The scheme applies to five half days of preschool up to a certain amount of money. If a school costs more than the allotted amount or a parent wishes to send his or her child to a school for more hours or years than allotted, then the parent must pay the difference. Even with ECCE support, parents sending their children to the Rookery Montessori & Crèche pay over €700 ($965) per month—those without ECCE support pay over €900 ($1241) per month! Many of these parents are upper middle class professionals who are willing to spend more money on early childhood education in the hopes of giving their children a quality head-start in the competitive Irish education system.
The Rookery Montessori & Crèche has five classrooms—the baby room, the waddler room, the toddler room, the pre-Montessori room, and the Montessori room. Children can attend for a half day or a full day, with some children arriving as early as 7:45 am and saying until as late as 6:00 pm. I am in the Montessori classroom with mostly 3 & 4 year olds (and some 5’s!). I work with two trained Montessori teachers, Marian and Lilly. Marian has a B.A. in Humanities from St. Patrick’s College of Dublin City University. Lilly has B.S. Psychology Pedagogy from the University of Bucharest and training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Both Marian and Lilly have Diplomas in Montessori Teaching from the Portobello School as well as training in pediatric first aid, manual handling, and road safety.
The Montessori approach to education was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori who was an Italian physician and educator who lived from 1870-1952. The approach is child-centered and aims to assist each child in reaching his or her highest potential in all aspects of their lives—supporting his or her physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual being. The learning environment is very important in the Montessori approach and the environment works as part of the curriculum to encourage independence in each child by allowing him or her to work at his or her own pace. Much of a child’s learning comes through the use of specially designed Montessori materials that aim to support a child’s practical life, sensory development, math and language skills, and cultural knowledge.
I usually arrive to the Montessori room during breakfast time and help out getting the students situated for the day. Often, I’ll sit at a table with students who have finished eating and read books aloud to them. At 9:30 all the children tidy up the room and work time begins. During this time the students work with Montessori materials of their choice within the materials that have been introduced to them. Teachers work one-on-one with students—introducing new materials and working on letter sounds and writing. Around 11 the students tidy up their work and have a piece of fruit before circle time. During circle time the teachers read books aloud, present lessons on various topics, and play group games with the children. After, if it’s nice, the students have garden time. The garden is the outdoor area that the children play in. Sometimes during this time the students play group games organized by the teachers and others, they just play freely. Around 12:30, the students gather for lunch.
I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Montessori classroom. I have the hopes of opening my own preschool one day and want to base it off of the best of many different teaching philosophies. Observing the Montessori approach to education has been very beneficial in this endeavor. This approach is very different from the less structured, primarily play-based preschools that I have observed thus far and observing both has shown me the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches. The Montessori students are extremely bright and well behaved with well-developed fine motor control. The students are taught that work time is quiet time to focus on the task at hand and that everything has a specific way it’s done. Routine is very important to the Montessori scheduling. The Montessori approach definitely gets students ready for the regimented primary grades. Overall, I like the Montessori approach and see the good it does but sometimes I worry that it hinders creativity and doesn’t involve enough play. Play is the language of learning in early childhood and is a much more effective, enjoyable, and engaging way to learn.
Crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge
during a weekend tour to Northern Ireland.
Champlain Abroad Dublin
Photo: Hanna Cormier
The Rookery Montessori is a place that will always be near and dear to my heart and I’ll miss my kids there after I’ve returned to the U.S.
Champlain Abroad Dublin Spring’14
Champlain College, Early Childhood Elementary Education’15