From infancy onward, we learn and remember things best when we learn through action; connecting and physically engaging with our surroundings. Agency and self-confidence are built through authentic opportunities to engage in relevant activities.
The combination visually stimulating hands-on materials and an emphasis on learning through action with authentic materials and real-life examples bolsters student interest, engagement, and construction of knowledge.
At PCM, learning through action and real-life examples is deepened by place-based project learning, where students leverage local community resources and study the Pullman region’s local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities, and experiences to expand their understanding of core academic concepts, their community, and their leadership within it.
learning through community & Action
The mixed-age Montessori classroom community provides a safe, inclusive classroom environment, where all learners can learn from each other and practice the skills necessary for successful engagement in community life. Through participation in maintenance of the classroom environment; involvement in shared problem solving, decision making, and goal setting through student-facilitated community meetings; and through restorative practices and explicit social-emotional learning, students develop their sense of agency, recognizing not only their own but also the contributions of others to the
well-being of their community.
Hands-on materials & Building Community
Hands-on, authentic materials and activities: Students physically engage with Montessori-aligned materials. Materials, strategically featured and rotated in the classroom, are available to students based on displaying proficiency on sequential works. Project-based learning through a place-based approach allows students to learn through authentic activities and build understanding in a local-to-global community context. The physical space of the facility itself also presents a variety of authentic activities and experiences (community gardens, classroom organisms, etc.).
Building Community: Students engage in learning with and from each other daily through morning circle and work time. They frequently engage with the diverse resources of our local community — community members, businesses, libraries, the museums, university labs, parks, trails, and nature reserves—to complement and deepen classroom learning.
A commitment to building life skills: Our school day features integrated and stand alone time, called Characters and Leadership, where students have the opportunity to grow their community skills in a safe and supported environment.
Through place-based project learning, PCM expands students’ idea of community to include the region they live so they can better understand their role in both the local, regional, and global community. As students progress in age and show increased responsibility, they take increasing ownership over the planning of class and group going outs.
Outdoor Science School (OSS)
PCM’s co-curricular activities extend students’ option to learn through action and community, apply concepts to real-world examples, and hone leadership and executive functioning skills.
Co-curricular activities include an annual Teton Science Schools Place Network-aligned week-long Outdoor Science School (OSS) that takes place during the school year. Upper elementary and adolescent community students will participate in their OSS in the fall. OSS programs will be co-designed and organized by students and teachers (responsibly scaled by developmental appropriateness). These upper elementary and adolescent community students will help to plan and host the OSS for lower elementary students in the spring.
Additionally, Grade 5 and up will participate in the Eastern Washington Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Spokane, WA every spring.
Student Safety & Accessibility
This section is under construction , please check back later in the spring.
Mixed age Communities
Montessori uses what we've learned about human development to design learning environments and employ approaches that support students developmental needs. We know that all humans undergo stages of development that are predictable and universal across all other differences (culture, academic affinity, gender, etcetera). This also results in specific ages of students working best with each other due to their similar phase in the human development cycle. The developmentally mixed age groupings are outline below. PCM deviates from the best practices at the kindergarten level (which normally is called Primary and in includes ages 3-6) due to limits in general state funding for early childhood education.
Mixed-age classrooms feature smooth and logical transitions, both throughout the day and as students progress through age groupings. Throughout a school day devoid of bells, students focus on personalized work plans, progressing through material in an order that fits their needs and interests. The images below show the characteristics of the CHILD, the features of support the Montessori Guide and classroom assistant need to display, and how the classroom environment should be strategically structured.
Addressing the Length of a 'K' Day
PCM's kindergarten (K) classrooms maintain a ratio of approximately 15 students to 1 Guide accompanied by 1 full-time Classroom Assistant/Interventionist. A K learner's day at PCM looks different from a traditional school day, with more opportunities for outside play and activities, a pace more in line with individual learner needs, more opportunities for movement, an option to rest/nap in the afternoon, and an educational environment that considers individual student interests. Learners in a Montessori environment, even at this young age level, are often less fatigued at the end of the school day because their day is paced for their needs and interests.
For a snapshot of a K learner's day check out this "Day in the life of a PCM K student".
For visual examples of what this early environment looks like explore these short videos.
While younger elementary (1st - 3rd grade) and older elementary (4th - 6th grade) students differ in their needs and the approach used there are enough similarities in development that they can be looked at together here.