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.
Adolescent Community (grades 7-9)
Self Directed Learning environments
Student choice strengthens student engagement resulting in deeper engagement in school, which is reflected in increased attendance and decreased discipline events. Along with student choice, Dr. Montessori also identified that to build concentration, training is required. Like adults, children benefit greatly from blocks of uninterrupted work time. For both groups, imposed breaks are often disruptive and result in difficult transitions back into work. To develop concentration, a skill that requires practice for improvement, students benefit from the ability to self-regulate their work time and transitions. This practice also allows students to develop a strong inner guide and respect for others working around them. Students build confidence, time-management, and problem-solving skills when allowed extended work times—all of which are contributors to the development of agency. Scheduling, prioritizing, and integrating are real-world, practical skills that must be practiced for mastery. At PCM, autonomy is leveraged as a learning tool to empower students, including those with disabilities, those for whom English is their second language, those who have experienced trauma, and low-income students.
what you'll notice
Uninterrupted work time: Students are provided 3 hours of uninterrupted work time in the morning and 2-3 hours in the afternoons. Teachers will provide individual and/or small-group lessons at this time and specialists may work one-on-one or with small groups of students with similar needs within the classroom to advance skills. Students, with input from the teacher, may choose to work individually or with each other. Classroom assistants ensure students are building and honing strong collaboration skills with as little interference as possible, unless guidance is needed.
Student-driven, personalized work plans: Students are provided with teacher-guided opportunities to schedule, plan, prioritize and reflect on their own daily, weekly, and long-term learning tasks. All students will have goals they are working towards that are driven by their personal interests. They will have the flexibility of deciding (within limits) when, how often, and for how long they will work to reach their goals, helping students to develop an intimate understanding of how they learn.
Project-based learning that leverages the local communities natural and business resources, allows students to learn through authentic activities and build understanding in a local-to-global community context. Project-based learning builds connections across disciplines and applies concepts to real-world examples. PCM students develop a strong connection to their community through weekly walkabouts and project- and service-based learning opportunities. Employability skills are introduced in the Adolescent Program during project-based learning.
Exceeding The Standards
PCM will exceed the scope of the Washington State K-12 Learning Standards to ensure whole-child educational needs are being met. We believe, and evidence supports, that additional standards must be incorporated in order to monitor and assess the suite of skills 21st century students need to be successful and happy members of society. To be poised for success, 21st century students must show proficiency in learning, literacy, and life skills. Each of these categories include multiple skills that need to be mastered to build the full suite of skills necessary to achieve the goal. Evidence suggests that for students to build these skills, they must develop strong executive functioning and social-emotional skills, be engaged and see relevance in their work, be provided direct opportunities to apply concepts in real-world situations, and be offered some choice and autonomy over when, where, and how long it takes each individual student to progress through learning standards.
21st Century Skills
PCM students develop skills and habits of mind that are required to attend college and attain living-wage jobs. Skills and
knowledge in core subject areas are applied through project-based learning to real-world situations. Students of all ages
learn to self-reflect and set SMART Goals to build strong habits for success.