Our Latest Advertiser Is Three Tree Montessori School!

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by Janet Grella

The B-Town Blog is proud to welcome its latest Advertiser: Three Tree Montessori School in Burien!

Three Tree Montessori serves student learners from the Highline and West Seattle area – you know, that’s the school behind those whimsical columns on SW 160th. They’ve been guiding students in this area since 2003.

“Guiding,” as in not “teaching” – well that’s the Montessori philosophy, you see.

Montessori is a time-tested, (since 1907 in Europe, and the mid-50s in the US), child-centered developmental education method that is focused on the individual child’s potential, giving the child hands-on experiences that nurture the love of learning. It emphasizes collaboration, self-expression, and self-motivation in beautiful learning environments, which foster respect, peace, and joy.

Every Thursday at Three Tree Montessori, their staff welcomes interested parents and the community to experience Montessori by watching classroom activities. BTB spent last Thursday viewing Three Tree’s students at work. It wasn’t like any classroom we knew of, being products of public school, but it was interesting and worth explaining to our readers who are interested in public school alternatives.

Montessori divides classes by age, not grade level. The Toddler Program includes children aged 1 (and walking) to 3. This is where young children experience their first structured contact with other children. There are two toddler classes with 12 students in each class guided by a Montessori-certified teacher and an assistant teacher. There is one half-day class and one full-day class.

To give you an idea of what the Three Tree Montessori is like, here’s a slideshow of photos:

I was paired with an anxious mother from West Seattle who needed to watch her 1-1/2 year old son in his first week in class (he was doing much better than Mom!).

The Toddler environment is prepared to meets the needs of the child and to foster independence, motor coordination and language acquisition. This is where young children experience their first structured contact with other children. We observed tea parties, biscuit-baking, sweeping and cleaning—all performed with age appropriate tools.

Next we were off to the Primary Program for ages 3 to 6. We observed one of three primary classes. There is one teacher/guide, one assistant, and one support staff. One of the basic tenets of Montessori theory is the multi-age classroom. Here students learn practical life, sensorial, cultural, math and language activities and of course, outdoor play. There isn’t a desk in sight – instead there are chairs and tables that are age appropriate. Many of the children were using floor mats, studying math and geography working in groups or individually, with the older students mentoring the younger. We noted how quiet it was as they were learning at their own pace.

Finally we were welcomed into the Elementary classroom for ages 6-12. Yes, welcomed. Two girls (class greeters) welcomed BTB and offered tea. Students were working in small groups. Elementary children are noted for their questioning minds and their imaginations. The ability to reason is at its greatest capacity in the child of this age. The elementary classroom is designed to be the stepping-off point into the universe. The study of language includes writing, reading and oral expression. Math includes arithmetic, geometry and algebra (and we’re talking little kids learning this stuff!). Once again, all this learning is done on the floor or at tables.

After our tours of the classrooms were complete, we toured the gardens. Outdoor education is as important as indoor education at Three Tree Montessori. Each age level has their own garden area planted outside their classrooms, and are all aspiring gardeners. Their gardens include a compost pile as well as rain barrels (which were overflowing).

We sat with Elementary guide/teacher Peter Jensen and learned there are no grades given in Montessori School. Rather there are two annual parent teacher conferences and a year-end evaluation (the ITBS is given to the equivalent of third and sixth graders).

Three Tree Montessori offers a diverse student and teacher population, and they work at keeping classrooms diverse and balanced (by race and sex). Tuition assistance is available. There are 120 students at the school, with room for a few more in the Toddler and Elementary Programs.

That’s why they plan an open house Saturday January 31 from 1-3PM. Interested families can meet Executive Director Paula Walters, teachers and parents who took a chance on Montessori, and love it. Three Tree Montessori is located at 220 SW 160th in Burien.

Whimsical columns grace the front of Three Tree Montessori.

Imported columns grace the front of Three Tree Montessori.

For more information about Three Tree Montessori, the open house or to schedule a Thursday visit, contact administrator Jennifer Mason at (206) 242-5100, or click on their Ad for more info.

And about those columns – the originals were found in Cawa Cawa, New Zealand. They are replicas designed and built by parents from originals done by famous New Zealand artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

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