At first glance, it’s easy to tell that Heärt Montessori is not your average school. From the location in a beautiful Masonic lodge in Clifton, to the renewable gardens on the grounds, to the name itself — there’s something different and special about the school.
Anna Ferguson, one of the five founders of Heärt Montessori, laughs easily when asked about the pronunciation of the name with the unique umlaut over the letter “a.”
“We just liked the design of it and it just creates a conversation with people. People ask and we like that,” says Ferguson. “And also it allowed us to get the domain name Heärt Montessori and Heärt Montessori School without having to pay an extraordinary amount.”
Her answer is as honest, approachable, and practical as the program itself. Based upon the principles of Montessori teaching, Heärt also incorporates an emphasis on mindfulness and communing with nature. The intention of the curriculum is to nurture a student’s whole being through the practices of yoga, meditation, and sustainable agriculture.
“There’s a focus on core academics and also practical life skills and how to deal with the stress and tension of everyday life, because even kids now are feeling the stress of a fast-paced lifestyle,” she says.
“Giving them the tools to deal with that from the very beginning through yoga, through meditation, through mindfulness — it’s really ingrained into the curriculum,” Ferguson continues. “It’s not like a side offering. There’s daily meditation in short little spurts throughout the day.”
Like most Montessori schools, Heärt Montessori allows students to guide their own lessons. The teachers give direction, but the students choose their own subjects and materials. Rather than desks there are small mats on which the children do their work, and there is constant movement. Older children teach younger ones what they have learned.
When they are finished working with something, students may move on to something else.
“What is unique about our school program is the significant amount of outdoor time, including lessons,” says Ferguson. “It’s not just free play time. If they’re outside and they’re looking at rocks, for example, they’re incorporating geometry without them even knowing they’re learning it.”
“We also have a permaculture program and kids learn to grow their own food. Starting at the preschool level they’re planting seeds in the classroom,” she continues. “And we have our own garden on site that the kids tend to, so there’s a big interest in that. As the kids get older, the more involved they get with the farming process.”
Permaculture, a term comprised of the words “permanent” and “agriculture,” refers to a philosophy of working with — rather than against — nature, and of looking at ecosystems as a whole instead of focusing on their distinct elements as separate entities.
One of the many benefits of learning to work with the natural environment to grow food is, of course, the pleasure and satisfaction of tasting it. Parents of children who attend Heärt Montessori have cited the nutritious, plant-based meals as one of the most important holistic benefits of the school.
Due to the distinctive offerings of the program, those with children in the existing preschool and kindergarten classes have encouraged an expansion to include older children. The founders of Heärt Montessori can now happily oblige. The coming 2019–2020 school year will see the incorporation of students through age 9.
Interested families are welcome to attend one of Heärt Montessori’s open houses to learn more. These will be held on January 27th, February 20th, March 13th, April 14th, May 5th, and May 15th at the E.T. Carlson Lodge, located at 218 Ludlow Avenue. Wednesday open houses take place from 6:30–7:30 p.m., while Sunday open houses are held from 2:30–3:30 p.m. For more information visit www.heartmontessorischool.com.