Mengya Montessori Home Opens in Shanghai
On 31 August, a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of Mengya Montessori Home at the Shanghai Jinmao J·LIFE was held, marking a new prestigious international education location in Lujiazui CBD.
With the school being located in an office suite, the designers researched the best Kindergartens in the world and brought the elements together into the final design, which features a child-sized kitchen, large motor space including two slides, a swing and a climbing wall, large interior windows placed low to the ground where the children can enjoy them most, and natural built-in wood shelving throughout… these just a few of the elements that make this a truly dynamic environment for kids.
Each classroom is 150 square meters and is fully equipped for up to 35 children. True to authentic Montessori implementation, each room contains areas dedicated to the practice of practical life, sensorial exploration, English language, Chinese language, cultural studies (history, geography, botany, zoology), mathematics, a reading library, art, and music. Children will also enjoy child-sized sinks, restrooms, tables, and chairs designed especially for them! Plants, rugs, soft furniture, beautiful artwork, and gentle lighting truly make the space feel like a home.
“Our goal was to create a home-like environment for children and that’s exactly the vision we gave to the international design team,” says Heather Brown, Principal at Mengya Montessori Home.
The school name ‘Mengya Montessori Home’ (MYM) has a great deal of significance. ‘Meng’ means ‘Montessori’ and ‘childhood’ in Chinese. ‘Ya’ has an ancient meaning of ‘good, just, and right.’ “Our belief is that Montessori is the best possible path for all children, so Mengya seemed the perfect fit for our new school. As the icing on the cake, ‘Mengya’ sounds similar to the Chinese for ‘sprouting’, which is exactly what children will do in our program,” says Brown.
Regarding the curriculum, it’s important to know that Montessori is a scientifically based, child-centered approach to education. It was developed by Dr Maria Montessori, an Italian physician who approached the crucial issue of educating children from a scientific perspective. All of the components of the method have been tested time and time again for over 100 years across a wide range of cultures throughout the world. Unlike other educational psychologists, Montessori is unique in that her theories are partnered with and supported by a practical method.
Many schools focus on the acquisition of academics, specifically math, languages, and science. While Montessori schools excel in these areas, their true focus is the education of the whole child: physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially. Montessori children are independent, kind, curious, globally minded, and adaptable. Multi-age groupings (three years) allow children opportunities to learn from others and develop leadership skills in a social situation that is more representative of the ‘real world’. Highly trained adults, with extensive knowledge on the child’s sensitive learning periods, carefully observe and offer the child lessons optimized for their stage of development. Most importantly, the children, in a carefully prepared environment, are able to follow their interests and develop into their unique self. A method of education more respectful of the individual and better-suited for his or her development simply does not exist.
Sun Wenru, Operations Director of Mengya Montessori Home, adapted the traditional Montessori language materials for the Chinese language. Maria Montessori designed her language curriculum in Italian, which was later adapted for English. Sun used her deep understanding of Montessori philosophy and knowledge of the Chinese language system to design the Chinese materials that will be used at the new school.
In regards to other programs offered, MYM has a rich visual arts and music program, although the authentic implementation of Montessori philosophy does not require any additional bells and whistles.
MYM is a lab school for the Montessori Institute of America (MIA) teacher-training program. This makes MYM unique in that all of the teachers in every classroom have quality Montessori training from a credentialed program. In order to provide an authentic dual language immersion experience, each environment is led by both Chinese and native English speaking foreign Montessori teachers. Sun and her staff are highly qualified to offer excellent Montessori education in Shanghai’s financial district. Sun has been integral in providing MIA teacher training in China since 2009. In the future, MIA will continue to offer teacher training in MMH annually, as well as visit regularly to sustain and support the excellence of the program for years to come.
The adult to child ratio is extremely important in a Montessori environment. There must be enough adult guidance to support a beautifully functioning classroom, but not so much that the children are never allowed the opportunity to problem solve or act for themselves. At MYM, there will be three trained adults in each environment – one foreign teacher and two Chinese teachers. Together, these three individuals will carefully observe each child and offer developmentally appropriate individual and small group lessons. Currently, all MMH staff has received 3-6 Montessori training sessions under. Sun and other highly qualified trainers through the Montessori Institute of America. The diverse MYM staff brings a variety of skills and advanced degrees to the table, including child psychology, music education, advanced Montessori education, and elementary Montessori education for ages 6-12. This collective knowledge allows the school to offer an advanced, well-rounded understanding of child development.
For the first year only, in addition to the 3-6 year-old program, MYM is offering a toddler class for children 18 months to 2 1/2 years. This select group of twelve children will be guaranteed a place in the 3-6 environment when they are older. Families with children aged 3 and 4 may apply for the 3-6 program. Due to the extreme developmental importance of the foundational years, children older than four will only be considered if they have prior experience in a Montessori classroom. The first 20 children who enroll at MYM will receive a 10% discount!
“We are seeking families who are willing to learn about the Montessori philosophy and support their child in a consistent way at home. This will be a very exciting debut year for MYM. We are looking forward to forming relationships with families and establishing our place in the community. Our school year will be centered on the support and development of our new learners who will form the foundation of our program,” said the Principal.
BY XING YANGJIAN