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Smart Start director achieves her Montessori certification

May 9, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

Lessons focus on manners, peace, order and respect.

Smart Start Academy will be adjusting its name and changing its style of teaching for the coming school year. After operating as a traditional preschool for more than 30 years in Riverton, Smart Start will soon be known as Smart Start Montessori Academy.

The owner and director of the school, Donna Harrison, said she is excited for this change. She said she completed a Montessori training program.

"This curriculum is fascinating, and it really encourages creativity," Harrison said.

Montessori schools were originally founded by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician who studied teaching and later became an educator. Montessori was interested in the educational ideas of child psychologists. She eventually developed and refined her own ideas, materials and methods.

Montessori observed that children need lots of hands-on learning in a carefully prepared environment with an abundance of sensory learning materials. While attempting to develop the cognitive, physical and practical life and social skills of young children, she put a great deal of emphasis on manners, peace, order and respect.

Harrison felt drawn to the Montessori curriculum, because it allows for children to move at their own paces.

"The curriculum really emphasizes old-fashioned courtesies and manners, order and respect," Harrison said.

Children go through a period referred to as the "window of learning," and Harrison said she feels that during that window, children have a natural thirst for knowledge.

"It is fun to watch a child in that period, because they become almost obsessed with learning," Harrison said. "This program allows for the kids to do a lot more self-discovery."

Harrison has already started using some of the curriculum in the classrooms, and she said she has noticed a substantial change in the calmness of the children.

"A lot of the kids are used to playing video games or with toys that are very active, so when they come to school, they pick up the toys and want to be aggressive with them," Harrison said. "With the Montessori program, the activities are much calmer."

Harrison said she and her staff are excited about this approach and invite anyone interested in learning more about the curriculum to attend an open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, April 20, or from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at Smart-Start Academy.

The school is located at 1014 N. Eighth W. St.

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