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Discovery Preschool and Family Center brings Reggio Emilia inspiration to the world of Montessori on the Westside of Santa Cruz. Maria Montessori, a mother to the early childhood education community, developed, in our opinion, the most beautiful environments and materials ever to be seen in preschools worldwide. The inspiration of beauty and the careful use of materials creates a serenity to the classroom environment that lends space to magical learning and shared discoveries, rich throughout the school day. The beauty of these environments is more than the aesthetics; it lends to inspirations, calmness, honored curiosities and individual growth and autonomy. Montessori environments inspired us to learn more about the importance of environment and materials within the classroom. This research led to the Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education and the concept of “environment as the third teacher”. With a progressive approach to education, using foundational Montessori methods, beautiful materials and Reggio inspiration; we're excited to build this wonderful school community.


Reggio Emilia Learning Environments

The environment is recognized for its potential to inspire children. An environment filled with natural light, order and beauty. Open spaces where every material is considered for its purpose, every corner is ever-evolving to encourage children to delve deeper and deeper into their interests. The space encourages collaboration, communication and exploration. The space respects children as capable by providing them with authentic materials & tools . The space is cared for by the children and the adults. A hundred different ways of thinking, of discovering, of learning. Through drawing and sculpting ,through dance and movement, through painting and pretend play, through modelling and music, and that each one of these Hundred Languages must be valued and nurtured. 


Montessori Environments

The "prepared environment" is Maria Montessori's concept that the environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child. In the prepared environment, there is a variety of activity as well as a great deal of movement. In a preschool classroom, for example, a three-year-old may be washing clothes by hand while a four-year-old nearby is composing words and phrases with letters known as the movable alphabet, and a five-year-old is performing multiplication using a specially designed set of beads. In an elementary classroom, a small group of six- to nine-year-old children may be using a timeline to learn about extinct animals while another child chooses to work alone, analyzing a poem using special grammar symbols. Sometimes an entire class may be involved in a group activity, such as storytelling, singing, or movement. In the calm, ordered space of the Montessori prepared environment, children work on activities of their own choice at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially designed to meet their developmental needs.


Montessori Materials

In the Montessori classroom, learning materials are arranged invitingly on low, open shelves. Children may choose whatever materials they would like to use and may work for as long as the material holds their interest. When they are finished with each material, they return it to the shelf from which it came. The materials themselves invite activity. There are bright arrays of solid geometric forms, knobbed puzzle maps, colored beads, and various specialized rods and blocks. Each material in a Montessori classroom isolates one quality. In this way, the concept that the child is to discover is isolated. For example, the material known as the pink tower is made up of ten pink cubes of varying sizes. The preschool-aged child constructs a tower with the largest cube on the bottom and the smallest on top. This material isolates the concept of size. The cubes are all the same color and texture; the only difference is their size. Other materials isolate different concepts: color tablets for color, geometry materials for form, and so on. Moreover, the materials are self-correcting. When a piece does not fit or is left over, the child easily perceives the error. There is no need for adult "correction." The child is able to solve problems independently, building self-confidence, analytical thinking, and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment. As the child's exploration continues, the materials interrelate and build upon each other.