I had the pleasure of interviewing and photographing (with my humble iPhone) Woodentots Montessori School in London, UK. The principal, Paula, was just awarded Montessorian of the Year! Congrats Paula!!
The Woodentots at Rochester Road is divided into four main zones, the entryway, the indoor Montessori classroom, the garden (outdoor classroom) and a wonderful little art studio nestled at the back of the outdoor space!
Qn 1: What does a child’s day at Woodentots look like?
Paula: This is the Children’s House, so it is the children’s space. They are free to move between the classroom, garden and studio, and use any of the materials, and our teachers are ready to support them. The classroom and garden are equally important for learning; it’s about the child connecting to a material. Children work outside in all weather and often remain there for the duration of the day.
We have a different group activity everyday, such as bread baking, clay modelling, and specialist teachers for dance and music.
We follow the seasons too, so we are growing chicks last term and butterflies this term. Children can witness the transformation of the animals as they go through the life cycle. We also celebrate Steiner festivals, like Martinmas last term, where we invite our parents to come in and do a lantern walk.
Qn 2: There are some wonderful convergences between Montessori and Waldorf, and also some differences. How do you blend the two approaches in your school?
Paula: I think the approaches are naturally linked and complement each other. There is an emphasis on natural materials and natural environment. It was when I had my own children 10-15 years ago that I began to fully understand how Steiner worked, and realised I was already doing some of that that in my Montessori nursery! It evolved very organically. One main difference is the vertical grouping in Montessori (which we do) but otherwise, in both Montessori and Waldorf, children are self-selecting, independent and learn at their own pace.
Garden (Outdoor classroom)
Qn 3: Woodentots was rated Outstanding by Ofsted (the highest rating given by the UK’s Office of Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, which inspects and regulates all schools in the United Kingdom). How do you achieve the very rare success of providing a child-led education while surpassing national criteria?
Paula: You have to 100% believe in your ethos and demonstrate that it works. Some Ofsted inspectors have not been in a Montessori environment before and are completely amazed by what the children can do and how confident they are. Little ones using carrot peelers, older ones teaching themselves reading, writing, math.
We are a training school so I can cherry-pick the student teachers who come through my doors. I have become quite skilled at interviewing teachers to find those who are the right fit for our environment.
Lastly, if you unpick EYFS (UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework for children’s learning from birth-5yo), it is very Montessori. While safeguarding children and safety aspects are still important, it has become more child-centred.
Art studio in the garden (outdoor classroom)
Thank you and congrats once again Paula! You can follow woodentots_montessori on Instagram and on the website. In my next post- decor eye candy in the form of Woodentot’s inspiring children’s art studio!
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