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Welcome from Jen Moran - Director
Sourdough Montessori School
A little boy and his mother recently arrived for what was to be their first visit to Sourdough. They had been to several other schools doing the practice most parents know all too well – the hunt for the right pre-school, but all it took for little Luca to know he had arrived at his desired destination was to enter our front gate and behold our backyard. “We’re home!” he exclaimed to his somewhat startled mother as each took-in the scene which spread before them as if in a dream, no doubt a magical one for the sight of so many children playing so joyfully and otherwise behaving with such utter abandon – and it was all o.k.
And so it is with me every time I come back to Sourdough, for it does indeed feel like home, and a magical one at that. Perhaps this is because as a co-founder, Sourdough has always felt like something of my own in the way it has consistently reflected who I am and what I believe in as both an educator and a person. Even when I was gone from Bozeman, (we were in Livingston raising our kids for the 6 year period which ended with my return to the school in September 2011), my connection to the school never wavered. Perhaps this is because I could see how the values and ideals we vested in the school from the start not only survived but grew in meaning over time, (in spite of my absence). Perhaps this is because as my own relationship with the extended Sourdough community (former and current parents and kids and staff) has evolved, Sourdough has come to feel like something of a second family.
All of which is a good thing. And not just for me, because to the extent our school does feel like a home-away-from-home for our students, in the way it is a safe and nurturing place, and in the way our children come to develop a level of comfort at Sourdough that enables them to “be themselves” at school - it only enhances the overall learning experience we are trying to create.
So what is it that makes Sourdough so, if you will, homey, and what makes the connection so strong between our school and our students (and their families)? It is a question with many answers. For some it is our overall site. We sit nestled in Sourdough Canyon in a picturesque nook of rolling hills and open space that is nothing short of enchanting. For some, (like Luka no doubt), it is our yard, and all the fun things one can do in it. For others, the wealth of materials both inside and out, and the fascinating lessons and activities we do at school is reason enough to feel a passion for Sourdough. For me, it is our staff, which collectively and consistently possess not just a talent for education, but a genuine care for the welfare of our students and their families that is nothing short of inspiring.
Of course the best way to see what I describe is to pay us a visit. Only then will you and your child be able to experience what Luka felt the first time he came to our school, and what I feel every time I come home to Sourdough.
Nurturing the whole child
The key to the Montessori experience is the environment. As Dr. Maria Montessori explained, “the child learns to function independently and direct themselves through their will . . . not because adults teach but because the child creates. Thus, learning is not something acquired by listening to others, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on their environment”. It is in the spirit of this belief, (that the quality of the environment is central to the child’s overall learning experience), that it has been our school’s stated mission since 1997 to provide – to the best of our ability - the finest pre-school and kindergarten possible for our students and their families. To us, that means offering a nurturing environment that is as safe and comforting as it is fun and stimulating. A place where each child is free to discover, in their own unique way, the pure joy of learning.
Our environment is as unique as we are. Visit us at our real site and I’m guessing you will immediately see why. In the mean time, and on behalf of our entire staff, welcome to our web site! I hope you find your virtual tour both meaningful and informative, but if you do have questions, please contact us at the school.
There is so much to tell in describing our school to a new parent. Sourdough Montessori School opened on October 13, 1997 in a cozy country home nestled in Sourdough Canyon; the realization of a dream shared by co-founders Jay and Kathryn Josephs and me - Jen Moran, (our Director). From the start our goal has always been the same: to create the greatest pre-school / kindergarten we could imagine. I’m not sure we knew then what that really meant, and in truth we seem to find new answers to this challenge every day. But either way, our reasons for doing this have never wavered: as parents and educators we fully appreciated how important the pre-school years truly are, and thus why it mattered that we build Sourdough – so children might have a place like it in Bozeman to learn and grow.
15 years and over 750 students later and our initial belief in the importance of the school has only grown in meaning as we have come to appreciate the importance of this critical phase of development by experiencing first hand the daily wonders that occur with our Sourdough students. It drives us still to be the best pre-school / kindergarten we can be, because now more than ever we see how much it really matters.
Upon your arrival to our school you will immediately sense the rural, peaceful nature of our environs. Rolling mountains and open hillsides, where a random collection of horses, deer, elk and other four legged wildlife regularly frolic, greet the visitor and silently announce the tranquility of the place about.
As soon you one enter our front gate, the abundance of our natural backdrop is supplanted by our fully-fenced backyard, which beckons for exploration. The yard is sprawling, with a canopy of tall trees (with low hanging bird-houses) rising overhead and enough flowering bushes to ensure plenty of shade in summer and sturdy climbing limbs all year long. A paved path for trikes and wagons winds around three sides of the yard which is studded with stuff – mostly built from rugged and rustic logs. Kid stuff - like sturdy forts, and swings, and climbing walls, and a hammock, and a tree trapeze, and rings, and a slide that seems to shoot right out of the trees, and a sandbox rimmed with massive logs, and a basketball court, and sturdy picnic tables for eating or working, and a rabbit hutch. In short, there is more than enough space and things to allow our kids to fully stretch their growing minds and muscles in an environment that I think makes some of our parents jealous that they can’t go back and be a kid at Sourdough themselves.
As I say, there’s a lot to our yard – and for good reason: we understand that much of the real learning that takes place at Sourdough occurs on the yard during free play. We know this not just from experience, (and because it is what the experts tell us), but because we were kids once too.
Our Schoolhouse and Classrooms
Inside our approximately 3,000 square foot schoolhouse, you will find two classrooms; a larger one upstairs – with a capacity of 28 students, and one downstairs with a capacity of 18. Each offers open, light filled rooms with thoughtfully selected Montessori activities of all varieties. There are areas for art projects, science experiments, reading and language exercises and Circle Time, (a daily ritual that begins and ends each morning and afternoon work period in which the entire class assembles in a circle for some teacher led time together).
For the little ones, there is a special nap room with raised cots. For the older children, there is a dedicated kindergarten program with age appropriate materials and learning tools. For all our students, there are comfortable eating spaces and cubbies to hold the many things children need to store during their busy days.
Both of our upstairs and downstairs classrooms flow easily as one moves from one work area to the next, and all the rooms are painted in a pleasing rainbow of thoughtfully selected pastels designed to calm the senses and please the soul. Colors are fun too.
Through both the structure of our school and our application of Montessori teaching principals, we have created an environment that is safe and nurturing for our children and their families. The curriculum offers lessons in Practical Life, Sensory Exploration, Science, Math, Language (including Spanish classes), Reading, Writing and Art. A generous array of materials and supplies support our “hands-on” program which sees our kids doing things more than merely sitting and listening to a teacher. We also offer a music and movement program to enhance coordination and better develop a sense of music in our students.
As you visit with us, here on-line or in person, you will begin to see the many wonders of our site, and the richness of our classroom environment. What you won’t see, but which nonetheless helps to define us as the great school we strive to be, is our sense of community. Talk to a friend who has been to our school, (or look at some of our parent observations) and you will begin to appreciate the strength of our Sourdough community.
It starts with our staff, who without exception share a dedication to our students and their families that is truly inspiring. Not only do they come every day with a bucket-full of Montessori and state elementary level teaching certifications and an equally impressive array of early childhood degrees, but they really care about our students. A lot.
They care so much in fact that sometimes I wonder why! Seriously. I would like to say that the team-teaching approach we take at Sourdough, (which sees at some point each of our teachers working closely not just with each other – but with each of our students), helps in this “teacher-student” connection as over time, all of our teachers become personally vested in the development of each of our students, (and of each other too as teachers). I would like to say too that we are particularly adept at finding especially sensitive teachers – and keen in our ability to make clear the priority we place on kindness and compassion at our school. But the truth is . . . I’m not entirely sure why we have been so blessed over the years to have had such exceptional staffs that seem to care so much about our kids. Call it the spirit of Sourdough, something as real as it is inexplicable, (but now I digress).
Our parents, who are always welcome at our school, form another key element in this sense of community I speak of at Sourdough. Through their participation in such things as; being volunteer story readers, (and listeners to the kids who are ready to read to us), assisters in art projects, cooking lesson leaders, field trip drivers and of course birthday celebration celebrators, our parents become an integral part of our school.
Featured family, which sees each child and their family celebrated for one week of the year for their uniqueness, is another fun way families get involved with our school. Picture boards of relatives and friends featuring special places and times, special family foods and stories shared with the class, favorite family songs played or sung by a mom or dad, (or grandparent) – these are the things that make featured family such a meaningful part of our school in the way it helps us all get to know each other better.
In addition to parent-teacher conferences, the connection between the parent and the school is enhanced by the sending of regular pre-printed notes from the teacher to the parent that begin: “Ask me about... ”. The teacher provides the rest, which usually is just a word or two, (for example; “butterflies”, or “waterfalls”), to suggest a topic we have been exploring. The “Ask me about...” notes offer the parent an effective way to engage in meaningful conversation with their child about their exciting day at Sourdough. Regular lectures on child development based issues, parent/ teacher conferences and an array of parent-included functions and activities all help to foster a strong connection between our parents and the school. This is the stuff which binds us together as a community in a way which has become something of our hallmark.
Our blog, (sourdoughmontessorischool.blogspot.com) which is updated with regular photos of the goings on at Sourdough, is another favorite tool extended-families use to stay in touch with us. Grandparents and other relatives that live some distance away tell us how they absolutely love our blog as it helps them see what their growing little ones, (whom they never get to see enough of) are up to.
The mission of Sourdough Montessori School is to provide, to the best of our ability, a safe and nurturing environment that will allow each child to discover, in their own unique way, the pure joy of learning.