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Upper Valley Montessori School Offers Only Middle School Program in Area

POSTED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 12:40pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 8:13am

EL PASO- An Upper Valley Montessori school has started up something new this year that no other Montessori school in the area has.

Mountain West has the only Montessori middle school in the area. The program currently has seven students and the school is taking applications for this unique class setting.

“There isn't another school in the region. I think the next adolescent program or middle school program is in Albuquerque and in Tucson,” said the head of  Mountain West Montessori School, Natalia Bennett.

Montessori education takes an emphasis on independent learning where children are assigned individual tasks and supervised by teachers.

“We get to learn at our own rate. We don't sit there waiting for class to end and do everything at our house,” said student Santiago Bennett.

Santiago is one of seven students in the middle school program. Their classroom has a home-type setting. They gather around the living room where they have discussions.

“I think you can learn better if you're comfortable like at home,” said student Mijael.

Children spend a few days a week at the library researching topics they're assigned. Once they do their research, they are required to come up with interpretive questions, evaluative questions and factual questions and have a discussion. One of their topics is deforestation.

“When you cut down a tree you leave the stump and that's creating all the carbon dioxide so it's polluting a lot and we need to find a way to fix it,” said student Diego Antonio.

Mountain West says students not only learn from books and the internet, but through field trips. They consider El Paso their classroom. Students spend a lot of time outside the classroom on the four acres of land their school sits on. There, they get some hands-on experience on what they learned in class. From science to math to physics to biology and humanities, they put all that to work as they lean about nature.

Students also learn about the economy by selling what they harvest at the farmer's market. The school's goal is to have them be as well-rounded and have as much hands-on experience so they can put all of that to use once they're adults.

“They're going to be able to understand the government of El Paso. They're going to know the institutions and they’re going to know where to go and what are all the roles they can play in our society,” says school coordinator, Fabiola Valencia.

The middle schools students have been chosen to make a presentation to go before the United Nations. That's set to happen in April.

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