BV receives 6th grade approval; offers idea for Rock Ledge ‘partnership’

       With sixth grade now definitely added for the coming school year at Buena Vista Elementary, can a Montessori tie with Rock Ledge Ranch be far behind?

A well-attended event at Buena Vista Elementary this semester was the sock hop/barbecue March 11. Doing the "limbo" was part of the fun.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The possibility was included in a presentation to the District 11 Board of Education at its meeting May 18.
       The board OK'd the sixth grade after hearing a report from the school and district staff that additional students - about a dozen are expected for 2011-2012 - can be incorporated into existing grades 4-5 classrooms without needing more teachers and that having grades 4-6 is consistent with Montessori's traditional Upper Elementary format.
       In a presentation slide titled “What does 6th grade in the Buena Vista Montessori Upper Elementary look like?” several benefits were listed, including “grace and courtesy, hands on theme-based learning, individual and group work, self construction, environmental education [and] service learning.”
       There should be “no significant fiscal impact as the sixth-graders will blend into the two Upper El classrooms,” according to the report to the school board. “Incidental classroom supplies and materials to support the increase of enrollment is expected but will be covered within the current BV budget.”
       As for a Rock Ledge/ school partnership, the presentation to the BOE listed such benefits as “involving students with conservation efforts, supporting community gardening and basic farming and training students as ranch docents/ interns.
       Noel Black, a parent volunteer, said tentative plans are to “start taking field trips there next year in a way that's collaborative with Andy [Morris, the ranch manager] and their needs.” Kids could even do chores there, he added.
       A longer-range idea is to expand BV's Montessori to include a middle school (grades 6-8) and even locate a building at the ranch. Morris said that such a proposal has some compatibility with the ranch's master plan, which calls for a future structure north of the admission hut on the east side of the creek. “It was to be an orientation center,” he pointed out, but he's willing to see how things work out. “It's a possibility to have Montessori out here on a field trip once a week. I'm interested in seeing what they come up with.”
       Maria Montessori, an early 20th century Italian educator who developed the learning style that bears her name, believed that a school in a farm setting is beneficial to children, including an understanding of “moral and abstract functions, how goods and services are exchanged and how things operate,” Black explained.
       While not opposed to the school-at-the-ranch idea, Matt Mayberry, the city's director of cultural services, cautioned against building up too much anticipation. “We're in the dreaming phase right now,” he said. “It's not even conceptual, although we have ideas for some approaches.”
       If a Montessori middle school does materialize at the ranch, he would prefer that it to be built in the style of the historic Glen Eyrie one-room schoolhouse. “I would love to see it happen,” he said, “but it's a long ways away.”

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