By: Lauren Young
After being open for nearly 37 years, the Xavier University Montessori Lab School, located in Joseph Hall, will introduce an Upper Elementary School which provides Montessori education to children in grades four through six. With this heavily anticipated addition, Xavier’s Montessori School can now serve the educational needs of children from ages three to 12, which is a first since the school was first established in 1968.
Prior to the Upper Elementary introduction, XU’s Montessori consisted of only on Early Childhood class (ages three to five), and a Lower Elementary class (grades one to three). This fall, the Lower Elementary class actually doubled in size, requiring an expansion to the second floor of Joseph Hall.
The head teachers and clinical faculty include Kim Stegmaier and Donna Hutchinson-Smyth for the Early Childhood classes and Laura Opfer and Josh Shanklin for the Elementary programs. All four teachers are graduates of Xavier’s Montessori Education Graduate Program. Xavier has always offered a Montessori Education certificate geared towards Upper Elementary students, but never had the opportunity to observe that age group on campus. Not only is this new expansion beneficial to Montessori Education majors. Other student observers major in other fields such as special education, cccupational therapy, early childhood education, biology, music, and Spanish.
Montessori education is unique in that it combines a range of age groups in one collective class. It also focuses on the important of using hands-on learning methods and concrete materials to trigger and develop critical thinking skills. For example, making earth layer models out of clay and labeling the layers in a Lower Elementary science class.
Cincinnati was actually the first city in the U.S. to start public Montessori schools, Xavier’s being among one of the first. After its establishment in 1968, Ms. Martha McDermott, one of the founders, went to Italy to receive Elementary training and when she returned in 1975, Xavier’s Montessori school grew from just Early Childhood to Early Childhood through Lower Elementary (age three to third grade). Today, Xavier is one of the few universities in the country to still have a lab school for students to use for observational purposes.
The new Head of Xavier’s Montessori Lab School, Rosemary Quaranta, said she feels as though “we’ve completed the puzzle…that full vision of what [Montessori] elementary is” by adding the Upper Elementary program to the school. She expresses her hopes and goals of eventually adding a junior high school and even a high school program sometime in the future. Her dedication to her role as Head is evident in her enthusiasm and love for not only this traditional form of schooling, but also for the children. It’s also evident in her confidence in the future growth of the school. “I always say we’re kind of like the best-kept secret over here,” Quaranta said. “[And] we want to keep growing.”