Peninsula Montessori Schools
Founded in 1978 by Claudia Krikorian, who grew up in Palos Verdes Estates, Peninsula Montessori Schools educate the whole child with a hands-on discovery approach and allow freedom of movement in a multi-age group setting unlike traditional classrooms. The school has two campuses: Rancho Palos Verdes serves 250 students, ages 18 months to 12 years, and Redondo Beach serves 80 students ages 18 months to 5 years. In addition to academics, the school offers gymnastics, dance, tennis, soccer, art, music, computer and physical education.
How does your school empower kids and give them a voice?
“Our students know they are respected and cherished. They feel safe and find that their voice is heard. The children are comforted in knowing there is very close adult supervision and guidance—both in class and on the playground—so bullying is nonexistent. They learn to be mindful, which is essential in today’s modern world. Our students develop the skills they will need to go through life with awareness, compassion and clarity.
They take an active part in classroom management and have daily meetings to discuss any issues that arise. They learn how to cope and manage situations, making conscious choices to work with others peacefully. With less stress, they are happier and healthier, blooming into their own unique potential.”
Speak about the concept of playful learning.
“The elements of a Montessori classroom—the child, the teacher and the prepared environment—interrelate and play a somewhat equal role in the ultimate development of the child. Although the lead teacher maintains responsibility for presenting individual and group lessons, the emphasis is on the children utilizing self-correcting materials specially designed to support many different learning styles and levels. The manipulatives are designed to encourage participative learning that is multidimensional (visual, audial, sensorial as well as cognitive.)
Students learn through individual or collaborative discovery of concepts by participating in experimental work. The freedom of movement that is proving so important to children’s optimal functioning is prevalent in a Montessori classroom, where spontaneous self-discipline arises. It is a calm, warm, nurturing environment in which the child feels secure.”
What steps do you take to fight discrimination and encourage inclusivity?
“For the past 44 years, Peninsula Montessori has taken pride in putting on its annual International Festival. Each classroom immerses itself in the study of a country. The children learn about the geography, flora and fauna, history, flag, language, culture, sports, cuisine, etc. Students enjoy many art projects representing different aspects of the country they are learning about. They learn a song and/or dance, which they perform for one another in traditional costume.
Additionally, the children get passports and travel around the world from one ‘country’ to another, visiting the various museums and sampling foods from all over the world. They learn to appreciate all cultures and customs and celebrate together their newfound knowledge and take pride in sharing their own heritage. This is perhaps why we continue to attract such a global community to join our diverse student body!”
How important is memorization in the learning process?
“It is important to recognize the difference between learning to think and learning to memorize. Thinking requires much more effort and brain activity than mere recitation of facts. It involves inquiry, analysis, problem-solving, persistence and self-motivation, which in turn build self-confidence and courage.
Since we aim to foster independence and joyful discovery, the emphasis is on children actively learning rather than teachers passively imparting knowledge. This naturally leads to greater understanding and retention of information. We are educating children who live in a world that is changing rapidly from day to day. More than ever, our students will need to be able to think for themselves. Rote learning will not prepare them for the complexity and fast-paced changes they will face.”
In what ways is your school extraordinary?
“The Montessori curriculum is highly individualized. Students are allowed to explore activities and concepts at their own pace. This naturally encourages them to delve into more challenging areas, which accelerates their learning experience. They are accustomed to researching and tackling new subjects. Students discover that risk-taking is vital for achieving success.
Learning occurs at a comfortable pace for each student, rather than imposing the same rate on every student in a classroom. Without adult-imposed competition, children help one another problem-solve collaboratively. Our students leave our program with a strong sense of self and a love of learning.”
How can parents best invest in their kids’ success?
“Peninsula Montessori Schools enjoy an active Montessori Parents’ Association. We welcome and appreciate their involvement. Parents choose our school because the values embedded in the Montessori approach match their aspirations for their children to be confident, competent learners and socially responsible members of society. We are a unique community of families and educators working together to make a positive and lasting impact on our environment, our nation and our world.”