Students at Soldotna Montessori School use real life skills in their micro society program.
School may be out for the summer, but many of the students at the Soldotna Montessori School will practice their homework in the real world. Parents may even ask junior if they’d mind balancing the checkbook while Daddy cleans their bedroom. According to Montessori 4th -6th grade teacher Cheryl Romatz, the micro society she and her students created is a way of involving youngsters with real life challenges, “It was very popular this year and we’re hoping to bring it back next year,” said Romatz. It began with the students learning to fill out an employment application.“We started by asking the students, if there was a job, how would you get it? So they started filling out applications, building resumes and references and we found out quickly that many students didn’t know their address, so we started right there with the very basics using ink instead of a pencil so they had to be careful when they couldn’t erase and the beauty of all that was that when they finished they realized that once that was done all they had to do was change the dates and update the resume it would be ready for next year, so here we have 9-year-olds understanding how to update their resumes, and get letters of recommendation, that was their favorite thing having all those wonderful things said about you in print,” said Romatz.
From their the class went on to form their micro society and decide what they would want in their community and how it would work. “They started with a post office and a bank because they decided those were necessities and went on to a general store and voted to have a café, an art shop, and a sport shop because those were important to them,” explained Romatz. While some might call this playtime, Romatz said that the students quickly adapted math skills and researched those that they didn’t yet have as they learned account balances, payrolls, taxes, and rent payments, “They did so much research to find out how it all was done, and then we went out into the community and saw how it was done in the real world and so much practical math, reading, and writing was going on and they became so motivated that I couldn’t stop them from working. I had a hard time closing it off and doing something else, they just wanted to keep researching and learning about values of local art versus works of famous masters and how those values were established and one topic would lead to another inquiry and they’d have to search for more answers and write about it along the way.”
As the students went into the real world Romatz says they became impressed with the importance of being precise in their work, “They were amazed at how important the work that was done behind the counters at the bank for example. The sixth graders got to be managers so they dealt with problem solving so when they were talking with store managers they would ask them how they solved certain challenges.” Volunteers from local establishments such as the Soldotna Wells Fargo branch were invited as advisors to the micro-society. “Our Customer Service Representative, Robyn Kincaid, went over at least four times and was just so impressed at how the students realized the bank wasn’t making any money to pay wages or rent, so she told them about charging fees and was amazed at the criteria they developed their own fee schedule and the basis they chose to charge the fee for,” said Wells Fargo Branch Manager Kathy Gensel.
The Soldotna Montessori micro society continued for about six months and is part of a nationwide program that began in the 1960’s to help children learn to understand the business world and practical skills. “I borrowed from that program and started our own mini-version of the micro society in my classroom and next year we hope the other two Montessori classes will join in and we’ll have a larger micro-society next year,” said Romatz. The micro society model has been used successfully in schools across the country to address the issues of student achievement, school climate, student attendance, student motivation, within school faculty and administration communication, parent involvement, and community partner involvement. To learn more about the Soldotna Montessori go to the Districts website at www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us.
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