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Bright Star Versus Montessori

Bright Star has many THINGS IN COMMON with Montessori.  For example:
1. Both programs believe that each child develops at his or her own rate.
2. Both programs are process-focused.
3. Both believe in hands-on learning and children constructing their own knowledge. 
There are, however, TWO BIG DIFFERENCES.

1. The MATERIALS USED

Montessori programs only use Montessori designed materials. Each piece in a Montessori classroom is designed for a single purpose.  Bright Star encourages children to use materials and toys in the classroom in new and different ways for multiple purposes.  Bright Star allows children to develop creativity and problem-solving skills.  In fact, it is built into the curriculum. Teachers are encouraged to asked children: How else can this be used?  How could we make this better?  Is it reflective of our "Growing Up Green" concept?  A core concept of environmental awareness is "reuse". How can we effectively reuse materials that already exist?  Bright Star gives children opportunities to "think outside the box", Montessori programs do not.  Montessori allows children opportunities to problem solve, but it is within the boundaries of the materials provided.

2. The INCLUSION OF PRETEND PLAY

The other major difference is the approach to imagination and pretend play.  Montessori theory is based on “practical life” experiences.  They do not support pretend play as a means of cognitive development.  Below is an excerpt from the National Association of Education of Young Children statement paper on Developmentally Appropriate Practices.

 Play is an important vehicle for children's social, emotional, and cognitive development, as well as a reflection of their development. Understanding that children are active constructors of knowledge and that development and learning are the result of interactive processes, early childhood teachers recognize that children's play is a highly supportive context for these developing processes (Piaget 1952; Fein 1981; Bergen 1988; Smilansky & Shefatya 1990; Fromberg 1992; Berk & Winsler 1995). Play gives children opportunities to understand the world, interact with others in social ways, express and control emotions, and develop their symbolic capabilities. Children's play gives adults insights into children's development and opportunities to support the development of new strategies. Vygotsky (1978) believed that play leads development, with written language growing out of oral language through the vehicle of symbolic play that promotes the development of symbolic representation abilities. Play provides a context for children to practice newly acquired skills and also to function on the edge of their developing capacities to take on new social roles, attempt novel or challenging tasks, and solve complex problems that they would not (or could not) otherwise do (Mallory & New 1994b).

Research demonstrates the importance of sociodramatic play as a tool for learning curriculum content with 3- through 6-year-old children. When teachers provide a thematic organization for play; offer appropriate props, space, and time; and become involved in the play by extending and elaborating on children's ideas, children's language and literacy skills can be enhanced (Levy, Schaefer, & Phelps 1986; Schrader 1989, 1990; Morrow 1990; Pramling 1991; Levy, Wolfgang, & Koorland 1992).

In addition to supporting cognitive development, play serves important functions in children's physical, emotional, and social development (Herron & Sutton-Smith 1971). Children express and represent their ideas, thoughts, and feelings when engaged in symbolic play. During play a child can learn to deal with emotions, to interact with others, to resolve conflicts, and to gain a sense of competence -- all in the safety that only play affords. Through play, children also can develop their imaginations and creativity. Therefore, child-initiated, teacher-supported play is an essential component of developmentally appropriate practice (Fein & Rivkin 1986).

Scholastic Article: Young children learn by imagining and doing. Have you ever watched your child pick up a stone and pretend it is a zooming car, or hop a Lego across the table as if it were a person or a bunny? Your child is using an object to represent something else while giving it action and motion. But this pretend play is not as simple as it may seem. The process of pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas.
 
Preschool and kindergarten classrooms usually have a well-equipped dramatic play area, and this is quite intentional. Research has shown that pretend play provides children with a microcosm for life that encourages them to take the skills they have learned in classroom lessons and apply them to meaningful life activities. It is believed that this process of application helps your child not only develop a skill, but learn how to use it in life.

Pretend Play Builds Social and Emotional Skills

When your child engages in pretend (or dramatic) play, he is actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, he learns how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve. When your child pretends to be different characters, he has the experience of "walking in someone else's shoes," which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy. It is normal for young children to see the world from their own egocentric point of view, but through maturation and cooperative play, your child will begin to understand the feelings of others. Your child also builds self-esteem when he discovers he can be anything just by pretending!
 
In the early years, children are just beginning to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Imaginative play and acting out both familiar characters (such as family members) and fictional ones helps children internalize this important distinction. For example, your child can grasp the difference between her real mommy and the mommy she sometimes pretends to be when playing house. She will then apply that experiential knowledge to other situations.

Pretend Play Builds Language Skills

Have you ever listened in as your child engages in imaginary play with his toys or friends? You will probably hear some words and phrases you never thought he knew! In fact, we often hear our own words reflected in the play of children. Kids can do a perfect imitation of mom, dad, and the teacher! Pretend play helps your child understand the power of language. In addition, by pretend playing with others, he learns that words give him the means to re-enact a story or organize play. This process helps your child to make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help him learn to read.
 
Your child also builds vocabulary when she engages in pretend play. You and your child's teachers can introduce theme-specific words. For example, if your child loves to play with her toy dinosaurs, she will quickly learn the very big words for their names if you point them out. Often children like to pretend to do the things that you do around the house. Consider providing magazines, books, paper, and pencils to her collection of dramatic play props at home. Your child will be using pre-reading and pre-writing skills to mimic real-life situations. For example, she can "read" to her dolls and stuffed toys, "write" letters, make lists, and even pretend to take telephone messages with a toy phone!

Pretend Play Builds Thinking Skills

Pretend play provides your child with a variety of problems to solve. Whether it's two children wanting to play the same role or searching for the just right material to make a roof for the playhouse, your child calls upon important cognitive thinking skills that he will use in every aspect of his life, now and forever.
 
Does your child enjoy a bit of roughhousing? Great! Some researchers in early brain development believe that this sort of play helps develop the part of the brain (the frontal lobe) that regulates behavior. So instead of worrying that this type of activity will encourage your child to act out or become too aggressive, be assured that within a monitored situation, rough-house play can actually help your child learn the self-regulation skills needed to know how and when this type of play is appropriate.
 
Pretend play also promotes abstract thinking. The ability to use a prop (such as a block) as a symbol for something else (such as a phone) is a high-level thinking skill. Eventually it will enable your child to recognize that numbers represent quantities of things, and that combinations of letters represent the words she speaks, hears, and reads.

Nurture the Imagination

Not enough pretend play at your house? Consider creating a prop box or corner filled with objects to spark your preschooler's fantasy world. You might include:

  • Large plastic crates, cardboard blocks, or a large, empty box for creating a "home"
  • Old clothes, shoes, backpacks, hats
  • Old telephones, phone books, magazines
  • Cooking utensils, dishes, plastic food containers, table napkins, silk flowers
  • Stuffed animals and dolls of all sizes
  • Fabric pieces, blankets, or old sheets for making costumes or a fort
  • Theme-appropriate materials such as postcards, old plane tickets, foreign coins, and photos for a pretend vacation trip
  • Writing materials for taking phone messages, leaving notes, and making shopping lists
opening summer 2010