Apple Montessori schools offers unique, hands-on teaching approach in wake of pandemic

PHOTO COURTESY OF APPLE MONTESSORI SCHOOLS
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PHOTO COURTESY OF APPLE MONTESSORI SCHOOLS

Distance learning at Apple Montessori schools throughout New Jersey is entering its second week in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The 15 schools for infant, toddler, pre-school and elementary age students are located in Cliffside Park, Edgewater, Edison, Hoboken, Kinnelon, Mahwah, Metuchen, Morris Plains, Oakland, Randolph, Towaco/Montville, and Wayne.

Starting last week, Apple Montessori’s schools began offering at least two hours of daily live instruction via Zoom Video Communications from core academic subjects such as reading, spelling, science and math to specialty classes – yoga, music, art and sign language.

Live instruction is also supplemented by a library of pre-recorded videos of academic lessons for their students.

Apple Montessori has also provided educational resources for use at home in addition to activities and games. Students, ages 4 and up, received videos of teachers providing instruction paired with educational worksheets that exercise the concepts from the lesson. As an additional resource for parents, schools have also started providing support group conference calls for parents with infants and toddlers to discuss daily challenges and brainstorm solutions.

“It is truly impressive how quickly our team was able to adapt to this crisis and create a comprehensive online curriculum for our students,” said Joanne Mooney, Apple Montessori founder. “This new online approach with interaction between teachers and students continues to provide a critical sense of community during these uncertain times. We have once again demonstrated we are a modern Montessori school able to stay true to the core principals of our educational philosophy while adapting to the ever-changing environment in front of us. We want to thank our parents and staff for all their efforts during this difficult time.”

Danielle Selby, who is director of training, policies and procedures for Apple Montessori, leads a 10-person training team responsible for adapting the existing curriculum for an online format. Daily implementation of the program would not be possible without all the regional directors, directors, teachers and co-teachers in each school that Apple Montessori has retained to ensure continuity for their students during this unprecedented period of uncertainty.

Apple Montessori materials are unique dealing with a practical life, hands-on learning approach – pouring, spooning, sorting, basting and tweezing. Teachers are sharing resources with parents about how to make these materials at home by using regular household items such as cupcake pans for sorting or putting colored sand in a flat plastic bin for tracing letters. Parents have been supportive in the process of transitioning from classroom to distance-learning.

“The first week was exceptional,” said Toni-Ann Dwyer, of the Apple Montessori in Metuchen. “Going into it, I was afraid students wouldn’t be engaged, or operating online courses would be too difficult. To my surprise, students were excited and participated thoroughly. It was wonderful to see their faces light up after our unforeseen week of absence, and the parents were appreciative as well. Through these hard times, it’s important to stay positive and seeing those little smiles gave me hope.”

In addition to the two-plus hours of live interaction between teachers and students per day, the staff collectively produced about 50 pre-recorded video academic lessons in the first week. The teachers will be adding video lessons on an ongoing basis in order to have a growing repository of content for parents to access as needed. Parents and students seem to be adapting to and embracing this new approach.

“I am so impressed by how the school is handling this current situation,” said parent Melissa Andres, who has children at the Oakland and Wayne locations. “I’m actually shocked with how well prepared both schools are at this time. These are the times I realize how important Apple is for our children and our family.”

Natasha Shah, a Morris Plains Apple parent, said “everyone at Apple Montessori Schools is working incredibly hard, pushing content, making interesting schedules, finding exciting links for activities and story time and all of their efforts are tremendously appreciated.”

“Naya has more activities than most of my colleagues’ kids and I’m proud to send her to Apple Montessori Schools,” she said. “It’s been refined and fine-tuned into a wonderful program that all the kids seem to be enjoying. Naya is so excited to see her teacher and friends via Zoom and feels like a big kid using the laptop/computer to access all the content.”

For more information, visit applemontessorischools.com.