Fostering creativity beyond the classroom at Nardin Academy

Wed, Feb 1st 2017 03:00 pm
Students at Nardin Academy collaborate together to solve problems. (Courtesy of Nardin Academy)
Students at Nardin Academy collaborate together to solve problems. (Courtesy of Nardin Academy)

At Nardin Academy, an independent Catholic school in the heart of the Elmwood Village in the city of Buffalo, an enriching academic experience extends beyond the classroom for students in the co-ed Montessori, co-ed elementary, and high school for young women.

Nardin Montessori, for ages 18 months through grade three, nurtures natural curiosity and uniquely prepares students to succeed in our complex and rapidly changing world. Skills such as thinking critically, working collaboratively, and acting boldly, now recognized as "21st-century skills," have always been at the core of Maria Montessori's child centered approach to education.

As children learn and grow within the classroom, Nardin Montessori offers several opportunities for students to connect with the local community and expand upon the skills they gain each day. Students in the early childhood program, for children 3-6 years of age, visit Tom Towers' farm in Youngstown and learn about community, farming and the harvest.

The Montessori cooking unit builds upon this knowledge as students plan a meal and walk to the neighborhood Lexington co-operative market to select and purchase the ingredients for the recipes. Children prepare the meals in their entirety from the cleaning, prepping, cutting, cooking and plating, and then serve to their peers and invited parents and adults. The 21st-century skills demonstrated during this cooking unit exemplify the invaluable skills acquired through the Nardin Montessori hands-on approach to learning.

At Nardin Elementary, for kindergarten through grade eight, students are experiencing an enhanced schedule that includes a da Vinci period, a two-and-a-half hour, once-a-week session during which groups work together in project-based learning that engages different learning styles. Students gain 21st-century skills by investigating and responding to real world problems, questions or challenges.

During the da Vinci period this past fall, several students were allowed time to immerse themselves in preparing for the school play, "Aladdin," while others explored essential questions around the theme of "Aladdin" such as, "Can a carpet fly?" "How do you design your ideal palace?" and "How does culture and geographic location influence the food people eat?"

The multi-age group of students exploring the essential question "can a carpet fly?" first investigated flight by making paper airplanes and kites and learning how to alter the design of each to increase loft and distance. Students then visited Markarian Rugs for an in-depth look at rug making, the history and legends of carpets, and the symbols woven into rugs. Upon deciding that a carpet couldn't fly without being in a wind tunnel, the group researched wind tunnel design, created wind tunnels and experimented with making carpets fly.

"Taking part in the da Vinci project this year was such a rewarding experience," said Ann Klass, a teacher at Nardin Elementary.

"The students took a hands-on approach to answering the question, 'Can a carpet fly?' and, by using their knowledge of flight dynamics, created a product that answered this guiding question. Each student had the same goal. However, they were able to chose any path to obtain it, allowing me to support and foster each student's creativity."

The da Vinci period is not only about the projects on which the students collaborate, but is a celebration of trying, failing and the resilience that develops in each student as the classroom teacher guides, facilitates and supports them to the ultimate goal of the essential question.

All final projects created during the da Vinci period were presented and displayed during the intermission of the "Aladdin" performance. Within Nardin's dynamic classrooms, project-based learning allows students an opportunity to learn about problem solving, use effective communication skills, and reflect and revise their findings.

There are several opportunities to explore both Nardin Academy's Montessori and Elementary this winter and witness the programs and curriculum that offer 21st-century skills and prepare students to experience and make a difference in the world.

Nardin invites parents and children age 18 months to 5 years to learn more about the Montessori method during a hands-on "Montessori and Me" experience on Feb. 11, March 4, and April 1 from 9-10:30 a.m.

For more information on the open house or to register for "Montessori and Me," contact Danielle Dodman, Nardin's director of admissions, at 716-881-6262 x1030.   

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