The private Montessori School of Pullman has announced it will expand to include an additional class for students 3 to 6 years old in the fall.

Located in the Gladish Community and Cultural Center, the school currently serves about 75 children between the ages of 2 and 10. Head of School Beverley Wolff said the expansion will bring in an additional 16 students and is in response to particularly strong enrollment in recent years and a growing waitlist. When classroom space became available in Gladish, Wolff said the timing just seemed right. She said the school will likely hire two additional teachers to lead the class.

The Montessori School first opened its doors in Pullman as a three-hour-a-day preschool in 1968, Wolff said. After relocating the operation to the Gladish Center in the 1980s, the school has expanded to serve broader range of children for more hours of the day. In the past six years, she said, the school has added a new class for 2-year-olds and additional elementary classes.

“This is the third part of an expansion — this is the first time we’ve really expanded our 3-to-6 program,” Wolff said. “We definitely want to grow and change to meet the needs of our community.”

Montessori schools are rooted in teaching philosophies developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori in 1907. While there are numerous differences between Montessori methodologies and those deployed in the traditional classroom, Wolff said programs typically emphasize more student-directed, individually-focused teaching strategies. Though the philosophies of the method were developed more than a century ago, Sudha Devarajan, a teacher at the school and parent to two children in Montessori programs, said many public school programs adopted Montessori strategies such as including more hands-on activity in lesson plans. A major hallmark of Montessori programs is the mixed-aged classroom, which Devarajan said includes a host of benefits.

“That mixed age group provides them the knowledge of learning from the older kids — problem solving and communication skills and leadership skills,” she said. “They learn so much from looking at each other and taking responsibilities, doing practical life skills.”

The Montessori School will host an open house 4-5:30 tonight and 10 a.m.-noon Saturday in the Gladish Center.

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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