Welcome back to our Spotlight on Schools series, where local parents share thoughts on their experience with their elementary school in Prince George’s County. In this sixth Spotlight, we’re welcomed into the classrooms of Robert Goddard Montessori School, where local parent Alice Ewen, shares her thoughts about what makes the school the place to be!
Overall Impression of Robert Goddard Montessori School
I LOVE my son’s teacher, Ms. Elizabeth and her paraprofessional Ms. Heidi! The classroom is a warm, caring environment with fantastic learning materials. After my son had been at school for a couple of months, our family scheduled a time to observe the class in action. I really enjoyed the opportunity to see our son “doing his work” and observing how well his classmates worked independently, with tremendous concentration, on their separate activities. I would not have believed it was possible at this age – but it is.
Are You Pleased With Your Child’s Academic Experience at RGMS?
I’m most interested in the self-directed learning and inquiry that a Montessori environment fosters. Montessori places emphasis on independence and exploration, with teachers as guides. Given that my son is so young, it’s hard for me to assess academically, but I can say he had a very smooth adjustment to school and is happy, growing, and learning.
One reason I chose the school is that my next door neighbor had a very positive experience with her son’s education at RGMS. He won the science bowl, joined a chess club, and did really well academically. I also looked at RGMS’ average test scores and its ranking on Great Schools, and was pleased to see how well it ranked. From discussion with teachers, I understand that a large cohort of children who graduate from RGMS successfully test into the magnet program at Eleanor Roosevelt High School.
Destination Imagination is a big deal at RGMS. Five teams just competed in the regional tournament in March. (Destination Imagination is a creative problem solving program where children choose a predefined challenge and work for several months toward a solution. They compete in tournaments with their teams and have a lot of fun.) RGMS Science Bowl team competed in the championship rounds this year, which you can see on PGCPS website at www.pgcps.org. Other examples are Robotics Club, Art Clue, Chess Club, orchestra, band and choir, language clubs, and fun competitions like Write-A-Book. All classes receive weekly Spanish lessons and there is a big commitment to field trips and experiential learning, which Montessori emphasizes.
There are many school organized and PTSA organized events at Robert Goddard Montessori. In March and April alone, the school had Goddard’s Got Talent Auditions, a “Chat and Chew” open house, Upper Elementary STEM Fair, and Art Auction. On May 5, the school organizes a “Rocket Run” which is a big festival and celebration for the school community. The school hosts a fall festival, Earth Day festival, a multicultural night, and other fun events to bring the entire school community and families together.
There are a lot of families from the Route One corridor at the school so a number of our community fundraisers take place in this area at Dumm’s Pizza, Franklin’s, and other restaurants. The PTSA organizes book fairs with Barnes and Noble in Bowie to encourage reading and support the school.
There are also regular TAG parent meetings for parents of gifted and talented students and TAG is embedded in the regular classroom at RGMS.
What Do You Like Most About the School?
I really like the Montessori approach to early education. Classrooms are mixed-age and kids stay with their teacher for three years at a time, so my son will have his teacher again for 4 year-old pre-K and for K, and be part of a stable, diverse community of friends he can both emulate and mentor. There’s a book I just read that I would recommend called “Montessori Today” by Paula Polk Lillard that is a good introduction to Maria Montessori’s philosophy and helps parents understand the different stages of education and how we can nurture development of our kids at home. I love the practical skills and sense of responsibility and independence that is emphasized.
I like that the PTSA is focused on advocacy for the school and working to ensure that the Prince George’s County school system understands the unique needs of our school and the importance of the commitment to provide a true Montessori education to students. Ensuring we have the resources to provide continuing education and Montessori certification to teachers is a priority. The PTSA also started a new school-wide newsletter this year, to enhance communication with families, which you can view online at the PTSA website. Fostering parent engagement and volunteer opportunities is a top goal for the PTSA.
It’s also nice that the school spans from pre-K through middle school. Middle school can be a bumpy emotional time for kids, and I think the stability and opportunity to be a hero to younger kids is a great benefit at that age.
Special Considerations – Plan Ahead!
Robert Goddard Montessori is a public specialty program school. To apply, you need to enter the Prince George’s County specialty program schools lottery. Because Montessori education starts at age 3, this is the one school program where you must enter the lottery for entrance at age 3 or 4. So, planning ahead is paramount. Your child may be as young as 2 when you fill out paperwork.
There are three Montessori schools offered by the County. Robert Goddard Montessori serves the northern part of Prince George’s County. As a specialty program school, RGMS provides school bus service starting at age 4. However, the first year of entry, with the most lottery spaces, is for the half-day program at age 3, which does not provide bus service.
There is aftercare available for the full-day students starting at age 4. For age 3 half-day kids, you will need to make alternative arrangements. I know some families who organized big car pools to manage the logistics. In my case, I hired a baby sitter to drive my son from RGMS at mid-day to take him to his afternoon day care. Another family was in the same situation and we shared the cost. It does take planning, but I think the net benefit is worth it.
RGMS will accept transfer students after age 4 if they are transferring directly from another Montessori school (for example St. Jerome’s in Hyattsville and Christian Family Montessori in D.C. are nearby private school options).
To arrange a visit, contact the school office at 301-918-3515, and they will instruct you how to make an appointment, and be able to tell you if any open house opportunities are upcoming. There is also a May 11th PTSA General Membership Meeting at 7 p.m., which is a good way to chat with parents – everyone is welcome.
RGMS is on Social Media!
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