Montessori program in Silver Spring turns 50 -- Gazette.Net


Students at Evergreen School in Silver Spring are making time to celebrate their school’s 50th anniversary between cooking classes, music sessions, Spanish classes, and library period.

The school is celebrating the milestone with an alumni picnic in October and an anniversary party on the 50th day of the upcoming school year on Nov. 4. The school will launch an online photo gallery of current and former students.

Evergreen School, on Georgia Avenue, follows the Montessori-based approach of learning, in which students are placed in mixed-age groups. They have blocks of uninterrupted lessons for up to three hours. There are two teachers and 14 students in each classroom.

Children have freedom in how they learn the day’s lessons in mathematics, English and other topics and at what pace.

For example, during a lesson on cooking, one child might mix ingredients while another learns about numbers and measurements.

In a primary classroom, one student might read a book and another trace letters on paper. Others might do math exercises. John DeMarchi, Evergreen’s head of school, said everybody is always doing something.

“We want to teach them independence. When you are the older [child in class], you become a leader and the young ones are going to watch,” DeMarchi said.

At the snack corner — a table with two seats — students face each other while pouring their own water and eating carrots or tortilla chips. They must put away dishes when they done. A small sink at child height is next to the table.

The idea is to let children see when a seat is available, eat when they feel hungry, and learn to respect each other.

Outside, students spend time on an all-natural treehouse in the play garden. If one child finds an insect or a flower, there’s always a teacher there to explain what it is, where it came from, and its role in the garden.

The institution opened in 1964 when Sybil Deveraux, Connie Corbet and Robert T. Green started the Cor Jesu Montessori School in Temple Shalom on Grubb Road in Chevy Chase.

In the early 1970s, the school moved to Temple Emanuel in Kensington and later became incorporated as a nonprofit. The organization was named Evergreen School in 1994 and moved to it current location, Hughes Methodist Church, in 2002.

“This is a beautiful space. ... They [the church] don’t have the need for these classrooms,” DeMarchi, who became head of school in 2011.

Tuition at Evergreen School is between $11,400 and $21,900, depending on the chosen educational program. DeMarchi said financial aid is available and school officials encourage families to apply online, but “they have to demonstrate need.”

The school is divided into three programs: “toddler” can include ages 2 and 3, “primary” covers ages 2 1/2 to 6, and “elementary” is for grades 1 to 3.

In a primary class, students use a wooden puzzle to learn about geometric shapes. Toy blocks made of beads help them count to 100, 1,000 or 10,000.

Others learn how to write in cursive by tracing or copying sandpaper letters from a box.

Arlen Morales, 35, of Silver Spring, heard about the school through friends. Her son, Donovan Salazar, 6, has been a student at Evergreen School since he was 2. Morales said there is good communication with school officials, who listen to parents’ comments.

She said her son is more aware of himself and his environment.

“I have to say I feel that what he got the most was the sense of responsibility. ... He is very conscious that his actions affects others,” Morales said.