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CertifiKID Field Report: LePort Montessori Schools

As soon as you walk on to the campus of LePort Montessori School in Reston, you can tell this is a special place. Your eyes are immediately drawn to their large, open natural playground built right into the landscape of the school, nestled within the shade of mature trees of all different species. While I don't suggest judging a school merely by its playground, in this case, it is indeed a reflection of what is fundamental to both Montessori education in general and LePort themselves.

Like most parents, I had a vague understanding that Montessori has something to do with more broadly structured, student-directed learning. My visit to LePort Montessori Reston taught me that authentic Montessori education is nothing like I imagined. Based on an extensive body of research on how kids learn best, LePort Montessori empowers children with the autonomy to explore and deeply engage with learning in a comfortable, family-like community, but within the structure of a sequential, challenging curriculum. LePort produces independent, self-assured, creative thinkers who actually love learning! Who doesn't want that kind of education for their children?

At the core of the Montessori method and LePort's educational approach is compelling research on the importance of unstructured, child-directed play in promoting healthy physical, cognitive and emotional development. Through play, children engage with and learn about the world around them, conquer physical challenges, use their imaginations, learn to think creatively and problem solve, and develop physical and emotional strength, competency and self esteem. 

Research has shown that not only do children need play, their bodies and minds crave outdoor play, something that is sadly in short supply these days as children spend more and more time indoors and on electronic devices. Frequent exposure to an enriching, natural environment with rocks, trees, running water and a wide variety of sensory experiences and physical challenges - just like we all experienced as kids! - is vital to healthy development. You know those trendy outdoor preschools and nature-immersive classes that are popping up all over these days? None of this is new to Montessori. They have incorporated nature-based play and learning in their teaching for over 100 years.

That brings me back to that amazing natural playground I mentioned earlier. While the playgrounds at all of LePort's locations are designed as nature-immersive, LePort Montessori Reston's new natural playground is special; something LePort intends to implement across all locations over time. Unlike traditional playgrounds with fixed equipment and artificial materials that children grow bored with over time, natural playgrounds are, by design, always changing, presenting new experiences and stimuli daily. Each element is designed to be used in conjunction with nature itself - rocks, leaves, sticks, sand, mud, water - to provide boundless experiences for children to explore, imagine, and create.

In keeping with the Montessori ideal of child-directed learning, LePort Montessori Reston students chose the elements that they wanted on their playground. There are boulders to climb and explore, which double as seats for an outdoor classroom experience; a labyrinth and walking paths for quiet reflection, meditation and stress release; deep sand pits for digging, pouring, sifting, scooping and measuring; outdoor musical implements for creative stimulation and self-expression; and sheltered nooks to climb in and hide away. A water sluice provides endless possibilities! Whether children want to simply feel the sensation of the cool water running through their fingers, clean their daily treasures, or make some squishy mud to play with, they can do it here. And I'd be remiss not to mention a kid favorite - the climbing wall!

While there is much more to a school than its playground, LePort's commitment to bringing sensory-rich outdoor play and nature-based learning to their schools sets them apart not just from traditional preschools, but from other Montessori schools as well. If you are looking for an authentic, high quality Montessori education for your child, LePort Montessori currently operates 21 schools, including six Northern Virginia locations serving infants through 6th graders in Aldie, Ashburn (Broadlands), Chantilly, Fairfax, Herndon and Reston. While school starts this week, LePort welcomes students year round and will meet your child wherever they are in their educational journey. Contact the LePort Montessori School nearest you for more information or to enroll your child.

This post is sponsored by LePort Montessori. However, we only promote businesses that we genuinely believe in and think will appeal to CertifiKID subscribers.

Tags: kids child school education Montessori Northern Virginia learning play development nature natural playground outdoor


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