Our community is dedicated to nurturing diversity and respect for others and oneself, while learning the Spanish language.
Children are curious and unique little people, open to learning and absorbing lessons from the world around them. We believe that the Montessori method is the best way to foster independence and to allow children to learn at their own pace, with minimal intrusion into each child's learning process.
We’re also proud of the true Spanish immersion environment we provide. D.C. is an international city, home to diplomats and natives of other countries. We are pleased to offer a way for parents to expose children to a language and cultural experience, allowing them to grow to be citizens of a larger community and the world.
“They’ve also absorbed SO MUCH SPANISH in the last year. They both understand what is being asked of them in Spanish, and they communicate in Spanish with their teachers and use a combination of English and Spanish with their classmates. It is truly amazing to see their language skills blossom.”
SPANISH IMMERSION MODEL
At Estrellitas, we practice a Spanish Immersion education model. This means we provide a 100% Spanish immersive environment, which is different than a bilingual program where both English and Spanish are spoken.
It has been proven that children are most easily taught a second language at a time when they are developing early language skills. Consistent exposure reinforces the practice of new words, making learning less something they are taught and more something they absorb.
Children at Estrellitas are hearing Spanish spoken by native Spanish speakers, from Latin America and Europe. This allows for grammar patterns to develop naturally as children are already learning the language and grammar patterns of the language (or languages!) spoken at home.
Ninety percent of our families speak English at home. Built upon Montessori principles for learning, the Spanish language is picked up quite quickly by our students—including those who have never heard Spanish spoken before. For some of our students, since most of them spend the majority of their day with us, their first spoken word may be in Spanish.
"The power to learn language is so great in the young child [...] they can learn as many spoken languages as you can allow them to hear systematically and regularly at the same time."
Susan Curtis, Linguistics Professor at the University of California, Los Angels
As the Montessori philosophy outlines, children at Estrellitas have extended work periods in which they are free to choose from lessons previously presented by teachers. We believe this empowers the child to joyfully discover new skills while allowing teachers to shepherd the unique strengths of each student more effectively.
Students are offered lessons, tools, and furniture that encourage children to care for themselves, their classmates, and their environment. Instead of intruding in the learning process, we foster students’ independence. By knowing when to engage, we let the child’s inherent curiosity flourish as they develop into independent, responsible learners. This practice encourages greater concentration, along with coordinated physical movements.
Every aspect of Estrellitas has been designed to serve children. Furniture is sized just for them so that there is nothing they cannot access on their own. Classrooms are orderly and calm, allowing children to concentrate and develop greater focus on their projects. Snacks are available throughout the day so that children can serve themselves, and get to know their own personal needs.
Each day includes creative activities for the class, including art, music, dance, and yoga, storytelling, and time spent with friends learning about the day.
CONSISTENT DAILY ROUTINE FOR ALL CLASSES
Children prefer routine to feel safe and to help them understand what is expected of them. Upon arrival, kids change their shoes to signal a transition from outside to inside actions. Our day always starts with a breakfast meal and interacting with friends. There is also circle time, allowing for children to connect with each other and learn about the day ahead. Children slowly move toward the first work period.
Twice a day children go outside (as the weather allows). Naps are a part of each day, and children have access to snacks and water throughout the day, allowing their bodies to lead.
Each day includes creative activities for the class, including art, music, dance, and yoga, and storytelling.
Through the lessons and time together, students are immersed in the Spanish language and are exposed to the warmth of Spanish culture. The natural language learning process comes more easily to children at these early ages as they are already seeking to learn to communicate with their community.
This schedule is gentle and lead by the community instead of by the clock, but it is consistent.
Children go outside twice a day, as weather allows. Aside from our own outdoor play area on school grounds, we take trips to Hamilton Park or nearby Rock Creek Park while walking on a rope for security. If weather allows, we stay out for an hour at a time.
When weather does not allow for outdoor play time, students are still able to play indoors in one of our two indoor playgrounds.
Movement & Physical Activity
Movement is an important part of each day at Estrellitas. We incorporate movement into the day through songs that involve movement and intentional movement activities.
Students also occasionally take part in yoga, provided by Montessori Yoga—a local yoga studio specializing in Montessori-inspired yoga for children and their families in a Spanish immersion environment.
Practical Life Skills
Learning practical life skills is a core part of the Montessori education curriculum. Through activities, children learn how to care for themselves and the environment around them. These activities are designed to help children become more independent, self-confident, and unafraid to face new challenges.
Examples of practical life exercises include food preparation, watering plants, cleaning, brushing their hair, and learning to tie their shoes.
Sensory & Sensorial
Sensory activities allow children to explore the world around them through the senses, encouraging curiosity and creativity. Sensory activities work toward developing all five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
Slightly different from sensory activities, Sensorial is one of the key Montessori curriculum areas. Each classroom has a dedicated Sensorial area where kids learn using Montessori Sensorial materials. These are materials such as cylinder blocks and towers. The materials are specifically designed for the student to be able to check their own work, promoting independence and problem solving.
Art & Music
Music is a key part of the day at Estrellitas. We use music to help the little ones learn Spanish, and to help guide the students through their day. Whether it’s time to clean up or go outside, we have a song to help guide the students through it.
Art has its own dedicated area in the classroom. Each art area features age-appropriate supplies, allowing the students to choose what interests them.
The Montessori method introduces children to math concepts using sensory materials and activities designed to help them understand basic math concepts, such as number recognition, counting, and shapes.
MIXED AGE CLASSROOMS
Class placement is based upon available space and child development, and are rough guidelines. It is tradition in Montessori classes to have children of mixed ages so that they may learn and teach each other.
Nido (6 Months to 18 Months)
Classrooms include structures to practice motor skills and to learn reflexes, skills they will need as they become brave enough to walk. Natural learning is allowed, which does mean kids can get messy as they try new things.
As children grow, you will see cots instead of beds, tables and chairs instead of high chairs, and cups in place of bottles (Note: nursing mothers are supported and breast milk is served). They learn early to put things away when they are done using them.
Orugas (18 Months to 2 Years)
Children this age can relate to each other and the world around them. Language skills begin to develop, and words are tried out in Spanish and English. As you are surely seeing, our toddlers want to learn their boundaries and how they might expand them.
Each child is offered 3 activities to begin, and are able to select which appeals the most. New activities, from simple to complex, are introduced as teacher see that a child is ready to move on. Children lead these decisions, giving them confidence and a sense of accomplishment. We often see children teaching the skills to others at this age, which is exciting.
Mariposas (2-3 Years)
At this age our students will receive some academic exposure. Children are often curious about counting and letters and are exposed through games and songs. There is no rush to achieve academic milestones; rather students follow their own interests as they continue to challenge themselves.
Montessori method understands that children are capable and each is different, so they are allowed to explore in a safe caring community. Relationships with other friends are more prominent and they learn how to relate with each other. We support potty learning as each child shows interest and readiness.
PRE-K (3 to 5 years)
Our mixed-age communities provide care through age 5. In the Montessori tradition, classrooms include children of mixed ages as a benefit to all. The youngest look up to the oldest and learn from them, while the older friends are able to teach and develop leadership skills naturally.
Concentration levels increase through the practice of work periods, and activities increase in complexity, led by each child's interest.