New class at alternative elementary school takes integrated approach to learning

By Matthew Bernat | Jun 05, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Serenity Fielding, 3, reads a book during class in the Christopher Donovan Day School's new Montessori Integrated Preschool.

The Christopher Donovan Day School is taking an innovative, integrated approach to preschool with a new class open to students of all abilities.

Called the Montessori Integrated Preschool at the Christopher Donovan Day School, an alternative-education nonprofit elementary school in Onset, the program is accepting students ages 2.9 to 5 years old.

The program’s creator and lead teacher, Nicole Donovan, said the class started this summer. It is designed for no more than nine students and blends Montessori philosophies, teaching styles and curriculum with a traditional preschool education.

As part of that philosophy, the class uses a peer-teaching model, where older students are encouraged to share skills.

“If a 5 year old masters a skill, they are then able to teach it to a younger child,” said Donovan. “Then, those younger kids look at the older ones like rock stars. It’s so wonderful to watch when that happens.”

Donovan noted that the peer-teaching model builds relationships and self-esteem for kids of all ages.

She said the classroom is designed to support the whole child – physically, emotionally, socially and cognitively.

The Montessori method also includes opportunities for independent learning. In the classroom, a teacher will give an initial lesson and students are encouraged to explore the lesson on their own.

“We want students to have that ‘ah-ha!’ moment and we want it to be self-correcting,” said Donovan, meaning if they reach an incorrect answer they can take steps to arrive at the right answer on their own.

“It’s such a great way for students to learn how to be proud of their own work, which fosters a sense of independence,” said Donovan.

Donovan, who earned her Montessori method teaching certificate in 1998, is a big proponent of the approach to education.

“When I first learned about it – the way they talked about the whole child – it felt like I was at home in the classroom,” said Donovan. “It really supports them to become the best person they can be.”

For more information on the Montessori Integrated Preschool at the Christopher Donovan Day School, call 508-295-5232 or visit

Nicole Donovan, lead teacher at the Montessori Integrated Preschool, earned her Montessori certificate in 1998. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
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