Fishtown Montessori: A Natural Oasis in Heart of the City
Learning Through Exploration in an Environmentally Responsible Space
Walking through Fishtown, you might see a plot with 7,000+ square feet of biodiverse outdoor space featuring a wooden playset, mud kitchens, native trees and plants, and nooks and crannies for kids to explore. It’s not a new arboretum – it’s the second location of Fishtown Montessori and if it sounds like an urban oasis, that’s the intention.
Opening in September, the 100-year-old church has just undergone a complete renovation both indoors and out. The outdoor environment will be used as an extension of the classroom to best serve the children who will spend their formative years there.
Denise Spetrino, owner of Fishtown Montessori, is excited for the opening. “What we’re offering children in the heart of this urban environment is the opportunity to connect with nature. Our sprawling outdoor learning space is an extension of the indoor classroom, where children 18 months through six- years -old will learn, grow, and get plenty of exercise – it’s a truly unique offering in the city.
Mixed age groups are a hallmark of Montessori education, so younger children can watch and be inspired by older children, and older children become leaders, fostering a rich learning community where everyone has a role. Teachers are there to prepare the environment for learning, to guide the children towards learning, and to help each child on an individual basis.
This approach has done wonders for Roman Galas’ daughter, a three-year-old getting ready to move into the new location. “Fishtown Montessori has been everything we hoped it would be. Our daughter has blossomed so much.”
Roman said their family chose Fishtown for a few reasons: the convenience; the reputation; and the curriculum. But what they got was so much more.
“She didn’t talk much when she started there. Her pediatrician wanted her to go to a speech therapist, so we sent her. Around the same time, she started at Fishtown Montessori and her language skills took off super quick – we stopped the speech therapist after just two months.”
The learning curve the Galas’ saw at the beginning of her journey at Fishtown Montessori is still apparent two years later. “The development we’ve seen has continued every day; she comes home with new vocabulary and expresses new thoughts and feelings.”
Some of the steep learning curve could be attributed to the low teacher to student ratio: Fishtown meets or exceeds state requirements with a 1:4 ratio in toddler room (PA requires 1:5) and the primary class has a 1:8 ratio.
The small class sizes have offered unique opportunities for the kids – and their families — to grow relationships. “The socialization Fishtown has provided is amazing,” said Roman. “Since attending Fishtown Montessori, she has the best group of friends. They call each other ‘sisters’.”
Creating an intentional community for the students began early-on, when Denise had to get buy-in of community members. “We got an overwhelming amount of support from the neighbors. Those we met said they loved seeing kids playing and enjoying the neighborhood, and they wanted to see more of it.”
Inside and out, Fishtown Montessori promotes a healthy environment: there’s a composting program in which the kids participate; they bring all reusable containers; the school’s power is PA wind energy; and the school provides wholesome, organic snacks with no sugar added, like fresh fruit or hummus. And this new outdoor space, as Denise puts it, is a “game-changer” for the kids, the environment, and the neighborhood.
Denise is a life-long educator and was a long-time resident of the 19125 zip code, and as a member of the community, she saw a need for this type of early childhood education, so Fishtown Montessori was her dream.
“This is my life’s work — creating space for children and families to thrive. That impacts our community. T is the most important work I could be doing.”
Visit website to register for a virtual tour (admissions starts in fall for 2023-24 school year). https://www.fishtownmontessori.com/