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The Child Unique Helps Young Students Go Beyond Learning

By Pamela Sosnowski

It's been more than 30 years since Cindy Acker, motivated by her personal dissatisfaction in the school system, founded The Child Unique Montessori School of Alameda. A former teacher that is passionate about helping children succeed, Acker now serves as the principal of the school she opened.

"The Child Unique and Montessori Elementary School of Alameda is what I wanted for my own children- and all children," she explains. "I wanted an environment that was not simply a model of education, but of social justice and world changing possibilities. I hoped that my children, through parenting and education, would develop an awe for everything connected to education and would see the ways in which their education and action could impact communities."

The Montessori educational philosophy can be traced to Italian physician, scientist, and educator Maria Montessori. When she opened her first school in 1906, naming it "Casa de Bambini" which means "children's house", it was the first to use child-sized furniture and classroom materials placed at a child's eye level.

Montessori recognized a child's natural curiosity and developed her pedagogy to take advantage of it by allowing freedom of movement around the classroom and letting children grasp concepts by working with materials hands-on. They sound like minute details, but they help support the Montessori philosophy of going beyond simply teaching children to encouraging them to think, understand, and gain the confidence to ultimately change the world.

There are three school buildings under The Child Unique's umbrella that accommodate several age ranges. The Pacific School serves the youngest students, those ages 18 months to 5 years old. The building features a redwood deck, renovated playground, and children's garden. The Encinal School is for 3 to 7 year-olds (preschool through 1st grade) and is in a remodeled Victorian house.

The Taylor School is a newer campus on the West end that teaches toddler (2 yrs up), preschool (3 yrs up) and elementary (1st through 6th grade) and offers an auditorium and outdoor eating area. Small classes and small teacher-to-student ratios is the norm at each school, with one teacher per every four toddlers, every six preschoolers and every eight elementary students.

Among the qualities that make The Child Unique stand out from other schools, says Acker, is its inclusion of families of all ethnicities, races, age, and sexual orientations without reservation or differentiation. Second languages are allowed in the classroom.

"We have practiced an anti-bias curriculum from the school's inception in 1983, before it became a formal approach in the late 1980's," she says. "We have always held a statement of inclusion (and) our school has always surpassed the current guidelines of the state of California governing ratio, teacher qualifications and health requirements."

Parents are encouraged to take an active interest in the classroom, they are invited to observe the classroom and join parent committees and conferences. There's also an online program parents can use to track a child's progress.

All of this has resulted in schoolchildren reaching achievements often unheard of in conventional school systems. "Our small elementary program is amazing in its tone, and the work in which the children participate," says Acker. "They have committees, plan their own field trips, maintain a bank account, and have (even) created a business incorporating sustainable gardening."

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About The Author

Pamela Sosnowski is a freelance writer, social media manager, contributor for REBEAT...

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