Mile High Montessori brings early education to all Colorado kids, regardless of income

So, you've got a kid, huh? Whether it's your own rambunctious preschooler or the bratty nephew you've been charged with keeping alive for the next five hours, the most important thing is leaving your house where valuables are liable to be destroyed and seeking refuge on somebody else's property. In this series, we'll be exploring fun, local, and quirky spots that are kid-tastic and adult-friendly, too.

Few things are more coveted by some Colorado parents than a Montessori education for their preschoolers. Heck, the private Montessori in my neighborhood has a two-year wait list for new students. But tuition can be expensive. Which is why Mile High Montessori Early Learning Centers, one of Denver's oldest and largest providers of subsidized early childhood education, is trying to bring Montessori to everyone.

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On Tuesday, March 4, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Curtis Hotel, Mile High Montessori will host its annual Stone Soup breakfast. Funds raised from the benefit will support the organization's mission to provide quality early childhood education and care to at-risk children. In fact, 99 percent of Mile High Montessori's clients are children living at or below the poverty line, says special projects coordinator Sari Frosh.

The theme of the breakfast is based on a folk tale common to many cultures that tells the story of how, through the sharing of a community's resources, the lives of everyone are enriched. "The concept of stone soup is real for us because we rely on community partners like friends, family, and civic leaders," Frosh says

Providence, Rhode Island mayor Angel Taveras will be a keynote speaker at the event, sharing his personal story: After graduating from Head Start, the federal program that promotes the school readiness of low income children under five, Taveras excelled, earning a bachelor's degree from Harvard and a law degree from Georgetown.

Mile High Montessori is a local provider of Head Start programming. The organization was incorporated in 1970 with the goal of providing affordable, accessible, quality early childhood education to low-income kiddos of working parents.

Since its inception, the organization's scope has evolved to meet the changing needs of the community. Today, Mile High Montessori serves more than 500 local kids daily through its full-day, year-round programs in five centers located in Denver. Services for thousands more are provided at two drop-in centers with the Denver Department of Human Services and the Denver court system.

What's so great about a Montessori education? "Montessori is a philosophy," says Frosh. The model uses specialized materials and a scaffolding technique that constantly builds upon previous skills. "For infants, Montessori materials are teeny," Frosh explains. "Things get bigger and more complicated so that by the time kids enter kindergarten, they've developed requisite skills."

For low-income children, literacy is especially important because there's usually a significant word gap between low-income kids and their more affluent peers. Mile High Montessori offers an expanded literacy aspect of the Montessori program for children who will benefit from that sort of education. "This helps get kids to enter kindergarten without such a deficit," Frosh says.

Montessori materials always have a correct way they are supposed to be used; teachers will help children understand the proper use of a tool, but they don't direct activity. "Kids have tons of options in the classroom and can chose what they want to do at a particular time while being respectful of classmates," adds Frosh. Kids are encouraged to be more self-reliant by the way they are treated. The schools serve healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks everyday, for example, and meals are done family-style in big bowls. Children serve themselves food and pour their own milk or water, then pass it along. According to Frosh, "All of this fosters social competency."

Mile High Montessori also aims to foster a life-long love of learning. And, really, what's more valuable than that? Because the organization is a Head Start, it also offers health and dental screenings and parenting education, among other things.

If you want to come to the Stone Soup breakfast, you can buy a ticket online. And, if you can't make it to the breakfast, you can still make a small donation online.

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Jamie Siebrase is a Denver-based freelance writer, and author of the forthcoming Falcon Guide Hiking Wth Kids, Colorado: 52 Great Hikes for Families.
Contact: Jamie Siebrase