Success Stories – Montessori American Indian Childcare Center

LaVon Lee – Program Director

Creating quality cultural programs using indigenous learning methods and practices is an approach making the Montessori American Indian Childcare Center (MAICC) an innovative and successful educational model. Established in 2014, MAICC’s mission is to “access the early childhood needs and academic achievement gap of American Indian children through revitalizing the language and culture.”

As a Four Star Parent Aware institution, they are committed to providing a high-quality and affordable education experience for both children and parents. One hundred percent of children (ages ranging from 33 months to six years) that leave their pre-school are Kindergarten and first grade ready, and 86 percent of children receive early learning scholarships.

One way MAICC provides high-quality education is through the Montessori method. The Montessori method aims to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn. In this environment, children are engaged in:

  • Exercises of Practical Life
  • Language—including Native Language
  • Sensorial Experiences
  • Direct and Indirect preparation to become strong Writers and Readers
  • Direct and Indirect preparation for Math

In addition to using the Montessori method, MAICC seeks to embed culture and language in their programs. Children will have the opportunity to:

  • To see and be cared for by American Indian staff
  • To be treated as wakanyeja (sacred little one’s in the Lakota language)
  • To hear native language and oral stories
  • To feel welcome and safe in a beautiful, culturally-reflective environment
  • To explore and experience the wonder of the world around us
  • To speak and develop their native language
  • To share and learn “we are all related”

MAICC offers a variety of opportunities for parents to be engaged with their child’s learning, such as the Parent Nest program. Through this program, parents are given the opportunity to interact with their child in their school environment, and learn about the activities and routines that help build the confidence and ability of their children.

MAICC also facilitates conversations among parents and administrators about future programming. In preparation for the 2018 and 2019 school year, parents participated in a Talking Circle—a tradition rooted in American Indian culture that allows participants to fully share their ideas without interruption. In this conversation, parents offered ideas surrounding child and parent well-being and how to strengthen community connections. The input from parents was used to plan programming for the current school year, and has empowered parents to be engaged in their community. One parent is in a leadership role representing MAICC on the Serving the Whole Child Parent Committee, a partnership of Montessori Partners and Parents.

With their dedication to creating an all-inclusive learning environment, MAICC has made an impact on American Indian families locally. Culture and education go hand-in-hand, and MAICC shows how well the two can provide an all-inclusive experience.