Currently the U.S. passed 3.5 million reported coronavirus cases, all while federal agencies are pushing for schools to reopen. Living with COVID-19 finds us questioning and searching for answers. Distance learning, or some form of blended learning, is quickly becoming the new norm and in many cases a viable option that schools will offer. As the leading educational publisher for Montessori curricula, we felt it necessary to find and quickly implement ways that will accommodate our children's learning. We understand they too are trying to work through these tumultuous times.
Introducing Personal Learning Products: ETC Montessori is pleased to introduce to our teachers, students and parents a newly developed line of items - Personal Learning Products (PLP).
The inspiration behind this line of items is the idea that each child can have access to often used traditional Montessori wooden materials, even if they are not in the actual classroom. Our goal was to provide children with the ability to work remotely, or even in the classroom, but not be placed in a position where they have to share, touch or work with the manipulatives. This is of even greater importance for those children who are learning from home, or find themselves in the classroom practicing social distancing. When we set out to create these items it was vital that they meet four requirements:
They should be easy to disinfect and/or allow for individual use by a single child.
They should NOT be permanent and do not replace the actual material, but they should be able to hold up to everyday use.
Materials should be easy to manufacture so that we may accommodate numerous children, classrooms, or districts.
Finally, they need to be inexpensive enough so that classrooms, parents and districts can afford multiple sets. The PLP are designed to be consumable allowing for each child to have their own individual set.
To accomplish this we have chosen some of the most often used hardwood items. We then redesigned them in print form, so they look and function just like the real classic material. We printed the items on 14 mil solid plastic so that they can hold up to everyday use. By streamlining the production we have made them incredibly inexpensive and a viable alternative to our traditional thick plastic. Through this new production process these items are inexpensive enough so that they are considered consumable and easily replaced. Furthermore, they are easy to disinfect using the "spray and let-dry" technique and are completely recyclable as well as environmentally friendly.
For classrooms this is incredibly important as these items can be considered as teaching supplies - allowing teachers to include them in the supply lists that are often sent home to parents. Homeschoolers now have access to inexpensive alternatives while being able to complete the learning process effectively and efficiently. Finally, for our blended learners, they are now able to have their very own sets and follow along with the teacher during the video presentation, or bring them to school for their own personal use.
Although we understand that learning through the Montessori method is one that has the child working in a community and fully hands on with the material, our attempt is one that allows the child to still work with the materials but in an individualized safe fashion. We believe this is a viable solution that can accommodate a number of situations as we continue to explore the new norm.