Updated: Oct 16, 2020
As schools continue to grapple with the decision on whether to fully open, continue with a distance learning model,or implement a blended learning model, teachers are seeking ways with which they can function in a manner that ensures their own as well as their students' safety and health.
Following lengthy conversations with control groups, ETC consultants and our very own field testers, ETC Montessori decided to introduce the Personal Learning Products (PLP). In order to gain a full appreciation of what we are trying to do, we have decided to create this Q&A article. Here you will find information and answers about some of the most commonly asked about features and questions.
Question: What are Personal Learning Products?
Answer: Personal Learning Products, or PLP as they have come to be known, are commonly used traditional Montessori materials, designed and produced in a way that makes them consumable, inexpensive, and easily disinfectable. The purpose of these items is to allow children easy access to traditional Montessori items even if they are not in the classroom. Each child is given a set of the items the teacher deems necessary. Those items belong to the child and are being used just by that child, so there is no chance of cross contamination through points of multiple contact, or the need to disinfect the original item every time a child touches it.
Q: Where can I obtain these items?
A: The majority of our clients are from North America as schools struggle with the reopening procedure. Teachers, schools, parents and administrators may obtain these items either through ETC Montessori in the US, or through Wintergreen Learning in Canada.
ETC Montessori, 979 Reseda Dr. Houston TX 77062 (T: 877-409-2929; 281-984-7213)
Wintergreen Learning Materials 3075 Line 8, RR 2, Bradford, ON L3Z 3R5 (T: 877-631-8310; 416-631-8310)
Q: Are these items disinfectable?
A: Yes. These items are made from a 14 mil semi-rigid plastic synthetic substrate that is easy to disinfect after every use.
Q: How do you recommend we disinfect these items?
A: We recommend the "spray and let dry" method. This method is often recommended by the CDC. You can use a chlorine and water mixture. Spray the PLP items with this solution and let dry.
Q: What was the inspiration behind this line of items?
A: As the summer comes to an end, and federal as well as local governmental agencies begin to reconsider the process for opening schools, many teachers approached us with the dilemma of what we can do to help them. The solution materialized as one of the ETC consultants mentioned that the principal of her school had asked her to design and copy printable look-alikes of traditional materials. After careful consideration, we decided that we could design and produce these items in a fashion that would make them accessible by a large number of students, and affordable by anyone, while simultaneously providing a higher durability factor than paper copies.
Q: Do these items come with containers?
A: No, in order to keep the cost down so that they can be purchased in quantities for entire classrooms, we are not including containers. However, that doesn't mean that the parents or students can't purchase containers separately. Containers may be purchased directly through our Montessori Container department.
Q: What are they made from?
A: These items are made from a 14 mil synthetic plastic substrate that is semi-rigid and can hold up to normal daily use. This synthetic is the same as that used to make the chain arrows.
Q: Are these items recyclable?
A: Yes, They are made from the same substance that plastic water bottles are made from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate). These plastic items are easy to recycle and environmentally friendly since they are produced from previously recycled plastic.
Q: If they are consumable, how long do you expect them to last?
A: With normal use these items can last up to 3 months. However, since they are consumable they can easily be replaced with new ones, as the need arises. For items that are used extensively, such as stencils, it's normal to replace them every 2-3 weeks.
Q: Who will benefit from PLP items?
A: Any student who is conducting classes online, or in a blended environment will benefit. Students that are required to come back to class and function in a regular classroom environment may also take advantage of these items. Parents who decide to homeschool their Montessori children may find these affordable and easily replaceable items of interest as they do not require a huge investment.
Q: I have lost piece while a couple of other pieces were destroyed. Can I get replacements for them?
A: No. These items are designed to be consumable. They are mass produced and therefore, we will not break a set in order to replace a lost bead or item. Since they are made in the most inexpensive manner please consider purchasing multiple sets to make them available to your children.
Q: Can these be classified as school supplies?
A: Yes, we encourage teachers to place these items on their "school supply" list. Parents may easily purchase these items and include them in their supplies.
Q: Do you plan on releasing other items?
A: We are always accepting suggestions of what items might be useful. However, please keep in mind that items are chosen based on how often they are used in the Montessori classroom.
Q: When I opened the bag that one of these items was packaged in, I noticed a certain burnt smell. What is this smell and will it go away?
A: These items are printed on plastic and then are fed into a laser cutter where they are cut based on pre-designed patterns. The laser is actually burning the plastic to create the cut. The smell does dissipate and eventually does go away. It is harmless and its a good idea to let them air-out for a few hours. Because of the process, you might also notice that the back side of the items might have smudges. These are caused by flarups caused from the laser beam. These smudges are on the back of the items, and do not affect their usability. Since these items are still usable, and massed produced, we will not issue replacement pieces for any such items.
Q: Are all the items made to the exact scale of the original materials?
A: Yes, and no. Some items are made to scale, while other are smaller by a factor of 30%.
Q: Can these items replace the original materials?
A: No. They are not meant to replace the originals, and we would not recommend thinking that they should. The original items are designed in a way that allow children the ability to touch a three dimensional item.
Q: What happens if I lose a piece. Can you replace it?
A: No. We will not break a set to replace a missing, lost, or damaged item. Please consider purchasing a new set.
Q: I just want one stencil. Why do I have to purchase 12?
A: Most stencils are priced at $1.00 therefore, we have had to set minimums on some items in order to achieve the proper ratio between shipping and product, since shipping on these items is free. Stencils are one of those items that are often used and thus take a lot abuse. Since PLPs are designed to be consumable, it is easy to simply replace the item with a new one.
Q: How do you envision these items being used in a classroom setting?
A: A classroom setting is very different than that of an online learning environment. The way we envisioned these items being used in the classroom is one where the teacher gives the Montessori presentation of the concept, followed by the children practicing or working on their work through the use of their own individualized personal learning products. This in turns helps the children avoid touching the original item(s). The teacher stays protected by being the only one touching the wooden item(s), while the students stay protected by working on their very own personal learning products.
Q: How do you envision these items being used in a blended learning environment?
A: A blended learning environment is one where instruction takes place both in the classroom and online. PLP items are designed for individualized learning. That means that each child is assigned their own item(s) and they use them in conjunction with the teacher's presentation. Regardless of where the instruction takes place the student has his/her own set of materials to use, thus maintaining social distance and staying protected by avoiding multiple contact points.
To learn more, purchase and explore the full line of Personal Learning products please follow the link here.