Bristow Couple to Start Montessori, STEM Education Center in Haiti

| December 19, 2017 | 0 Comments | Community

Bristow Montessori students participate in a crafts fair to help fund Montessori materials at a future Haitian school.

Bristow residents Solitaire and Jeffery Caroll, parents at the Bristow Montessori School, have begun their efforts to start a multi-use educational center in Haiti that will combine Montessori and STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] education.

The Carrolls began volunteering in Haiti after a hurricane hit the island in 2013. In response, they started a nonprofit organization called One Sparrow aimed at addressing extreme poverty around the world, and to assist with shelter, education and employment in Haiti. Over time, they found they could create the greatest impact by focusing on education.

Public education is not easily nor widely available to Haitian children. Without access to formal, practical or technical education, most Haitians had few career prospects to lift them out of poverty. 

Solitaire decided to start a school that would teach young children, teens and adults and would serve the specific needs of the community. They call the campaign the Imprint Project and have already secured a storefront where they can hold their first classes. 

Planning for the future of the school, Solitaire spoke with teachers at the Bristow Montessori School about making the K-8 center a Montessori school. They thought it was a great idea. 

“Of course Montessori is going to be our first choice,” said Anita Ercole, Head of Schools at Bristow Montessori, which serves infants through the primary grades. 

Ercole explained the Montessori philosophy was meant to serve children up through middle school, providing the most education possible in a short amount of time. Montessori was created in a time when students typically did not advance to high levels of education, thus the system was designed to be holistically not solely academic. 

Solitaire knew the Montessori system had multiple advantages. It allows for different ages in one classroom, offers the opportunity for accelerate advancement, and provide hands-on experiences. And, most of all, she saw how Montessori helped her son Trey become creative and inventive.

Bristow Montessori students made crafts that can be used as holiday gifts. Proceeds from the sale of the items goes towards buying materials for the Haitian school.

“We’re basically trying to create the exact same environment for children all over the world,” she said.

After the Carrolls decided on a Montessori system, Ercole wanted to help. She decided the school could raise money for the Haitian school to buy Montessori materials by holding an on-going craft fair with crafts made by the students. 

The Bristow Montessori children worked on the projects in their classroom and in an after-school group. They created jewelry using natural materials, animal pictures out of autumn leaves and braided friendship bracelets and bookmarks.

Teachers came in early to assist students in running a shop and selling items to parents, and the children gained the real-world experience. Even the younger children took an active role, making the majority of the crafts.

So far, the Bristow Montessori School raised over $650 for the cause, and the sale will continue until Christmas.

Solitaire is grateful, and knows the Montessori K-8 school will be a success for the children. However, she is also looked towards the next step. She wanted teens and adults in the community to have career prospects. 

The Carrolls witnessed great innovation taking place in Haiti after the hurricane, stemming from necessity. She wanted to show them how to market their creations.

“Technology cannot just provide a future and a living for them,” said Solitaire, explaining it must also meet the needs and challenges of the community.

The technology would include computer skills, modern agricultural methods and animal husbandry. However, she is most excited about the “Makers Lab,” for science and inventing.

The students learn real-world skills by running a shop out of the school in the morning and afternoon.

“Now you have a dedicated space where older children can literally come and invent,” she said.

The school will not take propriety over any of the inventions, so it can become a way for students to start a business or find a well-paying job.

Solitaire believes the Montessori method will prepare students for future inventive pursuits by engendering imaginative thought and fostering independence necessary for self-starters. 

According to Solitaire, the school will be accessible for anyone who lives in the vicinity and students will just pay what they can afford. One mission of One Sparrow is to look for various ways to fund the school. 

The multi-use education center will open in Northern Haiti, but she contends that the model can be replicated anywhere, and that is the plan. She hopes to provide the children of Haiti not only an education but one that helps them become curious, independent,  persistent in their pursuit of knowledge and creative in problem-solving. 

One Sparrow is looking for donations, corporate sponsors and grants. They also regularly hold fundraising events.

Visit onesparrowdc.org for more information on One Sparrow or email  info@onesparrowdc.org.

Contact Bristow Montessori School at 703-991-6563 to make an appointment to purchase a one of the holiday craft items, or to find out more information about the school. 

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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