During the week, some of Sydney city’s youngest residents can be found engaged in the important tasks of learning and playing at Barangaroo Montessori Academy.
We spoke with Barangaroo Montessori Academy’s Christina Salevski about what makes Montessori different, what she loves about working in childcare and the best places in the city to visit with kids.
Hi Christina, tell us about Montessori. How does it differ from mainstream education?
Montessori was developed by Dr Maria Montessori in the early 20th century. She dedicated her life to studying children, using her findings to develop an education system that would better support children’s learning.
She found that there is a direct link between a sense of empowerment within children’s learning and their emotional well-being.
Montessori uses a curriculum and a prepared environment that includes Montessori materials for the children to learn with. It’s been proven successful for around a hundred years across diverse cultures and continents.
How does the Montessori philosophy play out in early childhood education?
Through her research, Maria Montessori discovered the importance of the first six years of life. This is a key period for children’s development.
Here at Barangaroo Montessori Academy, we use a Montessori teaching method in all our classroom education. We start each day with the Montessori work cycle, which runs for three hours. This is where the children do their prepared learning with the Montessori materials in their engaged learning environment. We also do presentations with them, and they have access to do their own individual learning as well.
What drew you to work in childcare?
I’ve always loved it, ever since I was little. I always wanted to look after my younger cousins, and I loved my preschool teacher and thought this is definitely something that I want to do.
While I was doing my HSC, I was also studying for my childcare diploma, so by the time I finished school, I had my diploma and I was ready to start working, and I’ve never looked back.
I’ve worked in the early childhood sector for ages now, and Montessori is so different. Seeing the children develop independence, confidence, their self-worth, just knowing who they are as individuals. It’s beautiful to watch. I really enjoy working with the Montessori philosophy.
How important is it for children to have access to quality child care in those years before school?
Oh, it’s huge, it’s so important. That one to six year mark is crucial to any child’s development. The earlier families can access education and care in early childhood, the better, to help with their child’s development or to engage them in learning and developing skills. The first six years are so important for cognitive and emotional and social development.
COVID affected local businesses large and small. How did it impact Barangaroo Montessori Academy?
COVID impacted all childcare centres because it changed the way that people were living and how they work. We provided lots of at-home learning for our families. We sent them booklets, we launched a portal for them to engage within, we sent regular videos on YouTube so they could listen to our storytimes and do arts and crafts with the children at home. It was a good bonding ritual for us.
We also used that time to do a facelift of the centre. We upgraded our playgrounds and some of our classrooms. Everything’s starting to recover now. We’re seeing lots more families return to work and we’ve seen new families coming through. The inner-city community is building up again, which is great.
Do the children who attend your centre live locally or do they come into the CBD with their parents for work?
They’re a little bit of a mix. We have some that live around the corner, some that live in Pyrmont or Potts Point and some that live in the Western suburbs, on the Northern Beaches and some from the Central Coast. It’s the same with our staff too. We’re all in different suburbs, but we’re all united and we all travel to Barangaroo.
That’s wonderful. What challenges do you face running a busy childcare centre in the CBD?
It’s very fast-paced, especially during drop-off and pickup, because everyone’s rushing off to get to work. But all the staff are very competent and committed to making sure that the families receive that warm welcome and get their children settled into the childcare environment.
What are your favourite places to take children in the city?
Definitely Barangaroo Reserve. It’s quite new to Barangaroo and it has lots of indigenous learning opportunities for the children. We have little picnics by the water and you can see the Harbour Bridge, the city and the Opera House. During NAIDOC week, they had a beautiful display on the big screen, and we took the children down there to listen to the video. We went for a walk and we spoke about indigenous learning and the parents loved it too. There are other places too, like the Australian Museum, Darling Quarter, the Botanical Gardens, Chinese Gardens, the City of Sydney Library, and the aquarium.
Lots of wonderful places for families to visit! Thanks for the chat, Christina.
You can learn more about Barangaroo Montessori Academy at their website.