Students at the Hudson Montessori School didn’t have to look far to find examples of this year’s theme for their social studies fair. They just had to gaze out their classroom windows.
In the past, students who engaged in this year-long study project dealt with exotic places such as ancient Greece when studying the Olympics.
This year, Jersey City was prominent in their exploration of the growth of cities and the Industrial Revolution.
While their projects this year included remote and intriguing places around the globe, part of the project was designed to enlighten them about the unique role Jersey City played in birth of America.
Alexander Hamilton, often considered the father of industrial America, helped establish Jersey City and Paterson as the foundation of American manufacturing and shipping.
“At Hudson Montessori School, each year we choose a theme as our yearlong study which reflects important events of historical and current importance,” said Assistant Director Gina Reeves. “This year’s theme is The Industrial Revolution and the Growth of Cities.”
The Industrial Revolution impacted the world and the United States, but especially cities like Jersey City.
“In fact, our own Jersey City played a key role at that time. Factories such as Dixon Mills, Whitlock Cordage and Colgate all sprung up here in Jersey City because of its strategic location next to the Hudson River,” Reeves said.
The school’s upper elementary students highlighted Jersey City in their study and work because they recognized the city’s contribution to country’s growth.
“Our lower elementary students studied the ancient civilizations of Rome and China and learned of their contributions to man’s development and how their technologies still exist and are used today,” Reeves said. ”Many of the operations and products that were later mechanized stemmed from these ancient peoples. Our younger students immersed themselves into understanding the impetus for, and result of the growth of prominent cities such as London, Munich, Beijing, and Mumbai. These cities came into being as a result of the Industrial Revolution.”
Director Gracy Jolly said, “We named this year Growth of Cities because even though the Industrial Revolution started in the 1700s, cities are still growing and some say we’re now in the fourth industrial evolution.”
The classrooms displayed ten key places that had a major impact on cities.
“This includes ancient cities such as Rome and Athens, and contemporary cities like London or Mumbai. And also Jersey City, past and future,” Jolly said. “Our original Jersey City played a major role in the original industrial revolution. As you know, our city is booming, and we’re looking for infrastructure such as schools, transportation, hospitals and welcoming communities.”
Ward E Councilman James Solomon shared a comment from one of his professors in college. “The greatest invention in human history is not the car, the iPhone or the iPad, he said, it was cities. How do you fit all of these people into a very small space?”
“We named this year Growth of Cities because even though the Industrial Revolution started in the 1700s, cities are still growing and some say we’re now in the fourth industrial evolution.” – Gracy Jolly
A public event
These studies culminated in the school’s 9th annual social studies fair and carnival, at which the school honored the city’s Office of Innovation with its Pioneer Award.
Each year, this fair shows the public what students have learned under this system of education, based on themes allowing them to create models of places, things, environments, and other visuals, while learning the details of the history and science. The project also explores technology and mathematics that are associated with these themes.
“This is one of our largest annual events and it celebrates the hard work of our students, their parents and our teachers,” Reeves said.
The event included classrooms decorated to celebrate various aspects of this year’s theme, while on the street outside, parents, teachers, and the general public took part in a carnival, despite the heavy mist.
In the past, studies explored ideas such as the historic Silk Road, the Olympics, and even people who helped change the world.
Jolly founded the school in 2009 with only nine students. Since then it has grown to several hundred and still growing. It was created as a private independent school following the Montessori education model, focusing on an individual child’s needs rather than based on curriculum as traditional schools do. The school is privately funded.
“I was here at the second one of these and there were 50 students and many fewer parents,” Mayor Steven Fulop said. “It’s really great to see the community growing and so many parents actively engaged. It really makes a difference in a child’s education.”
The school has been at its Reagent Street location for nine years. Developer Peter Mocco last year said he is building a 20,000 square foot facility for the school, which currently operates on the ground floor of a number of Regent Street buildings.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.