School offers ‘Another Way’ of teaching students
Inspired by American Indian philosophy and a respect for the potential held in children, Diane Bodie founded Another Way Montessori Development Center.
The school name embodies Bodie’s desire to provide an educational path that is an alternative to more traditional methods.
Bodie’s friend, the late Plains Indian Reginald Laubin who wrote the definitive work on his people with his wife Gladys, helped name the school.
"When you live your life and respect all life the way the old ones did, there is always another way," he told Bodie.
She took this advice to heart and kept it in mind as she built her school almost three years ago. Bodie has incorporated other American Indian beliefs into the curriculum she offers at Another Way including that everything is connected.
"The kinship with life is huge. Nothing is done without the consideration that we’re here to work together," Bodie said.
Bodie was raised on a working ranch in California and attended Catholic school where she said the education was exceptional, but not the methods. She sought out another way to approach teaching and earned an M.A. in Early Childhood Education with an Early Childhood Specialist Credential.
As a Master’s student at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, Diane Bodie was mentored by Rosemary Peterson who is considered one of the leaders in Montessori education.
Peterson was the senior author of a book written by her and Bodie titled, "Child Centered Skiing: The American Teaching System for Children." It outlines an instructional model created by Bodie that many people in the industry use today. She also illustrated the book. Other works she has written and illustrated include, "Skiing is for kids (and those who believe in magic)," "A Ski Instructional Coloring Book," and "Faery Glimpses, a creative arts book from another world."
In the classroom
"We are all connected," Bodie said drawing from American Indian philosophy.
She incorporates that into the classroom every day because she said it helps the students realize their full potential at their own pace.
"The tenderness that is children, they deserve the best," Bodie said.
A flier the school recently put out emphasizes Another Way’s desire to educate the mind, heart, body and soul.
Bodie educates 3 ½ to 12 year olds in the log cabin that serves as a school. At that age she emphasizes how important it is to help students learn from concrete examples.
"Everything is hands on before it goes abstract," she said.
When they study language and writing Bodie teaches students about the first reading, which was animal tracks. She tells students that people once knew the size, sex and weight of an animal just by looking at the tracks left by an animal.
She also goes into details about the first writing, which was an artistic representation of animals as symbols and letters were put together to create meaningful sounds.
A full day includes music, drumming, play outside where the children can learn the basics of horseback riding and skiing. Math, literature and art are also covered. The students also take field trips to places such Red Butte Garden and Thanksgiving Point.
But before they do anything, students begin their day at Another Way with an honoring ceremony were they send their blessings to the universe and themselves.
"The honoring ceremony is an acknowledgement of the sacredness of all life and the kinship with life," Bodie said.
One important reason for teaching children all things are sacred, she believes, is so they begin to view themselves that way.
"Children are unshakeable if they are taught to love and honor themselves," she said adding that they are less prone to at-risk behavior with that mindset.
Another unique teaching tool Diane has in the classroom is a circle-of-life medicine wheel. It looks similar to a clock face, with animals at each of the four directions. A buffalo sits in the north, an eagle in the east, a bear in the west and a mouse in the south.
Each animal stands for something. Among other things the buffalo symbolizes service and knowledge, the eagle: illumination, the mouse: love and trust, and the bear: the ability to look within and know yourself.
She uses the circle for games, but also for creating mnemonic devices to help children master basic skills such as handwriting. Bodie helps students to avoid confusion in learning to write the letters d and b by explaining the bubble on the d faces the dark brown bear. She emphasizes the d in dark while giving the lesson.
"There is no dyslexia," she said of her students learning to read and write.
Bodie often uses the outdoors as a teaching tool and asks her students to look for mathematical patterns as they hike on nearby trails.
"Science and math is based on an understanding of natural laws," she said.
Exposure to animals is also important to her as she teaches students how to ride, and until recently there was a 14-year-old wolf hybrid that was often at the school. She currently has two cats, Calli and Willow.
An emphasis on the natural world helps children to understand the sacredness of their surroundings Bodie said.
"This house is the way it is for the softness, there is a spirit in these logs," she said saying the log cabin surrounded by three acres helps them to connect to the "wild winds, their ancestors and just how wonderful they are."
Plans are currently under way for several additions to the school including a sweat lodge, a shaded outdoor spot for work and play, a Navajo loom where students can weave blankets, and an area where children can learn to tan hides.
Terri Lain has a Masters in Psychology with an emphasis in psychotherapeutic drama, a tool for working with people who have psychological problems. She helps the students with their morning reading in addition to math and science.
"Every child is looked at as a complete individual and nothing is forced," she said.
Lain recently joined the staff and is enthused to be working at Another Way.
"It’s awesome, there’s so much offered it’s just unbelievable, it’s a real special place to be."
Leon Hunter earned a Masters degree in Psychology with a minor in counseling.
"I’ve been around education for a long time," he said of his 30-plus years as a teacher.
He worked for nearly 20 years in Las Vegas in what was considered one of the most progressive school districts, but rapid growth detracted from some of the individual attention they received. Hunter was also frustrated by the required standardized testing.
"A creative student with a creative mind cannot properly be (evaluated) by a standardized test," he said, adding Another Way has its own ways of measuring student progress.
Hunter places emphasis on allowing students to progress at a pace they are comfortable with.
"That is what this school does," he said.
Hunter feels that a variety of things makes Another Way unique including their approach to children which he said instills, "the attitude and the feeling of being appreciated as a person and being valued for their mind."
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