Originally identified as a modernization project in Tacoma Public School’s 2001 Capital Bond Election, detailed investigation of existing conditions and continually declining enrollment at Geiger Elementary School encouraged an alternative approach. The desire to boost enrollment opened the opportunity for reinvention of Geiger as a Montessori magnet school.
Geiger started with the story of the site. As it descends from east to west, the site opens to territorial views of the Narrows and Puget Sound. With the orca as their mascot, the nearby marine environment is a constant reminder that our actions have an effect on the neighboring ecosystem. Inside the facility, graphics derived from mathematical manipulatives inform the wainscot and railing patterns, and similar derivations are incorporated throughout as a tribute to Montessori principles and lessons. Marine themes are used throughout the classroom wings to build individual identities for the six classroom pods, with each classroom having its own marine mascot.
Project-based learning is the basis of Montessori education, and is a model for classroom activity that shifts away from teacher-centered delivery to student-centered exploration. This instructional approach is built upon authentic learning that engages the student in relevant exercises at their pace, and from a multitude of vantage points. Classrooms are zoned for multiple uses with large wet areas for practical life exercises, often taking up to one-fourth of the classroom. The remaining area is divided into shelving areas that house the large library of manipulatives. Students define their space by placing a small rug on the floor and working from there.
Montessori teaching is dedicated to keeping learning relevant and useful to students by establishing connections to life outside the classroom, and solving real-world concerns with real-world skills. With the completion of the new Geiger Montessori School, Tacoma Public Schools took this method to the masses, providing student-centered, personalized educational opportunities for public school students.