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Montessori ditches iPad for Screen-Free Week

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 7:12 p.m. CDT

LA GRANGE PARK – The iPad normally present at The Children’s House Montessori School was missing for a week.

Jamie Archer, head of school at The Children’s House, 1015 E. 31st St., brought the device home from April 29 to May 3 for Screen-Free Week, an initiative sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. During the week, participants were encouraged to turn off the TV, video and mobile games and turn on the world around them by reading, daydreaming and enjoying family and friends.

The Children’s House held a related after-school activity each day of the week, open to its students and the public. Children could make a mosquito trap out of a 2-liter plastic bottle, a treasure box out of an Altoids tin and a rain stick out of a paper tube and beans.

“The most fun [project] is reusing what would be recycled water bottles to make a bubble snake,” Archer said.

Montessori schools are based on the teachings of Italian physician and teacher Maria Montessori and encourage individual learning and freedom. Computers and electronic devices are not a part of most curriculum at The Children’s House, Archer said, because children have enough exposure to them at home.

Archer will use her iPad to answer a child’s question, however. Last week, a child asked her how a dolphin sleeps, so they looked it up. A quick search explained that dolphins shut off only one half of their brain while sleeping, using the other half to watch for predators and signal when to come up for air.

Laura Dvorak teaches afternoon Spanish classes in the school’s building and brings her two daughters, ages four and six, with her. For Dvorak’s kids, a good portion of every week is screen-free.

“They just seem to fight a lot after they watch TV,” said Dvorak, who doesn’t allow her kids to watch TV from Monday through Friday, except for the occasional show on PBS.

On weekend days, Dvorak’s kids can watch only two hours of TV, unless it’s a gloomy day and they’re stuck inside.

“It doesn’t help them develop a relationship,” Dvorak said.

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