School Spotlight: Muskegon Montessori Academy for Environmental Change

Muskegon Montessori Academy for Environmental Change Snapshot

Students Served: 140+

Grades Served: Preschool – 8th grade

Year Established: 2013

Head of School: Ali DuBois

Board Members:
Renae Hesselink
Kristy Crocker
Heidi Kejonen
Doug Doty
Judith Kell
Lenore Wieschowski


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When your child’s education is grown on the same principles of a luscious garden, you know your child is receiving more than an education.

It’s no surprise that a productive and flourishing garden is created after years of reaping and sowing, as well as having an abundance of love, commitment and hard work. Yes, the garden with seeds thrown in with no nurturing will likely grow and occasionally blossom, but only if the soil and conditions are perfect. However, those gardens are few and far between. Fortunately, Muskegon Montessori Academy for Environmental Change (MMAEC) knows what it takes to foster and support growing children, and it is their mission to ensure that every MMAEC Explorer grows to their greatest potential.

MMAEC does more than just teach to prepare their students academically. Instead, they give students learning options – just a part of the Montessori philosophy. Learning may begin in the classroom, but students move from desks to dirt, planting seeds in soil and tending to their outdoor garden to see what happens afterward. With the utilization of multiple learning styles, MMAEC offers a unique learning experience that incorporates Montessori and environmental education.

MMAEC Initiatives

As MMAEC continues to grow and truly shine, they are also embarking on other important journeys to ensure that Muskegon Montessori Academy for Environmental Change remains a leader in Montessori education.

College in the Classroom: Students in all grades, preschool through eighth, take part in a college campus visit. The purpose is to begin the conversation of college and how it impacts student growth from a young age. Additionally, the school has named October “Career Exploration Month” so students see the importance of various careers and develop an interest in their futures.

Academics: This year specifically, student achievement is on the rise with all grade levels well above the 50th percentile in growth on the NWEA test as reported by Ferris State University in the spring of 2016. The M-Step scores drastically increased this past year as well. Because of this, MMAEC is ranked #1 in Muskegon County in 4th grade English Language Arts (ELA), tied for #1 in 4th-grade math, #2 in 5th-grade math, and #3 in 6th-grade ELA.

Community Building: Community begins in the classroom, and at MMAEC, staff takes the time to get to know every student as an individual. Students enjoy breakfast and lunch in their classroom as a chance to further develop that community. Classes also participate in the Character Choices program to assist with community building, and once community is established, classes venture into the local community and support local organizations.

Recruitment and Retention: To contribute to their growing community and culture, MMAEC had 100% of their educators return for the 16/17 school year! The team was even able to add a new position this year since their enrollment keeps growing. Additionally, many of the current staff members have been a part of MMAEC since opening in 2013. Over the years, MMAEC has experienced continual student growth in enrollment. MMAEC is beyond excited to have grades PreK-3 full, with waiting lists created in those grades as well.

“We built our budget based on 125 students,” said Ali DuDois, Head of School. “We were able to add some positions as our numbers began to trend higher. We ended up with 132 students so we grew our team!”

Read more about MMAEC’s continual student enrollment success >

Environmental Adaptations: In order for children to learn to care about the future of our environment, MMAEC believes that educators must care enough about them to provide them with regular and frequent educational experiences in natural settings. Many of today’s schools fail to recognize the importance of developing a student’s authentic attachment to their community, both human and natural. At MMAEC, children develop a strong sense of place through daily educational experiences that take them out into the natural world around them.

As Muskegon Montessori Academy for Environmental Change continues to grow, flourish, and foster the love of learning amongst their students, they continue to make an impact in education.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I am so proud to be able to work with such a strong team,” explained Ali DuBois. “We have created an environment where children challenge themselves and take risks in their learning through the use of independent student learning plans.”[/perfectpullquote]

How Muskegon Montessori educators motivate their students…

nicole-mmaecNicole Hutson, 1st – 3rd Grade

I try to show my enthusiasm for learning through what I am teaching. I also make sure that the content they are given is at their level or that there is enough scaffolding in place to help them become successful.

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jeannie-mmaecJeannie Hansard, Kindergarten

I motivate students to learn by making lessons fun and engaging. I also make a point to let students know the purpose of a work or lesson and what skill they are learning from it. Students are more motivated to learn when it is fun, engaging, and related to the real world.

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jori-mmaecJori Koss, 6th – 8th Grade

In my middle school classroom, I put a focus on high school and college-ready expectations. With middle school students, they want to know the “why” for everything. Answering the “why” motivates the students to complete their work because they are given a clear, logical, and justified reasoning for doing classwork. They are also more likely to complete their work to the best of their ability. We also spend time talking about what high school expectations are, researching colleges and careers they are interested in exploring, and looking at the expectations for higher education. Knowing the expectations motivates the students to reach their goals.

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sue-mmaecSue TerMolen, Preschool – Kindergarten

I motivate student by having a variety of works that appeal to their interests and learning levels.