Mercado provides outlet for students’ creativity at area Montessori school


Desert Garden Montessori, at the northwest corner of Warner Road and the I-10, is not your average infant- to middle-school. For one, you’ll notice an all-organic garden as you enter the back of the campus, used for the students’ daily lunch periods.

You’ll also immediately detect the different teaching style for students, allowing them to be more self-directed in an environment that differs from a traditional school.

On top of that, students get a genuine entrepreneurial experience during frequent “Mercados,” during which they create their own product or service to sell and trade for make-believe money that’s shared among different grade levels.

With this merchant focus, it’s no wonder that famous innovators, such as the creators of Google and Amazon, received their first years of education in Montessori schools.

“The Mercado happens three times a year, and the students really get creative with it,” said Lecia Michels, Montessori public relations manager.

“The kindergarteners are in their third year in primary (education), and they are the ones that get to shop.”

The same process goes for the upper elementary group, which includes grades four through six.

Michels also has a daughter at the school, who was managing her panning-for-gold business in an outside tub of sand for other passing students during the last Mercado in late September.

Another group of students brought their family’s dogs, and were charging $3 of play money for the younger kids to walk their pets in an enclosed area.

“We try to not have things that are pre-made for them,” Michels said. “We want them to create their own things to sell.”

Others made robots out of recyclable materials, while another student sold comic books he made himself. A group of girls painted nails for their mini-business, and adjacent to them, students were getting their faces painted.

“It’s really a big deal to be a shop owner when they get older,” Michels said. “It’s really cool for the little ones, because the preschoolers get to see the process, too.”

Parents volunteered during the Mercado, helping kids make smoothies and organic trail mix to sell as snacks.

“It’s a learning process for them,” Michels said. “So, if they have a business and it’s not successful, they realize they’ve made a bad choice and need to revamp what they’re doing.”

About Desert Garden Montessori

“All of this learning is based on taking care of themselves through self-motivated, self-directed learning,” Michels said. “So, if a child is in a moment where they just love math, they can study math for hours that day.”

Of course, they have their foundations of math and English that they have to accomplish every day, and they have a check-in with their teacher to make sure they’re doing it, but it’s all called work, Michels added.

“It’s completely different from a traditional school,” she said. “Here, it’s really more about creativity and having the kids be inspired.”



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