The Shepherdstown Montessori Academy celebrated Appalachian heritage last week with a special day of cultural learning activities.
According to Jan Hafer, a volunteer at the school, the students participated in the Appalachian heritage event for the first time this year as part of their social studies curriculum.
The Montessori school, along with its sister school, the Light of the Child preschool, is a "combined-approach" elementary school that concentrates on teaching small groups in the Montessori tradition.
Last week, the school welcomed local dance expert and flatfoot dance instructor Melanie Climis and local musician Lars Prillaman, who led the children through dance instruction with traditional Appalachian fiddle music.
The dance exercise was the culmination of a teaching unit devoted to the study of Appalachian culture.
As part of their study, the children also learned to made traditional Appalachian foods, including apple butter, biscuits, lemonade, fried apples and fried corn cakes.
Both students and parents participated in the heritage event, which as Sandy Lord, the Montessori academy's administrator and head teacher explained, is typical for the school.
"The parents are a huge part of the Montessori community," she said.
Lord explained that it was the parents who actually pushed for the addition of an elementary level school two years ago, in conjunction with the popular preschool.
"It basically originated from parent request," she said.
Molly Northrop Bloom, who has two students enrolled at the school and serves as president of its beard of directors, described the original preschool as "focused and peaceful" place.
"I was one of the parents who said, 'please open another school!'"
Bloom said she thinks the kids at the academy get a unique opportunity to concentrate on learning critical thinks skills and personal expression.
"There's a lot of creativity involved," she said.
Jan Hafer said that the heritage festival's hands on and inclusive approach to learning history is indicative of the Montessori school's method of educating.
Hafer, who helped organize the event Thursday, said that along with parents, the greater Shepherdstown community continues to aid the school.
Hafer said she collected needed supplies for the event from various places around town, including O'Hurley's General Store, who donated traditional Appalachian toys.
"It's really kind of a community effort to support the school," she said
Currently the school teaches 30 preschoolers and nine elementary school children in grades one through four, though the school accepts students in grades one through eight.
To learn more about the school and its upcoming events visit www.shepherdstownmontessoriacademy.com/.