The concept of participating in a caring community is built into daily life at Montessori School of Lake Forest (MSLF). Each classroom is its own house, with child-scale furniture, each with its own attached courtyard and garden. The school hallway serves as the street connecting the houses. The school building as a whole is a community.
It’s been that way since a group of parents got together in 1966 and hired a teacher trained in the educational model created by Dr. Maria Montessori. That first Montessori Primary class met in a rented space in a Unitarian church in Deerfield with 12 enrolled students. Fifty years later, in their beautiful space bordering the Lake County Forest Preserves’s Middlefork Savanna, they have two Toddler classrooms (ages 15 months to 3 years old), four Primary classrooms (ages 3 to 6 years old), two Lower Elementary classrooms (first to third grade), and one Upper Elementary classroom (fourth to sixth grade). They also have a farm campus for their Adolescent Program (seventh to ninth grade), located adjacent to the Prairie Crossing Learning Farm in Grayslake. All of those students, the faculty, and volunteer parents that work with them are celebrating MSLF’s 50 years of education with 50 acts of kindness within the larger community in and around Lake County.
“The idea of the Kindness Campaign is such a natural progression of what we already do,” says Kathleen Marino, director of development at MSLF. “If you walk around this school, you will notice that everybody walks around saying, ‘Hi, friend.’”
The Kindness Campaign aims to target 50 organizations around the community that MSLF can support through acts of service and by collecting things the programs need. Once complete, the acts are written up onto cards and posted to a kindness wall just inside the front entrance of the school.
The first act of kindness was a canned soup drive staged by one of the Primary classes. Their goal was to gather 50 cans of soup and donate them to the Shields Township Food Pantry in Lake Bluff. The drive went above and beyond, handing over more than 150 cans.
Four Upper Elementary students tackled the second act of kindness, coordinating a drive to collect items useful to local animal shelters, such as food, blankets, and collars. The results were donated to Orphans of the Storm, Heartland Animal Shelter, Save-A-Pet, and Lambs Farm.
Other acts of kindness are also currently in motion. Parents and students are gathering winter coats for a charity called Saturday Place for at-risk youth in the city. They’re planning a trip to Westmoreland Nursing Center to pair up with a grand-friend for an afternoon. MSLF also plans to work with organizations they have partnered with in the past, like Feed My Starving Children, Bernie’s Book Bank, and Ronald McDonald House.
In addition to those big gestures, the Kindness Campaign wants to inspire MSLF students to help others in little ways, every day.
“We have little random acts of kindness cards,” says Kirstin Carruthers, a parent volunteer at MSLF. “Suggestions for the little ones, like hold the door for somebody or help your parents with the dishes. And ones you can do in the community and then leave a card. Pay for someone’s coffee and they see this Montessori School of Lake Forest Act of Kindness card encouraging them to pass it on.”
With new, colorful, graphic t-shirts bearing phrases like “Be Kind” and “Hi, Friend,” MSLF aims to make kindness not only fun, but fashionable. Other campaign merchandise highlights the pillars of Montessori education that MSLF is proud to have represented for 50 years: relevant education, legacy, community, tradition, diversity, excellence, and leadership.
“Those pillars, the Kindness Campaign, our peace education, they’re all part of the everyday culture here,” says Teresa Pavelich, enrollment director at MSLF. “They’re not new concepts, they’re traditions. We’re just highlighting the work that we do in those areas for our 50th anniversary.”
This post was sponsored by the Montessori School of Lake Forest. Montessori School of Lake Forest is located at 13700 West Laurel Drive in Lake Forest, 847-918-1000, mslf.org.