“Our education is about real life,” says Tina Sartori, Executive Director at Canada’s Montessori Academy (MA). This theme infuses every aspect of the school – even down to its classrooms, which are warm, colourful environments located within houses in the city of London, Ontario.

“Montessori prioritises hands-on learning, delivering experiences that are developmentally appropriate at each level,” expands Education Consultant Margaret Whitley. For example, the academy’s three-year-olds might help set the table at lunch, while its 12-year-olds recently travelled to Ecuador to help build a school, and older students regularly take part in a Model United Nations, debating issues from the environment to nuclear disarmament. Meanwhile, all MA children, aged from 18 months to 14 years, are involved in fundraising for their local hospital.

The school was founded in 1968 and is accredited by the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators (CCMA). “Our school models how to look after public property and leads by example, showing children how to contribute as responsible citizens,” says Whitley. “For example, we rent a church hall for our gymnasium, caring for the environment by honouring a footprint that’s already there.” MA also partners with not-for-profit organisations, with school lunches provided by a charity that supports young people getting into the food industry. The impact of these things is tangible, says Sartori. “Parents comment on their child’s engagement with their community and sense of responsibility.”

MA places social, emotional and intellectual development at the forefront of its students’ experiences, with mixed-age classrooms of children aged 3 to 5, 6 to 8 and 9 to 12. “Those groupings enhance learning,” says Sartori. “A three-year-old, who’s just learning her phonetic sounds, might sit beside a five-year-old who’s putting together a short story. As well as learning from one another, there is emotional stability to these small communities too. The older children look after the littler ones, and each year, the class only loses and gains a third of its students, so there’s never a tumultuous shift. We all grow together.”

When it comes to educational excellence, Sartori believes that there are a lot of opportunities for innovation. “Our children choose, every minute of every day, what they’re working on, within set parameters,” she says. “Our children leave us academically strong, but it’s the other skills they pick up – problem-solving, self-advocacy, communication – that often have the greatest impact in the real world.”