Hillcrest Health Services and The Roberts Montessori Academy: An Intergenerational Story

Roberts Academy students plant gardens behind Hillcrest Silver Ridge. Pictured: (left) Aida N. and (right) Griffin W.

Students at The Roberts Montessori Academy celebrated their last day of school on Wednesday, May 26. As a parting gift, the students planted a garden for the residents at Hillcrest Silver Ridge, where the school is located. The Roberts Academy is the only Montessori school in the nation located in a health care setting.

“Hillcrest Silver Ridge values education and is proud to be part of such a unique and important project,” said Sarah Stoakes, Hillcrest Silver Ridge Administrator.

The Roberts Academy and Hillcrest Health Services have maintained a close partnership for more than a decade. What began as a once-weekly intergenerational opportunity at Hillcrest assisted living communities is now daily interaction with the school at Hillcrest Silver Ridge in Gretna. 

For the Montessori programming, Hillcrest’s Dr. Anna Fisher collaborates with Alice Roberts, a certified teacher through the American Montessori Society (AMS) and Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). Ms. Roberts is certified to teach Montessori elementary and high school students. As Dr. Fisher explains, Montessori principles include:

  • Creating an environment specific to an individual with dementia
  • Ensuring progression from activities – simple to complex, concrete to abstract
  • Separating activities into smaller parts, providing training on one element at a time
  • Providing sequential learning
  • Using tangible, functional and aesthetically-pleasing materials
  • Using multisensorial activities

Gardening is a great activity for this setting as it combines many of these principles. It engages all senses, promotes self-confidence and is good physical activity; it also sparks curiosity, explores texture, encourages teamwork, stimulates creativity in designing one’s own landscape, and, more than anything, puts love into the plants themselves. The students have formed a bond with the residents and are grateful for the friendships they have made through these kinds of intergenerational activities.

Hillcrest Health Services has received national attention for integrating the Montessori method into dementia care and has been recognized three years in a row with McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards.

Click here to learn more about the strides Hillcrest Health Services has made to implement the Montessori method into dementia care.