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As children grow, so does Great Beginnings...


Individualized education isn't new. Maria Montessori proved its effectiveness 100+ years ago. Please help us grow to nurture each individual child. Through 6th grade. And beyond. 


Long story short, an incredibly generous alumni family from Great Beginnings has given our school a matching grant of up to $100,000 to make our dreams come true. And, we're looking for a dream property. 

The backstory: 

Great Beginnings has a 31-year history in Gallatin Valley, and has led the path for nature-based programming in the Montessori community with our outdoor classrooms, our focus on the environment, and our first yurt classroom. 

Our recent history includes a meeting several years ago, when our teachers set a "big, hairy audacious goal" to become the most sought after school in SW Montana. And now we're there. And we're going to need more space.

Simultaneously, Great Beginnings Montessori School has been strategically planning expansion at the Board level for the past five years. The initial phase of the expansion was accomplished in 2014 through creating the Rainbow Room and expanding programming to toddlers, and through creating the dream classroom for our kindergartners - a yurt. 

The second phase of our school's expansion is supported unanimously by our Board and teachers. We have wanted to expand, but we want to expand intentionally. We want to keep our flagship school and not unduly affect any of our current programming. We want to offer the same loving, nurturing, Montessori environment that has always been Great Beginnings, while giving children more room to run outdoors. 

In short, we want to expand for the right reasons - for our families to find a home with Great Beginnings earlier, and to let them stay with us longer. Our community wants what our school has to offer, and we would like to provide it - for every level of a child's development.

So, this is where the big vision comes in… 

We’ve been dreaming about buying a beautiful piece of property within two miles of our current school, and eventually creating a nature-based K-6 elementary school. We are seeking a beautiful property with potential, with an outdoor environment to support our Montessori and environmental curriculum.   And, we may want to grow even beyond preschool and elementary. Perhaps middle school. Perhaps high school. However, the crux of the project is first – how to get the property, and second – how to get the enrollment?

So, while we’ve been dreaming of this with whomever will listen, a generous GBMS family decided that they will match up to $100,000 to help Great Beginnings achieve its next chapter. Our dream.

And, the MSU School of Architecture had its 50+ second year design studio students create potential site proposals for our dream school during Fall Semester 2016. We've got lots of great ideas!

Please share our dream with us!

Gennifre Hartman

Head of School, on behalf of the Great Beginnings Board, teachers, and community


Please click HERE to learn more about our fundraising history and goals!

GBMS sketch

Q&A Great Beginnings School Expansion: Survey Results

Parents and community members who participated in the online survey in October had some great questions, which you can find below. If you have additional questions that you don't see answered below, feel free to contact the people below with questions regarding the new site and school expansion:

Gennifre Hartman, Executive Director and Head of School:
Jennifer Denhart, Assistant Head of School:
Stephanie Dennee, President, Board of Directors:

Why is the GBMS program expanding? What’s the impetus behind growing?
Many years ago when Great Beginnings first opened, the single location was sufficient to meet the student and family needs. The number of students at Great Beginnings has grown, and last year we analyzed the home school location of our current students and learned that they are not concentrated to any one region of the Valley – rather, our families were scattered all over the Valley, and driving to specifically access the quality and community of our unique school. Many of these families live in areas that are adjacent to existing Montessori schools, and they still choose to commute to Great Beginnings.

Additionally, by expanding programming, many of our families will benefit from having all of their children attend the same school in their community. And, Great Beginnings will continue to offer after-care for all grades, including the upper grades. According to a report out of Princeton University, after-school programs that provide additional educational instruction and social interaction "not only support healthy, positive development during [ages 6 through 14], they will also put in place the kind of safety net needed to support healthy, positive passage through early and middle adolescence.”

How will these expansions be handled? Will they be phased in or will it happen all at once?
The expansion will be handled in phases as determined by the schools’ readiness, as evaluated and approved by our Board of Directors. As part of the first phase in 2014-2016, the current flagship school expanded to house additional GBMS students, through expanded ages (the Rainbow Room) and an expanded Summer Camp PreK through 3rd grade. As part of the second phase in 2016-2017, the school is developing site plans with the MSU School of Architecture.

Are there plans to offer more grades for toddler, elementary and middle school? How will the school adapt if enrollment levels are lower than expected?
The school is expanding the phases for new programming cautiously, and the phases are driven by demand.  As the Expansion Task Force of the Board of Directors is evaluating potential sites, it is looking at capacity for long-term growth.

Does Great Beginnings work better for some children to have a consistent environment K-3?
For years Great Beginnings families encouraged us to extend our program into higher grades. With a small, nurturing community with a high student/ teacher ratio, a high level of personalized programming, and innovative nature-based Montessori curriculum, Great Beginnings is unique. For families who are seeking an alternative to a traditional elementary school, Great Beginnings could provide an excellent option.

Why is the time to establish an expanded school program ‘right’ now?
The encouragement from current families to expand programming has never been more robust. Additionally, our teachers have spent the past three years pursuing continuing education, and our school currently has a high number of in-house, professionally certified-teachers (both traditional and Montessori).  

What do you see as Great Beginnings’ biggest challenge and how will it solve it?
The school is facing the challenge to get our stakeholders to actively engage as part of the expansion process.  We encourage all of our families to express their opinions, and talk with the current teachers and Board members.  

How sure are you that GB can compete with "free" public schools and established private schools for grades 1-6? 
The Montana Office of Public Instruction showed in 2011-12 (the latest data available) that the total elementary enrollment in Montana Schools is 99,725. Elementary enrollment increased 1.0% this past year and 3.4% in the past five years. There are 124 private schools in Montana, serving 11,040 students. Of these, 21 are Montessori schools, serving 1,156 students.

Public schools in Bozeman still remain a great option for many families.  However, some families have educational philosophies that dovetail better with Great Beginnings Montessori School for additional grades. With our school’s focus on collaborative, interactive learning featuring small-group work, we are designing our new school to include environmentally friendly buildings and flexible spaces that can be used for multiple purposes. At the end of the day, this is about providing additional educational experiences for the children of Montana. 



Help us with the next chapter for Great Beginnings!