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Where Internationals Meet
International Montessori Preschool of Vienna
by Rennie Sweeney, Vienna News

The sound of clapping, singing and laughter floats down the corridor. What do you think this one will be?” a teacher exudes from behind a classroom door. Among a group of voices, one stands out: “Eight – no, nine! No, no, eight!” A little chirp bursts out from behind the door at the end of the main hall that serves as a welcoming meeting point for parents and visitors.
We had passed through an immense fin-de-siècle wrought-iron door, painted in Denkmalschutz green. Designed by Otto Wagner protégé Max Fabiani while still in his 20s, this quintessentially Viennese aesthetic adds to the mood of openness and new ideas and provides an easy transition from the relaxed Ungargasse neighbourhood in the 3rd District to the quiet, safe haven of Vienna’s International Montessori Preschool. Light streams through the impossibly high windows, softly filtering into the front rooms through white curtains.
In October 2012 the International Montessori Preschool Vienna celebrated its 25th anniversary, revelling in its newly renovated space. Run by the Dekleva family with English as the language of instruction, the preschool is the sole representative of the Association ¬Montessori Internationale in Austria, providing both the revolutionary Montessori approach to education.
This is a “Casa” in which a child not only learns but “finds a door to a new world,” director of studies Julia Dekleva-Leko will tell you, and the implementation is evident in literally every corner of the institution. There are the traditional “partner interaction tables” as well as round tables fostering wider interaction; tools for working with letters and numbers; arts and crafts centres emphasizing hands-on creatvity; shelf after shelf of an impressive in-house library; and colorful world maps adorning the walls.
Nearby is the peaceful Arenberg Park, an ideal place for outings. Even being in the heart of a city, there is an enveloping calm about the neighbourhood, allowing little ones to safely experience the all-important concepts of autonomy and self-motivation fostered by the Montessori approach.
Currently the student body includes children from 15 countries, developing personal capacities and well-being as a group. Laughter from the classrooms echoes out through the main hall, audible even as the handsome front door closes behind a visitor. It’s easy to see why the little ones are so happy here. This is a place where learning incorporates natural curiosity and play, helping children discover their strengths and foster their self-reliance while supporting their peers. It’s a site of inspiration and innovation in the Viennese tradition of ideas.


The wrought iron gates of the Montessori Preschool?s Haus

The wrought iron gates of the Montessori Preschool's Haus
Fabiani, 1901 Photo: IMP