History of Walnut Farm Montessori School
History often reveals that legacies are born of humble beginnings and human desires to make the world a better place in which to live and nurture our families. In 1991, Maren Schmidt founded Walnut Farm Montessori School (WFMS) in response to a local cry for an alternative to traditional public education. The first primary class served ten families and operated out of an old two-story house on Moberly Lane in Bentonville, Arkansas. During its first five years, the school grew steadily and expanded to two primary classes of 24 students each. In 1996, with parents now firmly convinced of the value of Montessori education, an elementary class was added for children ages 6-9.
Defining moments are rare. Rarer still are the organizations and individuals that rise to the challenge and establish a legacy that has the potential to stand the test of time. It was in 1996 that Maren and Mark Schmidt did just this! With assistance from Tony Potochnik, builder, and David Swanson, architect and dedicated parent, they took an incredible leap of faith by relocating the campus to 4208 East Central Ave. and constructing our current primary and administration building. This building and the original 3-acre campus that surrounds it have served our school well for the past 30 years. Since its construction student enrollment has doubled in size, from less than 50 to over 100.
In March 2010, Walnut Farm Montessori School became the first accredited Montessori school in the state of Arkansas through the American Montessori Society. In 2013, the Board of Trustees purchased the school’s north building for our elementary program, expanding the campus to nearly six acres. At a time when mainstream schools are limiting or eliminating outdoor spaces altogether, WFMS has expanded the idea of Montessori nature education. We continue to develop and nurture our outdoor spaces to expand our learning experiences outside. In 2014, WFMS expanded the program to include two toddler environments allowing more students to begin their Montessori journey at Walnut Farm and in 2022 the elementary program increased to two lower elementary classrooms.
Through over 3 decades of employing the Montessori methodology, WFMS has succeeded in fulfilling the promise of its founder, Maren Schmidt, honoring the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, and evoking the self-confidence and independence of Northwest Arkansas children. It is with this same passion and enthusiasm that the school continues the work necessary to keep full accreditation by the American Montessori Society. With a rich history, academic achievements, and beautiful acreage, WFMS proudly offers an authentic Montessori education for children 18 months to 9 years of age.