By Rachael C. Peters, Mayflower Early Childhood Center’s Parent Involvement Committee Chairperson

For over four decades, a preschool at the southeast edge of Tangletown has bore the name Mayflower. Its most recent incarnation, Mayflower Early Childhood Center, or more often Mayflower Montessori, is an independent, non-profit Montessori preschool for children 16 months through kindergarten. Its mission is to provide economically diverse families with equitable access to high-quality Montessori education.

Mayflower Montessori is using its annual plant sale fundraiser in early May to introduce its new name, Creekside Montessori, to the greater Southwest community.

Together with Mayflower Montessori’s stated mission, the school is committed to creating an inclusive environment that recognizes the multi-dimensional identities of its students, families, and staff.  In recent years Hmong, Somali, German, Spanish, Oromo, and Chinese could be heard in the hallways of the school, and recent self-reported demographic data shows that the student body is more racially and ethnically diverse than the zip code in which the school is found.

While there had been questions about the name over the years, Anne Estes, Head of School, recalls, “the seed for a new name [was] planted during a prospective parent tour in 2019. The parent said ‘what is up with the name?’”

This led to further conversations about the symbolism of the Mayflower name and how “given our nation’s colonial history, [it] was jarring and did not reflect who we are as a school,” says Andrea Roethke, alumni parent and board member.  

A Creekside Montessori student works with Montessori bells. Photo courtesy of Creekside Montessori.

During the summer of 2020, Mayflower Montessori began working with AmazeWorks, a St. Paul anti-bias and anti-racist education and consulting group, to further its equity and inclusion goals. It was during their early work with AmazeWorks, that a name change was identified as a concrete step toward meeting those goals.

With momentum building within the community and the go-ahead from the Mayflower Montesorri’s Board of Directors and Mayflower Church, the school formally began searching for a new name in the spring of 2021.

A name change committee consisting of school staff, parents, caregivers, and board members met regularly to create an intentional and inclusive process. Brainstorming sessions were held over Zoom, coffee hour discussions were held in the parking lot, and the students were invited to submit drawings representing what the school meant to them.

Eventually a list of potential names was compiled and submitted to the schools community for a vote.

Creekside won by a landslide.

Creekside Montessori isn’t just a reference to the school’s proximity to Minnehaha Creek. The name “honored the original connection to the [affordable] housing development next door, and a nod to the many families who live there who are an important part of the school’s fabric,” Roethke said, referring to the Creekside Commons building next door.

The school’s annual plant sale is a scholarship fundraiser. This year it will also be a way to spread the word to the greater community about the name change. While the entire name change process won’t be complete for a few more months, flyers for the plant sale reflect the new name and logo, which features a pink tower, a staple in Montessori early childhood education.

“At the end of the day, we want high quality Montessori education to be accessible to as many children as possible; we still hold true to our mission and only hope with our new name and identity we can continue to do so in an even more welcoming and inclusive way,” Estes said.