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on Monday, 17 December 2012 in Parent Education

We want to extend our deepest sympathies to the Sandy Hook Elementary community and also take this opportunity to communicate our own emergency protocols to MCS parents.  In light of recent events, we are moving forward more urgently with the plans we have been developing in conjunction with a few dedicated parents who have formed our Emergency Preparedness Committee, particularly Sara Hart, who spearheads the committee. The lockdown procedure has been a priority for us since the EPC formed last spring.

As part of our Emergency Preparedness, various members of the EPC have taken FEMA courses online that provide advice about preparing for various emergency situations. At our November meeting, one of our parents brought back what she had learned from the Lockdown course specifically. She is preparing a presentation to faculty about the contents of the course and we will incorporate many of its recommendations. Throughout the fall our facilities staff has been laying the hardware necessary for installing phone lines in all the classrooms. This would ensure that in the case of a lockdown situation we could communicate to all the classrooms at once. Phones will be used strictly for emergency purposes. We will finalize the installment of the phone lines over the winter break. Every classroom now has an updated evacuation plan, thanks to parent Jodi Geroux, who was instrumental in bringing building safety to our attention last year. In her capacity as an architect she re-created emergency evacuation route maps.  We have regularly practiced fire and earthquake drills this year so students and teachers are aware of the evacuation routes. We have spoken specifically with specialty and extended day teachers about practicing these routes. We will continue these monthly drills and plan to implement a lockdown drill once phone lines have been installed. We will notify parents before our first lockdown drill. Teachers will prepare the children for the drill and we ask that parents also discuss it with their child(ren). The other priority for us has been identifying potential emergency notification systems to communicate with parents in the event of a school-wide emergency. We have been researching voicemail and texting services. We will continue to use Facebook and our website as a form of communication with our parents. Outside doors are only unlocked during arrival and dismissal times and are locked at all other times. We ask all staff to be vigilant and watch for people we don’t recognize and to ask anyone we don’t recognize how we can help them. We ask and expect every visitor to check in at office. Parents are required to sign children in and out each day so we have an accurate idea of who is and isn’t in the building at any given time.

We recognize that children will have questions. Teachers will address questions simply, and invite children to discuss the events at home. We welcome any questions or concerns you have. Our Emergency Preparedness Committee includes Bob Buchanan, Jan Bosen, Ramira Alamilla, and parents Sara Hart, Jodi Geroux, Rachel Koontz, Vicki Wilkins, Christopher LeCluyse, and Deidre Becker.

We are grateful for each member of this community and it is our highest priority to ensure the safety of all of the children you entrust to our care.

Warm regards,

 

Robyn, Ramira, and MCS Administration

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on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 in Classroom Updates

 

Enjoy this update from our Dance teacher, Katie Meehan, about what is happening is the Dance Classes this month.

Early Childhood- We looked to the Nutcracker for movement inspiration. Observing different characters (The Nutcracker prince, the sugar plum faires, flowers and snow flakes). We listened to the dynamic soundtrack of The Nutcracker as we moved like these various characters. Taped pathways on the floor added a navigational component and spatial structure to our movement.

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Lower El- We explored using various props as a way to further our experience with dance composition. We worked in groups of four with each group having different props. Some props we used were scarves, hula hoops, hats, sequin fabric, etc. The students all had an opportunity to work together to find a cohesive vision and voice for their dances. The resulting dances were all very playful and enjoyable for the kids to watch as they each performed for their classmates. We have also been working with mirroring in partner format. Mirroring with partners has helped to refine our artistic eyes as movers and observers.

Upper El- We have been looking at various choreographers in the Modern dance field as well as some dance for camera work. We viewed dance pieces by Shen Wei Dance Arts, Trisha Brown, Miguel Gutierrez, DV8, Pina Bausch, etc. Not only have we been observing the choices of these artists but the varying movement qualities of each. In Dance for camera we get to look at the art of dance from a different lens. Deviating from the traditional proscemium setting of a 2D perspective, we further examine movement from different angles with a more intimate perspective.

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on Wednesday, 05 December 2012 in Parent Education

Through the years I have commonly been asked about Montessori students and their development of social skills. Some parents, when considering a Montessori education, become concerned that because of the size of the facility, the mixed age groupings, or the limited number of classrooms that their child will somehow be "missing out" on some aspects of social development. The short answer is that although there might not be as many children on our campus, the opportunities to develop socially are unlimited in the organization of the classrooms and curriculum.

 

Montessori herself said that "Social life does not consist of a group of individuals remaining close together, side by side, nor in their advancing en masse under the command of a captain like a regiment on the march, nor like an ordinary class of school children. The social life of man is founded upon work, harmoniously organised and upon social virtues - and these are the attitudes which develop to an exceptional degree amongst our children. Constancy in their work, patience when having to wait, the power of adapting themselves to the innumerable circumstances which present themselves in their daily contact with each other, reciprocal helpfulness and so on, are all exercises which represent a real and practical social life and which we see, for the first time, being organised amongst the children in a school. In fact, whereas schools used to be equipped only so as to accommodate children, seated passively side by side, who were expected to receive from the teacher (we might almost say in a parasitic manner), our schools, on the contrary, have an equipment which is adapted to all those forms of work which are necessary in an active and independent little community. The individual work in which the child is able to isolate himself and to concentrate, serves to perfect his individuality and the nearer man gets to perfection, the better is he able to associate harmoniously with others. A strong social movement cannot exist without prepared individuals, just as the members of an orchestra cannot play together harmoniously unless each individual has been thoroughly trained by repeated exercise when alone."

As her philosophy developed, many standards were set into place which help a student develop socially. Some of those include:

 

Grace & Courtesy: An essential part of the Montessori curriculum is the opportunity for children to develop skills of grace and courtesy. Children learn to interact appropriately with one another through dialogue with adults, they learn to greet and host guests into their classroom, and they learn to dialogue with their peers in classroom meetings. As early as three years old students use the "peace table" as a place to they learn to recognize personal feelings and express themselves. They often share a "peace object" of some kind (ie; rock, flower...) that can be passed back and forth as they work to solve problems with their peers. As part of the Grace and Courtesy curriculum, children prepare and share snacks within the classroom. They are given lessons on appropriate meal behavior and sometimes teachers will join students at the lunch table to model appropriate meal behavior. Small Group Lessons: Though many lessons are presented to students individually, at all levels students participate in small group lessons. These lessons allow students to express their thoughts and ideas in a safe environment. As they dialogue with one another regarding their thoughts about a particular subject, teachers can assess conversational skills as well as how much or little a child may be grasping an important concept. When a child is uncertain or misunderstands a concept, teachers will represent material in a different way or within a different setting rather than reprimanding or shaming a child for misunderstanding. In these group lessons, students learn to listen to and respect other children's perspective. Care of Environment: At entry into a Montessori environment children are given lessons on care of the environment around them. They are taught that the space in which they learn is their space, it belongs to them. They are taught the value of community and learn their role in a community. They are also taught to respect and value the roles of their peers within the same community. Freedom to solve problems: Along with lessons on how to solve problems, children are given the freedom to actually practice the skill in a safe environment with caring and observant adults nearby. Montessori believed that children like to work out their own social problems and she said, "When adults interfere in this first stage of preparation for social life, they nearly always make mistakes....Problems abound at every step and it gives the children great pleasure to face them. They feel irritated if we intervene, and find a way if left to themselves." In order to accommodate this freedom, teachers use lunch, recess, and transition times to continually model appropriate social interactions. The time for lessons does not stop once the bell to step outside the classroom rings. Lack of Competition: Mixed age classrooms, individual progression, and self-correcting materials are all contributors to the ability to avoid competition among children in a Montessori environment. Students have a natural tendency to assist one another and collaborate. Oftentimes only one material of its kind will exist within a classroom, teaching children patience as well as allowing them to plan ahead, and accommodate change. Montessori said, regarding classroom materials, "The chid comes to see that he must respect the work of others, not because someone said he must, but because this is a reality he meets in his daily experience." Self-Correcting Materials: Work in the environment is set up to allow the child to use the materials to check their work. As students discover mistakes for themselves, the ability to correct becomes innate and they do not lack confidence for fear of being told they are wrong. It also allows the children to have purposeful movement. Celebration of Individuality: As students are allowed the opportunity to choose what to work on and how long to spend on an activity and the ability to not be rushed to understand concepts, they are able to celebrate their individuality. Some children will grasp a concept more easily than another, some students will embrace one subject at a different time than their peers and as they work with those sensitive periods they grow as individuals. Then, within their roles as an important part of the classroom community, they are able to share concepts with others.

 

In these ways and others, children in a Montessori environment are given the very best opportunities for appropriate social development.

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on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 in Parent Education

Thank you to those parents who recently attended our Elementary Admissions Information Meeting.  Remember, if you have a child who is moving into 1st or 4th grade next year, this meeting is MANDATORY for both parents.  Also, if you are currently still in process of deciding whether your Kindergartner or 3rd grader will continue with us next year, we recommend you come to the next meeting where Margaret, our Elementary and Middle School Program Head, will answer your questions regarding curriculum as well as social develpment of Elementary age students.  Many of the attendees of our meeting last Friday were especially excited by the brief overview of the Montessori Math materials.

During the meeting some questions were raised about Montessori students transitioning to schools with a more traditional approach to education.  Tim Seldin wrote an article entitled "What are the real benefits of sending a child to Montessori?" which sufficiently explains the ways in which Montessori children are prepared to transition to other environments.  I recommend this article for any parent who has a child enrolled in a Montessori program or who is considering a Montessori education for their child.  Read Tim Seldins article here...

We invite any parents with questions regarding enrollment for your child next year to make an appointment with either your students teachers or a member of our Administration where we will be happy to address any questions or concerns you might have.  Also, dont forget that our next Elementary Admissions Information meeting is coming up this Friday, December 7th @ 8:30am.

 

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This Upper Elementary student works on the Peg Board during work time.

 

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on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 in Parent Education

One question that regularly comes my way this time of year is "what should I get my child for Christmas?"  Finding developmentally appropriate gifts that will keep our children happy and entertained, but still support their growth, can be challenging.  If you are anything like me, you don't want to spend a bunch of money on toys that will end up broken, lost, or forgotten by days end.  Below we've listed some of our favorite resources for finding the perfect gift for your Montessori child....

Small Hands is a wonderful resource for choosing gifts that support the Practical Life skills your child is working on regularly in the classroom.

Daily Montessori shares information about choosing the right gift for children at the right age.

Jessica Mueller shares some wonderful gift ideas for Infants, Toddlers, and Pre-Schoolers on her blog "Our Montessori Home."

Montessori by Hand shares a great list of children's books.

Support your Upper Elementary or Middle Schoolers love of science with some of these aweseome items from Science Discovery and Fun.

 

Best of luck on your search for the perfect gift!

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on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 in Parent Education

Why Montessori for the kindergarten year?

Written by Tim Seldin with Dr. Elizabeth Coe

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Every year at reenrollment time, and in thousands of Montessori schools all over North America, parents of four-almost-five-year-olds are trying to decide whether or not they should keep their sons and daughters in Montessori for kindergarten or send them off to the local schools.

So here are a few answers to some of the questions parents often ask about Montessori for the kindergarten age child.

Naturally, to some degree the answer is also often connected to the question of family income as well, although we are often amazed at how often families with very modest means who place a high enough priority on their children's education will scrape together the tuition needed to keep them in Montessori.


It is a fair question and it deserves a careful answer. Obviously there is no one right answer for every child. Often the decision depends on where each family places its priorities and how strongly parents sense that one school or another more closely fits in with their hopes dreams for their children.

Read More...

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on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 in Classroom Updates

The Middle School students are at the completion of another cycle.  They have spent the past five weeks talking about how to be involved in the community and how service is a way to be involved and be supportive.

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During their Immersion this week the Middle School students are focusing on Community Service. They have visited Wasatch Community Garden, The Stable Place, and The Living Planet Aquarium where they have rendered different services.  They have prepared and organized independent volunteer opportunities which they will participate in tomorrow and have also planned trips to the Bicycle Collective and Camp Kostopulos.  They are expecting a visit from Tree Utah on Friday.

Check back soon for a more comprehensive report of what they've been up to, what they learned along the way, and how this process suppports adolescents in their development.

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The Montessori philosophy was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori through careful and thorough observation of the child.  Having studied to become a medical doctor, much of her theory was developed based on the biological growth of the child.  In developing her theory, Montessori discovered that children go through sensitive periods in their development.  What is a sensitive period?  It could be defined as a special sensitivity related to certain elements in the environment towards which the organism is directed with an irresistible impulse and a well-defined activity.  In other words, and in relation to our children, sensitive periods are periods of time in which children are directed by an inner pull towards a certain activity, impulse, or characteristic.

Montessori herself described sensitive periods stating, "Children pass through definite periods in which they reveal psychic aptitudes and possibilities which afterwards disappear. That is why, at particular epochs of their life, they reveal an intense and extraordinary interest in certain objects and exercises, which one might look for in vain at a later age. During such a period the child is endowed with a special sensibility which urges him to focus his attention on certain aspects of his environment to the exclusion of others.  Such attention is not the result of mere curiosity; it is more like a burning passion.  A keen emotion first rises from the depths of the unconscious, and sets in motion a marvelous creative activity in contact with the outside world, thus building up consciousness."  Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, pp. 120.

This means that we have a great responsibility to provide our children with an environment in which their inner urges can be satisfied in the development of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Montessori described missed sensitive periods as dropped stitches.  Once a sensitive period has passed, it will never return with the same intensity and completeness that it once existed.  In each period, the child is endowed with special powers to direct and guide the learning process to its greatest potential.  Montessori describes the child's development of language as "one of the most wonderful."  Between the ages of 0 and 6, a child is in a sensitive period to develop language.  A child learns to speak and communicate simply by being in an environment rich with language.  One of the main goals of our Toddler and Early Childhood programs here at MCS is the development of appropriate language communication.  Our Dual-Language programs are based on research indicating the importance of exposure to a second language before the age of 6 is most effective.

Of course, language is not the only sensitive period through which our children pass.  Order, small objects, refinement of senses, learning good manners are just a few others. Some sensitive periods manifest one way in one child and quite differently in another.  We might see a child developing their sense of order by building blocks or laying objects in neat rows.  Another child in the same sensitive period might insist on a specific bedtime or morning routine.  Yet, another child developing order might choose the same puzzle over and over again.

It is important to note that sensitive periods often pass as quickly as they come.  Therefore, the importance of a well prepared environment speaks volumes for the child's devel0pment.  Along with a prepared environment, we must consciously observe our children and place in their paths the appropriate opportunities for growth.  Each of our programs is built on the stages of growth that our students will experience and our specific activities placed on the shelves are a result of careful observation of the needs of our developing students.  The Montessori curriculum supports sensitive periods at each level.  For example, children aged 6-9 years old are in a sensitive period for development of social skills and appropriate communication.  Therefore, if you walk into one of our Lower Elementary classrooms you will find many students working in pairs or small groups as they collaborate on projects within their learning environment.  Of course, this is just one example of how our Montessori environment supports the sensitive periods of the students.

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on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 in Parent Education

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Montessori Community School has always made it a priority to integrate nature into our program. Students are offered a wide variety of opportunities to extend their learning beyond the physical classroom and, in keeping with the Montessori philosophy, students are invited to experience nature as a hands on experience.  We love the phrase "there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing."  The Portland Montessori Collaborative posted the following on their website and we are proud to say, "We couldn't agree more!"

We believe in integrating the outdoor classroom into every child’s experience at school. The outdoor environment is a place for big body play, where we value natural opportunities for children to challenge themselves physically. Children will find compelling reasons to hone large motor skills through joyful interaction with a landscape similar to that found in nature. In the outdoor classroom, open ended and collaborative play are valued, documented, and encouraged. Opportunities to practice practical life skills like woodworking and caring for plants and animals are available. A relationship with the plants and animals that live in our creek side ecosystem is developed through a process of ongoing, child-led/adult fostered investigation. There is dedicated time outside every day, rain or shine.  We believe that ‘ there is no bad weather, only bad clothing’, and children come to school well equipped to enjoy their time outside regardless of weather.

Read more from The Portland Montessori Collaborative at pdxmc.org.

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Practical Life is an essential part of the Montessori curriculum.  Students begin as early as 18 months old working on daily living skills.  The areas of a Practical Life environment include; care of self, care of environment, grace and courtesy, and control of movement.  Activities are carefully designed to not only prepare the child to LITERALLY become independent in all areas but also to develop the mathematical and language areas of the brain. This is accomplished when a teacher in the environment sets up each activity and presents it methodically, paying careful attention to every detail.  For example, a lesson on table washing would be presented to a child starting to scrub the table at the top-moving from left to right and top to bottom.  The child moves cross-body as their washing hand literally crosses from the left side of the body, past the center, and to the far right, preparing the brain for reading. This also increases cross lateral movement which not only works as a pre-reading skill but also increasing coordination.

This student chops fruit for a smoothie she will share with her classmates.

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This student practices yoga as part of the Practical Life curriculum. His focus centers on building concentration and coordination, two important elements of Practical Life.

 

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This boy works on transferring objects from bowl to bowl; building concentration, coordination, and order while also developing small muscle control, an essential part of writing preparation.

All of the activities in a carefully prepared Practical Life environment allow the child to build multiple skills.  For example a child working on sorting objects, stringing beads or tweezing objects is repeatedly practicing and preparing their prehensile grip. Anybody who has ever spent time with children inside the home can relate to the young child's desire to participate in household chores...dishwashing, food preparation, sweeping, mopping...the list goes on and on.  In a Montessori classroom, children have the opportunity to practice these skills along with many others in an effort to gain independence.  They might repeat activities over and over, building their ability to concentrate, as they become more efficient at each skill.

As children move on to elementary and beyond, practical life becomes more about participating in real life situations.  They work together as community members to maintain the learning environment, oftentimes extending the learning environment to areas outside the classroom.  They take the practical life skills that they so carefully and repeatedly practiced in their younger years to become contributing members of their classroom and school community.  As parents understand the skills that their children have worked so hard to acquire, they too can invite children to work as contributing members of their household.

 

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Lower Elementary students work in the kitchen.

 

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This Upper Elementary student cares for Murphy, the corn snake, in her classroom.

Beyond the elementary experience, children at MCS take their practical life skills to the next level as Middle Schoolers in planning, preparing, and carrying out classroom and community events. Join us in the lobby every last Thursday of the month for Montessori Market, an event organized by the Middle School students.  Students learn the steps in building and maintaining a business as they work together as a team, increasing their opportunities for appropriate and essential social interaction.

"The exercises of practical life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment an efficient functioning therein is the very essence of a useful education."  Maria Montessori

Check back for more information coming later in how you can organize your own home to support the Practical Life curriculum in your child's Montessori classroom.

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on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 in Parent Education

A huge thank you to our Toddler Teachers for presenting a wonderful Parent Education Night to the parents of our Toddler students last night.  We were pleased that so many of our parents came out to learn more about the Montessori Toddler Environment and ways they can support the curriculum in their homes.

 

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Read the article below for more information about preparing the home environment for your little ones....

Birth To Three...Preparing the Environment

Learning comes from a natural interaction with the environment much more than from listening or watching another. For this reason the preparation of the environment is extremely important.

Read the full article

montessori.edu

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on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 in Classroom Updates

Recently the Middle School students participated in their Team Building Immersion Week, after 5 weeks of study. The week started off with a trip to CLAS Ropes Course in Provo where they practiced many team building techniques.  The Upper Elementary students were excited to be able to join them for the Ropes Course Field Trip.  Other activities throughout the week included completing class projects, painting the “Nookery” (their mini workspace under the stairs), hiking up Mill Creek's Alexander Basin train with more team building games, and planning, shopping for, and preparing  meals for a campout on school campus.  Food from the class garden was used for their meals.  The week concluded with setting up a tent in preparation for their campout Thursday night.  At the campout they enjoyed a fire-pit and a presentation by Native American flutist and storyteller, Nino.  On Friday, following the campout, the students participated in a Guided Reflection on the completed week and who they are as a team.  They focused on challenges, celebrations, and goals.

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Now, Middle School students have begun Cycle Two, where they will focus on “Changes,” change in literature, change in the world around us physically (fungi, protists, and matter) and social change (being catalysts for positive change). Cycle two’s immersion is geared around Service Learning, being the change we want to see in the world.

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New research suggests that children who attend Montessori schools may have an edge over other children in terms of both academic and social development.

The 5-year-old Montessori students were found to have better reading and math skills than their peers who attended traditional schools and they scored higher on tests measuring social development, researchers reported.

The 12-year-old Montessori and non-Montessori students had similar reading and math scores, but the Montessori children tended to score higher on tests measuring social and behavioral development, researcher Angeline Lillard, Ph.D., tells WebMD.

Read the full article

CBSnews.com

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Google on Friday honored Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori with a homepage doodle celebrating her 142nd birth anniversary.
Google's co-founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both went through the Montessori education system and have credited it for their success.
"I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders and being self-motivated, questioning what's going on in the world, doing things a bit different," Page said in an interview with ABC (below).

PCMag.com Article