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Celebrating Native American Heritage

As part of our Native American Heritage Celebrations, our school was blessed to have two Native American dancers, Carl who is Hopi and Kayden who is Navajo, come to tell us stories about their culture and dance for us. Even the Infants and Toddlers were entranced.   One message that was given to the children was how important it is for us to be kind and respect our people, our earth, trees and plants and animals. 

A number of our family members, who were onsite when the program began, decided to join us and seemed so happy to have had the opportunity. 

Kayden was the valedictorian of Highland High last year – the first Native American valedictorian ever in the Salt Lake City area. She speaks Navajo fluently. Both of the dancers were amazing and happy to come back in the future. We are grateful to our community friend Harry James for recommending Carl and Kayden. What a wonderful way for all of us to start our day.

World Kindness Week

Last week all of the Montessori classes worked on projects to decorate the dinner tables at the Sarah Daft Home for Thanksgiving. Students decorated pumpkins with flowers, leaves, feathers, acorns and other beautiful items for the centerpieces and made colorful leaf rubbings on paper for decorative placemats. 

Teachers Joshi, Carson and Amanda delivered the items last Friday and set up the decorations on dining tables.  They looked very festive! Employees and residents at Sarah Daft home were so excited and grateful for the decorations. 

The students enjoyed making these items and learning more about the Sarah Daft Home through a flip book Amanda made with pictures from the home, including their dining room where the items would be set up.  MCS will continue to be involved with the Sarah Daft Home and plan to set up some in-person visits and activities. In December, we will be making decorations for the residents’ doors.

Halloween Warmth

We are celebrating the change in the weather with lessons on assessing the temperature and practicing bundling up. Prepare your family with gathering up the jackets, hats, gloves and boots. Look for our Winter Clothing Exchange comming soon in November.

Our seasonal activities included the Book Fair, Halloween Carnival, and Halloween Parade.

We hope that your fall celebrations are equally awesome!

Jack-o-lantern photo courtsey of Jacob, Uinta student.

What is Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB)?

by Tori Snarr

You may have heard our Art Studio referred to as a ‘TAB’ Studio. So what is TAB? TAB (or Teaching for Artistic Behavior) is a choice-based approach to Arts Education that regards students as authentic artists and centers their interests and their ideas throughout the artmaking process. Rather than present to students a pre-planned project with a desired outcome, my responsibility as an Art Guide and TAB educator is to create the opportunity for our students to explore their own interests and ideas – to grant them freedom within limits.

Just as Montessori classrooms are prepared environments for student learning to occur, the MCS Art Studio is intended to function as a prepared art-making environment for our school’s young artists. Art materials are organized into areas of the studio such as Drawing, Painting, Collage, or Printmaking and will be made available to students gradually throughout the school year. Each week, Art Studio begins with a group lesson during which students receive instruction on art materials, techniques, concepts, and/or art history. Students then have the opportunity to apply this learning to their own art-making during studio time.

Teaching to the “Artistic Behaviors” prepares students to engage in every step of the art-making process and helps them find success along the way. This process begins with exploration and play, followed by observation and idea generation, developing a plan, applying knowledge of art skills and processes, creative problem solving, sharing their artwork with their community, and self-evaluation or reflection. In addition to teaching concrete art skills, TAB aims to nurture within students the skills required to think like an artist: curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, adaptability, perseverance, storytelling, and so many more invaluable qualities, all of which are transferable to other subject areas and to life endeavors outside of the studio.

What Constitutes a Big Change?

by Catherine Mathews

For children any change in their routine can be upsetting. The younger the child the more difficult it can be to deal with any changes. Our Guides really appreciate when families share this information with them so we can be as supportive of the child and their needs. Often times parents are surprised at what constitutes a big change for their children so here is a good list to go by:

Every Child:

Separation or Divorce

A parent dating someone new

A parent becoming engaged or getting married

A parent going out of town

A parent coming home from out of town

In split households – a change in who will pick up the child

Prolonged family illness or a major medical diagnosis (grandparents and close family members included)

A family member or pet dying (grandparents and close relatives included)

Moving to a new home

An upcoming vacation

A change in extracurricular activities (includes the addition of tutors)

An upcoming change in schooling plans

Any addition or change to the child’s care team (nannies, babysitters, etc.)

Any illness the child has experienced

Infants and Toddlers

Any time a child’s sleep routine has altered

Any time a child’s bowel movement routine has altered


Family illness (this can make a lot of difference to a child’s day)


Changes in the food routine of the child

Early Childhood Students

The loss of a favorite blanket or toy

A forgotten school item or rest time item

A change in the child’s sleep routine

Any event that was particularly hard for the child such as vaccinations, doctor appointments, or being scared by a movie

A friend or family member moving away

A family member or pet getting sick or having an accident (grandparents and close relatives included)

Cooking with Ruby at UMC Fall Conference

Our own Ruby Chouldjian presented Cooking in the Montessori Classroom at the UMC Fall Conference this past weekend. Sharing her love of cooking, Ruby set up multiple stations to engage her audience: pancake, smoothie, and slicing were a few of the stations.

Practical Life: Practical Life is one of the areas in a Montessori classroom. The works are applicable for all ages, even infants, and vary depending on what the child can do at each stage of development. The work can start with something as simple as pulling up pants or washing hands and can as complicated as baking a dessert, or even planning for a Montessori Market in the elementary or middle school years. These exciting everyday tasks that are visibly part of the human world are empowering for students to master.

Food Preparation: Food preparation and cooking are fun works/activities in a Montessori environment. The Guide can choose to create group or individualized food stations. The children may choose to work on their own or invite a friend to work with.  Examples of works: transferring with tools, setting up, grading, pressing, washing, spreading, and slicing.

Benefits of food preparation.The food preparation tasks, which increase in complexity as a child ages, help children practice motor skills, such as pouring, twisting, and squeezing as well as help develop their pincer grip, coordination, and finger and hand strength.

Benefits of cooking with children:  Lessons, problem solving, independence, order, sequence, coordination, cognitive development, creativity, cultural studies, science, math, language, sensorial, healthy eating habits, grace, and courtesy. It also allows children the opportunity to socialize, communicate, and most of all have fun!

Today is International Day of Peace

The International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981. It was declared a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace.

Montessori Community School celebrated International Day of Peace in our Greenspace.  Our Infant Teacher, Carmen, read the book I Am Peace by Susan Verde.  Our Head of School Catherine Mathews led us in singing Light a Candle for Peace while incorporating sign language. Our Upper Elementary students headed up our Peace walk around the school with their hand crafted rainbow-winged Peace Dove. 

International Day of Peace at Montessori Community School

This week the students spent time creating their own unique peace rock and peace flag. The peace rocks were placed in the front of the school with a sign inviting the greater community to take one home with them.  We started this tradition last year, as a way of sending out messages of peace. 

The peace flags have been a longtime tradition at MCS. Annually you can see the beautiful flags blowing in the breeze along the fence in front of our school. May peace be with you on this wonderful day!

The Beauty of The Montessori Early Childhood Three Year Cycle Series – The Third Year

By Catherine Mathews

Montessori education does not strive to prepare students to be ahead for a traditional Kindergarten year, but rather looks at the whole experience for the Early Childhood student. Being in the program for the 3rd year is where all the lessons and material the child has been learning in years 1 and 2 solidifies and becomes permanent.

With two years under their belts Third Year students stroll into the classroom ready to take on the oldest sibling, protector, and leader persona. They feel so confident in their knowledge of the classroom and how to support others inside it. They can help others at Line Time to sit with a ready body, can rub backs at rest time, and care for their environments in much more complex ways. They love the chance to be given responsibility in the classroom and really appreciate the opportunity to join a Third Year meeting where leadership opportunities are discussed. The peer-mentoring role is often highly sought after in our Third Year students. They first demonstrate to the teachers their mastery of a skill, after which they have the opportunity to become the teacher for a younger or more inexperienced student. This builds such great confidence.

They enjoy making goals for themselves on a limited basis. A long list of goals is still too much for students at this age, but a short list of attainable but challenging goals they have devised for themselves can support students at this age to accomplish great things. During this year many classroom teachers opt to have a weekly check-in with Third Year students to see how they are coming along with their personal goals and if there are any new goals they want to set for themselves.

Areas of Emphasis:

Academic Learning, Leadership Opportunities, Grace & Courtesy

Academic Learning: 

Third Year students are excited by all the more challenging lessons in Mathematics and Language Arts, as well as being ready to take on an interdisciplinary approach to the Cultural subjects. They have the opportunity to hone their reading through the classroom’s Reading Scheme and their writing skills through the Writer’s Workshop and with Research Writing. They look forward to utilizing budding math skills in the classroom using the incredible Cubing and Squaring Chains, the Golden Bead Math operations, and practicing their memorization of math facts. Work with measurement sends them out into the classroom and school to measure the length of the classroom shelves, the dollar bill, and often the length of animals they are studying about in the Geography area. They are ready to understand how their world displays the use of fractions everywhere as they begin to understand what is and is not a fraction and how their food prep gives them opportunities to work with fractions all the time. Many classrooms also integrate learning about money with miniature stores and price tags. All these give Third Years a chance to work with others, which becomes increasingly important. They are additionally becoming increasingly aware of the intricate way our world is interlaced. That we all affect each other and every living thing around us. They have great compassion for the suffering of their fellow beings and want opportunities to make a difference. They want more and more challenging Practical Life such as sewing and knitting projects, leadership roles in caring and restoring the classroom, more detailed art exploration, deep cleaning of the classroom sinks and every other surface the teachers will let them work on, laundry and ironing, wrapping a package, food preparation extensions, and woodworking projects.

Leadership Opportunities & Grace & Courtesy

Leadership opportunities are around every corner for our Third Years. They have been practicing their Grace and Courtesy for a long time and now are ready to become the expert. In fact, when given the chance they run with the opportunity to show just how much they know. They support their younger peers by demonstrating how to listen to directions, how to move in our environment, how to clean up after themselves, how to make room for others at the cubbies, how to tell what kind of voice is appropriate at different times, how to make room for someone at the line, how to respectfully say ‘no thank you’, how to walk up and down the stairs, how to show respect during daily walking the line and silence activities, how to be quiet when someone is talking, observing audience etiquette, following proper observation distance of another student working, welcoming visitors into the environment, and how to remind someone of their responsibilities in the classroom in a respectful manner. Many Third Year students are prepared not only to show how to properly follow the conflict resolution pattern, but many are prepared to become mediators for their younger peers. 

Their Capstone Year takes a front row as they are eager to practice all year for culminating activities such as demonstrations of learning after continent studies and many Thirds Years participate in preparing for and serving their parents a special Graduation Meal of Thanks. They often discuss and decide on the menu as a group, prepare the food, practice their serving skills, prepare the table for their families, as well as participate in the creation of the evening’s program. As they end their year they can literally run, with a lot of coaching, a lot of the End of Year Programs for their class. They are ready to move on; to bridge into their next level of learning and are fast becoming an integral member of their social community.

The Beauty of The Montessori Early Childhood Three Year Cycle Series – The Second Year

by Catherine Mathews

With a good foundational First Year experience behind them Early Childhood Second Year students show themselves such fun students through their development of several key personal skills. Their personal work focuses on the freedom of socialization, freedom of choice, and freedom of movement. They feel they have mastered their understanding of the environment and are ready to take the work they have been practicing for the entire first year to a new level. Whereas we see First Year students working independently, Second Year Students want to bring in a friend to their work and make it even more interesting by seeing and hearing another’s take on the work. They desire to work in pairs. The freedom to choose what they will work on and where they will work becomes of utmost importance to the Second Year student.

We continue to see many Second Year students choosing observation as a work but it becomes much more pointed. They want to observe another student’s creation for a particular reason, not just because it is new and fascinating. How are they writing this letter? How are they building this structure? How would I do it the same? How would I do it differently? At the same time Second Year students are entering a sensitive period for socialization and talk is king. Therefore it becomes much more important to follow through with Second Year students in practicing observing without interrupting their fellow students.

Areas of Emphasis:

Cultural Areas & Peace Education

Cultural Areas:

Second Year students still use and love Sensorial and Practical Life works but it is as if the entire classroom has awakened to them. The cultural areas of the classroom have a new and compelling pull to the Second Year child. In the Montessori classroom anything that is not Practical Life, Sensorial, Math or Language is considered a cultural area. These students were given many initial cultural presentations during their first year, but now they have the greater faculties to use this first knowledge and apply it to their further studies in these areas. They begin to practice their memorization skills and are highly interested in the parts of many, many things. This interest reaches across the many sciences, into history, as well as geography. Whereas students in their first year may spend most of their time with the real objects and model of real objects such as in the observation of real fish, real leaves of many shapes, or the model of a volcano, the Second Year student is developing their ability to abstract somewhat by combining these objects or models with Nomenclature Cards that clearly detail the names of each part. In this way the child can isolate the part they are wanting to learn. They may create booklets with their burgeoning writing skills and often become booklet aficionados. Their interest in the world and where exactly places are in relation to where they are often becomes a special place of conversation in their developing social skills. This age of students begins to want to write down things they are learning about and things they are interested in with the cultural areas really supporting this desire. During this time most Second Year students need support in their writing as they are still learning the strokes for correct letter formation, but the teachers in the class are all too happy to give them just as much support as really needed to get their thoughts down on paper. The Geography Area with its Puzzle Maps and flags of countries is of particular interest to the Second Year student. The Land and Water Forms are much more interesting as they can now relate the lakes and islands they have and do see in person, in pictures, or in videos with the Land and Water form set in class. Cardinal Directions in the classroom and outside begin to give this age of children a grounding within their environments. Listening to music from other cultures becomes particularly interesting to the Second Year child as well as reading and learning about other cultures and countries. History becomes a subject of interest as the Second Year Student begins to understand the concept of time. Days, weeks, months, seasons, and the passing of time was introduced in the first year but now it has much more meaning and much more draw. History works become a place of much greater interest now that they begin to recognize a real order to the march of time. The Art Area may be the Second Year students’ truest love within the Montessori Environment as they are well into a sensitive period for artistic development and expression. By recognizing the real need to produce art and develop artistic skills, Montessori teachers look for the best ways of incorporating art into every area of the classroom so our Second Year students find themselves drawn to the art opportunities all around them.

Peace Education:

In their first year children began learning all about Grace & Courtesy and conflict resolution skills. During the Second Year the child begins to feel they are getting the hang of these skills. They often have enough mastery of the vocabulary when working out problems that they only need a mediator when the most challenging of problems arise. At “Peace Talks” our students use the peace object, such as a peace rose or peace stick, to signify each person’s turn to speak about their experience. We follow a pattern for conflict resolution that is a model for all humanity. The person asking for the peace talk begins by saying:

“I feel … (sad, angry, frustrated etc.) when … (I am knocked over, I am ignored, my body gets hurt etc.). I need… (for you to be more careful with my body etc.).”

The person on the other side of the discussion then has their turn. Sometimes they need their own chance to bring up something they feel a need to talk over. The child who has hurt the other is asked to think of how they may help make things better. The children eventually both parties work things out and declare peace. As they practice these skills throughout the year they start to take these skills further into their daily lives when the Peace Table is not available to them.

The Beauty of The Montessori Early Childhood Three Year Cycle Series – The First Year

By Catherine Mathews

The three year cycle gives a child the opportunity to be a youngest child, middle child, and oldest child in the classroom community. Regardless of their birth order they can experience what that means within our own class family.

First Year Student Experience:

First Year students spend the bulk of their time learning how to be independent in their daily movements. Having lately come from the Toddler environment or home life they are really wishing to do things by themselves as often as possible. Our responsibility and gift is to prepare an environment that fosters this independence and unlocks their potential.

First Year students spend a great deal of their time in observation. Observation of lessons, observation of peers and older children’s work, observation of the environment. Many First Year students will opt to sit in the observation chair or wander the classroom. They are absorbing their environment. As long as they are not disturbing others we allow this observation to continue. This is important work for First Year students. In fact, any child regardless of age may wander the classroom for observation purposes. We find again and again that those children who take to this activity are often benefited from this exercise and that if we force them to take up work, except when they are becoming a disturbance to others, their development will become obstructed. We do not always understand exactly how a child learns best and this is particularly true in their first year of Montessori education. 

First Year students are working on concentration, coordination, independence, order, and hand-eye coordination. The materials and lessons presented to the First Year student have this goal in mind and they are attractive to the student because they are in a sensitive period for such things. The development of all these skills and innate drives in the First Year student and its further development in the Second and Third year lays the foundation for lifelong success not only academically but in all aspects of the future life of the child. For this reason we cannot state the importance of the Practical Life and Sensorial Areas to the Early Childhood student enough, especially to the First Year student.

Areas of Emphasis:

Practical Life, Sensorial, and Grace & Courtesy

Practical Life:

While all students use and love the materials from Practical Life the First Year student falls in love with this area. Having just come from a toddler life many things have been unavailable to them that they have desperately wanted to do. The Practical Life Area of the classroom gives them these keys. How to pour and gain control of this skill. They begin by pouring large items from small glass creamers and eventually move to pouring small, fine items and water from large opaque containers to uneven sized smaller containers. They begin by transferring larger items from one bowl to another with child sized tongs or large spoons to small items such as a single mustard seed at a time with the tiniest of spoons or tweezers. They begin by learning to roll rugs carefully and eventually learn to fold napkins in intricate ways. They begin by scrubbing an object and learn to scrub a table, chair, or shelf. They begin to appreciate and understand that each material has a specific home and there is a sequence to the order of the works in difficulty. They learn they must necessarily wait for one child to complete a work and to restore it for another child to use it. They begin the all important task of practicing their patience. They must come to understand that even if they wish to use a particular material, when another child already has chosen it they could choose to use it for as long as they wish.  Therefore they must choose something else to do until that material becomes available. The First Year student innately knows the value of developing their fine motor skills. Not only this, but they also have an inward pull to do so. They are moved from within to continually progress. As these exercises are taught the child is indirectly taught the correct direction for writing – top to bottom, left to right, circular motions etc. This lays the proper foundation for later writing skills. The Practical Life Area is a key to unlocking the necessary control of the hand which prepares the First Year Student for burgeoning writing skills to be used later. We observe children who feel shaky in their hand-eye coordination returning again and again to several particular works that develop this. They may use those works every day and even multiple times in the same day until they feel confident and their body no longer needs them. It was only necessary for the adult to show the lesson once or twice, but through their practicing of a particular movement a child teaches themselves the control they crave. Once a child has mastered a skill their use of a work immediately drops off and we know they are ready to tackle the next new and finer skill. This is the work of Early Childhood but most particularly the First Year student. While this list is not exhaustive, some of the necessary movements for successful writing the Practical Life Area develops and hones simply by being so interesting are:

The twisting of the wrist from side to side (such as in squeezing water out of a sponge in the sponging work)

The squeezing of the hand tightly (such as squeezing a small sponge tightly enough to get all the water wrung out of it)

The twisting of the hand with a clenched fist from front to back (such as twisting a small rolled up cloth to wring it out)

The three-finger pincer grasp (such as in using the dressing frames to learn zipping, buttoning, and safety pinning)

The twisting of the fingers in a bent pincer grasp (such as used in twisting large nuts onto their corresponding bolts or the Locks and Keys work)

The twisting of the fingers in an extended pincer grasp (such as in using a small screwdriver to tighten down screws into their places)

The thumb and forefinger pincer grasp (such as using a spoon, scoop, or tongs to transfer materials from one container to another)

Using the hand to apply the appropriate amount of pressure to a surface (such as in holding the dustpan tightly to the ground or table in order to be successful in catching the crumbs or other items swept up)

Crossing the midline (such as in braiding, lacing, and bow-tying works)

Steadiness of the hand (such as in pouring works, watering plants, and sewing projects)

Circular motion in tight circles (such as in the scrubbing a table work)

Left to Right repetitive movement (such as in scrubbing a table, or polishing work)

Top to bottom repetitive movement (such as in washing windows)

Tracking (such as in following the scrubber in the application of suds and the sponge as they clean off the soap in the scrubbing a floor, or following the hand as it practices weaving paper in and out to make a woven placemat)

Attention to detail (each Practical Life work has a necessary attention to detail in order to become mastered)

The benefits of the Practical Life Area are multiplied since the child is learning how to live within their own world and classroom environment with ever increasing independence while at the same time indirectly developing the control necessary to be successful in writing and reading skills. Whenever we observe a deficiency in fine motor control we look for the Practical Life works that will address this need. The foundational importance of the Practical Life Area can never be overstated. The First Year is certainly not the only time a student appreciates or works on their skills in Practical Life, indeed throughout their time in the classroom children from each age group participate in works of ever increasing difficulty and finer motor skills. We simply see the First Year student spending so much of their time in the Practical Life Area because these skills must necessarily become mastered in order to be successful in so much else in the classroom; because it calls to them.


Sensorial is the other area of the early childhood environment where the First Year student spends so much time. This area develops the child’s ability to learn through their senses and teaches them, simply by using the works, to become keenly observant human beings. This area also prepares the mathematical mind by leading the child to compare very slight differences in size, length, width, sound, color, weight, roughness or smoothness, heat or cold, smell, taste and so on. As a child becomes more and more adept at discerning these slight differences they are presented with lessons in grading those differences and in placing their work in sequential order. Many of the Sensorial Area works are sequential in nature and as children use these works they naturally begin to place them in sequential order. Only one or two lessons were needed for the child to begin their practice of the materials, but as they work with the materials uninterruptedly they teach themselves and figure it out through exploration. This is one of the reasons Montessori children often say they didn’t learn anything at school, because it is such a natural and seamless way to learn that they correctly feel they taught themselves. This area of the classroom along with Practical Life are the bedrock for developing concentration and opening the keys to normalization. We love to see a child using the Pink Tower and Brown Stairs work for ever so long, even daily. A First Year child may choose to work exclusively with Sensorial materials for months before waking up to the possibility of other areas of the classroom, but we find that First Year students who are drawn in by Sensorial and Practical Life works are so well prepared to move forward with language and math the following year. We see with fair assurity that their future will be good and so we watch their work with joy.

Grace & Courtesy:

When a First Year Student enters the Early Childhood Environment they have an  almost exclusively egocentric existence as a toddler. This is simply the pattern for growth. They have little experience with thinking about anything else but themselves and their own needs, but now that they are moving out of this period they can begin looking at their community and what it means to belong to one. In the first year experience the child is given lesson upon lesson on how to function with respect, thoughtfulness, grace, and courtesy within the confines of the Montessori early childhood classroom environment. The lessons are direct, quick, and simple. This list is by no means exhaustive and include such things as:

How to walk around rugs instead of on them

How much room to put between rugs so others can walk around our work and still get to the shelves

How to get the attention of an adult

How to tell if a teacher is in a lesson and should not be disturbed

How to tell who they should go to for help

How to politely get by someone who is in your way

How to wait your turn in a line

How to stay behind or in front of someone in a line

How to wait patiently when walking somewhere instead of pushing people who have stopped in a line

How to sit by a neighbor at circle

How to ask people to scoot over and give you enough space to sit at circle

How to ask to be excused from an activity

Why we take care of our environment

Why we do not want to throw our things on the floor or leave a big mess behind ourselves

How to ask to watch work

How to ask to join work

How to watch a lesson

How to walk up and down stairs

How to hold doors for others

How to sit in silence

How to walk a line

How to observe materials on a museum shelf with only our eyes

Respect of others work and not touching or destroying their work

Why flushing the toilet it so important

The importance of washing our hands

How to ask for a Peace Talk (conflict resolution session)

By having these items brought to the attention of the First Year student they begin to look outside themselves and become connected to their environment and to the others in their environment. This is an important part of the normalization process for these students.