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Cornerstone Monthly Highlights - September 2018
Posted On:
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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Dear Cornerstone Community,

Welcome to fall!  It’s been a busy month at Cornerstone, as we welcomed nearly 190 children and 31 teachers back to school.

It has been wonderful to meet all the children and see everyone in action during these first few weeks of school.  The halls are buzzing!

In these monthly newsletters you will find updates from each classroom, as well as relevant updates from the Montessori Center of Minnesota and the Cornerstone Montessori Elementary School board.  The weekly Stepping Stones updates will primarily contain reminders and updates.  We hope that this combination will provide ample information about happenings at school and in our community.

Please always feel free to reach out with any questions or thoughts.


Alyssa Schwartz

Head of School


Cornerstone Montessori and Cornerstone Montessori Elementary School


Zitlali Ayala has joined our community as the Receptionist for both schools.  By now many of you have met her, and we are thrilled to have her with us.  You also all know Kara Younkin, who has moved into the Early Childhood Program Manager role, and will support the Toddler Community and Children’s Houses.  Between Kara and Zitlali, the front desk is now staffed 7:30-5:30 each day.

As we continue to search for a Children’s House 2 aide, Johali Chavez Ayala has very graciously agreed to substitute in that position through October.  It is wonderful for the children to have a familiar face during this transition.



The first Parent Partnership event this year will take place next week, September 24, 5:30-7:00pm. Childcare and dinner will be provided as always. Just prior to the Parent Partnership, at 5:00pm, we will have a State of the School meeting, to share information about the CMES test scores from 2017-18 and discuss the Title I parent involvement plan. In addition, our school nurse will offer flu shots for anyone – adult or child – who would like one.  Please click here for a registration form.

The State of the School meeting will take place in the multi-purpose room, with dinner served in the MCM lecture room/café area.  Childcare will be in the multi-purpose room as well, while caregivers meet with the guides in the environments.

Please RSVP to Zitlali ( by Thursday, September 20, so that we can arrange for childcare and food.

The World Café will be held on October 22nd from 4pm to 6:30pm. This listening session is an opportunity to connect school representatives with Early Childhood parents on topics surrounding parenting young children, school and community connectedness and parent self-care. The outcomes of this event will help structure future events offered for parents. Childcare and dinner will be provided. Please RSVP to by October 15th so that we can make appropriate arrangements. 


Cornerstone Cafés

Cornerstone Cafés occur the first Friday of each month, providing an opportunity to chat with other Cornerstone families and staff. The lead guides will attend on a rotating basis this year with the following schedule:

  • October 5 – Lourdes Harris (Toddler Community)
  • November 2 – Mara Johnson (Forest)
  • December 7 – Amber Osterkamp (Pond
  • January 11 – Molly McDermott (Children’s House 2)
  • February 1 – Sara Wade (Garden)
  • March 1 – Jess Goff (Marsh)
  • April 12 – Maisah Outlaw (Children’s House 1)


Toddler Community

Dear Toddler families,

Our daily routine is very predictable. Everyday upon arrival we have breakfast, work time, outdoor time, lunch, nap, snack and dismissal. There are many trips to the bathroom during the day too. This routine can be a talking point with your toddler at the beginning and end of the school day. Additionally, the notes that go home will tell caregivers and parents about food and bathroom details of each and every day. Your toddler may, or may not, be able to tell you what he or she did, but they will definitely respond to your caring interest in connecting about his or her day. We are thankful to share everyday with all the members of the Toddler Community.

Toddler Community Outside Toddler Community


Children’s House 1 

We are having an exciting first month of school. Returning children have been welcoming and helpful to all of the new children. We have spent a lot of time getting to know each other and enjoying the last weeks of warm weather. Most children seem to really love the end of the day in which we all work together to prepare the environment for the next day!

CH1  CH1


Children’s House 2

Children’s House Two has welcomed seven new children into our community since September started and it feels great to be back to a full children’s house. You may have noticed, or heard, that we have a new morning routine: from 8:30-9 we are outside! It’s a great way to start the day, and we love getting to be outside as one children’s house community. The monkey bars continue to be a source of great joy and triumph as children push themselves through new challenges (i.e. skipping bars). Inside, I’ve been delighted to see how many children are quietly concentrating with materials. Some of the best moments have been watching children help each other. This past week, as one child struggled to put away a puzzle map of the United States and asked for help, another child bounded down from the reading corner exclaiming, “I can help! Because I can do that now.” Another example that made me smile was when a child, working on writing and illustrating a picture, asked another child to help them identify the correct sandpaper letter for the sound they were trying to write (in cursive!). It is always our goal to help children see themselves as leaders who are able to support one another. I look forward to seeing this growth in the coming year. 

CH2  CH2


Garden – Lower Elementary

The school year is off to a terrific start in the Garden classroom! The room is absolutely buzzing with activity all day long and the children are eager, curious, and excited about many things. In the first two weeks children in our class have explored piranhas, sharks, the rotation of the earth, how particles behave, the needs of plants, the function of the leaf, classification of animals, and so much more. 

The returning children were delighted to reconnect with old friends, but have done a simply beautiful job of inviting new children into our community and helping everyone feel welcome. We have been spending some time each day making plans for how to support each other and create an environment where everyone feels safe, welcome, respected, and is able to do their best work. As we discuss and share ideas we are building our class agreements and learning more about how to function in our little society. 

I have shared with the children that this work is the hardest work that we do in school. Supporting each other and ensuring that everyone has what they need to succeed depends on each one of us working together to create the classroom we desire. It is a privilege and a joy to be part of this process and the heart of the children to provide for each other is inspiring. I look forward to a school year filled with growth, inspiration, and lots of hard work. 



Pond – Lower Elementary 

Dear Families,

The Pond classroom is off to a lovely start for the 2018-2019 school year! Last week, we had the First Great Lesson.  There are five Great Lessons told at the beginning of the school year in Montessori elementary classrooms. This first story is the foundation for the elementary curriculum and sets the tone for children new to this environment.  It is the story of the Coming of the Universe and the formation of Earth. Elementary children love BIG work and BIG ideas! 

After this lesson, we follow on in lots of different ways.  Some children have been learning about the two movements of the Earth, others have been learning about the three states of matter, and yet others have learned about the layers of the Earth.  You might want to ask your child, “What would happen if the Earth didn’t rotate?” There has also been lots of polygon work, addition with Golden Beads, commutative law of multiplication with bead bars, grammar box work, and reading and writing.  The children have been very busy! 

One returning child said today, “I can’t believe it’s only the second week of school. It feels like we are already in the 7th!”  I have to agree with her. This is one thing I absolutely love about having children for three years; the children just pick up where they left off in the spring and it almost feels like they were never gone.  

I look forward to seeing all of you again at the first Parent Partnership event on September 24th.  We will be having discussions about your child’s age development and how we support the characteristics of elementary children in our classrooms.




Forest – Upper Elementary

We're off to a great start in the Forest upper elementary classroom this year!  The returning students have welcomed the many children new to our learning community and have been busy making friends and renewing old friendships.  We have been talking a lot about how Freedoms & Responsibilities work in a Montessori classroom.  Students are learning about classroom systems so that they can operate independently and how to make (strong) choices by balancing their work choices and the types of work to do each day, i.e. daily work, lesson follow-on, big work and GREAT WORK!

Students new to Forest are learning to keep a record of how they spend their time each day in their Work Journal and how to complete daily and lesson follow-on work.  A group of students have already completed their first "Going Out" to our local library to gather more resources for research on Immigration to the U.S. and 9/11.

Forest students are also enjoying the adventures of Yertle, our Red-eared slider turtle.  He loves to explore the classroom, come to lessons and climb on things (including materials and children)!


Marsh – Upper Elementary

Greetings from Marsh! We have been busy getting settled into our new school year. As we work on getting to know each other, we have had many collectives establishing routines and agreements about how our community will work. Mentor groups have met several times a week to take on construction challenges – testing the strongest columns, making the longest paper chains, designing a stand built of newspaper that can hold a basketball (see pictures). It’s been a great way to practice communicating and working with other people. Work in all areas is humming along. Already one of our favorite times of day is read-aloud, where we are enjoying Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Thank you for sharing your amazing children with us. It’s an honor to work with them.


Montessori Center of Minnesota

MCM is offering a 2-day Primary (ages 3-6) Assistants Workshop October 6 & October 13, 2018. This workshop will run from 9-4 each day and will cover the following topics:

  • The nature and needs of the child (ages 3-6) including the absorbent mind, sensitive periods, human tendencies
  • Independence
  • The Montessori approach to discipline 
  • The art of observation
  • The prepared environment
  • The preparation of the adult
  • The role of the assistant

While this workshop will not result in the receipt of a certificate from AMI, participants will receive a certificate of completion (12 hours) from the Montessori Center. The cost for the workshop will be $120. If you would like to sign up please contact

Time is running out to register for our fall workshops! Please consider joining us to discover more about one of these exciting topics:

Support Services and Adaptations for All Children in Montessori Elementary Environments

To Register or Learn More: Visit the registration page 

Finding Balance: A mindful approach to mental health, secondary trauma and self care

Learn More About the Topic and Presenters: Visit the registration page 

Ever thought about becoming a Montessori Guide? MCM is enrolling for both Primary (ages 3-6) training in Fall of 2019 and Elementary (ages 6-12) training starting in Summer of 2019. If you or someone you know is interested please visit our website at for more information.


Cornerstone and MCM Facilities Updates

As you have no doubt noticed, construction is underway behind MCM.  The new addition will contain 3 soundproof meeting rooms for parents and guides, as well as office space for our community social workers.  This project is expected to be completed by mid-November.  Thank you for your continued patience as it affects parking during that time.

Parents very generously built a climbing wall this summer for the CMES children.  Conversations with both MCM and CMES insurance companies are ongoing and we hope to have more information for families soon about this addition to our outdoor space.  We are grateful for their efforts and thank the entire community for being patient.

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