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Forest Updates and Highlights

February 2019 Highlights  

Upper Elementary - Marsh and Forest 

Some Upper Elementary children have lots to share with parents about their school day, though many don't share much.  In fact, you might think that not much happens at all given what your child chooses to share about their day! If this is your experience, try asking more open-ended questions.  Open-ended questions require more than a one-word answer.

Here are some questions that children can easily answer with only one word:

  • How was school today?
  • How are you doing?
  • Did you have a good day?

Here are some examples of more open-ended questions to ask your child:

  • What lessons did you have today?
  • What was the best part of your day?  
  • What was the hardest part of your day?
  • What did you learn about today?
  • What work did you choose to do?
  • What was interesting for you?
  • Who did you work/play with?  (Follow on question: How did it go?)
  • What did you accomplish or make progress on?
  • Were there any conflicts? (Follow on questions: How did that make you feel?  Were you able to solve the problem?  If not: How could you resolve the problem?  What steps can you take?)
  • What did you feel good about today?

If you do get a one-word answer from your child, you can always follow it up with an open-ended question or request for more information, for example:

  • Why...?
  • Can you tell me more about this?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • What can you do to solve/resolve this problem?
  • What do you need to do first/next?

One of the important goals/outcomes of these daily conversations with your child is their SELF-EMPOWERMENT!  That is, you--and we--want your child to develop: self-awareness, a sense of their own power and ability to affect change in themselves, their communities and their world.   You also want your child to develop the ability to solve problems and the ability to advocate for themselves/for what they need. These daily conversations with your child are an essential and vitally important part of their growth and development as human beings!  You are their first, and most important teachers and guides to life!! As teachers/guides, our role is to support you in your child's growth and development.


December 2018 Highlights  

This is a great point in the school year to reflect on the topic of independence in the Montessori classroom!  Each and every day I witness examples of the childrens' growing independence (and consequently, their confidence).  Here are two examples from the last week.

"Help me to do it by myself"  (Independence)

is an oft repeated Montessori slogan about the adult's responsibility and role in each child's development.  This plays out on a daily basis when a child comes to me, stuck on an element of their learning. As I begin to assist the child reason through the initial steps of their quandary, I'll get one of the following types of responses:  "Okay, I got this. You can go now.", "I'm starting to get this, but stay with me until I'm sure I've got it right." or "I still need more help before I'm ready to do this on my own." For many children, learning to ask for help when they need it, is actually their first step towards developing independence.  These daily interactions are examples of the kind of qualitative evaluation that we rely upon, rather than just using quantitative data to assess student progress.

"I know how and where to find the resources and tools that I need"  (Orientation)

Students are also growing in their independence as they become more familiar with the many learning tools and resources that are available. The simplest, most basic daily activities can often provide huge opportunities for the development of independence (and problem-solving, teamwork and more.)  Recently the center, rotor, axis "thingy" to our classroom tape dispenser disappeared (probably got thrown away by accident). One student decided that she was going to figure out how to find a solution to our problem. She enlisted the help of another student and together they devised a new rotor/axis using a modified, jumbo paperclip, which has worked quite well!


November 2018 Highlights  

There are a number of ways that Forest's upper elementary students develop a sense of belonging and a stake in their community.  One goal is that students will learn to independently take initiative for things like watering classroom plants, filling the bird feeders and making photocopies.  These activities provide them with an authentic sense of purpose and an opportunity to exercise freedom while taking responsibility for crucial tasks that help our classroom community to function smoothly.  Additionally, Forest students love "Big Clean" on Friday afternoons where they are responsible for cleaning and re-ordering the classroom.  Students develop a sense of 'ownership' for their classroom environment in this way. For example, if materials are being mis-used or not put away properly, the problem finds its way onto the weekly 'Council Fire' meeting agenda where students discuss raise their concerns and develop strategies for solving these issues.  Another way that Forest students build community is through rituals like birthday celebrations.  During this celebration, the birthday child selects a classmate to read the story, On the Day You Were Born, while the honoree (holding the globe) revolves around the Sun (candle) the requisite number of times.  Following this, the classmates delight in getting to know the birthday child better by asking them questions like, "Would you rather have a best friend or an unlimited lifetime supply of chocolate?".  It is very rewarding to see how each child develops these skills during the Three Year Cycle of Growth!


October 2018 Highlights  

Greetings from the Forest!

There is so much wonderful learning and work taking place in our environment!  Autumn is a great time of year to explore all kinds of science!  Many Forest students have had lessons about how the rays from our star, the Sun, and the two "dances" of the Earth (rotation and revolution) combined with the tilt of the Earth's axis work together to create the seasons.

The cool and rainy weather we've had recently has created the perfect conditions for mushrooms to flourish and to show their 'fruiting bodies' aboveground!  I was initially inspired by a mushroom that was growing outside the Toddler's play area.   So, a small group of Forest students had an initial lesson last week about the Fungus Kingdom.  We used our Five Senses--and our olfactory sense, in particular--to explore the fruiting body of one of these mushrooms.  Boy, was it ever stinky!!  In fact, one of the students figured out that this mushroom belonged to a family called the stinkhorns...how appropriate!  This group also went foraging in the "Secret Garden" next to the Boys & Girls' Club earlier this week and found several different species of mushrooms.  These students are making spore prints, trying to grow mushrooms in the classroom and continuing to have more lessons about the Fungus Kingdom.

Another group of students had lessons on photosynthesis and the Scientific Method and are learning to design and carry out their own photosynthesis experiments.  Other students have had lessons on the Three Branches of Government, the Constitution and the Judicial Branch.  Some Forest students are busy completing final copies of research reports about: 9/11, Renewable Energy, the Balkan Wars, Hedgehogs and The Great Depression.  Others are working on independent or lesson follow-on work about US Presidents, the Fundamental Human Needs and Cultural Identity.  As always, we continue to have lots of math, grammar/language and writing lessons!  Fall Book Clubs are also underway!


September 2018 Highlights  

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 classrooms.  Students are learning to 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)!