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Amber Osterkamp Staff Photo

Pond Updates

Learning Fair   

Hello Lovely Families,


It was wonderful seeing you all for conferences and again at the Learning Fair.  The children were so excited to share their work with all of you.  I think that the Learning Fair is a great opportunity to share with you Montessori philosophy around the children’s work.  As you walked around the room, you had a chance to see the finished products and I wish you could have watched the process that went into all of that work too!  The children were very motivated and independent.


Many social and emotional skills are practiced in preparation for the fair.  Children had conversations about what interested them, they negotiated and debated about how they wanted to demonstrate their work, they problem solved when they felt things were unfair, they followed through with their commitments even when things were hard, and they worked on balancing their choices so that they could meet a deadline. 


There were also many academic skills addressed leading up to the Learning Fair.  Many children learned how to use an encyclopedia and the dictionary.  I planned lessons around their interest as well.  There were lessons about different kinds of nouns (proper and common, abstract and concrete), how to add a suffix to a verb to change it into a noun (run becomes runner, for example), the animal kingdom, parts of a snake (and a snake dissection!), book making, drawing lessons (using the basic shapes in drawing, using a ruler, using a compass), and color lessons (the color wheel, warm and cool colors, primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and complimentary colors).


We have been working on writing as well.  In a Montessori classroom, we don’t teach the children the rules of writing in the same way many of you learned in a traditional setting.  We don’t give the children lists of words to memorize for a weekly spelling test or mark up the children’s writing with red pens.  If we approached writing like this, we would kill the love of language that they inherently have. 


Instead, we think about the characteristic of the elementary child and appeal to their imagination and reasoning minds in creative ways.  For example, many children squish words together on a page of writing.  This makes it almost impossible to decipher what they wrote.  When I observe this in a child’s writing, I make a note and then at another time I will gather that child up in a little group and tell a story about continuous script (from the Latin “scriptura continua”) and how only highly educated individuals could decipher the writing and sometimes it took a whole day to read just one page.  Then one day, an Irish Monk (we don’t know who exactly) had a great idea to put spaces between words.  This made reading more accessible and it spread all over the world.  Then I invite the children to try both ways of writing themselves.   


I hope all of you enjoy this chilly spring break!



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Going Out  

February 26th, 2018


Going Out


Hello families,


Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying a small group of children on a going out to the Como Zoo.  They had a lesson earlier in the year about animals and how you can classify animals in different ways.  They classified pictures of animals by what they eat, what they look like, and by their class (fish, amphibian, birds, mammals, reptiles).  Then they went on nature walks and classified animals they observed. There had also been a lot of interest in taking surveys, so a question was raised, I wonder if the zoo has more fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians or mammals… and the idea for the going out was formed.


Maria Montessori observed a need in elementary children.  Elementary children need to go out into society.  Going out allows children, not only to extend their learning, but also to develop responsibility and see how society functions.  Going out is a critical part of the Elementary Montessori classroom.


“To go out of a classroom and enter the outside world, which includes everything, is obviously to open an immense door to instruction.” Maria Montessori


With this group of children, the going out provided them with an opportunity to think critically and plan.  They needed to think through all of the people who would need to be aware of the going out and whose schedules they had to consider.  They needed to plan how they would get there.  This led to lessons about using the Metro-transit website, how to read a map, knowing the difference between your left and your right, how we walk on the sidewalk as a group (if we walk side by side, what happens if someone needs to pass us?), the grace and courtesy of riding a bus (How do you pay?  What do you do if someone comes on the bus who rides a wheel chair or who has trouble standing?), reading street signs and listening to the announcements, and pulling the wire when you get to your stop. 


Going outs are different from traditional fieldtrips.  They are the work of the children.  Once the children have been given the tools/lessons necessary to be successful, then the adult takes a step back and is there only to intervene if absolutely necessary.  This can be very hard to do, but any help offered to the children that is not necessary is a hindrance.  


When we were getting relatively close to the zoo, I could have led the way.  I could have led the children right up to the front door, but because I didn’t the children had to do some problem solving.  They almost walked to a parking lot because it said “Wolf Lot” and they wanted to see the wolves, but then one of the children redirected the group.  They were worried that they were actually going to the conservatory and not the zoo, but one of the children reasoned that they could go into the conservatory and then ask for directions to the zoo if needed.  They saw someone who worked there and asked politely for directions.


Inside the building, I could have been concerned about the time.  If we don’t move quickly we won’t have time to see all of the animals, but because I didn’t the children again had to problem solve.  Do we carry our coats?  Do we wear them?  Can we put them in a locker?  Does anyone have money for a locker?  Can we leave them on a bench?  Who can we ask for permission to do that?  After they politely asked for permission to leave their things on a bench and were told that it wasn’t recommended, they figured if they ate their lunches they would have less weight to carry around with them. 


Without my interference, the children had great conversation, they offered suggestions, they listened to each other, they defended their point of view, and they came up with solutions.  Yes, it took about 20 minutes when I could have offered a solution in 5, but I would have robbed them of the experience.  Those experiences are what build their ability to respond (the definition of responsibility).









Stone Soup  

January 18, 2018


Dear Families,

The Stone Soup event is coming up in a little over a week (Saturday, January 27th at 4:30) and the children are busy preparing!  Everyone has signed up for one part of the plant.  They are receiving lessons about that part and they will contribute ingredients to the soup based on what they signed up for.  We will have our very own “Stone Soup” recipe created by the children.  They will also be sharing with you what they have learned about their part of the plant. 

Ask your child:

What part of the plant did you sign up for?

What does that part of the plant do for the plant?  For example, what does the leaf do for the plant?  Why does the plant need the leaf?

What kinds of (seeds, leaves, stems, roots, fruit) do we eat?

I look forward to seeing all of you soon!

Best wishes, 

Amber Osterkamp

December 2017  

December 2017

As we come to the halfway mark for the school year (how did that happen so quickly?), I am just amazed by the progress the children have been making!  I am sure some of you are noticing this at home too, there is an explosion happening with reading and writing.  

Children are writing chapter books, letters, reports, plays, and poems.  I am noticing beautiful cursive and illuminated letters.  Children are also practicing alliteration, hyperboles, personification, metaphors, similes, and repetition.  There has also been a lot of interest in fiction writing.  We studied what our favorite authors do and tried to mimic their style, especially with “great beginnings.” 

Here are a few pieces of writing that I wanted to share with you. 



By Alanis

Beautiful blue ballerinas

Dance the stars

Up high

You better be awake because they

Will dance the night away

Join us

Join us

And all together

Always sparkle

Like the stars up high

And that will make the world so bright



By Maryama

The beautiful sun

flying up high

like a butterfly in the sky

going up and down

each morning

its going to hit our house


“Great Beginnings”


By Eamon and Harrison

“It was the dead of night.  Bobo was going to get a drink of water from the water hole next to his cave.  He hid behind every rock on the way to the water hole.  He sipped a little bit of water, it was as cold as ice.  He shivered a little bit and sipped some more.  Then he went back to his cave….”


It was also really fun watching the children share their knowledge of handcrafts the week before break.  There was a joyful buzz around the classroom as children created gifts for those that they love.  I hope all of you enjoy the cold winter break snuggled up somewhere warm!



Best Wishes,





Parent Partnership Event  


November 26th, 2017

The classroom has been buzzing with excitement in preparation for the Parent Partnership event Monday, November 27th from 5:30 to 7.  Children are checking the materials, writing problems, preparing paper for follow on work and generally thrilled at the idea that they will be putting you to work.  Thank you for all of your prompt RSVP’s, it looks like we will have a full house!  Some children are planning to present with a friend and others are planning to present by themselves.  Either way, I hope you leave with a better understanding of how your child is learning through experience with these beautiful materials!

Here are some questions you can use to support your child with their presentation:

What material are you presenting?

What is this material used for?

How does it work?

How might you follow on in a different way?

Learning Through Discovery  

Hello Families!

I hope you all enjoyed the conversations we had over conferences as much as I did.  It was really wonderful to hear your goals for your children.  I left for the weekend with more inspiration and energy than expected, so thank you for that.

Many of you talked about how you were taught differently and that you wanted to know more about how your child is learning.  We know that meaningful learning occurs when the child is actively engaged.  Maria Montessori said,

“…education is not what the teacher gives: education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual.  It is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences upon the environment.” 

In math in particular, many of us learned by being given a rule and then asked to repeat it.  Our aim is that the child through their actions discovers the rule.  As the guide we provide the lessons to engage them with the material, we ask prompting questions, and provide purposefully chosen problems to get them to that point. 

I wanted to share a moment from the classroom last week that highlights this process.

A child was working on fact families with the bead bars.  She was placing a strip of paper on the beads to separate the whole into two parts and then writing the equation she created. 

While doing this, she had the problem 4 + 6 = 10 already written down when she came to 6 + 4.  At that point, she asked me, “wait… is that the same thing?”  At that moment I could have answered her and told her the rule, but instead I shrugged and said I wasn’t sure.  She counted and saw that it in fact it was the same.  She did this over and over and was enthused by her discovery.  I told her that she had discovered the commutative law of addition just like many great mathematicians from the past and she beamed with pride.  She is much more likely to remember this rule because she discovered it from her own experience.  

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October 5th, 2017  

Within Cosmic Education, the elementary guide has an important role.  He or she must offer the children exciting stories, nuggets of information, or probing questions that will inspire them to investigate or explore.  Through their exploration and concentration, real learning takes place. 

We want the children to follow their interest and so it is our goal that they will be inspired and leave a lesson with more questions than they started with.    

One inspiring lesson that all of the children received this week was the work of the river.  The story is given with a river model.  The children see how water pushes its way downward and sideways.  They see that it carves its way through the earth; it carries sediment, and then deposits it. 

After this lesson, many children were inspired to follow on.  Some children made their own model and some labeled the parts of the river.  The children making the model collaborated and they problem solved (What materials are available?  How can we use these materials to construct a model?).  It was really fun to watch the buzz of work that continued through most of the day.



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Cosmic Education   

September 2017 

Welcome back everyone!  With the beginning of a new school year, I am always excited by the potential it brings.  The elementary aged child is enthusiastic and inquisitive.   I look forward to the questions and interests that each child brings with them everyday. 

The method of teaching the elementary aged child in a Montessori classroom is called “Cosmic Education”.  Dr. Montessori developed Cosmic Education because she recognized the need to grab the interest of the elementary aged child.  She observed and then identified what the children were attracted to, how they learned, what got them interested, and what got them working.   She saw that they were not satisfied with mere facts; instead they were interested in how things were interrelated.  They wanted to know how things worked and why. 

I love this quote from a lecture she gave in Amsterdam in 1950.

It should be realized that genuine interest cannot be forced.  Therefore, all methods of education, based on centers of interest, which have been chosen by adults, are wrong.  Moreover, these centers interest are superfluous, for the child is interested in everything… A global vision of cosmic events fascinates the child and his interest will soon remain fixed on one particular part, as a starting point for more intensive studies.

In a Montessori classroom, we present the universe to children in a way that they can naturally understand.  We open the doors of the cosmos and invite the children to enter so they can take their part.

Amber Osterkamp


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