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Garden Updates

November 22, 2017  

Hello and Happy November!

As you know I returned this week after some time away from the Garden classroom. I spent two weeks in another Montessori classroom as part of my ongoing training and completion of my official AMI certification. It was difficult to be away from the children that I cherish, but I am thankful for a community that supports the learning and growth of both children and teachers.

The last couple days have been spent in preparation for a great parent event coming up on Monday evening. I am hopeful to see many families there. The children are excited to share a favorite Montessori material and demonstrate some of the work they engage in during the day.

We have also spent some time the last couple days reflecting on gratitude and writing notes of thanks. Many children choose to express gratitude with a letter and a simple gift. We all have much to be thankful for each day and it has been absolutely delightful to hear the children express their thanks for the important people in their lives.

I would like to express my gratitude to each of you who support our unique learning environment and send your children ready to learn each day. Thank you.

 

Please enjoy these sweet pictures of the children enjoying their letters after conferences. They were delighted to read about your love, support, and pride in them.

 

    


Update October 18, 2017  

Hello Garden Families!

As you know conferences are coming up next week. I am looking forward to meeting with you and talking about what has been happening in the Garden classroom so far this year. I am preparing some items to share with you and will have some great information. You may also have some things that you would like to talk about, or questions to bring to me. Please come with those ideas and questions so we can use your conference time in the most beneficial way possible. As your conference time approaches it may be helpful to ask your child a few questions to get ideas flowing.

Here are some questions that might help get the conversation started:

·      What are you most interested in learning about right now?

·      How to you make sure that your days and weeks are balanced with     challenging work choices?

·      What do you find difficult at school?

·      What is your favorite thing to do in the classroom?

·      Is there anything you wish you could try, but haven’t been able to?

We have spent time settling into how the classroom operates and working on how to handle our agreements in a peaceful and positive way. As the class has settled into this rhythm more and more big work is emerging and interest driven work is blossoming. Many children are researching and writing reports and books about a variety of topics. A favorite method of expression right now is to build dioramas and models showing the interesting physical attributes of the topics. The work of the hands to mold and paint what has been learned is a lovely addition to the projects in the classroom.

Be sure to check out the photo albums to see some of the beautiful work that is taking place!

Have a beautiful weekend!

Sara


Freedom, Responsibility, and Classroom Agreements  

It is hard to believe our first month of school is already drawing to a close! We have been working hard in the Garden classroom. The children are demonstrating what they know and expanding their skills and knowledge as they explore with more and more confidence. As each child is presented with new work and ideas the classroom is coming alive!

 

During the first few weeks of school we spent a lot of time talking about our classroom environment and the kind of place we wanted this to be. The children worked together to generate a list of things they desired for the class and their strong desire for peace and justice shone through their requests. The list included a desire for safety, peace, joy, laughter, honesty, and learning. They also spoke of wanting to feel welcome and have no teasing or bullying.

 

After we had created a list that captured the positive environment that was desired we began to discuss how this kind of place could be possible. Using these ideals as a guide we began to talk about the agreements we need to have and follow if we are to have such a classroom. As each agreement was created the class voted to determine if it was a useful and acceptable agreement. If the majority of the class agreed we added it to the list. After the list was ready a small group of children created a lovely Garden poster and each child in the class signed it to show that we all agree to these items.

 

Here are the general class agreements in Garden for this year:

 

1.     We use “1 table” voices.

2.     We have 1 work space.

3.     We put away our materials right away when we are done using them.

4.     We clean up our messes.

5.     We do not interrupt lessons.

6.     We are honest about our mistakes.

7.     We put things away that are out of place and support each other.

8.     Our actions are in control, careful, and calm.

9.     When the bell rings we stop, look, and listen.

10. We choose challenging and balanced work.

11. We give reminders kindly and receive reminders kindly.

12. We respect ourselves, each other, and the environment.

13. We speak in a way that is kind, respectful, and appropriate.  

 

These agreements and Cornerstone’s Freedom and Responsibility contract will serve to guide conversations around how we conduct ourselves at school. The children can tell you about how reminders are given, and freedoms are limited when agreements are broken. Ultimately a broken agreement is an opportunity to reflect on our actions and try again.

 

This work is some of the most challenging work in the elementary class. It is also some of the most rewarding and impacting. We are learning how to contribute to a community and how our actions impact others. With practice we are building a thriving community that can operate on the ideals that the children chose.

 

With care and respect,

Sara 

Announcement Image for Freedom, Responsibility, and Classroom Agreements

Off to a Fantastic Start!  

Wow!

We are off to such an amazing start here in the Garden classroom! Looking around this room at all of the amazing things going on you would not believe that we are only finishing up the second week of school. The children are engaged and learning so much already.

Many children have jumped right into BIG work. There is a lot of research going on and it is being presenting in beautiful, creative ways. The children are exploring volcanoes, poisonous frogs, The Solar System, dinosaurs, ancient artifacts, famous athletes, fennec foxes, historic biographies, and that is just the list I can remember. It is truly impressive to have a group of such curious and interested learners. 

In addition to exploring their own interests the children are active in lessons and participating in building up their skills in all areas. The Montessori math materials are guiding us as we explore the world of numbers and exercise our mathematical brains. Many of the younger children have been busy building multiples tables with the bead bars. Large division problems aren’t a problem for many of our young mathematicians who have the tools to support them. Several children have also reunited with the checkerboard and completed huge multiplication work into the hundred thousands and even the millions!

One of the building blocks of the Montessori method of teaching is igniting interest in the children with stories. Last week I shared the First Great Story about how the universe came to be. The children imagined and thought about what it was like as the world came into existence. We explored the laws that all particles follow to bring order out of chaos and provide a place where life can exist. It was an exciting story full of ideas that will guide our explorations in the classroom.

This week another story was shared about the Coming of Life to the earth. We wondered about and identified what life was like on the planet before humans. We saw a progression of simple one-celled life forms to more and more complicated beings, until finally the earth was ready for human beings. This story begins our journey with biology and the children will have many opportunities to explore plant, animal, and human life.

I am delighted with the beautiful work that has already begun in our class and so very grateful to share these experiences with such marvelous children. We really are off and running!

With Great Enthusiasm,

Sara


Welcome to 2017-18!  

Hello Garden Families!

I have been anticipating this fall since last June and I am so excited that we are finally here. I spent my summer in intensive training and I am entering this school year so very inspired. There were so many moments when I ached to be in the classroom with the children diving into lessons and learning. At last the time is here and I feel like I am standing on the cusp of something amazing. I know that this will be a year full of great growth and wonder and I feel privileged that I get to play a role. 

As a very biased lower-elementary teacher, I will tell you that 6-9 year olds are some of the most amazing, capable, and intriguing people on the planet. Maria Montessori believed that elementary children were full of potential and greatness and were gifted with brains that could do far more than we could possibly imagine. Because of this great capacity for learning we offer the children the opportunity to explore the universe and work to inspire and insight interest. I am certain that I will learn just as much this year as the children will as they follow their interests and we explore the universe together. 

I leave you with the words of Dr. Montessori:

"Our aim is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core."

With a Grateful Heart,

Sara


Justice and Civil Rights  

February 24, 2017

In the Montessori world we speak about the elementary child having a strong inclination toward justice and a desire to formulate for himself what is right and wrong. We often see this tendency surface as children compare their abilities and allowances with others and we hear statements such as, "That's not fair!, or "But, she got to do it!" All of this development is normal and an important part of establishing a strong moral center for the child.

However, I have seen this leaning toward justice manifest in a much more profound way recently among the Garden children. During the month of February I have presented stories and biographies highlighting the Civil Rights Movement, and black history in the United States. We have heard about well-known heroes such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall and about lesser known heroes such as Barbara Johns who led her school in a peaceful protest demanding better facilities for the black students in her community. During the stories and discussions surrounding this study I have been overwhelmed and impressed with the heart of the children I share my days with. Their desire for and understanding of justice has been put on display as they talk about how absolutely wrong it is that these battles even had to take place. We have talked about the effectiveness of peaceful protests and how the voices that ultimately shone through and made a difference for their cause were those that called for peace in the face of violence and injustice. As we wrap up the month and continue talking about civil rights and justice we are completing a timeline of the Civil Rights Movement and reflecting on how many people had to work together to make a change for what was right and just.

Before beginning the study of civil rights I read a book during our Read Aloud time in class to the students titled I Am Malala. It is a book that my 6th grade daughter recommended to me and I felt strongly about sharing with the children. This book tells the story of a young girl named Malala who stood up for the rights of girls in her home country of Pakistan. As a result of her speaking out against the Taliban Malala endured death threats against herself and her family and was ultimately shot. Her secret journal about life as a girl in Pakistan, public appearances and speeches, and unwillingness to back down in the face of danger inspired many and promoted opportunity and justice for the girls and women of her country. Many of you likely heard about his story from your children, they were captivated to say the least. Again, the hearts of the students were on full display as they voiced their concern for what is right and just. 

It is an amazing privilege to work with this community of children. I am a proud teacher, as I am sure you are proud parents and family members.