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Garden Updates and Highlights

February 2019 Highlights  

Lower Elementary - Pond and Garden

Lower elementary children are so much fun.  They are joyful and excited about everything!  Many of them are eager to earn your praise or encouragement as well.  This is something we try to be careful and conscious of in the classroom and as parents.   We choose our words carefully to help the children develop a growth mindset and self-motivation.   A growth mindset is a belief that intelligence or talent can be developed with effort, learning, and persistence.  Alternatively, a fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence or abilities are inherent, you are either born with them or you are not.  Art can be a good example of this. If you have a fixed mindset, you think that some people are artists and some people are not, but with a growth mindset you believe that by practice and effort you can gain skills.  

In the Pond classroom, we had a grace and courtesy lesson about this when we noticed children making comments like, “oh you’re better at ____ then me” or “I’m not good at _____.”  When we hear comments like this, we respond with, “do you mean to say that she is well practiced with _____?” or “Do you mean to say that you would like to practice ______ more?”

When a child brings something to show you.  You can try and make observations about what you notice.  “Wow, you are beaming right now, you must feel proud of your work!”  Instead of telling children that they are smart or talented, we can say, “you must be working hard.”  This helps children make the connection between their efforts and the way they feel when they are done.  

January 2019 Highlights  

Happy New Year to all of our families! We have jumped right back into full swing in the Garden classroom and our environment is an exciting place to be, as always. 

This month we are sharing with you how language is approached in our environments. Language is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and I adore the opportunities that we have to explore and celebrate language in our classroom. Language in the Montessori environment is approached in a way that brings life to what may at times feel mundane. Learning about grammar, the rules of language, often seems a rather dull undertaking. Yet, the Montessori approach to language it is anything but dull. As the children learn about the parts of speech and how words work together to form sentences they are moving, searching, exploring, and experiencing language through the use of grammar boxes, command cards, and other materials. These materials guide the children in not only reading and writing the words, phrases, and sentences, but in performing, acting, creating, and being involved in the process. Ask an elementary child about grammar command cards and hear about the chance to throw an eraser, march with a pillow on her head, and crawl under a table! 

Of course grammar is only one aspect of language and we celebrate words and language in every area of our classroom. In every subject we are learning the etymology of words, exploring how language has a beautiful and rich history. We tell stories using language that tickles the ear and draws upon the curiosity of the child. We give precise and detailed language for scientific explorations, helping the child to perfect his studies. And we collect words building our vocabularies, knowing that have the right words at the right times helps us to express ourselves clearly when writing and speaking. Much of this work is subtle; it is in the books we choose to read aloud, the words we choose to utter, and the writing that is placed upon the shelves to be read. We know that these choices are important, after all language is powerful. We strive to equip the children with this power so that they can communicate and express themselves clearly no and in the future.

December 2018 Highlights  

As the year progresses in Garden I am impressed as always with the work of the children and how amazing their capacity is for great work. It’s not a surprise, really, that elementary children are highly capable and will do great things when given the opportunity. Yet, when the beautifully executed project, the enormous math problem, or the perfectly articulated report is there in front of me I can’t help but be awed and inspired. And I know that it is not by my ability that these things are happening each day in our classroom. It is the work of the children, who are drawn to work and learning and will grow in all areas when obstacles are removed. The elementary child with resources, materials, and time is unstoppable and I am humbled to witness this magnificence. One of the most important roles of the Montessori adult is to foster independence and remove obstacles so that the child can flourish. Practically this means providing materials that the child can use and allowing time for her to explore her interests and skills. When the child’s work stems from her own interest it is always more interesting, beautiful, and well executed than when it is work that is thrust upon her. Perhaps you have noticed how fiercely independent the elementary child can be. This independence is the key to the child who finds his own passion and purpose. Of course, this is a process and the skills are learned a little at a time. The child chooses her own work in the classroom, receiving support when necessary. The child must gather all of the materials needed to execute her chosen work, and solve the problem when something is missing. He chooses how much time to dedicate to the work and whom he should work with. All of these small choices build upon each other day after day, preparing the child for bigger decisions and more responsibility. Today it is demonstrated in the beautiful classroom work, tomorrow we hope for it to be reflected in the larger community as these independent decision makers influence those around them.

Many thanks for your support and for sharing your precious children with me,


November 2018 Highlights  

If you have spent time with a child from the Garden classroom this year you have likely heard about the adventures of Tator Tot the hedgehog. Tator Tot is an African Pygmy hedgehog who has graced us with her presence as a classroom pet this year and has provided much excitement and entertainment. Tator Tot is a skilled escape artist, which was something we were unaware that a hedgehog could be. Her first escape led to a grand 6 day adventure where she roamed the school at night leaving “evidence” behind on some shelves and floors in various parts of the school building. She was found one morning in the hallway covered in paint and looking rather disheveled. Upon her return we began to cover her cage at night with a cloth cover clipped around the edges. After only 2 days back she performed another amazing feat and escaped again, laughing at our weak attempt to dissuade her. Her next adventure lasted 2 weeks. We left food and water out hoping to entice her to return and set a live trap for many nights. Clever Tator Tot only snuck into the trap ate her fill and left again leaving evidence of her visit, but keeping herself well hidden each day. Finally with the aide of a shiny new trap meant for smaller, lighter creatures her adventure came to an end. Tator Tot is home, safe, and we have learned that a proper cage cover is the only way to keep our precious pet from roaming the school after hours.

But, why keep a hedgehog, or any other pet in the classroom? What benefit does this spiky little creature provide? Classroom pets provide an opportunity to develop responsibility in the children. It is the children who care for the animals in the room. They are responsible for cleaning the environment, providing fresh food and water, and taking notice when additional care is required. Having a variety of different animals in our school environment, and animals that are unique also helps to develop an awareness of how animals needs vary. A hedgehog needs a very different environment and care than a turtle. Finally, in caring for another living creature a respect and appreciation for life is encouraged and strengthened. We look forward to more adventures with Tator Tot, hopefully within the walls of our classroom!

October 2018 Highlights  

The Garden environment continues to be a dynamic place of learning. Recently many children have dove into big work. One group of young mathematicians work on the largest checkerboard multiplication problem I have ever seen, with the quotient into the octillions! We have groups researching sharks, dolphins, and poison dart frogs, among other interesting creatures. The curiosity for the workings of our world is alive and well as we explore why we have day and night, seasons, and why it seems to get dark so early right now! We are also expanding our writing skills through daily activities. This is a creative and insightful group and it is a delight to read about their ideas each day.

September 2018 Highlights  

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.