Elementary recently took a trip to Gaining Ground in Concord. With the help of volunteers of all ages, Gaining Ground grows organic produce for hunger relief. This was a wonderful opportunity for students to use their gardening skills and help to bring food to those who are less fortunate. During our visit children helped to plant spinach, lettuce and bok choy. They did some necessary weeding, helped to move stones and took a tour of the land.
Gaining Ground was so impressed by the AVMS students' knowledge and efficiency that they invited us to come back to help out again. While school groups are welcome, they also invite individual families to join them. Please consider bringing your child to Gaining Ground this summer as volunteers are always needed. If you should decide to do some community service, please email Gaining Ground (email@example.com
) the day before to check for availability. The only reason they should close during the growing season would be due to thunder and lighting.
For more information please visit: http://gainingground.org/
One of the joys of a Montessori education is the dichotomy between careful, detail oriented planning of the classroom environment and the freedom to be spontaneous. Last week after wearing down-parkas on the playground in the morning we had beautiful weather with clear skies and temperatures in the mid seventies.
The children were delighted with being able to cast off coats and sweaters and simply put on shoes to play outside. After we transitioned into the classroom for the afternoon the sun was shining through our windows and I was struck by an idea.
Several children helped me gather paint, paper and smocks. We took all the materials to the ball court on the playground which is in the direct sun. The children had to search for stones to weigh the paper down while they painted.
They were delighted to be shown different splatter techniques and had fun not being careful with paint! The results were colorful splats and dots on sun crinkled paper and happy children to have a spur of the moment lesson out of doors.
It has been very busy with getting the garden started. Green base children have started tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, calendula, etc. They are happily growing in our grow station. We will work toward amending the soil and planting cold weather vegetables like carrots, kale, potatoes, lettuce etc. We are going to experiment in one bed with a "no till, no weed" set-up that basically alternates layers of green and brown using cardboard, grass clippings, shredded paper, compost , hay, calsified seaweed etc. For more information take a look at www.Permies.com. This stands for permaculture which is all about sustainability regarding energy, food production, housing – you name it.
Exploration of this type of sustainability led me to the idea of rocket mass thermal heaters and then rocket stoves. An idea was hatched. With elementary, we came up with the plan and cooked a three sister Hidatsa stew (corn, beans, squash and sunflower seeds). As you all know from previous newsletters these are companion plants that help each other. We figured, what better way to experience the ultimate practical life then to make this dish using our own ingredients by blending all our hard work growing these plants and then have them come together again in a delicious dish. It was an amazing team building and community exercise. We had a squash team that skinned, deseeded and cut into pieces then boiled and mashed. The corn team took the corn off the cob, and parched it in a pan until golden brown. The team then ground the corn using a grinder. The wild edible team collected dandelion greens, evening primrose greens and chives. They then washed and chopped. When one team was done they joined the other teams to help. The squash got mixed with the boiled anasi beans and then the ground parched corn and ground sunflowers. To complete the dish we added water and the wild edibles.
The really exciting part came when we built the rocket stove made out of about 30 fire bricks recycled from an old cistern. I gave the students a map of how to build it layer by layer until it was 5 high. It was great to see everyone helping to build it! Thinking about how to light the fire we looked at hard and soft woods. We began by adding soft woods and then hardwood. We used a big knife and hammer club to split it small. We made a cool fire starter with cotton balls immersed in Vaseline and used primitive flint and steel to light. The boiled the stew in a dutch oven pot and we cooked it for half an hour. The flavors came together sumptuously!
The final sharing of this “potlatch” will be Friday and the elementary will be the stewards of organizing and delivering to the rest of school for snack. This is ancestral learning at its best. I am very proud of every elementary student for working so hard together.
Seasons joy under the frog moon,
Children at AVMS spend a lot of time outdoors. For the toddlers, time on the playground enhances their growing large motor skills. As they continually take steps walking, they use their whole body. The movement in crossing a bridge helps develop the brain; develops deeper levels of coordination. The use of arms and legs moving together strengthen overall development. And, of course, fun is the name of the game!
A child in the Toddler Classroom involved in Practical Life work : Children love to do the work that adults do! In the process of enjoying washing dishes (and enjoying the warm water and bubbles), for example, a child develops a sense of order (in that there is a specific way that dishes are washed from start to finish); they contribute to the cleanliness of the whole classroom community; through concentrating they further develop the ability to focus. And, when they go home they can't wait to help mom or dad in the kitchen!
Dr. Montessori stressed the importance of observation in aiding the child in his development therefore I allot time to sit and simply observe the room in progress. I am able to note what materials are being used consistently and those materials that are no longer necessary in the classroom. I have recently had to rotate some math materials to accommodate our third-year students who are studying the clock and long division, they are so eager to move forward!
We now have fourteen children out of 20 that are readers of different levels so the language materials including children’s readers are changed with regular frequency to keep skills challenged and to keep reading fresh and fun. The children enjoy reading to me and Miss Ha and will often request this time together. I still have a few readers from my time at Apple Valley. The pages are a little fragile but I like to share with the children that these are the very same books I read when I was their age.
What an amazing winter it has been and how fitting to have another storm on the last day of winter! Our adventures have been truly exciting: snowshoeing, tracking, making quinzees (a type of igloo), exploring the meadow for moles, voles, shrews, rabbits, groundhogs, fox, mice. We have discovered unexpected signs (tracks and scat) of fisher coyote, bobcat and fox, all of which are good indicator animals or barometers of a healthy ecosystem. We need more predators!
During February vacation week at the vernal pool, we found clear coyote tracks going to the hole (at an old beaver bank lodge) but the coyote did not go in as there was little disturbance. We deduced from the scat that it had some berries. We also saw a bone and some flesh with fur that looked like rabbit to me. Going up the hill there were the coyote tracks and to the left of them (about 20 feet apart) were fisher tracks! My interpretation is a fisher killed the rabbit and was using the bank lodge as possible temporary shelter. Later a coyote came along and marked on top of the fisher kill.
So the magic continues transitioning now to sugaring! On April 5th, the children will have a pancake breakfast featuring our homemade maple syrup.
Seasons joy under the maple sugaring Moon.
March is here and we are celebrating three birthdays! I am continuously amazed at the growth of each child.
We have learned many songs and among the favorites are “I have a Little Turtle”, “Oh Mr. Sun” and “Swimming, Swimming”. The cold weather has not deterred us from spending some time outside after arrival and, later, during our morning recess.
In Grace and Courtesy Work, we learn to wait patiently for snacks by putting our hands on our lap and we learn to ask nicely if we want more food. We are also refining our healthy skills: covering our mouths when we sneeze and then washing hands.
We read many books with a recent favorite being “The Sunset Pond." Madame and I vary the classroom materials in order to help children learn new words everyday. In our language area we make objects available for the children to name and identify. For example, photos of animals from all over the world, fruits and vegetables, clothing, appliances, and, tools we use at home. We witness expressive, verbal language forming in each child.
The practical life area is rich with opportunities for each child to develop skills. Not only in eye-hand coordination or development of the pincer grasp, but also in their understanding of math and languag
Recently the children raised $126 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). They learned that their money would go towards lifesaving blood cancer research around the world to help improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Thank you for helping your child(ren) with this important fundraiser! The children were responsible for counting and putting the money into paper money rolls. The LLS fundraiser led us into many other areas of money such as: coin recognition, making change and solving problems as they would experience in the real world.
There have been a wide variety of geography skills that are being practiced such as: learning the states, capitals and countries, plate tectonics, continental drift, economic geography. US History has been another area of focus and the children are currently researching their own area of interest; topics ranging from slavery to the development of fashion throughout US History. In addition to the presentations children give in in the classroom, they also enjoy giving presentations to Green Base which allows the younger children to get an insight on what’s to come in Elementary. In Art the children have been learning skills and techniques that are unique to Impressionism.They have enjoyed creating their own Impressionist works. The children continue to practice their skills in bookmaking, sewing,and, weaving
Outside our school hang twenty-six peace flags, each made by a child in the elementary and primary class. The flags were crafted in recognition of International Peace Day which occurred on September 21st. Along with varied discussions about peace, each child made their peace flag based on a Tibetan tradition. They first sketched out a design that reflected a personal association with peace. With that design in hand they painted it on fabric, later stitching a rod through and hanging them all together to symbolize personal peace joined together with community peace. When first hung out they were crisp, clean and new. Now after weeks of sun beating down on them; rainstorms; and some intense wind, the weather has tattered and faded each flag. The Tibetan practice with peace flags describes the natural elements of sun and rain slowly washing away the fabric with the maker's intentions going out into the world.
Teachers at our school wove the ideas of International Day of Peace into their curriculum. In the elementary and primary classrooms the idea of “peace” became a focused topic of discussion. Questions raised revolved from the broader sense: “What does world peace mean?” down to the personal, "What does peace mean to you?" and “How do we create a peaceful classroom?” Far-reaching and large questions begot even more questions: “Can we have conflict with peace? Is conflict present when we want a peaceful classroom and how can we handle that—with peace or not?”
Our elementary teacher reflected that a peaceful classroom to her would mean that children use their words in respectful ways with one another. In a Montessori classroom, children--with the guidance of their teacher--choose daily work. “When children seek and find meaningful, challenging work in their day, exploring their interest and curiosities, that makes a peaceful classroom.” The teacher went on to say, “And, when they help one another. For example, when an older student helps a younger one, and when the older student willingly helps out, that makes for peaceful relationships.”
During the week leading up to International Peace day class meetings in elementary focused on having peaceful relationships with one another. In class meetings students might bring up concerns they have or conflicts they might be struggling with. In the process of sharing ideas together they learn to problem solve respectfully. Over time they become more comfortable sharing opinions and the idea of feeling respected becomes ingrained.
As schools and organizations worldwide celebrated this day our students thought about peace; creatively worked on symbols of peace; and, delved more deeply into creating a peaceful classroom and treating one another with grace and courtesy.