New Year Brings Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes


The New Direction is Elementary, ... And Primary

Classrooms to get new names in 2016

When your child returns to school in the fall, don't look for any numbers in the classroom names. We are beginning the process of "rebranding" our programs as Pre-Primary (formerly toddler), Primary East (formerly 2-4), Primary West (was 3-6), Lower Elementary (6-9), Upper Elementary (9-12) and Middle School (12-14). We will maintain the traditional age requirements, and the expectations for entry and move-up into each classroom will still be judged on an individual basis according to Montessori expectations and classroom balance and needs. Please let us know if you have any questions about the new labels.... now, on to the NEWS!


Waiting for the Snow in the East

We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! The children seem happy to be back at school, reunited with their friends and ready to get into their usual routine. We are starting off the new year by reading many different books about snow. If you and your family have any favorite wintertime books you'd like to share with the class, please send them to school with your child. We will be talking about "Snowflake Bentley" and the incredible images of snowflakes he took. You will also probably start to see many paper snowflakes making their way home in your child's backpack.
Later this month, we will begin our study of arctic climates and the animals and land forms of these areas. (Let us know if you have any books that could go along with this too, please.) Enjoy the winter weather and hope for snow! (And send water proof mittens, snow bibs and boots please)
~Sara & Amanda


Grace and Courtesy are the keys to Primary age

What most people call manners or social graces, we call grace and courtesy in the Montessori classroom. It is a unique and very important part of the classroom. We dedicate a great deal of time and energy to showing children how to behave in certain situations and how to interact with people. I think it is the most important part of the class because without the peaceful environment children would not be able to concentrate fully on their tasks at hand.

Grace focuses on the child. Some examples of lessons I might give in this area would be ‘how to walk peacefully in the class’, ‘how to open and close a door’, ‘how to stand in a line’, or ‘how to push in a chair’.

Courtesy focuses on the child’s interactions with others. This is a trickier proposition, but the progress seen is so rewarding. These lessons can be as simple as ‘how to look at a person’s eyes when you speak to him/her’ or as complex as ‘how to tell your friend that he/she hurt your feelings’. These are often very difficult and mature issues, but our goal is to give children the tools, language, and self-confidence to begin to solve social problems on their own. The fruits of our labor are not always realized right away, but I like to think that as the children who have moved through a Montessori classroom grow older they have some skills to help them navigate the often difficult social situations they may encounter.

This week, we decided to have an English Tea Party. The afternoon workers made traditional cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches (with homemade bread- everyone got to see yeast at work!). We used real china tea cups and discussed what proper table manners entailed- no elbows on the table! We practice grace and courtesy every day at lunch, but this took it to another level! We had a great time and plan to do it again!



Lower Elementary goes "Out and About"

On our return from the Holiday Break we have explored the story of numbers using the awesome BBC documentary The Story of One.
We are also working on a fish themed creative writing assignment which we plan on turning into a book.
The Third years continue to plug away at their “Out and About” projects.
As a class we are continuing to work on our geometry, double digit multiplication and as always my favorite fractions.
Ms. Kristen has made us a really cool Writing Burger which is helping us a lot with our writing. 



 Upper Elementary and the Spirit of Giving

The 9-12 ended 2015 in the great spirit of giving. The week before Christmas break was the perfect time to focus our energy and excitement of the holidays towards others that need some attention and care. We spent our Monday volunteering at the F.A.R.M. Cafe-where I had to talk them in to letting us volunteer. The 9-12 jumped in with their whole hearts. Students were oriented on the jobs they would doing during our hours of 10:00 and 2:00 which included dish washing, food preparation, baking, food serving, table wiping and busing, and greeting folks as they came. The 9-12 so impressed everyone that we have been asked to volunteer again. It was such a great experience and it is such a privilege to watch them handle themselves with confidence and enthusiasm when they would their ask their "bosses", "What can I do to help?". 
Later that we week we hauled the 9-12 to the Health and Hunger Coalition with the intention of adopting A family for Christmas by supplying basic needs like warm clothes and coats. As we divided up the sections of the giving binder, students kept saying, "I have this. I want to give it." By the time it was all said and done, we walked out of there with 10 families. We sent 10 full bags of warm clothes, toys, and books- and then some- to children that would not have gotten anything for Christmas otherwise. 
We ended the Old Year with 21 Days of Happiness, a morning routine that includes writing 3 gratitudes and 3 goals, a bit of exercise and mediation, and a random kindness bestowed upon an unsuspecting soul. I always enjoy this practice since it is a routine established to create an atmosphere of positive thoughts, creativity, and appreciation for each other. 
Since the beginning of 2016, we jumped right back in to our routine of Essential works, writing, and other hot topics like science and geography. Science is always a fun one since the quirks of famous scientists never disappoint. This week it was Caspar Wister, a naturalist that literally would not know dinosaur bone if he tripped over it yet he still left a legacy as the namesake for the lovely Wisteria vine. In geography we are learning about latitude, longitude, Prime Meridian, etc. in addition to the fact no one in the early stages of navigation is really sure where the compass came from but it was often referred to as a "tool of the devil" since no one could really figure out how it worked. 
Math is moving along into percentages which are fractions which are decimals...they love that. 
Since spring is just around the corner, a few important things come to mind: the garden, the end of year field trip, and our last Parent's Evening in the Classroom. 
The garden will start back up after spring break and we are excited to use our grant money to start mushroom logs and purchase a chicken tractor. 
The end of year field trip is May 16-19 and if you are interested in going and would like to drive, let us know since preparations for the trip start next week. We are going to the Golden Isles of Georgia, a classic 9-12 Field Trip that corresponds with our end of year project, Imaginary Island. 
Parent's Evening in the Classroom is Thursday, February 25 at 5:30. Students will have an opportunity to share the good work they have been doing. 
Last but not least, I am proud to say that Farm Camp is hosting a Garden Smarts workshop in February through Lettuce Learn that helps public school teachers integrate gardening into their curriculum. Emily and I are presenters and look forward to sharing all that we have learned about gardening with children during our first year of Farm Camp. 

Have a great weekend!
Kristy and Emily
Middle School Math and Science Update

Our classroom Periodic Table was rendered outdated on the last day of 2015, with the announcement of the discovery of the 4 remaining elements in period 7 with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117, and 118. Nevertheless, it still contains a wealth of valuable information, and we are using it to learn about chemistry this month. The four middle schoolers have studied how the periodic table is organized and how to read it like a book, as well as individual elements and their properties.

Although it is very difficult (and rather inaccurate) to compare what happens on the subatomic level to everyday experiences, we have found some useful metaphors. For example, Cole recognized that an element's electronegativity (the tendency of an atom to attract electrons) could be described in terms of "grabbiness." He noticed that Chlorine is extremely 'grabby' with Sodium's outermost electron, and quite often will take it to form NaCl.

The day after our current president's final State of the Union address, we re-visited our Classroom Constitution to evaluate how well we are following our self-imposed commitments to the class and to each other. The class determined we are upholding our commitments for the most part, but noted some areas in which we can improve. Each class member wrote personal goals for the new year, relating to our constitution and to academics.

Also following current events (i.e., the lottery: a tax on people who can't do math ;-), we have been studying probability as we exercise our math chops in preparation for the regional MATHCOUNTS competition in Hickory on February 9.  At the competition, they will have the experience of doing math in different ways, new environments, and with other middle schoolers from 10 counties all over the western/central piedmont area of NC. It will be a great learning experience for all of us, and a reminder that, as Maria Montessori said, "We can do hard things."

The middle schoolers have exhibited high-level thinking skills by combining their current knowledge with new strategies to solve problems unlike any they have ever seen before. This ability to look at new, possibly intimidating math problems by applying what they already know and manipulating numbers and ideas in different ways demonstrates mathematical sophistication.

I have coached them along the way, and taught some new skills when necessary (like the basics of probability and some more advanced geometry), but for the most part, they have worked independently to solve problems. Like this one: "In how many ways can the integers 1 through 6 be written horizontally in a row so that the sum of any two adjacent integers is odd?" (Hint: It's easier to figure this one out by using permutations rather than drawing out all the possibilities, of which there are 72.)

As New River Water Quality Monitors, our class checks the water of Howard's Creek monthly on a variety of metrics:  turbidity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and E. coli levels. We report our findings, along with scores of other monitors, to help inform the New River Conservancy and the public about water quality.

We continue to study the immediate world around us, as well as digging back into history for clues to what brought us to where we are today. We search for relevance and meaning in the abstract, the mundane, the popular, the absurd. We try to find beauty and truth as we explore subatomic particles, participles and prepositional phrases, permutations, and ancient Sumer.

As far as naming the four new elements, my votes are Colium, Savannium, Reaganine, and Lukon.
Thanks, Remi 


Practicing "Conscious Discipline" in Pre-Primary

In December I (Jana) attended a Conscious Discipline Conference. The highlights I have introduced to the classroom revolve around recognizing the the three brain states: Survival, Emotional and Executive. Communicating with a child is different for each brain state. When a child is in a survival brain state use assertive directions, when a child is in the emotional state offer two positive choices, when a child is in the executive state you may use open ended questions. We cannot request a child function in a higher brain state than the adult. Conscious Discipline relies on self regulation and how breathing, describing your emotions, naming the emotion and acknowledging the emotion create a foundation for problem solving. We are working as a School Family in the Toddler Class. Conscious Discipline focuses on the connection on the child, peers and adult. An entire book of "I Love You Rituals" can be found on the website along with many other resouces. If you have further questions I would love to talk more. There is such a wonderful respect and acknowledgment of the child in this discipline. 


And We're Busy in Afterschool Too!!


Learning about the solar system and space in after school this month by making our own constellations, playing planet bingo and more! 

Enjoying the snow on our nature walk. Remi teaches the children how you can estimate water temperatures by looking at the rhododendron leaves.


Have a Wonderful Holiday weekend, and -- as always -- please let us know how we are doing. This time of year it is easy for the faculty to get bogged down in the everyday challenges, and it really helps to hear that we are appreciated. Thanks for sharing your children with us!!!