Upper Elementary

A Trip to Hardin Park School: Teachers' Knowledge-share

On Thursday, February 21, me, Deb, Matt, and Brian had a chance to meet with Hardin Park teachers to assess how our students transition from Mountain Pathways to public school. I note the date because it took not just one, but four attempts to reschedule the original meeting that was set for Thursday, November 15 due to weather.

We were greeted by the most energetic and delightful teachers in Ms. Sonya Blakely’s kindergarten classroom. In attendance was: Russell Hiatt, 6th grade social studies, Maria Nash, 1st grade teacher (and 6-9 Montessori trained), Meghan Scott, 1st grade teacher, and of course, Miss Sonya Blakely. The classroom was open and roomy with little stations strategically placed so students can move from one topic to another efficiently.

One of the first topics we discussed was the use of technology in the classroom. The state requires assessments for kindergarten through 1st grade and the assessments are computer based. Teachers walk students through the process and as they progress to first grade, their exposure to technology increases but in the form of a math program like Iready that integrates technology through individualized curriculum.

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The difference between kindergarten and first grade is that the pace of learning dramatically increases. Teachers, however are free to teach their curriculum how they see fit as long as they are following standards. To help students cope with potential stress, they have integrated “quiet” corners and strategies for self calming and conflict resolution. The first-grade teachers that we met with approached their curriculums differently to meet their students needs. Some even incorporated Montessori methods like using a red ball to demonstrate a verb.

Mr. Hiatt, the 6th grade social studies teacher elaborated on the transition of 6th to 7th grade. Like us, they recognize that children are moving towards a different plane of development and they prepare students by organizing into advisory teams that host weekly meetings. These meetings give space for the social and emotional development of students and teach them skills that develop a growth mindset.

As a Montessori teacher, I haven’t set foot in an elementary school since I was a kid. I have to be honest, I was humbled by the work that these teachers are doing. They are dedicated, funny, and kind. They are passionate about what they do and recognize that what they are doing is really hard-especially as state standards keep changing. They are kinda my new heroes.

How do MPS students transition to Hardin Park?

Good news! Our students, from their experience, transition extremely well. They are not behind nor culture shocked. They are curious learners, ask good questions, and are different in the best way possible. The only thing we should think about integrating is Letterland books since most kindergarteners have had exposure in preschool.  

The main take away from that meeting was that all teachers, no matter their education, training, or experience are all on the same page. We all want what is best for our students. We want them to learn and thrive in the environment that they are in.  We have a fantastic resource in Hardin Park and I foresee more meetings that will bolster relationships and our education system a whole.

As Ms. Nash said, “Ya’ll have fun! We are here if you need us, anytime.”

Same to you, Ms. Nash, same to you.

Kristy Hackler
Upper Elementary Teacher & Curriculum Coordinator

Field Trips in the Second Plane

The second plane of development is the plane of childhood. The absorbent mind, so prevalent from birth to age six, gives way to the conscious mind in the second plane of development. Learning now takes place at a slower, steadier pace. Children in the second plane of development are much less drawn to the repetition of activities, unless there is some variation involved.


Children in the second plane of development are also no longer solitary beings. They now tend to gravitate towards others in their environment. Around the age of 6, children begin to become interested in their classmates and are learning how to get along. They start to choose to work with others on projects of mutual interest. By 11 or 12, most students prefer to work with others rather than individually. As they develop, children in the second plane of development also expand their social network. They begin to show a genuine interest in others, whether it is within their local community or in a more global sense of awareness. They want to see possibility in real experiences. This is why we go. Our field trips are an extension of the classroom and a way to support a 9-12ers emotional and social development.


We encourage our students to embrace their joy, to be themselves, and to explore their space with the appropriate amount freedom and the right amount of boundaries. I too find my own joy on our field trips because it’s infectious-we are always outside, moving from one space to the next in a flow of excited kinetic energy. I am a self admitted homebody, so these field trips are equally good for adults. We are breaking our routines and experiencing things as a group and through the eyes of the children. It is truly satisfying.


Our fall and spring field trips this year are connected to our end of year project, Imaginary Island. Students create their own islands after learning the 14 points of geography. This process starts with the teaching of the Great Lessons-you can’t have an island until you understand how the Universe was born, how life came to be, how man evolved, and how language and math developed through the creation of economies and cultures.


Our trip to Virginia was an involved experience in a certain biome, with certain plants, with certain geography, and certain weather patterns. Our spring trip will be to the Golden Isles of Georgia. We will descend from the mountains to sea level, and we experience a whole new environment. Different soil, trees, insects for sure! It book ends our comprehensive biome, cultural, and geographical studies, so students may create their own islands after seeing the possibility in real experiences.   

To sum up our trips, there is simply too much to say. I will conclude by letting them tell you what they learned not just about where we went, but more importantly what they learned about themselves. Enjoy.



“I learned I could ride 17 miles on a bike.” -Jude Jackson

“I learned that I am not afraid to ride downhill on a bike.” -Mackenzie Taylor

“I learned I don’t sleep well when camping!” -Avery Shanely

“I learned that you never have two of the exact same field trip.” -Charli Johnson

“I learned that no matter what I did out in the woods I was happy just being in nature.’ -Ava Doty

“I learned that flashlight tag is fun-even in the dark.” -Nathan Bing


“I learned that being away from electronics makes you not want them.” -Penelope Shack

“I have more confidence.” -Amelia Carter

“I learned you are stronger if you work together.” -Ruby Taylor

“I learned that I am a morning person.” -Holden Womack

“I think I will like riding my bike more.” -Magdalena Visser

“Biking was never my strong suit, but after riding the Creeper I think I got better.” -Zoe Nelson