I hope you are all well rested after the break and ready for our final term together.
I enjoyed running the Casa Camp for the second week of break and getting to know some of the students from Pat's and Dylan's classrooms. I also spent some time in the classroom making some changes to the floor plan. As one Casa East boy verbalized, "It is a whole new world in here!"
I'm sure most of you are all well informed through Facebook and Tweets and texts etc., but here is the official news from Casa East: Holly, Derek, Beckett, and Sawyer welcomed the newest addition to their family on Friday, March 21st. Stella Elizabeth weighed in at 7lbs 2ozs. Both she and Holly are doing well. I'm sure you will get to meet her soon at the school.
So, the other official news is to now welcome Stef to Casa East. I know she is going to bring an abundance of enthusiasm to the classroom. Our first few days together have gone really well!
I always look forward to the final term. Not because it is the final term but because it is the term where we get to enjoy the children most effortlessly. This is because the first two terms have helped instil the work qualities you hope to see in every student: independence, concentration, repetition, enthusiasm, exactness, and grace and courtesy. It is the term where we get to sit back (at times) and watch as the wonders of Montessori unfold.
I am looking forward to challenging myself and the class with bringing the outdoor space to life. Gardening is not my forte. Pat has already spoken to me about her plans for her outdoor garden and I will be accepting Sophia's mother's offer to help with planting. This will be a first for me!
I will close with one of my favourite quotes from Maria Montessori:
"The child should love everything he learns. Whatever is presented to him must be made beautiful and clear. Once this love has been kindled, all problems confronting the educationalist will disappear."
Happy Spring Everyone!
Holly and Elizabeth, and Stef.
Your kids have returned to Casa North taller, brighter, older, and with a spring in their step (excited about Spring no doubt). They have returned to their wonderful work habits, learning lots of new materials and working on improving their formation of cursive writing especially.
They have also been wonderful hosts, welcoming a new member of our community into our class. His name is Daisuke (Dice-kay), he's 4, and comes to us from Calgary. He is a little bit shy, but his peers are helping him feel very comfortable here. It's wonderful to see them concerned when he is teary, and to invite him to work or converse when they see him wandering. All of this without the guides' involvement.
Now that it is April, we are planning to plant a lot of flowers and bulbs again. If you want to send a strong hearty plant or bulb with your child, we have lots of room in our gardens to plant them. The impact our wonderful natural environment, that we are lucky enough to be enveloped in at DVMS, has on the children is immeasurable. As the weather is improves, it will only be a matter of time until we will be using our outdoor space to the fullest extent. Montessori is quoted as saying, "The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth," and we couldn't agree more.
I, for one, am counting the days... for the end of snowsuits!!!!!
Dylan and Laura.
After having had two weeks off, the children are eager to be back at school. It was wonderful to see them get right back into work as if they had never left, only now with renewed energy and with the anticipation of spring bubbling under the surface.
A few days ago, as the children were gathered on the carpet for guitar time, what looked like a mid-January snow storm outside our window suddenly caught our attention. A few minutes later, just as suddenly, it was calm again. This happened a few times before the weather finally settled down. This reminded me a bit of how the climate can be in our classroom at times -- sometimes our environment is hit with a flurry of activity before a calmness falls on the classroom, and if a visitor were to walk in they would wonder what we had done to the children to make them work so intently. This concentration happens from within the child, as though she is suddenly drawn to the work. Children have their own internal rhythms and cycles that we cannot control. We can entice them with work that we think will interest them when we've spent time observing them and what they are drawn to.
Like those unpredictable sudden winter (or spring) storms, the children are forces of nature that we can help to guide by adapting our environment to meet their interests and needs, but we can never force them to be anything other than what they are. It is our job to support them and allow them to grow into the unique individuals that they will be.
Pat and Serena.
Just prior to the March Break, a couple of parents asked if it would be possible to have a better idea of what's going on in the classroom, so I thought I would give you run down of what's happening at each level.
The first year children are looking at the Paleozoic era using Montessori timelines as a starting point, and are studying the laws that affect the universe, which will culminate in them conducting their own experiments to test those laws.
Our second year kids are examining the cycle of seasons, and will be learning about and using Venn diagrams to compare and study the relationships between the different aspects of the Mesozoic era.
The year three students are looking at rocks and minerals in the lithosphere, and have finished their examination of the Timeline of Life allowing them to move on to learning about early humans. They will also be reading a pioneer-focused story this month and examining the fundamental needs of pioneers. Probably in May, if the weather is ever nice again, they will finish their pioneer study with a trip to Westfield Heritage Village.
All the children are working with fractions, with the older kids sharing their knowledge with the younger ones. A fun way to support this at home is to order a pizza but ask them to not slice it. When it arrives, ask your child to divide it up into fractions for your family (let them do the slicing too).
They will all also be working on term-length projects. In keeping with Montessori's "freedom within limits" philosophy, they are free to choose their own topics with the guidelines of animals for the first year kids, places for the second years, and people for those in their third year.
As mentioned last month, drama is our arts focus this term. We are also looking at poetry and there will be presentations later this month. More details will come home later.
A few reminders: please check the weather and the activities on the calendar and make sure your child(ren) have appropriate clothing each day. Some extra clothes kept at the school are a good idea during the wet, muddy spring months too. Also, please remind your child that reading folders should be gong to and from school each day -- a great intro to personal responsibility. We will also be visiting the seniors at Blackadar on April 14 and 28.
The picture shows the children panning for trilobites and minerals, in order to identify items they have learned about on the Montessori timelines. It is a great way for them to realize how old the things they find on the playground can be. We will be extending this archaeological-type work by creating stories based on what they find and are fascinated by.
There is a lot of story-based work going on right now. Frecklejuice, Charlotte's Web, The Mouse and The Motorcycle, and How to Eat Fried Worms are novels under heavy analysis in Lower North.
Canada's pioneers are being explored by the third years, including the establishment of Upper and Lower Canada and the question of why they got those names. This will lead directly to work on the Great Lakes, topography, and the work of water.
In general, the third term is a time when the kids take over much of the learning. There is more collaborative group work and peer learning -- this term they really want to teach each other what they know. The environment becomes far more community-led than teacher-led.
You can reinforce this at home by letting your children take control in certain situations. Let them make decisions on things they are interested in (and deal with the results of their decisions). Encourage them to think things through and make plans, solve their own problems, and work with you, letting them control the process and determine how to accomplish tasks. Sometimes it's hard to let go, especially when we can foresee problems that will arise, but learning from our own mistakes within a safe, supportive environment is the best learning. Montessori learning, in fact.
We expect children to work because we know it permits healthy development and leads to happiness. After spending six to eight years choosing work in Montessori environments, students begin to THINK about work and its value to society. They realize that everything we have, every piece of knowledge we can learn, and everything we do depends on the work of others. Work is noble and leads to our ever advancing human civilization.
In upper elementary, we start to see "Great Work" manifest as groups of collaborators tie together the strands of their collective knowledge. The great work calls on the disciplines of geography, history, biology, language, arithmetic, and geometry to produce an integrated, holistic project that gives a complete view of a topic or interest.
In the third term, our class focus is on great work and already I see projects emerging about the work of the river, Karen (Kain) and Frank, Great Britain, a history of Broadway, and several others. The purpose of pursuing such interests is to stretch and engage the students, creating great happiness and flow while exploring the depths of human culture.
Welcome back. I hope everyone had a great March Break. Some students are still rolling in with nice new tans.
The third term is always bittersweet as the year six students, who all seem to have grown a foot recently, get ready to move on. Actually, they have already begun to move on; it's me that has to prepare for it. They have started spending two mornings each week in the adolescent environment. Besides losing the kids that have been with me for three years, the third term is always a great time for big work. The classroom routines are now old hat and expectations are clearly understood.
Speaking of the year six kids and big work, they are all working on term-long projects, exploring their chosen topics in as much detail as possible. They will be presenting their work at the end of the term in June.
You will have a chance to see some of the Upper Elementary students' work in May, as we have begun work on our science fair. We are starting with the scientific method and soon they will each pick an experiment to do and report on, so be ready!
You might also be hearing about book reports and other activities related to novels we have recently read. We are looking at different elements of literature and of analyzing and reporting on books. A closer study of the parts of the sentence complements this work, with students performing sentence diagramming at various levels of sophistication.
In the culture area, we will be working through the early explorers phase of Canadian history, starting with the Vikings up to Cartier's third voyage.
Don't forget to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about or items for the Silent Auction this week, and thank you so much to all of the parents who have helped out by donating or soliciting items for the auction. It's a small bit of effort on your part that goes a long way to helping support the Strata adolescent program.