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Like us on FacebookHilltop Montessori School                           January 18, 2013


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Next week at Hilltop
Hoodies are back
Notes from the Head of School
A Note of Thanks
Hilltop Benefit Auction
Willow Room
Birch Room
Lower El
Upper El
Middle School
Illness Alert
As we're sure you have heard, this year's flu season is epidemic in scale. Your child must be fever free for at least 24 hours before returning to school. Thank you for your understanding.


SLOW SLOW SLOW D-O-W-N on Guilford St.
Be good neighbors!

And please... no chatting or texting while driving on campus.


Coming up...
Monday, January 21
Martin Luther King Day

Thursday, January 24
Winter Sports! Pick up Mount Snow skiers/boarders at 4:30pm
Hoodies are BACK
If you missed out on ordering a Hilltop Hoodie last month, good news! We're placing another order. Either download an order form here, or pick one up at the front desk. We'll place the order on February 1.



If you have an item, service or community event you would like to post in this space, email Amelia. Deadline for entries is Thursday afternoon. Entries will be posted for one week unless requested otherwise. Thanks! 



Robot Camp at Hilltop!
February 18 - 22 / 9 am - 2 pm with Laura Pratt. This is a fun, creative camp for students in grades 1 -3.
[email protected] or call 802.254.3538 for information.

MAKE ART at River Gallery School 
The 15 week Winter Spring semester begins Feb. 4th.
Art Classes for Children, Teens, and Adults. Please call Donna at 257-1577 or email; [email protected], for more information or to enroll. Scholarships, installment payment plans and work trade options are available - inquire at the office. Check out our website



Winter Camp is a collaboration between the Brattleboro Food Co-op and the Boys & Girls Club. Camp will run Mon.-Fri., Feb. 18-22, from 8:30-5pm.  

During the week we will embark on outdoor adventures and expand wilderness skills, make homemade candy and flavored popcorn for a movie outing, explore the Art Museum and excite the imagination with food art projects, learn kitchen skills while creating fun snacks for our field trips, including wild, messy fun at the Mad Science center and a taste of spring with a picnic at Smith Botanical Gardens in Northampton. 

Cost for the week is $100 for Club members or $150 for non-members. Lunch and snacks are included.  Contact Ricky at the Club (802-254-5990,  ext.4) or Vicky and the Co-op (802-246-2842) for more details or to register.  




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Notes from the Head of School 


Change:  Opportunity...Loss...

Before the December break Jessica Thomas told me that after 27 years (hard to believe) she has decided it's time to move on. I remember hiring Jessica - she started as an assistant in our first year of after-care program at Centre Congregational Church, then moved up as an assistant in the lower elementary program when it moved to High Street, took 6-9 training, became head teacher, moved again to Austine, and finally to this wonderful location on the hill. As she said, she knew she'd been here a long time when she began to teach the children of her former students!

The wheels started spinning. I kept thinking about the Elementary space. I thought about how mature the Elementary program had become, and how ready it seemed for the next big step. I knew, too, that this step had been contemplated before, but the time hadn't seemed right.  And I knew that this step would mean a change that ran counter to what Hilltop cares most about - people.

In my heart, I knew I had to do what I believed was right for the school, and so I approached Dan and Tom and put forth the idea that had circulated several times before: what if Dan became Head of the Elementary program? He has the full Montessori Elementary training for ages 6-12; he could help develop a fully integrated, fluid Elementary program, and he has a B.A. in Art from Yale. The art room could be a classroom and art studio. He could teach art through the cultural curriculum. He could teach geometry. He has worked with CORE and could make sure that the literacy pieces flow smoothly. He could teach both a Lower El reading group and some Upper El seminars. Together the Elementary team could decide what support was needed and fully develop the very rich Montessori curriculum.

But there was reluctance for the same reason that I had - it meant the loss of a person.

The loss is Helen. It is a significant loss. Helen has worked in both Hilltop's Middle School and Elementary program as an art teacher. She knows the school and has created lessons that have matched the curriculum under incredible time, money and space constraints. She is a Hilltop parent. She is an artist.

When I spoke to Helen she could immediately see the benefit to the program. Trying to manage teaching art in short periods with large groups as a "special", adapting as best she could her understanding of the Montessori curriculum under these circumstances was frustrating. She was grace and courtesy personified as I outlined the idea.

After several meetings, time to think through the suggestion, check it out with Tamara, and accept the reality of losing Helen, the advantages to the program burst forth. The Elementary team has met several times to imagine how it could work and will be crafting the vision with Tamara, whose Montessori Elementary experience will be critical as the program evolves. Dan will be the Elementary Head. He will teach, lead, observe and plan. He will be the eyes and ears - and spokesperson for the Elementary program.

I am deeply grateful to Helen and to the Elementary team for understanding and accepting how much this change will mean to the school, and to Tamara and the board for supporting the vision. It's an extraordinary opportunity to grow. The Elementary program will become, at last, all that it can be.    


We strongly encourage all Elementary parents to attend Moving Up Night on February 5th to learn more about this big change. Tamara Mount will be at school to discuss the shift and answer questions.

Email Tonia


A Note of Thanks 

Dear Hilltop Community,


It has taken me a while to realize that no matter how long I wait, I will not be able to find the words to express the depth of my gratitude and appreciation for all the caring, support, and generosity offered by Hilltop Community throughout Steve's illness and after he passed away.


Saying "thank you" suffices to show appreciation for many everyday gestures of kindness - someone picks up a pen that you dropped or holds a door open for you. But somehow those words don't express the feelings I have in being so generously supported by a whole community of people. Nevertheless, those words are all I can come up with.


Thank you all. I feel very fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful and caring community.


Warmest Regards,

Carol Reynolds


Hilltop Benefit Auction - Volunteers Needed! 

Sign up sheets are in the front lobby for a variety of auction activities - from soliciting items to marketing and outreach in the community. We need every family to participate in this event. It's a huge fundraiser for the school but it only succeeds with your help.


Do you or family members have something special to donate to the auction? An apartment in a city that you'd let someone use for a weekend? A vacation house? What about that unused kitchen gadget still sitting in its box? Please let Leslie Myette know if you have items to donate to the auction. Email [email protected]


Willow Room 

Snowflake Hunt/walk in the woods


Snow study

Penguin measuring


Brrr! You can feel a chill in our classroom or maybe it's just the excitement around our study of Antarctica, the winter season and snow! This week we have been busy with so many activities ....


On Monday we had a new "visitor" in our classroom, a life-size representation of an Emperor Penguin. Our Emperor Penguin measures 4 feet tall and provides the children with countless opportunities to measure and compare their heights to that of the penguin. Children gain an awareness of what it means to measure, the tools we use to measure and the math language around it. Language development is supported as children engage in conversations comparing heights such as "I am taller than you but I am shorter than the penguin", or "We're the same, I'm as tall as you". Each day as the children check to see how much they've grown from the previous day, they begin to develop an understanding of time and how they grow.




On Wednesday at circle we acted out how a snowflake is formed in the atmosphere. After that we bundled up and headed outside to the woods for a snowflake hunt. The children were busy catching snowflakes on their noses, and tongues and mittened hands. Some of the children caught snowflakes on black construction paper and then used magnifying glasses to take a closer look at the individual crystals. We even sat quietly in a circle to listen for the sound of the snow as it landed on our jackets and snow pants. One child remarked, "It sounds like a very quiet rain when it lands on my jacket." As we walked out of the woods one child said, "Hey, it looks a lot different in the woods. There's snow everywhere."


Going on a nature walk allows children to experience and interact with nature. Children's senses of wonder are established and integrated into their learning, and that helps the children to process and internalize the world around them. The symmetry of a snowflake, tree boughs bent under a blanket of snow, and the stillness of the winter woods are wonders to small children (and to adults who haven't lost that sense of wonder!).


Enjoy the long weekend.


Melissa & Ellie



Birch Room 

On Saturday January 12, Sarah and I attended the 2013 MSM Annual Conference at Dean College. This year's conference focused on Innovation and Montessori Education. The keynote speaker, Harvard University's Tony Wagner, spoke to the necessity of innovation for today's learners and how Montessori gets this exactly right. His most recent book: Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Charge The World was the focus of his lecture.


Later we each participated in several workshops: Teaching for Artistic Behavior, Oceans: A Comprehensive Curriculum, WWMD? What Would Maria Do? and Guiding Children with Special Needs in the Montessori Classroom. We had a fulfilling day sharing with colleagues, reconnecting with old friends and learning new information to bring back into our classroom.


In the Teaching for Artistic Behavior workshop we discussed collaborative art. We are currently experimenting with a collage that represents winter.




Lower Elementary 

With our long weekend approaching, the Lower El students heard the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his tremendous, peaceful efforts to make our country a fair and just place for African American people, and for all people. The Olders worked more with his story, collaborating on a biography in anticipation of their annual biography study.  Next week, they will visit the library to choose a subject for this assignment, and they will spend much of the week reading and putting into their own words the life of a famous and accomplished person.  


On the grammar front, everyone has been busy with the many works in the classroom. The Middlers and Olders are making their way through the ten pronoun drawers, deepening their understanding of what a pronoun is, and what it's purpose is. The Middlers learned that the pronoun is the taller, slimmer purple pyramid - a bit similar to the noun, but less important, and so less sturdy in structure. The Montessori story of the pronoun states that it is dark purple to show it's relationship to the noun, but also because perhaps it is jealous, or angry, that it is not a noun! The student who uses the pronoun drawers must organize the many cards into categories: articles, nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, and conjunctions. Then, they assemble a sentence from these cards, using a control card. For example, they might read "Karen ate the apple pie;" "She ate the apple pie." It is now their job to make these sentences, copy them down in their language book, and symbolize them.


Our "castle work" is another grammar material, although you might not know it at first glance. This mini environment is used to create and label scenes with the appropriate cards. The sentence "The king eats a pretzel," for example, can be shown with the little figures from the castle. Each part of speech has it's own cards, and children, depending on what they have learned so far, lay out the cards and manipulate the figures accordingly. In addition to this work, the Youngers have been occupied with searching for verbs in their books, and acting out various verbs with the verb command cards. "Jump," "Run in place," and "Walk to the door and wave" are all nice opportunities for movement during the morning work cycle, as well as good practice with verbs.  


Have a nice weekend!


Jessica, Kerstin, and Connie




Upper Elementary 
Fifth year students have begun a study called Journey North. Journey North is a web based math/geography challenge created by the Annenberg Foundation. Each February the Foundation chooses 10 mystery sites located around the world and challenges students to find them from the clues provided. Every Friday for eleven weeks the Foundation sends our class the sunrise and sunset times for these sites. Using this information, students compute the photoperiod, the length of daylight. Each student tracks three of the sites and, as a reference, Brattleboro, over a period of the 11 weeks. A graph of this information yields an indication of each site's latitude, especially as it relates to the Brattleboro data (here at 43 N). It is also illuminating to watch the photoperiods all converge at 12 hours on the equinox (March 21), regardless of their location.

In a few weeks the Foundation will send each site's sunrise time GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Because the earth spins at a fixed rate, the passage of time relates directly to distance east/west, so we can then calculate each site's longitude. For the last six weeks of the study the Foundation will also send cultural clues about each site to aid our search. In April we will submit our guesses and find out if we chose correctly!

Rachel, Sheridan and Mira plot locations on the map

Remember to mark you calendars for our Poetry Performance on Wednesday, February 13 at 1:30.

Middle School  
The flu has taken a big chunk out of my week and as I write this I am wondering how much more effect it is going to have. My wife, Susan, and I are supposed to fly to California tomorrow morning to participate in a conference sponsored by "Music That Makes Community". Susan is the music director of St. Michael's Episcopal Church who is sending her and I am accompanying her and sending myself. I am on the road to recovery but she might be just beginning her saga. So I may be in the warmer climes of California for most of next week or back in the classroom. Regardless of where I am or have been the Middle School continues their world of exploration through the poetic film projects, health classes, mask making adventures,
To Kill A Mockingbird seminars, and math classes.


Next week an exciting new addition to our yearlong look at the role race has played and continues to play in our history begins. In our never-ending quest to deepen the integration of our studies, Nora has created a new curriculum, The Science of Race. This study will employ lab-based classes, guest speakers and seminars to explore evolution, heredity, and social science. Nora will be sending home a curriculum late next week for you to look at.




Enjoy the long weekend and stay healthy.


For the HMMS Staff,





Hilltop Montessori School