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Like us on FacebookHilltop Montessori School                              March 15, 2013

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Annual Report
Next week at Hilltop
Notes from the Head
Willow Room
Willow Room
Birch Room
Lower El
Upper El
Middle School
One sure way to beat the winter blues is to think "Summer". And that means -- SummerFun at Hilltop! 
Annual Report
The 2012 Annual Report is now available in web and print versions.
Click here:  to read the web version. 
Print copies are available at the front desk.
Coming up...

Tuesday, March 19
Children's House Field trip to Lilac Ridge Farm

Girls on the Run, 3-4:30

Thursday, March 21
Lower El Field trip to the Latchis to see Children's Orchestra. 9:15am

Parent Conferences - Noon dismissal

Friday, March 22
Parent Conferences - 


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! 



New Leaf CSA

offers families a unique opportunity to get to know the farm that grows their food. For more information see www.NewLeafCSA.com or contact Elizabeth 254-2531 or [email protected]


Notes from the Head



Last month it was astonishing to me sitting in Laos receiving a flood of resumes for the elementary teaching positions. Not only were the candidates well qualified, many were Montessori certified. For Upper Elementary especially, this represents a big change from 10 years ago when Upper Elementary classrooms were in their infancy. Believe it or not this is close to the last time Hilltop hired an Upper El teacher.


A very professional hiring team of Tamara, Dan and Tom zeroed in pretty quickly on Jennifer Hed, who, we are delighted to report, has agreed to join the Elementary team by teaching in the Upper El with Tom.


Jennifer is Montessori certified for both Upper and Lower Elementary and has years of teaching experience in Upper Elementary Montessori classrooms in Maryland before moving to Vermont. Jennifer is the parent of graduate Natasha ('98), as well as a younger daughter and son, Naomi and Noah. As a Hilltop parent and certified Montessori teacher she helped train Hilltop's Upper Elementary teachers in the use of the Montessori math materials in 2003-04 and served on the Board. So she certainly comes to Hilltop with a real understanding of the school.


Not only is Jennifer Montessori certified, she has an MEd and an MA, is fluent in Spanish and has spent the past eight years teaching music in schools in New Hampshire and Vermont. In other words, this is one talented teacher joining an already talented Elementary team!


So if you hear some highly jubilant voices from the elementary hallway, you'll know why! We're deep in the interview process for Lower Elementary. Stay tuned!



The Tiny House Raffle is OPEN!



The Tiny House raffle is open - at least online! For those of you who can't wait to purchase paper tickets, or want to let far-away friends and family know, an online purchase option is now live.


Go to  http://tinyhouseraffle.eventbrite.com to buy your ticket(s)


Upper El students are working hard to build a fantastic Tiny House, with the help of Chad Farnum, of Farnum Insulators. The house will be raffled off as a fundraiser for Hilltop's financial aid program and Morningside Shelter (the only homeless shelter in Southern Vermont). Nearly 50% of Hilltop's families receive financial aid, and the need is growing. The Tiny House raffle will directly support our financial aid program so it, along with the upcoming vacation raffle, is a really important fundraiser for the school and we want everyone to get involved.


The raffle drawings will be held on Saturday, June 8, right after the Strolling of the Heifers Parade, on the Commons in Brattleboro.


A Tiny House is perfect for a guest room, office or studio, or mobile vacation house. It's a real house, on a trailer, and boasts energy-efficiency, wiring to connect to a power source and fine craftsmanship.


Tickets can be purchased online now, and paper tickets will be sent home and available at the front desk soon.


Huge thanks to Chad Farnum. Leader Home Centers donated materials and Jancewicz & Sons donated the windows and roofing. Be sure to say thanks when you do business with them.



Dinner Service Volunteers Needed - Overflow Shelter 


Hilltop is once again providing dinner at the overflow shelter in downtown Brattleboro. We're scheduled to serve on Monday, March 25 and it's a terrific opportunity for the Hilltop community to help out our larger community.


You can make food and drop it at school, or serve dinner, or both. Upper El and Middle School students are welcome to join in. 


Please email Ariel Nelson to sign up.


Willow Room 


Lunchtime in our classroom equates to a balanced diet of good food, a helping of language development and a serving of table manners. Children have the opportunity to be both student and teacher at the lunch table as they work together to acquire social skills. As conversation flows they learn how to take turns talking, listen to each other, respond to questions and tell stories and jokes. We often hear the children remind each other of the rules that govern conversation with a comment such as, "You've been talking for a long time, and it's time to let me talk". They also instruct each other on the healthy food choices in their lunches and why it's important to eat the sandwich or the piece of fruit before the granola bar. Table manners are reviewed and taught as well as they remind each other to use a spoon for applesauce, chew with your mouth closed and excuse yourself after burping. And sprinkled throughout this process is the adult modeling appropriate social skills.


Parent/Teacher conferences are next week on Thursday and Friday. Please remember to sign up for a time slot, we look forward to meeting with you.


Enjoy the weekend together!


Some photos from pottery class






Melissa and Ellie



email the Willow Room


Birch Room 


Building a child's Mind - Didactic Materials


"The mind needs education and training to be able to discriminate and appreciate." Aline D. Wolf


The word 'didactic' means designed or intended to teach. It also means intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment. An environment that richly provides sensorial experience aimed at sensory education accelerates the formation of intelligence. The Montessori sensorial materials are composed of concrete bits of information, which can be organized into meaningful patterns. The didactic materials give the child hands-on experience with basic Piagetian concepts: one-to-one correspondence (matching), the color tablets, serration, the long rods; and classification, the constructive triangles -- key concepts needed for abstract thinking. A child initially uses each material in a variety of levels of use. First for exploration, and then imitation. Then later for initiation, followed by pattern completion. Only when the child has moved into the imitation stages can we assume that he/she has begun to conceptualize.










Children's House staff attended a workshop Wednesday evening on the topic of Understanding Temperament. We defined the nine dimensions or traits of temperament; reviewed the three temperaments types and explored five key traits and their continuum. We then explored the link between temperament and "goodness of fit" and discussed how best to assist parents in understanding their own and their children's temperaments.



Pick-up time is between 2:45 and 3:00...that 15 minutes is the "grace period".

Drivers are still needed for the Field Trip on Tues. the 19th...please contact Rebecca Fontaine if you can help us... Thanks....


Cheryl and Sarah 


Lower Elementary 


Oceania is our latest continent study, and as we saw from our latest class graph, Lower Ellers' favorite subject is Geography!


Although everyone had lots of information they already knew about Oceania, we still have lots to learn about the smallest continent. To help us we have our beautiful biome mat materials. Where exactly is Ayers Rock, Lake Argyle or the island of Tasmania? With the help of picture cards and labels the children can identify where many geographical landmarks are located.



This week we hopped into a new exploration of amphibians. Thanks to Leah for her frog, Millie, who has come to visit this week. The Middlers investigated the body functions of amphibians and discovered that amphibians have three heart chambers compared to two in fish. The Youngers began work on the external parts of a frog.



Coming up:


Thursday 3/21: Field Trip to hear the Children's Concert at the Latchis. We still are looking for drivers. Please let one of us know if you can drive. Thanks.


Thursday 3/21 pm and Friday 3/22 Conferences. Please sign up at the front desk if you have not already done so. Thanks.


Happy Weekend!

Jessica, Kerstin, and Connie


email Lower El 


Upper Elementary 


Upper El students are now deep into new literature and seminar books. Fourth and fifth year students are reading either the classic, Witch of Blackbird Pond, or the new book, One Crazy SummerWitch of Blackbird Pond is a Newbery Medal winner about a witch hunt in colonial Connecticut. This book provides a great window into the culture of colonial New England. One Crazy Summer, a winner of multiple awards, is about three sisters who travel to see their mother in Oakland, California in the summer of 1968. The girls struggle to reconnect with their mother, a Black Panther. The voice of the narrator, an eleven year old girl, is so wonderfully authentic. This is the first time we are reading this book in literature groups. Sixth years are reading Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis. 

This is both a humorous and harrowing book about a settlement of former slaves in Canada. It's descriptions of the human impacts of slavery and freedom are the best I have read in children's or young adult literature.

In writers' workshop, students are writing myths. We have been reading myths of various Northeast Woodland Native American tribes for read aloud. After listening to each myth, students discuss the strengths and shortcomings of the story. We then discuss how students could perhaps incorporate some of the strengths into their own myths and how to avoid repeating the shortcomings. 

We are still in need of drivers for our trip to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum on March 28. If you are able to drive, please email Dan. This is always a great trip.

If you have not yet signed up for conferences next week, please come in on Monday to do so. Sign-up sheets are in the lobby.

In a couple of weeks students will begin writing our play. Our perfomance is on April 11th at 5:00. There is also a dress rehearsal at 1:00 that day.


Middle School  


As you can see from some of this week's photos, our students are hard at work raising funds for the Alabama Odyssey. Beginning with Harvest Festival last October, weekly bagel preparation, the soup subscription series, and currently our Coffee Café, the Middle School students have raised nearly $7,000. We are hoping to raise an additional $2000 before graduation. There are so many powerful elements and skills our students are building in their fundraising endeavors. There are the entrepreneurial skills of gross and net profit, all the cooking and baking skills, the presentation skills of marketing, and especially taking responsibility and ownership for the opportunity to do all that we do. It is not a given that we travel or camp at Upland or make day trips to relevant sites, our students earn it.



We see everything at the Middle School in terms of a two-year cycle. This includes our travel budget. The two-year budget including our Upland odysseys, various road trips and the annual weeklong odyssey is in the vicinity of $30,000. Our goal is that we raise at least one half of that over the two years. We thank everyone for purchasing bagels, soup, scones, and coffee during the course of the year. It really helps our students understand how meaningful their work is.




We still need parent volunteers to help shepherd us to and from the airport in April as well as maple syrup offerings. Thanks to those who have already signed up to drive and for your generous contributions of maple syrup. Also make sure you have the Alabama Odyssey parent information night on Tuesday, March 26 at 7:00 marked on your calendar. A packing list will go out prior to the meeting and if possible, the itinerary.


And now a note from Nora:


On Wednesday, the class was honored by a visit from Jamie Fisher, a biocultural anthropologist studying at UMass Amherst. Jamie's research relates to human adaptations, a topic we have been exploring as we look at the drivers of racial difference. The students listened attentively as Jamie described the indigenous population he studies in the high altitudes of Peru and the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to this group's physical attributes. Students came away from this experience pondering how physical traits such as height might be more a factor of cultural practices, such as diet, than inherited genes. Visits from experts such as Jamie are an essential component of our program, bringing students into direct contact with primary information and initiating conversations about real-world issues. In the upcoming weeks, students will draw upon all the scientific voices we have explored this semester to support a culminating position paper addressing the question: are all humans created [biologically] equal?



As you have most likely noticed, students are in the thick of a concentrated academic period. Specific outlines, lab reports, quilt squares, speech drafts, poems and songs, seminar reading, daily math, humanities readings and an extensive self-evaluation in preparation for next week's conferences are all on their plates. It is a serious time of organization and time management. The reason for much of this activity is preparing for the upcoming odyssey. This weekend is a key time for engaging in much of this work. Anything you can do to help make focused time available to your student this weekend would be helpful.


With that said, have a wonderful weekend.


Paul, Finn, Nora, and Rolf



email the Middle School


Hilltop Montessori School