Sign up to help with dinner at the Overflow Shelter on Monday night. Email Emilie.

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Mark Your Calendar
Monday, December 9
  • MS Basketball: 3:15-4:45pm   
  • Hilltop hosts at the Overflow Shelter - please have food to the shelter by 5:30pm 
Friday, December 13
  • MS Basketball: 3:15-4:45
Coming Up...

Tuesday, December 18
- Lower El Poetry Presentation, 8:45am

Thursday, December 19
- Upper El Museum, 2pm

Friday, December 20 - Upper El Museum 8:30-9am

Friday, December 20, Noon Dismissal
"Hilltop Ginormous Cookie Swap/Sale and Snowflake Tricky Tray". Bake a batch of cookies and/or just buy a tin and fill up for the long vacation ahead! SEE BELOW FOR MORE DETAILS.

REMEMBER: To see events further in the future go to the calendar on our website.
This week we'd like to thank:

Grandparents and Special Friends

We would like to thank all the grandparents and special friends who joined us on the Monday before Thanksgiving. The children and staff are extremely proud of our school and of the work/learning we do here. It is extremely rewarding to share it with other important people in our lives. Thank you!!

The Jannen-Smith Family who continues to donate crates of apples each week. The children and staff LOVE this local, healthy snack!

Notes from the Head
There are so many things to highlight and appreciate about how Hilltop Montessori School is a true Montessori school. One that came to mind this week is how wonderfully "prepared" the HMS environment is. Amelia and I met with Tara Davis earlier this week to discuss how we can partner with Morningside Shelter to help them "prepare" a corner of their facility to engage children. [See below.] Our meeting reminded us of how beautifully prepared the Hilltop Montessori School environment is:
  • a spectacular outdoors site and space 
  • a spacious, custom building designed for exactly our purposes with each program area sized for the students it serves
  • classroom materials/projects designed to engage students and encourage concentration and a love of learning
  • skilled, trained and experienced teachers who give the children freedom to gain independence

Years ago, long before seeing this school, I wrote an article about how Dr. Montessori explained the importance of the "prepared environment." It is so rewarding to see how wonderfully the HMS environment embodies her ideals.

Kids' Corner at Morningside Shelter
The face of homelessness has changed, as we know. At Morningside Shelter residents are, all too often, children. Tara Davis and her many helpers at the Shelter are designing a "Kids' Corner" at Morningside. Their vision is a space with Montessori characteristics. They've come up with a "woodland" theme and an ingenious way to make this dream happen. They've created a registry where for donors to pick and choose how they want to help. Not all items cost money. They are looking for gently used items as well as skills. Please take a look and help out if you can. Many thanks!

Click here to see the Morningside Shelter's Kids' Corner Registry

The Ginormous Cookie Swap/Sale and Snowflake Raffle is coming!
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice, there is one thing we have in common this time of year. COOKIES. It is officially cookie season. And we plan to celebrate!

Join us on Friday, December 20th at the noon dismissal for a "GINORMOUS Cookie Swap/Sale and Snowflake Raffle".

First of all, to make this truly a Ginormous swap/sale, we'll need lots and lots of cookie bakers. Don't worry if all you can pull off is the Tollhouse recipe on the back of the bag! Here are easy- to-follow guidelines:
  • Bake a batch of cookies (usually yields at least 2 dozen)
  • You should make the cookies on the smallish side (you can always cram 3 in your mouth if you need to)
  • Make sure the cookies are "Holiday Display Ready"   
  • Feeling trapped by the "cookie" label? We welcome other treats too... brittle, fudge whatever!
  • Please bring a list of ingredients for those who might have to avoid nuts or other allergens

We'll be selling different size tins for you to fill up with an amazing variety of cookies. AND that's not all. We'll have hot dogs for the kids AND will have a variety of wonderful items in our "Tricky Tray" Raffle. (we've adopted Tamara's New Jersey terminology here - it's catchy, isn't it?)  


Some of our fabulous raffle prizes include: 1-hour massage, oil change, Side Hill jams, Wine basket, the coveted knitted snitch (ask your children about this one - a fave from last year returns!); concert tickets, tickets to see the Springfield Armour Basketball team, restaurant gift certificates, karate and ice skating lessons and much, much, more! Raffle Tickets on sale SOON at the front desk. Items will be displayed in the front foyer as they come in starting on Tuesday, December 10. 



Financial Aid
The SSS website for online financial aid applications is now open and the deadline to apply for next year is Jan 15, 2014. A Guide to Financial Aid pamphlet is available at the front desk.

Barn Update


Here comes the SUN! The folks at Integrated Solar have been busy installing brackets on the roof of the Children's House and we expect the panels to follow shortly. Here's to livin' off the grid!

Ingram Construction continues to work on the standing portion of the barn, framing some interior walls, while discussion continues on the roof trusses and sprinkler installation.

Leland Smith
Barn Committee

Birch Room


Stone Soup Celebration


Our study of celebrations around the world introduce children to a range of cultural traditions and offer an opportunity to experience the wonder of each custom. 


Our goal is to focus on how children would normally experience each festival within their culture: the special foods, songs, dances, games, stories, and presents - a mixture of experiences aimed at all the senses of a young child.


One of our basic aims is the inspiration of the child's heart. We celebrate the moral and spiritual themes such as love, kindness, joy and confidence in the fundamental goodness of life in simple ways that encourage the child to begin the journey toward being fully alive and fully human. Everything is intended to nurture within the child a sense of joy and an appreciation of life.




Beginning November 1, Middle School students have been visiting/mentoring in our classroom. We enjoy their weekly visits.



Willow Room

The holiday spirit is alive and well in our classroom and the children are busy sharing stories of their holiday celebrations and traditions. Eyes sparkle and shine as they talk about Christmas trees, stockings and decorations. The Youngers jump up and down in delight and anticipation while the Olders discuss and debate the "magic" of the season.


As we enter this winter season the activities in the Cultural area reflect a wide variety of holidays and traditions celebrated around the world. Nurturing peace and an understanding of different people and cultures are important principles within our Montessori philosophy. When we study the festivals and celebrations of others we provide the children with opportunities to discover the similarities and differences of all people. We plant the seed of understanding, the understanding that we are all on this journey of being human. Through our studies the children gain a better understanding of those around them.


Today we made latkes that are traditionally prepared during Hanukkah (we're 1 day late!). The children ate a lot of applesauce and latkes during snack; lunch boxes may come home with leftovers. Special thanks to our Middle School helpers - Aidan, Bella, Emmanuel, and Izzy.


Talia, Lydia, and Aiden watch Melissa fry latkes

Corbin, Senji, Izzy, and Rhys grate potatoes

Aiden, Emmanuel, and Talia peel potatoes

Lila, Max, and Bella craft frying pans and latkes


We will be learning about many different holiday traditions and celebrations over the next two weeks including Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Winter Solstice, Ramadan, and Kwanza. If your family has any special holiday traditions you would like to share with our class please talk with us so we can work to include them in our studies.


We hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Melissa & Ellie

Lower Elementary
Two important math lessons were given this week in Lower El, to a chorus of "Oohs" and "Aahs."  The first was the introduction of the hierarchical cubes, in which the students were shown not just the "simple family" of units, tens, and hundreds with the math materials, but the thousands, ten thousands, hundred thousands, and, finally, the one million cube.  Each material grows increasingly larger, until the children see a huge green cube, representing the millions, brought into the room by their two teachers ( who did, it must be admitted, overact for dramatic effect).

This lesson was followed on Thursday by a lesson from our guest teacher, Tamara, who introduced us to "Infinity Street."  The "Simple Family" lives on this street, in a modest home.  As we look down the street, however, we see that their neighbors reside in increasingly larger houses to accommodate their size: the family of Thousands, Ten Thousands, and Hundred Thousands; the Million, Ten Million, and Hundred Million family lives next door.  You can just imagine the size of these houses, as they grow to fit each family!  Our follow-up work for these lessons is practice with place value and reading large numbers - REALLY large numbers!  

In our poetry studies, we have been focusing on polishing our writing.  We "trimmed the fat" from a wordy poem, leaving fewer words with more meaning in it.  Line breaks and the white space surrounding a poem were also discussed.  We focused on this, and reading our poems aloud in front of an audience.


POETRY REMINDER: Our performance is on Wednesday, December 18th, followed by a potluck breakfast.  If you are interested in contributing to this breakfast, please let us know as soon as possible.  We will have a sign-up sheet outside our room, on the bulletin board.  You can also email us to let us know if you will be bringing anything.  

INSIDE SHOES are a must these days, as the ground becomes wet and muddy. We are trying to keep our carpet clean!

Enjoy your weekend!
Kerstin and Patrick

Upper Elementary

Upper Elementary students hit the ground running this week turning their bubble-map brainstorms about their research topics into paragraphs and working on projects for our Dec. 19-20 museum (save the date!). In addition, students engaged in a variety of activities:


  • Cutting and pasting to show equivalence between rectangles and parallelograms;
  • Debating the need for a Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, or writing persuasively about which of the first ten Amendments was and is most important;
  • Discussing which estimation strategies could help us approximate an answer to a fractions word problem;
  • Making a dramatic declaration, on bended knee, of dependence and loyalty from the viewpoint of a transitive verb towards its direct object (maybe you had to be there, but it did inspire imagination!);
  • Measuring lengths of string and forces on a spring scale needed to lift a given mass with various pulley systems;
  • Building the imposing cube of a trinomial with our beautiful colored wooden cubing material;
  • Viewing some beautiful radish, tomato, and turnip seeds saved from a local garden, following a lesson on biodiversity (check out the Svalbard Seed Vault project in Norway; it is a veritable modern day Noah's ark);
  • Watching Tom, pretending to be one of the step counters who measured long distances in the ancient world by counting paces, forget what thousand-and-something number he was on and go back to start at zero (the lesson was really on Eratosthenes' method for measuring the circumference of the earth (200BC), but this little joke did rather put things in perspective).



Upcoming Events:


On Monday, December 16, the Upper El will be celebrating Saturnalia with a potluck feast of Mediterranean foods (and a few dishes from colonial America perhaps). Saturnalia was the Roman holiday marking the winter solstice. It was named after the Roman god Saturn. The Saturnalia was the most popular holiday of the Roman year. It was an occasion for celebration, visits to friends, and the presentation of gifts, particularly wax candles, perhaps to signify the returning light after the solstice. Homes were decorated with greenery. Candles and lamps chased away the spirits of darkness. Students should bring in a small dish to share with their classmates. We will send home some good websites for recipes.


Please come visit the Upper El Museum on Thursday Dec 19 from 2:00 until pick-up. The Museum will also be open from 8:30 until 9:00 on Friday, December 20. Students will share their cultural projects.


We are still in need of parents to help us with Present Making Day on Friday, December 20. We need parents to lead small craft projects for students from 9-12. Present Making Day is a very fun, relaxed morning.


Middle School


Our exploration of place, identity, and history continues to deepen and broaden. This past week saw students going every which way to conduct their photo shoots for the "Society Project" or ensconced in front of a screen with their research scattered about them drafting their book for the "Before Our Time History Project". The next steps are to construct a framed photo collage of their community subject, scheduled to hang at Amy's Bakery during the month of January and build their history book, which will be on display at the Brooks Memorial Library once again throughout January. The final piece will be the digital montage film. This is an exhaustive process of learning Final Cut Pro on our computers and creating a compelling community portrait. Please mark on your calendars the evening of Friday, January 17 for the exciting premier of these films at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. No doubt it will be the social event of the new year.


Students are currently reading the final chapters of Ray Bradbury's elegiac novel, Dandelion Wine. In this stunning and moving book, characters move through time in a single summer and are constantly reminded of the beauty and endless wonder of life even as they approach the end of what they know. At the same time, the eighth graders have been visiting their elderly companions every Friday morning. It is like living and experiencing the book one morning a week. Here is a sampling of their weekly reflections:


            "I got the feeling that she thought she was boring me. She wasn't. She fascinated me with her wisdom." (Zack)


            "Connie does have a very strange tendency to not want to live to one hundred (she is 98). She would tell me that she heard that if you smile or laugh you will live longer so she said she needs to make a sour face all the time so as to not live as long." (Miles)


            "When I walked in, Miles was attempting to teach her how to play cribbage. "It's been seventy years since I played cribbage", she said. When Miles realized we were three people, he suggested we play a game called, "Oh Hell" which neither Connie or me had played. Connie said, "at ninety eight and a half years old, I would rather be thinking about heaven than hell." (Zack)


            ".... she will remember me as a friend and companion. This time will shape me for the rest of my life and will help me take into consideration how old people live, love, and learn." (Mac)


            "I think animals can tell when a person really loves and values them. When Julia pet my rabbit, she and the rabbit instantly calmed down. I could almost see the memories flooding back to her. We spent the whole time petting the rabbit, at one point I think I saw tears come to her eyes." (Isabella)


            "This week's Pine Heights visit was largely uneventful, but I did realize something that I had noticed before, yet had not taken in: these people are just waiting to die. That's not the worst part though, the worst part is that's all they can do." (Colin)


            "Today I walked in and the first thing she said to me was, "I could die at any moment." I don't know why she thought of that or why she wanted to tell me. We played Scrabble again." (Jazmin)


Next week is their final official Elderly Companion visit. Students are creating a gift, a card, and words to express their gratitude and celebrate their new friendship. Even though we won't be traveling Friday mornings, these relationships do not need to come to an end. Both Holton Home and Pine Heights welcome continued visits and I know the residents cherish these relationships.



Remember our Tiny House?

Last year, the Upper El led by parent, Chad Farnum of Farnum Insulators built a "tiny house". We sold raffle tickets and made some money for Hilltop and Morningside Shelter. Well, in case you were wondering what happened to our "tiny house", we received an update from its new owner, Valerie.

I wanted to shoot you and everyone at Hilltop a line and let you know that the sweet tiny house has made it to its new home in Durham, North Carolina.  When I found out I won the house, I was in limbo about where I'd be living next (plus, I had nowhere to park it here in Asheville).  My partner and I ultimately decided to move to Durham and finally made the big move with the house on Monday.  I plan on using the house as my office - I've been self-employed for almost three years, and it will be soooo amazing to work "outside" the home.  Thank you for letting me park the house at the school again over Thanksgiving weekend and for bearing with me while I figured out all the logistics.

Hopefully, we'll get more updates from Valerie. We're planning on building another tiny house next year... stay tuned!
Community News

Get your tickets now for Oliver! at New England Youth Theater while they last. Performances this Friday, Saturday 7pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm and next Thursday-Saturday nights 7pm and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm.   



On December 15th at 1p the Bruins Alumni will play our own Brattleboro Greyhawks in a benefit game for the Brattleboro Hockey Association.  Come have a good time and support the many Hilltop kids taking part in the Brattleboro youth hockey programs.
And don't forget the raffle.  Win an autographed Bruins jersey, a signed stick, and more.  Go to for details and tickets.



The River Gallery School has received a grant that enables us to offer full and partial scholarships to students for our upcoming short course and spring term enrollment.  We will work with each family to determine what they can pay towards the cost of the six-week short course in December and January or the fifteen-week spring class starting in February.


Our midterm course runs for six classes from December 2nd to January 24th.

The fifteen-week spring semester course runs from February 3 to May 26th.


This is a wonderful opportunity for students who might not otherwise be able to take advantage of high quality art programming in a safe and nurturing environment. We would love to have as many students as possible be able to benefit from this opportunity. For more information, please contact the River Gallery School.



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