Hilltop Open House on Tuesday, January 28th! Tell your friends. Current families also welcome to attend - check out what's to come for your child at Hilltop, 9-11am
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Mark Your Calendar
Monday, January 27
  • Contra Dance Party Planning Committee Meeting: 8:30 am in kitchen
  • Spanish (4+ and first grade): 3 - 4 pm 
  • MS Basketball: 3:15 - 4:45 pm 
Tuesday, January 28
  • Hilltop Open House! 9 - 11 am
  • Drum Circle: 3 - 4 pm 
Wednesday, January 29
  • Bagel Lunch
  • Beginning French: 3 - 4 pm  
Thursday, January 30
  • Keystone Capital Campaign Committee Meeting: 8:30 am in Toddler Room 
  • Winter Sports (No All School Gathering) 
Friday, January 31
  • Pizza Lunch 
  • Junior Bakers: 3 - 4 pm
  • Ukelele: 3 - 4 pm 
  • MS Basketball: 3:15 - 4:45 pm  
Coming Up...

Tuesday, February 4
- Moving Up Night for current parents moving up to a new program and prospective parents of students applying to the school. A presentation by the program directors and teaching teams with a question and answer session will follow. RSVP by contacting the Admissions Office, 257-0500 ext 101.

Friday, February 7 - Kid's Night Out
at the Middle School. Email for reservations.

Monday, February 19 - Parent Education Program "Navigating Social Media and Electronics Use"
**see below for details

Tuesday, March 11 - Curriculum Night
6-8 pm What is this "Montessori Peace Curriculum" that we hear talked about? For many families, this component of a Montessori education is a mystery. Come hear what the Peace Curriculum is and how it is implemented at each age and stage of our programs. The evening will conclude with guest speaker, Karen Blumberg (see bio  below in Parent Ed article) speaking on how to reinforce this approach at home. Pizza and childcare for provided for kids.

Friday, March 28th - Hilltop Family Dinner and Contra Dance at the Dummerston Grange with very special musical hosts and Middle School parents, Keith Murphy and Becky Tracy. You won't want to miss it!

REMEMBER: To see events further in the future go to the calendar on our website.
Notes from Tamara

A group of us traveled to Franklin, MA to attend the Montessori Schools of Massachusetts annual conference. As many of you have probably experienced, these professional conferences can be inspirational or a real drag. This one was fantastic! We all came back with new ideas and enthusiasm for things to implement at school and at home!

The keynote speaker was Sarah Ward (www.executivefunctionthreapy.com) who spoke about "Practical Strategies" to help with "Executive Function Skills". She had great ideas for Children's House through Middle School and on. For example, she shared that instead of using checklists to help someone who has trouble getting ready to leave the house, it is better to have them "picture" what they will look like when they are all ready to go. For many, it helps to actually have a photograph of themselves when ready, and use that to learn and do the detailed steps. She also had suggestions for helping with long term assignments, time management, etc. She might be a great person to have as a parent education speaker!

Amelia attended two sessions presented by Starr Snead (no, she is not a Dr. Seuss character, but a school consultant). She got Amelia all fired up about "Type A" events, giving portfolios, and forming event and development committees. Watch out!

There was an excellent presentation from Middle School teachers at The Inly School (http://www.inlyschool.org). Much of it reinforced what our program does, as our teachers have shared information with that program in the past. They had specifically given thought to how to adapt the "Growth Mindset" put forth by Carol Dweck (http://www.mindsetonline.com) to their Middle School program, as they transition their students into taking tests and seeing grades. The group had a great discussion about how "Hard is good!" If work is too easy, no mistakes are being made, grades are perfect or close to it, that means things aren't challenging enough. Mistakes are opportunities for learning, when they are coupled with self-reflection - useful to remember at any age.

One session was led by the Learning Specialists team from the Montessori School of Northampton (http://www.northamptonmontessori.org). The attendees discussed their models for identifying and supporting students who need additional help within or outside of the Montessori classroom. Another session was about integrating iPads into the Montessori Elementary classrooms and considering coding as the next basic skill to address as educators. It was useful to hear, as we continue to assess and improve our services at Hilltop Montessori School.

As with the board training that we had last month, much of what we learned reinforced what Hilltop has done to date, confirmed what we are working on to day, and inspired us to continue to evaluate, grow, and improve!


NEW! Parent Education Offering

"Parent Education Program: Navigating Social Media and Electronics Use" 

Morning and Evening offering!

Monday, February 10th 8:30-9:30 am and 7-8 pm

Karen Blumberg, Lower El parent to Ben Berg and experienced Social Skills Counselor, will present and lead a discussion about how we as families can support our children in the new arena of social networking and accessible technologies. For many of us, our children are living in an electronic world less-familiar to us. How can we give them the tools to manage their behavior and reactions productively?

Please join us and share your questions and experiences as we work together to navigate this world.

Karen has 18 years of experience working in the Brattleboro community as an outpatient therapist, a school-based clinician, and a counselor at a small private practice where she helps children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. Karen also facilitates life skills groups at the Brattleboro Area Middle School and at The Grammar School and runs workshops for Teachers and Para professionals for The Windham Supervisory Union and Parent Evening Programs for The Hinsdale High School and other schools. We are thrilled to have her offering her expertise and experience to our parent group.

Please RSVP to Ann or sign at the front desk.
Sign Up for Childcare on Parent Conference Day, March 28
Exciting nature activity offered on Conference Day, March 28th

Friday, March 28th, (No School) 8:30 - 12:00 Cost: $25

Brattleboro Environmental Education Center (BEEC) will lead our children in a morning of science and nature-based activities. Please email Ann or stop by the Front Desk to sign up by Friday, February 14th, for your child to participate in this fun activity.

(Childcare during your conference time will be free of charge.  Afternoon childcare from noon until 5pm will be available at the regular rate of $7.50 per hour.)

Board Notes
In the January meeting of the Board of Trustees, the Board unanimously approved the preliminary budget for the 2014-2015 academic year.  The budget was generated by Tamara and Colleen with the input of the Board's Finance Committee.  Among other things, the budget is aimed at dealing with the uncertainty of Vermont's health insurance landscape as it seeks to set up an insurance exchange for employers like Hilltop.  Next month, the Trustees will focus their attention on enhancing the long-term financial health of Hilltop by again seeking the input of the Finance Committee as well as outside consultants. 

Mark Loevy-Reyes
Board President

Thanks to all the families that came to our Stepping Stones Toddler Program Open House today.


Birch Room

Last Friday we read the book Martin Luther King Day, by Linda Lowery. During our follow-up discussion we explored the meaning of the words respect, fairness, and peace. We spent a long time talking about how other people, such as Mohandas Gandhi, showed the people of India peaceful ways to change unjust laws and stressed that even one person could change things for the better. This week Sylvia and Kaya decided to pursue this idea further. They wrote a question "How can you change the world and help people?" This question is now on a clipboard waiting for your response in the front lobby!


My parents always told me to never assume. However, at least once a week, I am reminded of this by one of my students. Yesterday, while working with the Movable Alphabet, I asked Sebastian if he wanted to write the words he was spelling. I whispered in his ear, "go get a clipboard." He gave me a quizzical look and then whispered back in my ear, "what is a clipboard?"


Cheryl and Sarah

The Birch Room 



Willow Room

Morning Snapshot

10:30 - 10:50

The room is a buzz with happy and busy children:


  • Talia and Aiden help Leo construct an airplane using construction paper and tape.
  • Hailey builds phonetically correct 4-letter words with the small movable alphabet.
  • Lila is reading the book, Spring.
  • Avery punches out a circle he has traced using the metal insets.
  • Tucker decodes 3-letter words with short a and matches them to the corresponding picture cards.
  • Hazel traces a square using the metal insets.
  • Senji and Max build an extension with the brown stair and the pink tower.
  • Corbin works on an animal tracks book.
  • Ava reads the Bob Book, Muff and Ruff.
  • Rhys works on a penguin nomenclature book.
  • August, Delia and Ciana chat while having snack together.
  • Mark computes the table of 6 with the multiplication bead board.
  • Lydia is home with a cold.  (We hope you feel better soon!)


We hope you enjoy the weekend and stay healthy!


Melissa and Ellie


Lower El

How long?  How much space does it fill? 
Length and volume were the units of measure we studied this week in Lower El, with rulers, measuring tapes, measuring cups, cup, pint, quart, half-gallon,  and gallon jugs as our tools. Partners busied themselves in the room, measuring the circumference of each other's heads, the length of various objects, and determining how many cups, pints, and quarts fit in a gallon.

Our second Fundamental Needs discussion took place this week, too, as we moved from those things we need in order to survive, to what we need to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Adornment, culture, and religion were the topics of conversation. Fundamental needs collages created a buzz in the room, as children explained their picture choices: "A plane is transportation!"  "Cereal is food, and that's a fundamental need!"  Some students replicated the fundamental needs charts that live in our classroom. 

A math fact challenge has been issued to all students in Lower El.  We are encouraging everyone to master their addition facts.  The +3s were what we focused on this week.  We invite you to help your child practice these facts at home.  The more playful the practice is, the better.  Some children use flashcards in the room, while others prefer to lay down a playing card - a three, say - and then place another one next to it.  Whoever announces the sum of the two cards first gets to keep that card.  It's fun, it's math, it's fun math! 

EXTRA CLOTHES: Please remember to fill your child's extra clothes box with winter wear. There are many near-empty boxes in the hallway.  
WASH: If anyone is willing to cart away our much-used work rugs, cushion covers, and dust cloths for an occasional wash, we would greatly appreciate it.  Please email us or stop by if you feel the desire to add to your laundry load (for a good cause).  

Have a warm weekend!
Kerstin and Patrick


Upper El

This week, the often-heard phrase "love of learning" is what comes to mind when walking through the upper el class. After introducing the building blocks of chemistry, pointing out hands-on class materials, and turning the kids loose on the periodic table, the place is literally buzzing. There is regularly a gaggle of students examining one of the big elements charts on the wall or pouring over related books. Students are applying current math and geometry work to make pie charts of the distribution of elements in the universe, oceans, and atmosphere. Kids are excited to check out the wonderful youtube series (www.periodicvideos.com) found by Leah S. and her Dad.  


Older students studying human body are making models of the cell (ask Lily how to incorporate food into virtually any study this year ...), flip books and slide shows on cell division, as well as presenting diaries, historical maps, skits and newspaper articles about their Westward Expansion topics.  


On the subject of geography, finding one's assigned lunch table on designated days now involves matching clues to various table maps of countries traversed by the Silk Road, yet another new area of study. We then hear discussion of this capitol or that country throughout the lunch period.  


Quieter moments are found sharing poems in a large group circle. The students are being introduced to two poetry forms a week, then writing, sharing, and getting feedback on their work. They are able to offer constructive criticism with honesty and sensitivity. In short, it is a complete joy to be working with these individuals at this time in the year.


Goodbye to a Mentor...

Joan Daly, a teacher educator with the Center for Montessori Teacher Education, was an important teacher and mentor to Kerstin, and Patrick, and me. Before she began training teachers, Joan was a Lower Elementary teacher for over twenty years. Joan was at the same time both wonderfully loving and no nonsense, a perfect combination. We learned so much more from her than simply how to present Montessori lessons. She taught us how to be patient when a child grapples with a new work, how to make someone feel both challenged and supported at the same time, and how to always model humility. Joan passed away suddenly this past summer, but she has been very present with us this year. We talk of Joan often. She had many sayings that we often quote. The one we recall most often is, "Just play. Play with the children." Joan believed that play is an important part of engaging children in learning and that it helps build community within a classroom. She felt that when teachers engage with children in a spirit of play it helps build the relationship between the teacher and child. Joan taught us that when we bring a spirit of play into our classrooms, we are respecting both the child and the spirit of childhood. Joan believed in the unique potential of every child, and she taught us that play is a wonderful way to help nourish and engage that potential.


When I observe in the Upper and Lower Elementary classrooms, I see a lot of wonderful work happening and it looks a lot like play. Measurement activities in the Lower Elementary this week resulted in equal amounts of learning, spilled water, and laughter. I observed two students wearing huge grins as they worked on a math fact memorization activity that engaged their bodies and their brains. I watched, and heard from across the room, a rather raucous reading group lesson in which the teacher was laughing as much as the children. In the Upper Elementary, teachers and students alike have been gathered wide-eyed around experiments about heat. Students have been building models of cells out of jello and candy and making flip books of white blood cells attacking a pathogen. Real work, but also real fun. Last week I observed three students working to name all the parts of a trinomial cube in algebraic terms with their eyes closed. They were laughing as they waved their hands around searching for pieces and raced to go as fast as possible. They were learning (a+b+c)3 and playing at the same time.


I have been wanting to write a piece to honor Joan since the beginning of the year, but it would never quite come together in my head. On Thursday afternoon, Tom launched a hot air balloon with the children during recess. He did it because it was a science lesson, because the balloon would be beautiful against the clear blue sky and snow-covered ground, and because it would be really fun. As the students cheered and then chased after the rising balloon, I finally figured out how to write about Joan and all that she has passed on to us. I miss her very much.


Dan Filler 




Middle School

We spent this chilly week continuing our exploration of conflict. On Tuesday, Ann Braden, the founder of Gun Sense Vermont, spoke with us about her work raising awareness about gun laws and working through the legislative process to make change. Some student reflections from Ann's visit:


"Ann really made an impact on me personally. She said that even the smallest deed can make the biggest difference." Jazmin


"I like the gentle approach Ann takes to change our gun laws. I know from experience that Vermonters can be very stubborn. It is really inspiring that she is working in a field overpowered by men." Isabella


"I agree with her theory that the way to control gun violence is not just through laws but also working harder to help people with mental illness and other things." Ian


"Ann believes that, if people trust and look out for their neighbors, they will stop having to rely on guns to feel safe." Izzy


"It was inspiring to see how one person started an organization, stuck with it, and keeps her high hopes." Malick


Next Monday, we are hosting Jackie Trepanier from the Brattleboro Justice Center who will be talking to us about their work in reparative justice and then conducting a classroom workshop on mediation. During the week, students presented their collaborative "World Awareness Projects". These presentations focused on an international, national, or domestic conflict. All the topics were difficult to contemplate but important for us to be aware of. We talked about domestic abuse, gangs in America, the heroin problem in Vermont, civil war in Syria, child soldiers, gun violence, and capital punishment.


While we explored the common issues of poverty, gender, and race that seem to permeate these conflicts, students are also contemplating and writing about their personal thoughts about peace. Next week these writings will be the beginnings of a film each student will be making that attempts to explore what peace means to them.


Community News

Let's Help Morningside Shelter fund a playground! 
All you have to do is follow this link and vote for Morningside to receive funds for a new playground. That's ALL you have to do! Doesn't get easier than that! Please vote today!

Hilltop Family Looking for Housing!
The time has come for us to move on from our current sweet spot.Looking for another!  While we'd like to have access to town, it's more important that it be affordable.  Must have some sort of garden space and safe place to play for our 4 year old son.  We value quiet and privacy, and community!  Need at least 2 bedrooms, preferably 3.  Bathtub, Wifi access, and washer/dryer preferred.  Hoping for $1000 all in, but willing to consider more for a sweet spot.  Also interested in possible work shares, barter, or otherwise mutually beneficial arrangements. Our timeline is May 1st, although it can be sooner. Please spread the word, and thanks for keeping us in mind! 
Tara, Josh & August Davis

Hilltop Alum and son of former faculty looking for a room to let for a month:

Shannon Ketchum, son of former PE teacher, Maureen Ketchum, has landed a job in Brattleboro and needs a room to rent while he begins his job and looks for a permanent home. Email Nora if you have a lead for him. Thanks!

River Gallery School new session starting soon!
Classes for our Winter/ Spring semester run February 3-May 30th (15 weeks), and midterm enrollment is also an option. Scholarships available. Visit their website for more info.

Harris Hill Ski Jump is looking for volunteers. This year's jump will be happening on February 15 and 16th. If you are interested, get in touch with Children's House parent, Kathryn Einig. If you're not familiar with this quintessential Brattleboro event, you are in for a treat. Visit the Harris Hill website for more information and discounted tickets. www.harrishillskijump.com
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