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 A joyous celebration last Friday afternoon! 

Like us on FacebookSeptember 12, 2014 

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Next week at Hilltop
New Children's House Teachers
Development Update
Community Events
Birch Room
Willow Room
Lower El
Upper El
Middle School
Next week at Hilltop

Monday 9/15

Cultural Cooking CH-4+ and Lower El 3.30-4.30


Going Far (Cross country running held at Academy School) - Upper El 3.10-4.10

Soccer MS 3.30-4.45


Tuesday 9/16
Spanish CH-4+ and Lower El 3.30-4.30

Mountain Biking Upper El and MS 3.30-4.30

Soccer Upper El 3.30-4.30

Parent Orientation Night TP LE MS 6-7

CH UE 7-8


Wednesday 9/17
Fire & Stone Lower El 3.30-5

Historical Fencing Upper El and MS 3.30-5

Soccer MS 3.30-4.45


Thursday 9/18
All School Gathering 9-9.20


Drum Circle All Ages 3.30-4.30

Soccer Lower El 3.30-4.15


Upper El Pinnacle Trip - overnight


Friday 9/19

Pizza Lunch

Soccer Upper El 3.30-4.30

Parent Orientation Night - Tuesday September 13
Please come on Tuesday night and get "oriented" to your child's (or children's) program. This meeting is an important opportunity to see the teachers, learn about the curriculum for the year, and participate in the community that your child spends every school day with. This information will help you communicate with your child about their school day.

Toddler, Lower El, Middle School - 6-7PM
Lower Elementary, Children's House - 7-8PM

Child care will be provided from 6-8PM Please sign up at the front desk if you haven't already.

If you have any questions or concerns contact Jennifer at the Front Desk. 

We look forward to seeing you Tuesday evening!

Notes from the Head of the School

The Importance of Blending 

the Three Years within a Program

One of the critical components of an authentic Montessori program is mixed age groups, usually three years in the same classroom. Hilltop has always had three years together for Children's House, Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary. At times labels for the three years within each grouping have been used. To further blend the years, we are moving away from the using grade names and only occasionally using the "Younger", "Middler", and "Older" names. The more fully these three years are mixed, the greater the benefits. A few of the advantages of having the mixed ages are:
  • Older children solidify their learning and confidence when helping or teaching younger children, and younger often learn better from another child than from an adult.
  • Children can learn a skill or topic when they are developmentally interested, not at a predetermined time when students are "normally" learning that topic. All children of a set age do not need to be learning the same skill.
  • Children can take the time they need to work on a topic and then move to the next, whether that be longer or shorter than others, without being labeled "ahead"/"advanced"/"accelerated" or "slow"/"remedial"/"special". A child with particular strength in one area can move more quickly through material, while a student who needs more practice on concepts can take more time. In doing this, they are just getting the "lessons" and doing the work that is right for them, no labels necessary.
  • Social diversity among ages gives more choices for friendships allowing for different levels of maturity and interests among ages. Students are not restricted artificially by chronological age but have a greater variety of friends to choose among.

In this type of environment, the distinctions of grade and the perception of someone being ahead or behind their grade don't exist and students see each other, and themselves, more as individuals learning what they need to learn, able to help others in some topics and benefiting from others in another subject. Elementary age students might wonder at being in a math group with so many older children, or being in a reading group with younger children. In time, however, these perceptions break down and students see themselves and others engaging in material that is interesting and appropriate for them. They also begin to relish their roles as teachers themselves.

This mixed age grouping is not only for specific lessons, but also for the choices of follow-ups to the cultural/science lessons. For example, with the Lower Elementary class studying Nouns, there is one follow-up work to "label the environment", another to list nouns that fit into categories (things that are "fuzzy"), and another work of identifying nouns in a "big book", or classifying concrete and abstract nouns. If a child is really getting into nouns, they could do them all!

In conjunction with this academic and social mixing, we also have projects that are built into the traditions of each classroom, especially in the third year of each program. The "Olders" of Children's House have pottery class in the winter; the "Olders" of Lower Elementary their biography and atlas projects, and the "Olders" of Upper El their Individual Study Project (ISPs). These traditions are important rite-of-passage and leadership opportunities at each program level.

We need partnership from parents to help reinforce the fact that people learn things at different times and paces at Hilltop Montessori School. Each child works on the lessons that they are ready for and interested in:

  • when your child wonders why they are in a math group with so-and-so, explain that the groupings are determined by who is ready for each lesson
  • when your child talks about a new friend, rather than asking what grade that child is in, ask what your child likes most about them, or what they talk about, etc. (For additional tips on questions to ask your children that get more conversation going than "How was your day at school?" check out this article.
  • if your child wants to be in a reading group that is doing chapter books, encourage her to read more with you at home to become a more fluent reader (it takes practice, not smarts)
  • if your child is asked what grade they are in by a friend or family member, please help them explain the three year groupings and use it as an opportunity to explain one of the many attributes of Montessori.

If you have any questions about this, or any other aspect of the programs here, please send me an email or stop by to chat!

Garage Party! Friday, September 19

We figured if PARTY was in the headline, you'd read on! Have you ever been in the situation where company is coming and you throw things into a closet or shove stuff under the bed? Well, that's kind of what happened here at school. Instead of the closet or under the bed, we used the garage. 


Now it's time to clean it out. Are you game to help out? You may find hidden treasures to take home with you!  If you are brave enough and have some free time after school on Friday, the 19th, meet by the garage at the end of the parking lot near the soccer field. There may even be refreshments! Guaranteed good time. Let Jennifer at the front desk know if you can make it and see you there!


Bonnie Harris Tuesday September 23
Parenting educator and renowned author, Bonnie Harris will give a talk focused on the concepts of her book, "When Your Kids Push Your Buttons, and What You Can Do About It", here at Hilltop!

 Tuesday, September 23 at 6pm.


Childcare and pizza for children available. Sign up for childcare at the front desk.


This talk is FREE and open to the public, so tell your friends!

Save the Date(s)!
Saturday, October 4th
Join the Hilltop Flash Mob and Hike for the Homeless on Saturday October 4th. Let's try to beat last year's number of 25 Hilltoppers! You can find your own sponsors or just donate as a member of the Hilltop team. Wear your swag and support Morningside Shelter on the 4th. Email Amelia with questions.
Friday October 17th will be our 2nd Annual Fund Kick-Off Carnival. We're looking for gently pre-owned stuffed animals to serve as prizes.  Bring into the front lobby. Want to get involved with this event? Email Emilie Kornheiser or Jen Betit-Engel.
Thank You


Larry Siegel for donating a lovely and good as new microwave for the new barn kitchen.


Bo Foard for manning our grill at last week's party. It was hot, but he was cool under the pressure.




And to Andrea Burke and her mom, Stephanie Weber for donating and caring for the great new healthy plants in the breezeway and front lobby. They sure do spruce up the place! 


After Care


We have had many students as new additions to AfterCare and to the After School Programs. Thank you for signing up and for your patience as we work through a logistics with these new programs, new staff, and new facilities.
AfterCare is working well with a group for Children's House with Jaime and a group for Elementary with Becky. In nice weather days they have been having snack outside on the picnic tables and enjoying our beautiful outdoor campus. On bad weather days, they are in the new Arts Barn!
If you need to add your child to After Care for a particular day, please call the desk the day before (or earlier) to get on the list. If you don't know until the morning of, please either write it in the book at the front desk and/or email/call the front desk <f[email protected]>.
We included the phone numbers for Jaime (978)766-5300 and for Becky (203) 824-3272 in your welcome packets for you to use in an emergency, or to reach them if you arrive at a time when they are not visible from the playground or in the Arts Barn. They may be off on an outside adventure! (To add your child to AfterCare, please go through the front desk, rather than asking Jaime or Becky directly.)


Elementary students need to bring their own snack to keep them fueled through the afternoon.
Like with the playground, if you pick up your student from AfterCare and want to supervise them playing in the gym, you are welcome to use this wonderful new facility. We do ask that you take care to use proper clean shoes, supervise them well, and wrap up by 5 p.m. so our staff can head home to rest up for the next day of caring for your children!


Toddler Room
It's been a very busy week in the Toddler Room!



Birch Room

We had a busy week in the Birch Room getting to know our classroom, our outside environment, and each other!
Working together. 

Caring for our classroom.

Meeting our new friends Finn, Leo, Dylan, Gabe, Vera, and Ayla (who missed our photo day). 

Getting to know each other. 


Willow Room

We are off to a wonderful start in the Willow Room! Children have settled nicely into their new classroom, exploring and observing the many new (and for some, familiar) activities. During our group times, we have been connecting as a classroom community. This begins with names, sharing, and singing together. We have also gotten to know our Peace Area very well, and shared what each of us can do to be peaceful.  


Shells, fish and other objects from ocean life are included in activities around the classroom. The children of the Willow Room are excited to have a new classroom friend: Cao Cao, our classroom beta fish. As the seasons change, these ocean themed objects will too-our shells may turn to leaves and apples and signs of fall.  


Outside, there has been much excitement. We are enjoying our new playground with bikes, trikes and scooters. Needless to say, the new path has seen plenty of use already. We look forward to watching leaves change around our playground, and continue to enjoy the harvest of veggies and flowers grown in the garden and greenhouse. See you soon!  



Jonathan and Rebecca 

 Avery is making three letter words using
the movable alphabet

Moses and Astrid explore colors of the rainbow. 



Lower El
The first eight days of Lower Elementary have been action-packed!  Our new community is learning and playing together, and becoming more comfortable with the idea that summer is in the past tense.  It has been a pleasure to observe so many busy children, working on new and familiar works.
The studies which we have begun include:

-Noun work: naming, listing, and distinguishing between different types of nouns
-Biology: clarifying the characteristics of living and non-living things, and discussing the five kingdoms of life: prokaryotes, protoctista, fungi, plants, and animals
-Writer's Workshop: We are focusing on the "small moments" in the writers' lives, and stretching and polishing these moments into story gold
Math: Becoming reacquainted with the bead frames and bead bars
Geography: our study of Asia began with a close look at the biomes of that continent and the many countries that are part of it
Music: Jay now leads our Friday morning circle, and, wow, are we happy to have him!  It's a great day when you can begin it with singing; we think your children would agree.

FIELD TRIP to Black Mountain: Thank you to those who have signed up to drive!  We are still in need of car space for eleven children.  Please email Kerstin and Patrick as soon as possible if you can drive.  Our trip is scheduled for Thursday, October 2nd

Sharing This Year: In order to give everyone our full attention during sharing times, we have divided the class into groups of three.  They will take turns sharing every week.  Next Monday, Group A will begin our sharing time, followed by Group B on Sept. 22nd, and Group C on Sept. 29th, and so on.   Please help your child to remember their sharing day so that they can bring in an item that is meaningful to them.  It could be a photo, a shell from the beach, or anything (other than toys) that they hold dear.  If they do not have an item to share, but rather a "talking sharing," they should have an idea of what it is they will share before they arrive at school.  This will help make their sharing more interesting and help their friends to be an attentive audience.  Sharing is a choice and does not have to be done, but we encourage everyone's voice to be heard.    
Here is our first sharing group:
Group A (sharing on Monday, 9/15):     

INSIDE SHOES: Please remember to send your child to school with inside shoes!  It's getting muddy and we would like to keep our floor, a valuable work space, clean. Thank you for your help!

Have a great weekend!
Kerstin and Patrick

Tamara ushers us into a new year of handwriting work. 

Patrick discusses the characteristics of "living and non-living" with the class, and the five kingdoms of life: Prokaryote, Protoctista, Fungi, Plant, and Animal.

Shoshana, Corbin, and Pete busy with rhyming
words and noun work.

Davey concentrates on a puzzle map.

Pete, Kaya, and Sylvia trace and color metal insets,
an early Montessori handwriting lesson. 

Ava works on concrete and abstract nouns. 

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Upper El

Each year we start off the new school year with the Story of the Universe. This lesson provides a context for all that we study each year. Although we do sometimes do the traditional Montessori Story of the Universe lesson, we also like to present different variations of this lesson to maintain student interest or to highlight a certain part of the universe's story. This year, the lesson focused less on the story of the universe and more on the scale of the universe and everything in it. The lesson discussed scales of time as well as physical scale. As part of the lesson we watched a video called Powers of Ten, by Ray and Charles Eames. You may enjoy watching this nine-minute video with your child over the weekend. It is pretty amazing. 


Upper Elementary has plunged into the work cycle and community building this week.  


Our first lit/sem groups are reading A Wrinkle in Time, Crash, and Seedfolk for the olders.  We have reviewed previewing non-fiction, taking notecards, and looking for the most relevant information with newer students to the class.  Students are using these skills in their group research on cell-related topics.  Our math groups have all begun.  


We began a unit on narrative writing to kick off Writers' Workshop.  We began our year-long study of U.S. History with detective casework in which groups had to interpret a growing mound of evidence, explaining how the evidence (later: primary documents) support their conclusions.


And finally, math sequence is up and running with a vengeance!  Students are picking up where they left off with three-digit square roots or starting off with the multiplication of binomials and trinomials.


Our older returning students have also met to plan ways they will help shape our class this year regarding the ways we celebrate together, clean the room together, present ourseleves at all school gathering, enhance our recess options using our beautiful surroundings, and build our community with valuable games.


All in all, it has been a very exciting week and a half so far!


Thank you to families for respecting our need to keep peanuts out of the classroom environment this year! (Tree nuts okay in your own child's lunch.)


We are looking forward to our Pinnacle Trip NEXT week, Thursday September 18.


Leah and Eliot brainstorm small story moments to start a writers workshop until on narrative writing.


Tula and Leah made a personalized version of a meter stick--a  measurement strip as tall as they are -then worked to divide it into 100 equal "centi-me"parts.

Emmy and Ben examine evidence for a mystery case: kickoff to using primary documents in U.S. history.

Sam and Eliot record information from a cell layout (parts and functions of cellular organelles) 

into their culture notebooks.


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Middle School

Upland adventures


Archer entertains

Guarding the bread oven

Foccacia makers

David leads a mushroom forage

Circle Talk
David introduces the Angel of Death

Focaccia hot from the oven
Staying Warm

Community News


Hilltop Montessori School