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 March 6, 2015 


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Willow Room
Birch Room
Lower El
Upper El
Middle School
Next Week at Hilltop

Girls on the Run

Cultural Cooking 
Spanish 3:30-4:30

Creative Movement 

All School Gathering 

Girls on the Run

Drum Circle 3:30-4:30



Notes from the Board

The Board is working on several initiatives. Foremost among those is retaining Tamara as Head of School. The Board is pleased to announce that we offered, and Tamara has accepted, a contract renewal that covers the next three years. Tamara has brought new energy, programs, and improvements to Hilltop. We are thrilled that she has accepted our offer and will bring stability too!

We've completed an independent audit of our finances and passed with flying colors. With the FY2013-14 numbers approved and submitted, we are now able to finalize our annual report for the last fiscal year and expect to have that available within the month. We will follow-up the publication of the  FY2013-14 Annual Report with an open meeting where Rich Wolfe, Board Treasurer, will discuss the financial state of our school. This meeting will be on Wednesday, April 29 from 6-8 p.m. and we invite all to attend.

In addition, the Board is gearing up for a new strategic plan. This process will require contributions from the whole Hilltop Community. The purpose is to develop long term goals and measures to improve the school and community.  We invite everyone to participate and have a voice in building and improving Hilltop. The first step, for the community of families, will be to participate in a survey to express your feelings and dreams for Hilltop. Please look for the survey in your email next week. Prompt responses will help us move the process along smoothly. After the survey results are in and analyzed, we will hold a parent focus group to report results and discuss themes that emerged in greater depth. This community forum will be part of the open meeting on Wednesday, April 29 from 6-8 p.m. and we invite all to attend.

One of our big challenges over the next several years will be to implement efforts to expand diversity in our school and to prepare for demographic changes in the area. We have started work on these issues - we have invited an expert to our March Board meeting to facilitate a discussion on addressing and increasing diversity.

If these types of activities interest you, please consider joining the HMS Board. Serving on the Board or on one of its various committees is a great way to offer your professional expertise, experience, and time to Hilltop. The Board has an ongoing need to attract potential trustees from within and outside the Hilltop community who have experience or expertise in the following areas:  Law, Finance, Development/Fundraising, Contracting/Architecture, Agriculture/Landscaping, Education, Administration/Organization, Technology, and Community Connection. If you are interested in hearing more about joining the HMS board, please talk to Tamara or contact the Chair of the Committee on Trustees,

As always, thank you all for the many ways that you contribute to our school community. One of the best things about Hilltop is the dedication of its community to serve our children and the people in our part of the world.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Thank you all for signing up for conferences. All the slots are pretty much set. If you need to coordinate further, please be in touch directly with your child's teacher(s).

We do have room for more students (ages 5-9) to attend the Circus event - a great opportunity to have your child try out circus arts without needing to commit to a series of classes. Please sign up and have your child check out juggling!

Reminder: On Friday, March 27th, there will be no school and no childcare provided, so that all staff are available to attend the Teacher In-Service day. 

Hilltop Heroes

Thanks to Toddler and Children's House Families for bringing in food, preparing a meal and serving for the Overflow Shelter. Thank you for representing Hilltop in the community in this significant way!

Sunrise Rotary Trivia Night to benefit Hilltop Montessori School

Do you have an uncanny ability to retrieve what others may deem "useless" information? Even if you can't, we need you to come to the Sunrise Rotary Trivia Night on Monday, March 9th, 6:15pm at the American Legion, 32 Linden Street in Brattleboro.

Proceeds from the evening are going to Hilltop! Dinner is served, cash prize for winning team and tickets are $20 at the door.

Please email [email protected] to register. Teams of 4-6 players. You don't have to come as part of a team, they will assign you one if you don't have one.

As one participant said, "It's a lot of fun, great meal, you laugh a lot, gets you out of the house AND you're home by 9!"

Tiny House Build Dates!
Sign up for a Saturday to help out on the Tiny House Build of 2015. Rob, our intrepid carpenter, will be leading the effort on three consecutive Saturdays - March 21st, March 28th and April 4th. Students are welcome and encouraged to come, but must be accompanied by an adult. Email Amelia to sign up.

The Swing Dance has moved to May!!!!
Tickets going on sale soon for our "Vintage Swing Gala and Auction", May 22nd 6-10pm featuring local musicians, including our very own Jay Cook, Jazzberry Jam.

We're still looking for auction items, contact Karen if you have something cool!


Toddler Room

Asha practices pouring using a funnel

Henry works on a new puzzle

Kennedy cuts with scissors

Paisley uses a glue stick


Have a good weekend.
Ellie & Hannah



Willow Room

A visit from Penny of the Brattleboro police department (and Ciana's mom)

Astrid paints

Cheryl helps Aiden during pottery

Lucy and Bonnie share work

Please note: There will be a work-share for the Children's House on Wednesday, March 18th, the day before Parent Conferences begin. Parents are warmly invited to visit the Willow Room on this day, from 8:30-9, to experience what their children have been working on. 

Enjoy these photos from the past week,
Jonathan, Rebecca and Mariam


Birch Room

The teachers in Children's House frequently attend trainings to stay current in our field, refresh our knowledge, and learn more about children's development.  One of my favorite trainings was on the Touchpoints model of child development by T. Berry Brazleton.  Cheryl and I were talking about it recently and decided to share some of it in the newsletter.  Enjoy! 


Equilibrium and Disequilibrium in Child Development

We often think of development as a straight line, when it's really more of a zig-zag path.  Although the general direction is one of growth, it is punctuated by periods of "disequilibrium."  These are a natural part of development and are characterized by "disorganized" behavior such as tantrums, difficulty sleeping, low frustration tolerance, etc.  They can be brought on by predictable developmental milestones (such as the eruption of "two year molars") or by life events (such as a family move or the birth of a sibling).  The frequency, duration, and intensity of these periods vary according to a child's inborn temperament. 

When a child is in a state of disequilibrium, it does not occur in isolation.  Children develop in the context of family, friends, and school relationships.  When a child is going through a disorganized period, it can put a strain on some or all of these relationships.  Likewise, when someone the child has a close relationship with is in a state of stress, it can affect the child as well.

So, what's a parent to do when their child is in a state of disequilibrium? 

1) Use a team approach.  Since children's development happens in a context of relationships, make sure all the adults involved are communicating and using the same strategies for supporting the child.
2) Be persistent.  Even the best strategies won't necessarily help all the time or right away.  Give a plan a real chance to work before deciding that it isn't helping.
3) Be gentle.  This doesn't mean to stop setting limits; they are especially important right now!  It does mean to keep in mind the "why" behind the behavior and remember that disequilibrium is a part of normal development.  It also means to be gentle with yourself; these periods can be stressful for parents, too!
4) Know that it won't last forever.  Your child (and his or her family) will enter another period of equilibrium.  Your connections may even be stronger from working through this disorganized period together.

Cheryl gives MJ a lesson on vowel sounds

Vera and Dylan look at a book together

Addie and Caroline practice writing numbers

Malika works with pattern shape blocks

Please note: There will be a work-share for the Children's House on Wednesday, March 18th, the day before Parent Conferences begin. Parents are warmly invited to visit the Willow Room on this day, from 8:30-9, to experience what their children have been working on. 

Have a great weekend! 

Cheryl and Serina

Lower El

We have been happily busy with many new works, such as the Timeline of Life, new math work, telling time, geometry, South America studies, and learning when to use commas! We practiced our comma work through writing creative sentences that use commas in different ways (for lists, in dates, or before dialogue), and, for some children, macaroni pasta served as tangible commas that could be placed after words in sentences.  
Our older students are beginning to learn how to do multiplication on paper, completely abstractly.  Middlers got acquainted with the large bead frame this week, which took them from the the thousands place up to one million.  This will enable them to practice mathematical operations with larger numbers than they would otherwise be able to do with the small bead frame.  Younger students are learning about the concept of multiplication: 4x2 is four, taken two times.                                                                            
Dan unveiled the Timeline of Life on Thursday, to an impressed crowd.  This beautiful work portrays the explosion of Life on Earth from the Phanerozoic Eon to the present day (the Neozoic Eon).  When you look at this large timeline, you see that human beings have been on this planet for such a short duration of time.  The Earth was teeming with life long before humans arrived and made their mark.  We will keep busy studying dinosaurs, prehistoric plants, and other fascinating once-living beings.

We broke into groups on Monday, to study the mammals of South America.  Each group read about the mammal of their particular region, and then taught the rest of us something about it.  A spectacled bear (the only type of bear in South America) can live in the Andes Mountains with its thick, furry coat, but you'd never find a fairy armadillo there-their home is in the grasslands of Argentina.  

LUNCH BOXES/BAGS: We seem to be collecting old lunches on our lunchbox shelf, many of which are in grocery bags.  Please remind your child to take home any bags they bring in, as many of them have plastic or glass containers in them.  

Have a good weekend.
-Kerstin and Patrick


Upper El


This week brought many quiet moments of individual research for persuasive writing on public health topics, and a few less quiet moments in the art room as students explored the human body through plaster (see photos).


In literature studies, the fourth and fifth grade are currently reading one of two books: Bud Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis, is about a depression-era boy searching for his jazz-loving father. I, Juan de Pareja, by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino, describes the experiences of the half-African slave of a Renaissance artist in Spain. Sixth year students are being introduced to the Civil War through the book Across Five Aprils, by Irene Hunt-an author whose own Southern Illinois family are the subject of the book.


On recent math lesson days, the white boards and math manipulatives reflect works not only in fractions and decimals--which were frequent themes in the fall, but also finding averages, percents, negative numbers, order of operations, word problems, you name it.


Students will be returning this afternoon from our day at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), where a human body and other exhibits await. Stay tuned for a report next week.


Have a great weekend!  

Tom, Jen, & Dan 




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Middle School 


We are busily preparing for this Friday's contra dance.  On Wednesday, Keith Murphy came in and taught the middle school a number of the dances that will be called on Friday evening.  The idea is that with the knowledge of the dances, middle school students will then be able to help the younger ones.  Our students had a terrific time practicing and look forward to sharing their prowess at the dance. Many thanks to all the middle school family food and drink contributions.  There is going to be a delectable variety of foods to enjoy between dances.  Special thanks go to Lissa and Jill, our parent coordinators and the driving organizational force behind this fun and important fundraiser.  Extra special thanks go to Becky Tracy and Keith Murphy, Aidan's parents, for their generosity and terrific music.

The contra dance is an important fundraiser for our quickly approaching Alabama Odyssey.

As part of our preparation for Alabama and the continuing study of the Civil Rights Movement we have a special guest coming to the classroom next Tuesday, March 10 at 10:00am.  Scott Ainslie, a superb musician and musicologist, is joining us to sing, play, and talk about the relationship of African American music, especially the blues, to our history of race.  It is sure to be a powerful and exciting session.

 Have a terrific weekend and see you at the dance!

 Paul, Finn, and Nora

Ben sweeps the deck

Civil Rights Movement study continues

Young electrician at work


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A Note from Cultural Cooking


On Mondays after school, an adventurous, curious, wild and creative group of kids gather in the Hilltop kitchen to travel the world in search of culinary curiosities, and to prepare and taste with Lizi and her daughter Isabella (7) during Cultural Cooking Class. Many ride imaginary magic carpets to our destinations, others teleport there and some (especially Lizi) enjoy traveling in good old fashioned airplanes.  Each class we visit a different country, learn about the people who live there, practice speaking their language, read about kids that live there and prepare a nutritious, local food from each place.  Since the beginning of this academic year, we have explored almost 20 different countries and cultures of the world.


This week, we traveled to Greece and learned about the great philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, discussed some of the gods and goddesses in Greek mythology, noticed how many tiny little islands are part of Greece, and made spanikopitas, spinach triangles made with filo dough.  Please enjoy the recipe for these savory, garlicky and flaky pastries below.




Greek Spinach Triangles



2 packages frozen spinach, defrosted

bunch cilantro, chopped

2 green onions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves

lemon, zested and juiced

3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1 egg

1 package of filo dough, defrosted

2 sticks of butter, melted

salt and pepper


1) Filling: In a mortar and pestle, crush and smash the garlic and salt form a paste. Add to a medium size bowl.

2) Remove all water from the defrosted spinach by wringing it out in batches through a clean towel. Make sure spinach is very dry before adding to bowl with garlic paste.

3) Add green onions, lemon zest and juice, feta cheese and whole egg to bowl with spinach and garlic and season with salt and pepper.

4) Spinach Triangles: Melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Open filo package and place on counter covered with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out. Place one sheet of dough on cutting board or counter and with a pastry brush, paint dough with melted butter. Continue for three sheets making sure edges are buttered too.  With rectangle of filo dough placed longway, cut into 4 strips, approximately 2 inches wide. On bottom of each strip, place 1 tablespoon of filling and fold bottom right corner across to form a triangle over the filling. Flip the triangle up and then across again. Continue this motion until dough is tucked under the triangle. Repeat with each strip until mixture is done.   

6) Place triangles on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and place in a 400F oven. Bake for 10-14 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool and enjoy!

Copyright:  Elizabeth Rosenberg 2015


Community News


Give To The Groomer Event

Come to The Living Memorial Park Snow Sports Benefit "Give To The Groomer" this Saturday, March 7th, 4-6pm at The Park Warming Hut.

The ski and sledding hill nearly closed this year when the groomer machine died. With a small budget and an all-volunteer work force, the hill needs you! Free chili, cornbread, mac and cheese, cider and donuts donated by local vendors will be served.

Please help Snow Sports keep this valuable resource in our community.



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Hilltop Montessori School