Celebrating Green Up Day

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 May 1, 2015


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Next Week at Hilltop
Notes from the Head of School
Green Up Day
Summer Fun
Tiny House
Toddler Room
Willow & Birch Rooms
Middle School
2015-16 Calendar
Community News
Next Week at Hilltop

Girls on the Run 3-4:30

Cultural Cooking 
Ultimate Game vs. 
Four Rivers @ GCC 

VBike Workshop 8:30-9

Tennis 3:30-4:30

Ultimate Game vs. Greenfield @ Hilltop

Circus Arts 

Ultimate Frisbee 

All School Gathering  

Girls on the Run 3-4:30

Fire & Stone 3:30-5

Children's House Playground Work Day

Notes from the Head of School 

On Wednesday evening, we held an Open Board Meeting. Thank you to all of the members of the Hilltop community who chose to spend a couple hours with the Board to discuss Hilltop's Board responsibilities, finances, and strategic planning. We are at a terrific moment in Hilltop's story. Through much hard work over the past several years, Hilltop has achieved stability throughout the school, and we are thus in the enviable position of being able to proactively plan for the school's future.

The meeting Wednesday was a part of this process. The topics covered included:

Board Information - Introduction of Board Members (bios available here) 

Each Board member also shared why they are on the Board and what they enjoy about the experience. The common theme was their enjoyment of giving back to this school in particular, and to the Montessori and Brattleboro community in general. They also unanimously agreed that the Board is comprised of a great group of people to work with and encouraged anyone interested in joining it or a committee (such as Building and Grounds, Emergency Planning, or Diversity) to contact Patrick Keppel or Tamara Mount. 

Financial Information - Rich Wolfe, Board Treasurer, presented the finances of the school including:

  • budgeting process with proposed budgets (fiscal year from July-June) from school administration with input from program staff approved by the board in February (draft) and June (final)
  • the numbers from Fiscal Year 2013-14, fully approved by an external audit and reported in the annual report
  • the report of long term debts (about $1.4 million in mortgages on the campus) and long term savings (about $1.2 million in a campus reserve and endowment fund)

Family Strategic Plan Survey Results
 - Greg Hessel, Organizational Consultant, presented the results of the recent family survey. This will serve as input for our school's next Strategic Plan. We were thrilled to have 70 respondents who gave thoughtful feedback. The results showed how highly families value and appreciate the Montessori approach; the extremely high quality, dedicated staff; and the beautiful facilities of our school. 

As this is the only parent survey we have had this year, it was a great opportunity for families to provide input on a variety of topics, both day-to-day and strategic. Some suggestions we are implementing immediately, such as further addressing the social challenges of the elementary years (including teachers being more involved in recess), working to increase communication from teachers to parents, and paving the driveway in June! A full summary of the survey results can be found here. 


Strategic Plan Discussion - Participants (6 staff [3 are current parents], 10 Board Members [8 are current parents], and 8 other parents [including Greg Hessel]) then held a discussion about the strategic themes that had arisen from the survey. We talked about how Hilltop is different from other schools and how we would like to see it evolve. We also weighed the goals-ethical, philosophical, and educational-behind how Hilltop structures financial aid. We also continued the discussion about why, whether and how to integrate a foreign language program.

These conversations were only the beginning. The hard work comes next - finding a way to move forward on these and other issues in ways that are consistent with the community's values and sustainable.  Every person who is part of our wide community can have a voice. If you would like to be involved further, please contact us. Tamara's door is open and she welcomes your feedback and input at any time about any topic, and Mark, as Board Chair, is very interested in discussing ideas for the future of Hilltop Montessori School.

Timeline of Strategic Planning Process

Completed Tasks:
  • Read background material - Fall 2014
  • Design Team meeting - Fall 2014
  • Interview Head of School and Senior Staff - Winter 2015
  • Focus groups with staff - Winter 2015
  • Current Parent Survey - Winter 2015
  • Past Parent Survey - Spring 2015
Future Tasks
  • Board Interviews - Spring 2015
  • Community Stakeholder Interviews - Summer 2015
  • Industry Analysis and Environmental Scan - Summer 2015
  • Synthesizing Data and Planning Strategic Retreat - Summer 2015
  • Strategic Retreat - Fall 2015
  • Follow-up with Leadership Group to Translate Strategy into Action Plan - Fall 2015
  • Document Writing - Fall 2015
  • Final Plan Available - Winter 2016

Hilltop Celebrates Green Up Day!

Helping Jonathan wheel bricks to the greenhouse.

LE marks the dimensions for their new raised garden bed. 
"The olders are really making a difference!" says Luci Boyarko.
Patrick and Ben make the final mark.

 Come join us for SummerFun!

We are excited for new offerings such as Fun with Fabric, Land Art, Java Programming, and Backwoods Basics! Additionally, we are proud to offer a Montessori work cycle in the mornings for ages 3-6. This will include Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Science, and Geography. 

The Early Bird Registration offer ends soon. Make sure you sign up for SummerFun before May 15th to take advantage of the 10% discount!

Find out more about SummerFun on our website

Tiny House 
We're up to $6060.00!

Please share the link with friends and family: 

Twice Upon a Time is going to "stage" our Tiny House for Gallery Walk on June 5th! 

HUGE thanks to Kevin Warzecha, Lower El Parent and handyman, for giving up 3 Saturdays to help assemble our Tiny House.

What color should that door be?

Email Amelia with ideas.

What would you do with this extra space if YOU won the Tiny House? 

So far we've heard:
park my Harley,
hot tub,
store bikes...

Give us your ideas on our facebook page!

We need help selling Tiny House Raffle Tickets at the June 5th Gallery Walk and on the Common on Saturday, June 6th. Email Amelia if you can help out. 

Swing into spring with Hilltop!
Our party is coming up! Please let us know if you are planning on coming so we can plan accordingly. Reserve your tickets at the front desk, purchase on-line, send up a smoke signal, morse code, sky writing...

If you'd like us to send someone outside of the Hilltop community an invitation, let Amelia know.

Here's a glimpse into some of the auction items we've gathered so far:
private helicopter ride, personal art tour in NYC with an art expert, $1500 off of summer camp at Camp Cota in NH, a beautiful piece of pottery created by Hilltop parent Rob Cartelli, your child as Head of School for a day, guitar lesson, gift certificate at Bodhi Fit (thanks Hilltop parents Kristin and Jason), zip-lining adventure, 2 nights stay for your pooch at Happy Hounds (thanks to Hilltop parents Jamie and Eddie), round of golf for a foursome at Keene Country Club, 24 hour babysitting gig with Hilltop parents Rob and Katy Wolfe (worth a LOT of money!!), beautiful hand knit sweater by our very own Nora Gordon, rocket birthday party with Upper El personality, Tom Griffith, 1/2 cord wood stacked by the Middle School students, jin shin jyutsu session with Hilltop parent Madeline Fan, tickets to the Fisher Cats in Manchester NH, a week's stay house in LeMans, France, numerous gift certificates from area restaurants, pottery, jewelry, artwork, and much, much more!!!

Toddler Room

Returning from Spring Break is always a treat for teachers.  The children come back to school excited to learn and to be together again.  It's also the time when children seem so much older: they're so independent and capable.  They take on challenges happily and are thrilled when they've accomplished a task, "I DID IT!!!!!"  Here are a few of those moments: Kennedy carries not only her own belongings but her brother's too when leaving at the end of the day; Cooper climbs to the top of the big rock; and Asha cleans up his work space without being reminded.

Enjoy the weekend.
Ellie & Hannah

Back to top

Willow & Birch Rooms

"One's movements must be coordinated with the center- with the brain. Not only are thought and actions two parts of the same occurrence, but it is through movement that the higher life expresses itself." -Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori believed that movement is an important part of the education of young children that helps develop motor skill and spacial awareness. Children begin developing movement skills with simple broad movements which become more intricate as opportunity, ability, and imagination allow. Because they learn best by experimenting with a variety of movements, children should be provided with opportunities for small, delicate, and light movements as well as vigorous, fast and exhausting movements. Including times of partial or complete relaxation.

In Montessori schools, movement is also seen as a means of expression where children's dawning perceptions of shape, size, pattern, and rhythm, as well as their love of imitation, fantasy, and imagery, can be given full play. We want to promote enjoyment and exploration by providing opportunities to experiment (such as places to jump, climb, and balance). We also make suggestions to help stimulate and maintain interest in movement activities, while keeping in mind the importance of leaving children's decisions about movement and its' interpretation completely free. 

With all of this in mind, we are taking a look at how to thoughtfully add to our outdoor playground now that Spring has arrived and our time outside has lengthened a bit. Current ideas include adding tires, bricks, large wooden tree circles for walking on, and additional balls, jump ropes, and other items. If you have any extras of these items (except bricks :-) that you'd like to donate, let us know! We will be adding these upgrades to the playground at a work party on Saturday, May 9th, 9AM-12PM. Please contact Jennifer Betit-Engel to confirm joining us for this fun morning event!

Also, we wanted to send a quick note asking children to come to school in daytime clothes. It's been turning into a pajama party, which the children find a little distracting! If this creates a hardship, please send in daytime clothing and we will have your child change here. Thanks so much, and have a great weekend!

Jonathan, Rebecca, Cheryl, and Serina

Gabe gets a ride from Lydia

Playing in the sand

Jen and Talia look at the olders' finished pottery



Lower El

We had a nice return to school this week, wasting no time in jumping back into our work. Geometry lessons continued with the relationships between lines (parallel, convergent, and divergent). Middlers are working on a polygon chart: octagons, nonagons, decagons, etc. It's a great opportunity to weave a prefix lesson in there, too.  

In Writer's Workshop, we are beginning fiction writing. Older students are exploring the elements of fairy tales, and starting to write their own. For younger students, realistic fiction is the next writing work. Henry Huggins, by Beverly Cleary, has served as this week's mentor text. Everyone has created a main character so far, complete with a name, likes and dislikes, and a problem that he/she will encounter.  
We will have our second Author's Tea of the school year on Thursday, May 21st, at 9:15. All are welcome! This is the day before Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day.  

Our beautiful felt tapestries still hang in the classroom, and we plan to have them there permanently. The students are all so proud of their contributions to this project! Thank you again to parents who stopped by to work side by side with us.  Many children asked where they could get the materials to do their own felting.  Marcy Schepker, our visiting artist,  is fortunate enough to live in Harrisville, NH, home to many stores that supply felting goodies. For those of us here, Beadniks sells little bags of dyed wool and needle felting kits. Wet felting is a simpler way to felt, with no chance of stabbing oneself with a sharp, barbed needle-making it ideal for very young children.  Dish soap, warm water, and the friction of your hands rubbing the wool are all that is needed.  What a great sensory experience! Googling "How to felt," "Wet felting beads," or "Wet felting soap" yields many fun videos of novice and expert felters demonstrating their craft. In class on Thursday, a student said "I wish I could felt all day!"  

Our field trip to the Brattleboro post office is on the horizon: Friday, May 15th, from 10 until the tour is finished. We are still in need of drivers for this and our Springfield Museum trip on Friday, June 5th. We are getting much better at promptly adding important events to the Hilltop calendar, so please check there if you are ever in doubt of a date-or let us know if we have forgotten to include one!  

Enjoy your weekend.  
-Kerstin and Patrick


Upper El

With an eye towards the rapidly approaching end of the year and its events (Classroom Museum, Writer's Tea), the students this week were jumping into research and writing. The major topics presented this week were the physiographic regions of VT (and how they effect the ecology and human life in those regions) and genetics - specifically inheritance. The fourth and fifths are all reading Counting on Grace, a 'Vermont Reads' book from a few years back. The book was inspired by a photograph taken by Louis Hines of a young mill girl in Pownal, Vt. The sixths are reading a series of short stories to finish out the year.


We also have begun work on lamps we are making for the Silent Auction on May 22nd. 



Middle School 

It is good to be back in school again. We leapt right into creating our performance.  Collaborating on a show is the way we process our recent journey to Alabama.  Coming together in conversation, hearing each other's ideas, exploring what it means to become an ensemble through Finn's theater exercises, and then separating into smaller groups and individuals to write songs, scenes, and poems is a powerful means to understanding our transformative experience. The dates for the performance are Monday and Tuesday, May 18th and 19th at 7:00pm. We are very excited to be performing in the new theater for the first time.


All of this creating raises the body temperatures of many of the students who found great relief jumping into the still frigid waters of our pond in this annual rite of seasonal passage. There is not much lolling around or frolicking in the pond. It is more a jump, dunk, and exit strategy. It goes without saying that no staff member has yet to put even their big toe into this glacier like body of water. Perhaps it has something to do with the development of the pre-frontal cortex.


Alongside the building of the performance and cold-water therapy, students continue their mighty march to greater math understanding and exploring their identity (or variations thereof) through the building of masks. You can see footage of some of the performance lab here.


2015-16 School Calendar
For those of you who like to plan ahead, the 2015-16 calendar is ready. Click here for a pdf.

*Please note that fall Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day has moved from Thanksgiving week to the Friday before Fall Foliage Day. Save the date.


Community News- LOTS to read this week!

Bike Revolution 
Comes to Hilltop!

Tuesday, May 5th 
at 8:30AM
(right after school drop-off) at the Arts Barn

Most of you by now have seen Dave, Rachel, and Ely for the past 2 years on their orange Yuba ElMundo cargobike, climbing up to school virtually every day. Many of you know that the "El" part refers to the electric-assist system that allows them to climb that crazy Hilltop hill with relative ease. But perhaps you don't know that Dave has a contract with Go Vermont, our state alternative transportation agency, to revamp bike culture in Vermont and make it more transport-oriented.


Dave is offering free workshops at Hilltop to discuss how anyone can get on board the bike boom that's sweeping the nation. He'll show you the new generation of bikes that are totally relevant to Vermonters, our landscape, and our lifestyles. You'll also learn about the freshly launched low-interest loans that will make it so easy to be part of a bike revolution that's providing families with way more exercise, outdoor time, fun, and an opportunity to open our senses to the world and authentically respond to climate change.

Find out more about how this shift to the bike is coming to Vermont by visiting VBike's website. Dave will also be offering a similar workshop on Friday, May 15th after school. If you are unable to attend either, just email Dave to set up a special time. Thanks!

GoFundMe Campaign for Mariam Diallo
As some of you know, Mariam (CH/TP Assistant and AfterCare Provider) had to have surgery this summer and then again last week had a second surgery. While the school has been able to support her through this, there have been extra costs for her. We are pleased and touched that several Children's House parents have been thinking of ways that individuals could further support her. Stephanie Betit-Hancock has put together a GoFundMe page for anyone interested in helping Mariam, which will be posted on our Facebook page as soon as it is available. You can also email Stephanie directly for the link. 

What are you going to do with that old tent and those unused sleeping bags?
Consider donating to the Overflow Shelter. The Shelter is closing for the season so all the folks that would stay overnight in the Shelter are now going to be out in the elements. Contact Amelia if you have something to donate.

Battle of the Boards Trivia Night, May 11th
Are you the person who can name that tune in under 2.4 seconds? Or knows the name of every obscure river in the world? Then you need to come to Trivia Night at the Legion on Monday night, May 11th - 6:30pm. This will be a "Battle of the Boards" and the team that wins receives money for their organization. Let's represent Hilltop! The more teams the better. Contact Amelia for more information.

Guiding Good Choices Parenting Class - COMES TO HILLTOP
Guiding Good Choices is a free, interactive, five-session course for parents and caregivers of 4th to 9th-grade children. The series provides the tools and strategies to meet the challenges of guiding your child through adolescence. The course covers setting clear guidelines with both positive and negative consequences, controlling and expressing anger constructively, promoting family bonds, and preparing kids with 'refusal' skills for the time down the road when trouble may tempt them.

The course takes place at Hilltop Montessori on Wednesdays from May 13th through June 10th, 6:30-8:30pm. Facilitators will be Julianne Eagan and David Petrie.

Register by May 9th by calling (802) 257-2175, or visiting 
WindhamParentingEd.org. Childcare offered upon request at time of registration. 

Girls on the Run Benefit Event, Sunday May 3rd

For much of history, women's efforts to take charge of their own destiny have been considered a threat to men.

In an unusual collaboration, the Brattleboro Concert Choir join Girls on the Run to explore this still timely topic. Join these four extraordinary women:
* Madeline Kunin, former Governor of Vermont
* Becca Balint, State Senator
* Robyn Ostrander MD, Senior Medical Director and Medical Director of Child & Adolescent Services, Brattleboro Retreat
* Rev. Lise Sparrow, Pastor of Guilford Community Church


And our moderator, Kate Jellema PhD, Director of the Program in Nonprofit Management at Marlboro College

- to have a conversation touching on topics such as:
* Women's Success: a threat to men? To other women? 
* No More Mean Girls: Peer acceptance and support make all the difference
* Gender archetypes: an evolving concept


- to give Delilah her due. And maybe understand Samson a little bit better, too. 


4 pm - 5:30 pm

Centre Church, 193 Main Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301, United States

$10/$5 students
Proceeds will benefit Girls on the Run Vermont


Hilltop Montessori School