The Light in the Darkness

December is the darkest month of the year with the sun setting as early as 4:30pm.  Our world too, often faces metaphorical “Decembers” when tragedies strike; tragedies that create an unimaginable darkness that can consume hearts, minds, and lives.

Recently, I received a letter from St. Edmund’s Academy in Pittsburgh.  St. Edmund’s is close to the area in Squirrel Hill where a shooter killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue.  The letter said that the Head of School was deeply touched when he walked into a local coffee house and discovered that FWM alumni and FWM parents were paying for the coffee for the local community.  The Head decided to share this story at an all-school assembly with the faculty, staff, and students.

The letter I received states, “It is unfortunate that such horrific events should be the thing that binds two communities together.  Your example of strength, and the kindness you have shown, provides hope for us all.”  In addition to the letter from the school, twelve 2nd graders also wrote letters and drew pictures of thanks for the FWM community.

Each of us has the potential to bring light where there is darkness; acts of kindness and love can change the trajectory of people’s lives.  As a school, FWM is intentional in helping children understand the power of compassion in dispelling the dark and bringing hope to a fractured world.  In this month of darkness, I hope you and your family find moments to celebrate the light that is around and within us.




10 Insights to Enhance the Joy of Learning

This past week, I shared the below article written by Scott Kaufman titled, “10 Insights to Enhance the Joy of Learning” with FWM teachers.  I wanted them to notice that the work they do each day matches the below 10 insights.  You will notice the same as you read the below excerpt from Mr. Kaufman.  Enjoy!   – Chris Robertson, Head of School

#1: The joy of learning comes from the experiences of success

“A teacher should favor such teaching methods that enable the achievement of little intervening goals as a part of a greater learning process: smaller achievements func-tion as catalysts towards greater overall goals. These small steps are important when it comes to the joy of learning.”

#2: Play provides a possibility to experience the joy of learning in the early school years

“Although a child does not consider play as a tool for learning, play itself represents important and meaningful activity. Even if play does not produce anything significant or concrete from an adult’s point of view, a child structures his/ her own environment through play. Thinking and action merge during play, and by means of play, a child takes over in terms of handling their social, cognitive and physical environment. Playing is the child’s way of seeking pleasure: why is this matter not tapped into more in teaching?”

#3: The joy of learning enjoys an environment of freedom

“Children’s free play should not be regarded only as side action that occurs when nothing important is happening and all the ‘real’ tasks are completed. Free play is relevant to a child and can be considered free, typical and valued child activity without any demands from adults or attempts to subordinate it as an instrument. A free student is inquisitive and creative.”

#4: The joy of learning does not like to hurry

“As the joy of learning is often connected with finishing a task or solving a problem, hurry does nothing to enhance the achievement of these goals. The activity itself can act as a significant source of pleasure and joy.”

#5: The joy of learning springs up in situations in which a task and can actor converge

“The balance between a learner’s abilities and the task is crucial to the joy of learning. A learner has to consider the task meaningful to him/herself because true commitment to the task does not occur without considering the task valuable. One also has to feel able to manage the task. The feeling of capability provides a learner with courage and represents the meaning of the joy of learning as daring to meet challenges.”

#6: A student naturally strives for the joy of learning

“A student wants to learn. One adds one’s energy in order to attain positive experiences and with these experiences gains positive emotions in a pleasant situation.”

#7: The joy of learning is often a common joy, too

“The company of other students and friends and a teacher’s genuine interest are premises for experiencing the joy of learning.”

#8: The joy of learning does not include listening to prolonged speeches

“A student should be at the centre of the learning situation. If a teacher alone is active and talks considerably, the student’s role is just to listen, get tired and bored with the lack of action and doing.”

#9: The joy of learning is based on a student’s abilities

“The students’ opportunities to participate in the decision-making of their own learning and to be allowed to make choices that support their learning, strengths, and success, strengthen the joy of learning.”

#10: The joy of learning is context bound

The joy of learning appears differently in every teacher’s classroom. There are many ways to establish a learning environment that enables students to experience the joy of learning… the most important thing is for every teacher to consider the joy of learning or lack of it in his/her classroom and to think of ways to provide his/her own group with opportunities to experience joy.


Happenings & Events

Wednesday, December 19th

Parent Holiday Breakfast at 9:30 a.m.

Please join us for a special holiday breakfast for all parents and guests in the Commons.  Also in the Commons will be tables where 8th Graders will be collecting donations for global charities.

Winter Holiday Concert at 10:00 a.m.

Please join the FWM community as we celebrate the season with a menagerie of child performances from Primary through 8th Grade.

All student performers please wear dressy, holiday attire (imagine your child is dressing for a night at the theater, a fancy restaurant, or a religious service). Please, no jeans or sneakers.

Boys: Khakis, or dress pants, button-down shirt and tie (jackets are optional)

Girls: Dress pants or skirt, blouse or sweater, or a dress.

Early Dismissal at 11:30 a.m.

Please note that there is an early dismissal on the day of the Winter Holiday Concert.  There is no After School Program.

Thursday, January 17th at 6:00 p.m.

Parent Presentation: How Montessori Today is Essential for What Colleges Want Tomorrow (a presentation by Dr. Steve Pearlman)

Free Childcare and Pizza provided for FWM children.  Please RSVP with Michele Stramaglia at by Jan. 11th

We are excited to welcome Dr. Steve Pearlman, co-founder of The Critical Thinking Initiative. His fascinating discussion: How Montessori Today is Essential for What Colleges Want Tomorrow is not to be missed. Dr. Pearlman addresses the disheartening trend of declining critical thinking skills in education. His insights on how we can help students to become better thinkers align with what Maria Montessori observed and implemented over a century ago.

Steven Pearlman, Ph.D. is the Director of Interdisciplinary Writing and Reasoning at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT.  He possesses over thirty-years experience in teaching writing and critical thinking across the disciplines in higher education. This talk will be open to the public. Invite a friend. 

Dr. Pearlman’s discussion will be followed by Moving-Up Information Night. Moving-up information night is for parents to gain a better understanding of what the next program level has to offer for their child. This evening is particularly important for parents of students moving next September from:
Toddler into Primary 3
Primary 4 into Kindergarten
Kindergarten into Lower Elementary
Lower Elementary 3 into Upper Elementary
Upper Elementary 5 into Middle School


Ms. Kayser’s Class: Winter Wonderland

The classroom has been transformed into a winter wonderland! The students walked in Monday morning to discover that the holidays had taken over. It is always so exciting for everyone when new works appear on the shelves. It brings so much joy to both us and the children as their curiosity guides them to re-explore all the shelves.

In geography we have traveled across the globe to Antarctica. The children have really enjoyed learning about this cold continent and how different it is from North America. As the month progresses, we will be learning all about the scarce number of animals and plants that are able to live in the harsh climate of this continent and explore how they survive!

Outside of the classroom, this week brought us a special visitor: Aris, Officer Felicia, and Officer Matt! Aris is a two year old German Shepherd from Slovakia who is training to be a part of the K-9 Unit in the Newtown Police Department. Officer Felicia spent time on Tuesday to talk to the children about how Aris and the rest of the department are working hard every day to keep us all safe! We even got to learn some of the German language they use to train Aris and watch as he listened to commands. The children were ecstatic to watch Aris work.

Thank you Officer Felicia, Officer Matt, and Aris, as well as the rest of the Newtown Police Department, for going out every day to protect us and our community.

Ms. Kayser and Ms. Alli

6th year French and Spanish Students!

The 6th year Spanish and French students are doing extremely well. Everyone is working so well and is very eager to learn. We have had a wonderful trimester and every day these students spent in my class, they have been learning new vocabulary and grammar. We sometimes combine the 2 groups and work on both languages if there is a similarity in the explanations of grammar or conjugation. On this day, December 6th, was one of those days where we learned about the verbs “ir and aller” (to go). We conjugated these verbs in the Present Tense and also learned that these 2 particular verbs can help us speaking about the near future. You can see the enthusiasm on all these students faces ! Keep up the good work, guys!

Upper Elementary: Community

On Tuesday, a couple of officers from the Newtown Police Department visited our school along with Aris, a police dog trained to help the Newtown Police.  Aris is a German Shepherd that the department got from Siberia. We watched a demonstration of Aris in action and then the officers answered questions.  The strength of this young dog was amazing and the officers told us that Aris is equal to four officers when in the line of duty!

Although we do not have a field trip planned for December, we decided it would be a great idea to visit the St. Vincent DePaul Mission in Waterbury, CT. We have been been connected to this shelter for over 8 years now by making and delivering sandwiches. A few years ago we felt that we could offer more support to those in need by providing new clothes and fleece blankets to the children that reside at the shelter. Next Tuesday we will wrap these gifts, make cards, and then deliver the gifts as a whole class to the shelter. This will be a great learning experience for the students and we look forward to helping those in need, especially during the holiday season. Thanks so much for your support and donations!

Mrs. Thomas: Exploring Hanukkah Toddler Style!

We added some fun and simple work to our environment to explore Hanukkah. The children enjoyed drawing on blue paper with white crayons; sticking blue and silver tissue paper onto contact paper; and using small tongs to transfer little blue and silver presents from one silver bowl to another.

Although these were popular activities for most children, nothing compared to our wooden Menorah. Every day this week, the children have gathered around the table patiently waiting their turns to place the candles into the Menorah. However, we were all surprised with what the children have done after they place the last candle: they sing “Happy Birthday” and blow the candles out! Their genuine excitement and innocence in singing this song made us all smile a little brighter this week.

For those of you who celebrate, we wish you a very Happy Hanukkah!

Mrs. Carroll’s Class: Canine, Color, and Compassion

Officers Felicia and Matt from the Newtown Police Department K-9 Unit visited this Tuesday with their canine, Aris. The officers shared with the children how canines are used to support the police department in keeping us all safe. Aris kept us all captivated by both his beauty and allegiance to his trainers.

In Art, the children learned about the Northern Lights, complimenting this months’ study of Antarctica.  The students were able to create their own  “dancing light” drawings by layering various colorful lines using chalk pastel. Miss Jen encouraged the children to blend the colors with their fingers to create a glowing effect to represent the glow of the Northern Lights. Enjoy!

The class celebrated Saint Nicholas Day on December 6th.  St. Nicholas is known for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.  On the eve of  St. Nicholas Day children traditionally leave boots outside of their doors in hopes that he will leave a small treat in them. We were thrilled that St. Nicholas visited Fraser Woods School and left a tasty gift, a boot full of candy canes. His life mission remains a continued model for compassion.

Until next week,

Cindy & Sharlene