Thoughts and Reflections

The last 12 months have been truly challenging and unprecedented.  

I know how much time and effort, discipline and love you have all put into making sure that our community remains together and safe so that our students continue to learn and grow. As a community, FWM, you all deserve tremendous praise and gratitude.

As we plan for the next school year, I am committed to making our school a safe and kind place for all members of the community;  a place where everyone feels seen and heard. I am committed to nurturing and challenging students in developmentally appropriate ways creating an environment where children and adolescents can make mistakes and learn from them. I am committed to supporting students to find their voice and forge their path.

Education, child and adolescent development, the emphasis on collaboration, choice, curiosity, discovery, and relevant learning is paramount in a Montessori education at Fraser Woods. Also of profound importance is the attention paid to character and social/emotional development.  

I look forward to continuing to work toward helping the school move forward to realize its mission.

Wishing you all a peaceful and relaxing spring break. 

Gina


Goodbye February – Welcome March

“We cannot create observers by saying ‘observe,’ but by giving them the power and the means for this observation and these means are procured through education of the senses.” ~Maria Montessori

As March begins, it seems that a new month has never been as welcome as these cold and snowy winter days are behind us now. We are all looking forward to the first crocus bulbs – “The Ice Breakers of Spring” peeping through the earth and a break to the warmer temperatures!

Children love the outdoors and should be encouraged to explore all nature has to offer them.  Flowers, bugs, gardening, butterflies, and more!  In our Montessori classrooms, activities for springtime encourage your child to explore, to probe, to discover, to learn, to create, and to respect.

Some of the lessons, activities, and works your child experiences in the classroom can be carried over to home as well.

Rainbows

Spring is a wonderful time to talk about rainbows. Spend time searching for rainbows after rainstorms, and consider getting a prism like the one in your child’s classroom to let your child explore rainbows even on sunny days. Enjoy recognizing the order of the colors.

Daily weather report

Each day during morning meeting, one of our students observes what they see outside and they give the class a daily weather report.  You might supply your child with some drawing paper in a booklet and encourage them to draw or paint the weather each day and see how it changes over time.

Study butterflies

Children are clearly fascinated by butterflies and spring is a great time to study them. You can simply read a book or two with your child.  In some of our classes, your child will observe the transformation from caterpillar to a butterfly with a live butterfly kit which will be set up in the classroom.

Create a nature table

One of the favorite works in the classroom is the nature table. At home, you can designate a space such as a small table or even a tray or basket, and allow your child to collect interesting things they find in nature. Include a magnifying glass!

There are so many children’s books about Spring.  Here is a link to a list of 25 Montessori Friendly Books for Spring!  


Springtime and Spring Break are Right Around the Corner!

Dear Fraser Woods Families,

As we approach Spring Break, I am humbled and grateful to our community.

Each one of you has played an integral role in keeping our community healthy. We all have done a tremendous amount to protect each other over the past six months and for that I am especially grateful. 

We have kept the health of our children, our teachers, and families at the forefront of what we do each and every day. This has allowed us to be in school full-time and in-person since our (very early) first day of school on August 26th! 

Because we have not had to initiate a full two week closure for quarantine, we will not use the first week of our March Break as a make-up week as was noted in our Reopening Campus Plan. The community will have the full two weeks off for Spring Break. If days need to be made up, we will look first to the week of June 7-11. 

As we all plan for time away from school during Spring break- March 15th  through the 26th, please be mindful to follow the CDC and State guidelines. Christina Benoit, our school nurse, will send an email outlining everything you need to know- the state-mandated travel advisory, quarantine procedures, guidance from our local DPH, and our Fraser Woods policy which states that we don’t accept the State of Connecticut exemptions for travel self-quarantine. 

The first day of Spring falls right in the middle of our Spring Break on  March 20, 2021. This quote by Maria Montessori seems very fitting as Springtime approaches:

There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving. ~ Maria Montessori,  From Childhood to Adolescence. 

 


Peace Education in Montessori

FWM will again be featured in the NEWTOWMOMS.COM Blog-Around Town. Newtown Moms is a local website with a social media presence on Instagram and Facebook. We were featured in an interview on Nov. 8th – Learn About the Fraser Woods Difference. This time, Newtown Moms wanted the greater community to hear from some of our teachers as well as from me. Our Primary teachers, Mrs. Doyle and Mrs. Lopes and our Humanities teacher, Mrs. Lamb were also interviewed (virtually of course) for a February post focused on Peace.  

I thought I would share the interview with you. Also, please click here and listen to some of our students share what Peace means to them. 

Here is the interview:

I loved reading about the concept of the “Invisible Curriculum” and how Peace, Grace, & Courtesy all tie together. Can you describe the framework and share a few examples from your classrooms? How are the lessons adjusted by age?

Gina Tryforos shares what this looks like at Fraser Woods Montessori School

Cultivating Peace in the Classroom

“If we are to teach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with the children.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

It is well known that Montessori education has been referred to as “peace education”. Even Gandhi praised Montessori’s approach to world peace.

How do we cultivate Peace in a Montessori classroom?

If you visit a Montessori classroom in action, you will see children who are joyful, relaxed, engaged, and happy as they move freely about the room, choose an activity or lesson, and work on it for as long as they like. The teacher (often referred to as a directress/director or guide) is there to facilitate student engagement with the lessons and activities. This is what Montessorians call “purposeful work” (as opposed to “busy work”).

The process of engaging in “purposeful work” evokes a sense of calm in children. Grace and Courtesy presentations contribute to the harmony in the room. The Grace and Courtesy framework allows us to teach in a proactive, rather than reactive, way.

From an activity where the teacher models how to walk around someone’s work set up on the floor, to modeling how to ask for help from a teacher/friend, or how to agree to disagree, these teachable moments in grace and courtesy are presented sometimes with words and sometimes without words and give children tools to navigate their environment and social landscape. 

Other lessons are more social and provide a classroom management technique that is child-driven instead of teacher-driven. The central theme in all of our lessons is to empower the children to be responsible, self-aware, and independent. These activities are about respecting children’s needs and considering the whole classroom community as a collective unit.

Grace and Courtesy lessons are our framework for modeling peace. In Montessori, we view the classroom as a microcosm of the larger world. Because these “rehearsed” social scenarios are a part of our everyday, we believe we are giving children some of the best tools for life.

Ginni Sackett (an AMI trainer, Montessori Institute Northwest) has said that Grace and Courtesy is part of Montessori’s “invisible curriculum.” Other “invisible” activities which can be considered part of this curriculum are spoken language, silence, and walking on the line. Children learn how/when to say “excuse me”, what to say if someone says “you’re not my friend”, how to tell someone you want to be alone, how to walk about the classroom while hardly making a sound.  

This “invisible curriculum” and Grace and Courtesy presentations invite the children and teachers to work together to create a culture of responsibility, tolerance, and harmony– a strong foundation for Peace.

How “Peace” is defined in your classroom and why it is a key component of a Montessori education?

Our Primary (Preschool and Kindergarten) teachers Michelle Doyle and Amanda Lopes, share what this looks like at Fraser Woods:

Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.~Maria Montessori 

Peace education is a major tenet of Montessori education.  Now, more than ever, we are witnessing relationships fracturing because so many are unable to take part in positive conflict resolution.  Teaching children this skill, while ensuring that all parties feel heard and validated, is a gift not only for the children but for society as a whole.  

When conflict arises in the classroom, we bring the children to our peace table.  This peace table is an integral part of the classroom and can be used for two children to resolve a conflict or for a child to simply go for some quiet, peaceful time.  If two children are struggling to resolve a conflict, each child will take turns holding the peace rose and sharing their feelings.  The peace rose is then passed to the other child so they in turn can share their feelings.  The most important part of this experience is for the teacher to step aside.  We are there to facilitate but not to determine the outcome because this is something both children need to truly take ownership of.  Typically, a child will come to a teacher saying “he said or she did”.  When that child is face to face with the other child and has to speak to them directly it almost always changes the nature of the conversation and outcome. 

How Peace, Grace, & Courtesy all tie together. Can you describe the framework and share a few examples from your classrooms? How are the lessons adjusted by age?

Primary teachers Michelle Doyle and Amanda  Lopes share what this looks like at Fraser Woods:

Grace and Courtesy are built into every part of the day in a Montessori environment and go hand in hand with our peace education curriculum.   Children are taught from the moment they enter the classroom about respecting others, their own self, and the environment. We speak often about the importance of each member of our community and how we are responsible for our classroom environment being a peaceful place where children feel loved and safe. Only then are children available to learn.

I read Basic Human Rights are a huge driver in the Montessori commitment to “Peace” in education, as well as inclusion and diversity. Can you share a little bit about how you incorporate this into the classroom at Fraser Woods? What role do current events play into how this is discussed?

Our Middle School Humanities teacher, Michelle Lamb shares:

From a young age, Fraser Woods knows the importance of children having a profound understanding of each other and focusing on equity. This includes personal identifiers such as race, gender, religion, who you love, etc. In a Montessori classroom at Fraser Woods, students celebrate each others’ lives and successes in these areas as well as their struggles. Open, frequent communication in safe spaces and shared, collective experiences are what make Montessori students advocates for peace and justice. Classes use the world events around them, in real-time, as educational opportunities to further the goal of producing inclusive and informed global citizens. 

Interim Head of School Gina Tryforos shares that it can be summed up simply: Maria Montessori believed not only in education for peace but education as peace.


Reflecting on Parent Teacher Conferences

Parent Teacher Conferences are a time of year that I always looked forward to as a teacher.

I love hearing the stories and feedback that come as a result of parent teacher conferences. Occasionally, I get questions about how to measure progress in a Montessori environment. Is there “traditional assessment”?

I love this question, because in a Montessori environment from Primary through Upper Elementary, teachers are continually assessing where each student is on their own individual path of learning. We are concerned about where each child is at a specific point in time and how they are progressing, at their own pace, in their own way to meet the educational benchmarks we have set out for them. Concrete numbers often fail to provide the best perspective on the quality of a child’s true learning.

Dr. Maria Montessori created a teaching methodology supported by instructive materials to help children build confidence and resilience to prepare them for their entire educational journey, not just the quiz or worksheet that is in front of them at a moment in time. I hope all of you enjoyed your conference time with your child’s teacher.

Please know my virtual door is always open, I can’t wait to hear all that you learned about your child’s experience so far this year.


Celebrating Research in Montessori

Each year Fraser Woods Montessori School hosts a Research Night. Students share pieces of their extensive work with our community of students, parents, and friends.

Students create visuals, either artistically, by hand, or for our older students, digitally, as part of their slide show presentations. Our oldest students prepare thoughtfully produced reports reflecting their knowledge of the topic they chose to research.

At FWM we view the task of research as what Maria Montessori referred to as “Deep Work.”

At the Elementary level, your child’s day is marked by time dedicated to deep concentration and focus.  It is the “work cycle.” The last hour of the work cycle is often when we see children choose their most challenging work of the day and concentrate deeply. Children become absorbed in their work because they have the freedom to choose activities that interest them, and research is often at the top of their list.

Our Elementary students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th year recorded their presentations. It was a joy to see that, not only had the seeds of interest taken root, but that students had been given time and space to thoughtfully follow areas of interest and perfect them with story and art. Our Upper Elementary students took on the discipline of organizing and producing artistic models and information for their group presentations of ancient civilizations- Egypt, Rome, and Aztec. Our Lower Elementary students chose any topic that was of interest to them- animals, countries, and people. The information they researched and shared in their presentations and the visuals the children created are wonderful.

This year our Middle School students in 6th and 7th year did research surrounding the theme, Great Discoveries. Some of the topics are the Big Bang Theory, Stonehenge, and Nuclear Energy. The students prepared a written paper and a Google Slides presentation. Students hosted a Zoom presentation discussing their research and how today we still see the effects of the event. Each one was very impressive and impactful.

We look forward to our 8th year students who will present their Expert Projects in May.


Virtual Parent Teacher Conferences – Thursday, February 11th

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

Parent Teacher conferences are a wonderful platform for communication, building the bond between home and school so that together we can foster the success of each child. Although much of a student’s learning and instruction happens here at school, we believe the connection between home and school should be fluid. The relationship between parents and teachers, and the flow of information between them (each sharing their knowledge of the child at home and at school) can only serve to benefit our students.

Virtual Parent Teacher Conferences will take place on Thursday, February 11th. We have no school on this day.  Please look for a Sign-Up Genius from your child’s teacher with a variety of times available for you to schedule your parent teacher conference.

In addition, if any parent would like to speak with one of our enrichment teachers, please email them directly to set up a time to meet virtually. 

Enrichment team emails:

Jennifer Reid, Art  jreid@fraserwoods.com

Danielle Ulacco, MakerSpace  dulacco@fraserwoods.com

Sara Hall, Spanish  shall@fraserwoods.com

Pam Pascarella, Physical Education ppascarella@fraserwoods.com

 

We look forward to talking with you about your child’s progress at school.

Kind regards,

Gina


The Application of Knowledge-Another Hallmark of a Montessori Education

As I visited each classroom this week, I was struck by another hallmark of a Montessori Education- The Application of Knowledge.

Each child is provided learning opportunities that continue to organize their thinking through work with the Montessori materials. This is most easily observed in mathematics. As a student moves from the concrete to the abstract, you can see the application of their knowledge to real-world experiences. This organization of information, making sense of facts and figures and applying them to arrive at a solution, prepares the child for the world of adolescence. As children move into adolescence, thought and emotion evolve into understanding more abstract, universal concepts such as equity, freedom, and justice.

“… the child’s individual liberty must be so guided that through [their] activity [they] may arrive at independence … the child who does not do, does not know how to do.” —The Montessori Method