Upper El: Educating for Peace

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality…Before you finish breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Maria Montessori’s life spanned two world wars, and after the start of the second world war, although she was already a promoter of peace, she became determined to educate the world about the important connection between peace and education. She believed that if children grow up with a great respect for humanity, they won’t live in ways that destroy that humanity. They will develop a conscience and a feeling towards life and will be incapable of cruelty. Montessori is known throughout the world for her contribution to peace between nations; she spent many years of her life laying the foundations of peace through education. This is a reason Montessori classrooms must be nurturing, respectful, and inclusive places which celebrate our diversity.

I can honestly say that this diverse group of students would be a good model for many to follow in how to work together respectfully, peacefully, and productively. Peace education isn’t a separate curricular area for them. As they move through each day, they are learning continually how to respect their peers’ physical space and collaborate respectfully. They have a very strong sense of peace and social justice at this age and they are learning to view conflict as an opportunity for growth and leadership.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend,

Karen


Upper El – Winter Fun

It was wonderful to have all of our friends return to Upper El in-person this week! We made the best of having to stay inside during the chilly weather early in the week with some impromptu student-led yoga during work cycle. Each student took turns leading a yoga pose, and afterwards, everyone returned to their work. Students also enjoyed making their own tea during work cycle to warm up after coming in from morning recess. I find that it’s these little comforts, freedoms, and opportunities for independence throughout the day which really allow for each student to feel ownership and engagement in the classroom, and control over their own experience.

We enjoyed sledding during recess this week. We will continue to take part in this activity throughout the winter and students are welcome to bring in their own sleds from home. Please remind (and make sure) your child comes to school with all their winter gear each day: snow pants, warm coat, hat, gloves, and boots. We like to spend as much time outside as we can to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine!

During the week of January 24th, we will be taking the ERB standardized test. We will be taking the test on devices, as we did last year. The test sessions span over the course of four days and usually last a little under three hours, depending on the subsection of the test and the length of the brain breaks students take between each subtest. We make the testing experience as stress-free as possible and, as Gina mentioned in her email to you, do not teach to the test or stop our regular Montessori curriculum in order to prepare for the test. While we, as Montessorians, do not believe that a test taken on any given day is a true measure of what students know, we want our students to be prepared for what lies ahead after they leave Montessori school. This is why we view it as a “practical life experience.” We find that by taking this test each year, students become familiar and comfortable with the test taking process. If you would like to discuss the test or the process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Enjoy the snow this weekend!


Upper El: Welcome 2022!

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.” -Rachel Carson

Happy new year! We were excited to get back to school this week. We had a quiet week, with some of our Upper El friends learning from home for the first week of 2022, but in typical Upper El fashion, our students handled it like pros! We started work on our big Upper Elementary Autobiography Project, a five chapter writing project which focuses on the students, their families, and thoughts and dreams of the future. Over the course of the next eight weeks, we will be working on this project in school and at home. After completing the writing portion of their project, students will prepare slide presentations to accompany their oral presentations. These will be presented to the class and recorded for you to have at home. What a wonderful memento this will be!

May you be inspired by the wonder and excitement of your beautiful children. Happy 2022!

Love,
Karen


Upper El: Thank you!

May the Warm Winds of Heaven blow softly upon your house. May the Great Spirit bless all who enter there. May your mocassins make happy tracks in many snows. And may the rainbow always touch your shoulder. -Sioux Prayer, translated by Lakota Sioux Chief, Yellow Lark

We have had a wonderful end to 2021. Thank you to all who contributed yummy treats for our class party today. Thank you for your generous gifts. Most of all, thank you for sharing your beautiful children with me each day! Have a wonderful two weeks with loved ones and I look forward to seeing you all in the new year.

With love,
Karen


Upper El – Caring for Others

We have had a fantastically busy and productive week in Upper El. Our week began with large group lessons in biology, history, and math. In biology, our lessons on the vital functions of animals continued with the Strip of Vital Functions. In history, we discussed archaeological digs and the roles of the different people on a dig team. We also learned about Lucy, our oldest human ancestor. We will have our own impressionistic archaeological dig next week! In math, we laid out the decanomial, the geometric representation of multiplication tables one through ten. After laying out the bead bars, we learned about the commutative property of multiplication and identified the squares of each number. We will continue to use the decanomial layout next week for more lessons.

This week we made sandwiches for St. Vincent DePaul Mission in Waterbury. Everyone was very enthusiastic and did a great job making sandwiches. We will continue to volunteer our time once a month for sandwich making. Thank you very much to everyone for contributing the ingredients for this community service project. And thank you as well for the mitten and hat donations. We will package those up and donate them next week.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


Upper El: With Gratitude

“History should not be taught as a collection of dates and places. But rather be approached to arouse gratitude and appreciation. This gratitude should be aroused first to the law and order of the universe and the preparation of the environment into which human beings came.” -Maria Montessori

One of my goals for our Upper Elementary students is to become independent and have ownership in their classroom. Some ways we are working toward this are through the organization of the classroom so they are able to be self-sufficient, class-led community meetings that give them decision making power over their school life, and involving them in arranging field trips. I’m looking forward to sharing more about field trips with you soon.

During our annual bread baking last week, Upper El students expressed how much they enjoyed making the pumpkin bread. They decided that they would like to start baking in the classroom on a regular basis. And so we shall! In the coming weeks, I’ll be gathering ingredients and some simple recipes for students to follow independently. Feel free to share any that you have at home. Each recipe will need to be gluten free and nut free.

Next week we will be making sandwiches and collecting hats and mittens for the St. Vincent DePaul Mission in Waterbury. These two volunteer opportunities have become a wonderful tradition in Upper El. It creates a great sense of joy at helping others in a very real and meaningful way. Our class parents sent a sign up for the hats and mittens already and you will soon be receiving one for the ingredients for making sandwiches.

Hoping you have a wonderful weekend!


Upper El Week Ten

This week we wrapped up our first Lit Circle books of the year. Each group had a great final discussion of their book and they are anxious to get started on the next. We also enjoyed hearing some original creative writing shared by our class members this week. We heard a short story, a chapter book, and some poetry. We will continue to share our writing-in-progress each week.

In biology this week we learned that the vital functions of animals fall into three categories: vegetative functions, functions of relationship, and function of reproduction. We learned that vegetative functions are what keep us alive. They are nutrition, respiration, and circulation. Functions of relationship move us around so we can get what we need to survive. They are sensitivity, movement, and support. The function of reproduction is different from the first two types in that it is a function of species instead of individual.

Our history lesson this week was called The Trash Heap. This is a lesson that gives an impression of the heritage of the artifacts we study when we are learning about human cultures. During this lesson I told a story of a sequence of cultures, all of which were located on the same site, each leaving behind “trash” artifacts. As I told the story, we placed the artifacts in a trash heap and covered each layer with a layer of sand. Upon completion of the story, we had a mound of sand, hidden within which were layers of artifacts representing the sequence of cultures we discussed.

Our student-led, weekly class community meetings focus on concerns and topics brought up by students. This week our meeting was focused on where we should have recess. This topic was added to our agenda after a student reached out asking for a change from our daily recess on the field. The class brainstormed ideas, had a respectful, open discussion, and then voted. They decided we would go to the playground and outdoor classroom, each one day a week, and on the remaining three days, we will vote on where to go. I wish you could see the maturity and respect for each other these students have; they impress me every day.

 

 


Upper El Week Nine

In Montessori math at the elementary level, concrete materials are used to introduce and practice concepts, leading students to understanding and abstraction. Instead of the focus being on the answer, it is on how students get to the answer. The Montessori math materials allow students to discover for themselves the algorithms that guide their work, instead of memorizing math rules given to them by their teacher in order to solve their problems.

The Upper El math curriculum builds on students’ previous learning and their work with whole numbers. Their main work, after mastering the four operations with whole numbers, is to learn to use the four operations with fractions and decimals. This is a familiar math curriculum for these grades, but in a Montessori classroom it is presented differently from the conventional approach, using materials and discovery, and focusing on understanding over memorization.

The learning sequences completed in Upper El help students build neural networks for problem-solving and logical thinking. This is great preparation for higher math, particularly for the understanding of Algebra. These lessons activate networks of neurons that allow students to hardwire their brains for higher thinking, helping them use their brains more efficiently, not only for math, but for life.