Upper El: A Great Year

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

What an amazing and beautiful group of humans I have had the good fortune to work with this year! They are compassionate, loving, kind, hard-working, and fun. I am blessed to have had a front seat to witnessing some incredible growth, beautiful interactions, and friendships blossoming. I told the rising sixth graders as they crossed the bridge to middle school; my wish for them as they move on and grow is that they stay true to who they are. To the rising fifths… we have another great year with a lot of fun and new friendships to look forward to!

Thank you very much for a great year! Thank you for choosing to place your precious children in my care. I am truly grateful.

I leave you with one more quote from our most recent Lit Circle read, The Little Prince.

“I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”

“To establish ties?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”

Have a wonderful summer!

With love,

Upper El: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ -Maria Montessori

This week I stepped out of the room during work cycle to make a photocopy, leaving the class alone momentarily. While I was out of the room, a colleague came in to speak to me about something. When I returned, she was visibly emotional. She shared with me how impressed she was with how the children were all working, focused, responsible. This has been my experience with them throughout the year. They are truly an amazing group!

I asked the students to reflect on this year and look ahead to next year. They shared with me a highlight from this year and something they are looking forward to this summer and next school year. Here are their responses:

  • Mia enjoyed researching this year, is looking forward to going in the pool this summer, and is excited to learn new things next year.
  • Bryant enjoyed learning about our closest relatives in our History lessons, is looking forward to swimming in the pool this summer and coming all together with Middle School students for PE next year.
  • Gino enjoyed Nature’s Classroom, is looking forward to being with his brother this summer, and is excited about changing classes for different subjects next year.
  • Camden liked free time with his class this year, is looking forward to swimming a lot this summer and seeing what fifth grade work is like next year.
  • Anders liked specials and everything about this year, is looking forward to his Wyoming road trip and going to the Galapagos this summer, and is excited about getting to do different things next year.
  • JC enjoyed making a boat in MakerSpace, is looking forward to going in the pool this summer and having Science class next year.
  • Chloe enjoyed the overnight trip, is looking forward to going to England this summer and having Science class next year.
  • Allie liked the overnight trip, is looking forward to going on vacation to California this summer and doing more math next year.
  • Lydia liked our overnight trip, is looking forward to going to Spain this summer and having Science with Mr. Brown next year.
  • Bennett liked the amount of freedom UE students have, is excited for his trip to the Grand Canyon this summer, and is looking forward to learning more and getting to listen to all of the fifth grade lessons and moving onto vocabulary work next year.
  • Jheniya enjoyed doing projects in MakerSpace with friends and having math lessons, is looking forward to summer camp and going out to eat ice cream this summer, and is excited about Math and Science lessons next year.
  • Kody enjoyed the overnight trip, is looking forward to swimming in the pool this summer and doing Middle School sports next year.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Upper El: At Nature’s Classroom

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir

What an incredible week we had! Our time at Nature’s Classroom was packed with fresh air, nature, educational activities, and fun!

Each day we spent time hiking in the woods, learning about animals and plants that we found there; even tasting wintergreen, eastern hemlock, and white pine. We learned how to make a fire, and during our second fire we enjoyed some tasty s’mores. We did many team building activities in the classroom and on the challenge course and learned how important it is to listen to one another and give everyone a chance to use their voice. During our classroom time we learned about the Salem Witch Trials, made water rockets (which I’ll be sending you a video of), and used our knowledge of biomes and animals to play a game of WWF.

Another highlight of the trip was the food! Your children finished their plates at every meal and went back for seconds, and sometimes thirds. They took turns acting as “waitrons” at each meal; setting, clearing, and cleaning the table.

I observed many acts of kindness and cooperation shared among the children throughout our trip. Our group leader, Anna commented to me that she had not seen such a kind, thoughtful group before and she could clearly see how much they care about and take care of each other.


I leave you with this meditation by Jack Kornfield.

“However difficult the times, suffering is not the end of the story. Love is. May your spirit be strong. May you be safe and protected. May you be filled with deep healing. May you be held by love.” 

Upper El’s Extraordinary Week

Our week was packed with lots of activity! Our group lessons focused on History and Biology this week. In History we continued learning about our closest fossil relatives and had lessons on Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, and Home sapiens. In Biology we had a lesson about the vital function of sensitivity and learned which animals have nerve nets, ganglia, nerve cords, and brains.

We were fortunate to be gifted the raised garden planter which was purchased at the auction by Lydia’s family, and on Tuesday we planted some flowers and tasty herbs. A special thank you to Kristina and Brian for the gift!

On Thursday we were finally able to have our visits with the next level. The fourth graders welcomed some third grade friends to our classroom for the morning and they were wonderful mentors. The fifths were thrilled to visit middle school and had a great time going to math class, humanities, and science with their sixth grade peers.

We are excited to go on our big trip to Nature’s Classroom next week! Our group leader, Anna, has given us a wonderful variety of fun and educational activities to choose from. We had a class meeting, and after discussing our options, we chose some terrific ones to participate in while we are there.

Students should arrive at school between 8:00 and 8:10 on Tuesday. They can be dropped off in the back or, if you like, you can park in the front and walk them in. The bus will leave at 9:00. We will return in time for dismissal on Thursday. Please reach out with any questions about the trip.

Have a beautiful weekend!

Upper El’s Week

We had a wonderful week working outdoors! We set up tables, chairs, and tents and moved our classroom outside for the week. True to form, upper elementary students adjusted quickly to the change and were quite impressive in their ability to focus on and complete their work. Yoga on the field was beautiful with the birds singing and the lovely morning breezes.

To end the week, we had our last sandwich making of the year for the St. Vincent DePaul Mission. Thank you to all of you for volunteering to bring ingredients throughout the year. This is an incredibly valuable experience for the children and they truly embrace the act of giving to those in need.

Next week we will get back to our normal classroom routine with lots of Montessori lessons and work before leaving for our big trip the following week.

Upper El’s Week

This week in Biology, we continued to work with circulation while simultaneously reviewing respiration and nutrition in our vital functions of animals work. Students worked cooperatively to lay out the first three rows of a vital functions matrix. They enjoy doing this work together and are learning so much about the internal systems of animals. Our History work with Humans’ Closest Relatives this week focused on Australopithecines, extinct apes that lived between about 5 million and 1.5 million years ago. We experimented with knuckle walking during our lesson and quickly confirmed that our human bodies are not designed to move around this way! In math, in addition to our individualized lessons, fifth year students are focusing on multiplying binomials, using the bead materials to fully understand the process before moving away from materials. Fourth graders have continued their grammar work with adjectives. Fifth graders continue working with pronouns, this week rewriting a story which used no nouns, only pronouns, adding antecedents and detail. We all enjoyed listening to the fifth grade students share their creative pronoun stories with the class.

We have been working hard on our songs for the Grandparents Day video, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” and “Let It Be.” I must confess, I have a very hard time keeping my composure while listening to their beautiful voices singing. I can’t wait for you to hear them!

I hope to see you on Sunday evening at our gathering at Aquila’s Nest Vineyards! Look for the movie and pizza night silent auction item, hosted by yours truly.

Have a lovely weekend!

Upper El: Happy Earth Day!

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road – the one less traveled by – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” -Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

We had a great week of lessons and fun. We put the finishing touches on the garden box for the auction that we built and painted. With the help of Mrs. Reid we added a tree, using fingerprints for the leaves. I hope you can come to the auction on Sunday, May 1st and bid on this beautiful piece for your garden!

In recognition of Earth Day, we spent the afternoon cleaning up all of our outdoor spaces, picking up trash and beautifying our environment. This activity was greeted with excitement and enthusiasm, as is usually the case with this amazing group of humans.

In our Vital Functions of Animals lessons this week, we studied circulation. We learned that animals can have incomplete or complete circulatory systems and that complete circulatory systems can be either open or closed. We are in the process of studying the circulatory systems of the fourteen animals on our evolutionary strip. In History we learned about our closest fossil relatives. We learned that, according to fossil records, we have a closer relative than chimpanzees, Ardipithecus ramidis, “Ardi.” These are extinct apes that lived about 4.5 million years ago. In Grammar, fourth graders learned about two types of adjectives, interrogative and proper. Fifth graders learned about personal pronouns and their antecedents.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Upper El Update

It was nice to get back to our regular work cycles and lessons this week! Fourth graders learned about proving the equivalence of a rhombus and a rectangle, first working with materials to prove equivalence sensorially, and then learning the elements that go into the formula for proving equivalence. They also learned to identify indefinite, demonstrative, and possessive adjectives. Fifth graders learned to multiply a binomial by a binomial, using numbers less than ten. They will continue with this work next week, using numbers larger than ten. This is in preparation for learning to find the square root of numbers. They also learned about special aspects of the adjective – the three degrees of quality, comparative, and superlative.

We enjoyed working on our gift for the auction this week with the help of our parent volunteer. Thank you, Kristina! The students built the garden bed and started painting it. They will put the finishing touches on it next week.