Upper El’s Week

“As we observe children, we see the vitality of their spirit, the maximum effort put forth in all they do, the intuition, attention and focus they bring to all life’s events, and the sheer joy they experience in living.” -Maria Montessori

An observer of our Upper Elementary classroom would see most of the children collaborating on their work; this is intentional. Montessori elementary communities are designed to support this collaboration because it is recognized as a need for this age group. Elementary children crave interaction, not just in a purely social setting, but also in organized groups where they are focused on a goal with their peers. At this age, children form strong attachments to friends and want to be surrounded by their peers. For this reason, most of their work is collaborative, with the exception of when they are working on individualized skills. This is also the phase for “acquisition of culture” (Montessori). This is one reason why there is such a strong focus on learning about how people throughout history have contributed to society. The children assimilate this new knowledge about history as they are learning to contribute to their own world, classroom and beyond.

There is a great energy in the air the week leading up to a holiday. These children managed to harness that energy this week and put it into their work. They had great focus, working on assignments and research together. They were quite busy with math and vocabulary lessons and assignments as well as their collaboration on our class timeline of humans.

I’m really proud of these students for their leadership in our school community, leading the way with our composting program. Each day, two Upper El students went around to each classroom and collected their food scraps from the day and deposited them in our composting bin. Each day we saw increased participation throughout the school. Way to go Upper El! I leave you with this poem, spontaneously written by Cecelia.

Composting

Composting is good
You can compost wood

What can you compost?
Not a steel post

Wood chips, wood chips, you can compost that
But maybe not a big wet hat

Remember to compost every single day
And after you do, say “Yay!”


Upper El: Leading the Way

“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 earth.” -Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Last week Upper Elementary students viewed the documentary, Kiss the Ground, a film that explains how we can stabilize Earth’s climate by drawing down atmospheric carbon using regenerative farming. We were all inspired by this film to take action. The following is the message Upper El students wrote to our school community.

Dear Fraser Woods Montessori Community,

As a class, we want to do our part to begin to take steps to help reverse climate change. Our first initiative is to create a composting program at Fraser Woods.

This week, we worked together with Mr. Fuchs to build a school compost bin. The bin is located beside the dumpster. We would like you to participate by saving your food scraps each day at snack and lunch. We will come around each day after lunch to collect the scraps and deposit them into the bin. These scraps will break down and become rich soil instead of releasing methane gas into our atmosphere.

Examples of things that CAN be composted are:

  • raw fruits and vegetables
  • egg shells
  • tea bags (with the string removed)
  • coffee grounds
  • unbleached paper products
  • wood/lawn scraps

Examples of things that CANNOT be composted are:

  • processed food
  • dairy
  • meat

If you are interested in learning more about our inspiration, we invite you to watch the documentary, Kiss the Ground.

Thank you for helping us do our part to take care of our planet!

Sincerely,

Students of the Upper Elementary Class

 

Have a wonderful weekend,

Karen and Angie


Upper El: Celebrating and Helping

We had a lively week of celebrations, lessons, and sandwich making.

Our week started with an enjoyable day of Halloween celebrations. We began the day with a costume parade around the field to the amusement of the Toddler and Primary children. After our parade, we joined Kindergarten, Lower El, and Middle School for FWM Monthly, a meeting run by our eighth graders each month. After our meeting, we returned to our room for our class party. Thank you to all who contributed yummy treats for our celebration! In the afternoon we had a great time scooping and carving our pumpkins.

The middle of our week was packed with lessons and classwork. In Biology, we continued with our Vital Functions of Plants lessons. This week we learned about the needs of the plant. In History, students collaborated on research of Homo habilis. Next week they will present their research to the class and begin a class timeline of the evolution of humans. They will then work on research of Homo erectus. In Geometry, the fourth graders learned about key parts of polygons and the fifth graders learned to prove equivalence of a trapezoid to two different rectangles. Individualized math lessons were in abundance this week, as well as collaborative work on vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Perhaps the highlight of the week was the end. On Friday we spent the morning enthusiastically making sandwiches for the St. Vincent DePaul Mission in Waterbury. This mission “support[s] and empower[s] people experiencing poverty, [housing insecurity], hunger, and mental health challenges so they may recover with dignity and develop sustainable solutions for a brighter future.” (svdpmission.org) This is a monthly activity in Upper El and is work that the children love. Maria Montessori’s vision was of a peaceful world, created through children. With this in mind, we intentionally plan lessons and spend time teaching our students to care for the Earth and its inhabitants. Our monthly community service work helps students become caring, empathetic people who think beyond themselves and feel the joy of giving.

“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” -Maya Angelou

Wishing you a beautiful, restful weekend,

Karen and Angie


This Week in Upper El

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” -Issac Asimov

We start each morning with quiet writing time. We warm up for writing with a journal entry and then move into our personal narrative writing time. We are learning the stages of writing a personal narrative: prewriting, first draft, revising, editing, and publishing. Most students are finishing up their first drafts and are working on revising them. They will edit next, first with a peer and then with a teacher, before moving on to publishing. This has become a very pleasant way to enter into our work cycle each morning and provides a nice bridge between our arrival activities of recess-yoga-read aloud, and the work cycle. We are finding that this quiet writing time really settles the children and prepares them to have a focused work time.

We had two highlights of our week. The first was a fabulous snare drum presentation by one of our fifth graders who recently joined a fife and drum corps. The second was the fire safety presentation by the Botsford Fire Department. They demonstrated what to do if there is a fire in your house, how to feel for heat from a fire on a closed door, and how to get out of the house safely. They also showed us how smoke moves through a house and we got to sit in their fire truck and ask questions about the equipment inside the truck. The presentation ended with a demonstration and explanation of all of the gear a firefighter wears and how to operate a fire extinguisher.


Upper El’s Week

During our short, but productive week we had our first student-led, Upper El Community Meeting, lessons, and our first Eighth grade-led monthly meeting of the year.

During our Upper El community meetings, the fifth graders lead. They consult our class binder to set the agenda and lead us through the meeting steps of: stating the problem as a question, brainstorming solutions, openly discussing options as a class, and taking a vote on the final solution. Teacher involvement during our meetings consists of note-taking, occasionally contributing to the open discussion, and recording the results of the vote. The fifth graders did an amazing job! They kept the class on topic, moved us from one step to another, and facilitated a very productive meeting. We are looking forward to many more meetings throughout the year!

In history we are learning about early human cultures. This week we learned about Homo habilis who lived 2.4 million to 1.4 million years ago in Eastern and Southern Africa. Over the next week students will work in small groups to research more information about the Habilenes to share with the class and add to our Timeline of Humans. In biology we learned about the concept of taxonomy and the classification system used to label and study plants and animals. Students will use this information in future botany research as we study the vital functions of plants this year.

Our week ended with our October Birthday Breakfast and the first monthly eighth grade-led meeting. Upper El students had a great time gathering with first through eighth graders to hear highlights from each level, Lower El through Middle School, and play an energetic game of Freeze Dance.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Karen and Angie


Upper El Adventurers

“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to [them]. Let us take the child out to show [them] real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them in cupboards.” -Maria Montessori

The highlight of this week was an amazing field trip to The Adventure Park; full of climbing, zip lines, bravery, and trust. Each of us challenged ourselves to try elements of the ropes course which were challenging and, at times, even a little scary. Every student should be proud of the effort they put in today, not only in their own experience of trying new things, but also in the help and encouragement they extended to their classmates along the way. They worked together, with more experienced climbers helping the less experienced ones. They offered words of motivation when friends were nervous and they cheered when their peers completed a course. These students exhibited outstanding teamwork. Bravo Upper El!

“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


Upper El: Cultivating Kindness

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.” -Amelia Earhart

A beautiful thing happened this week. We have a math material in elementary called the test tubes. It is used for division and contains 100 beads for each place value, units through millions. That’s 700 beads. While a student was putting this material away after completing their math work, they dropped it. 700 beads on the floor. Immediately the class sprang into action. Without a word from a teacher. Students stopped what they were working on and quietly came to help their friend find each and every bead and place them back in the test tubes. They did this joyfully, chatting with each other cooperatively, turning what could have been a stressful event for that friend into one that created feelings of being supported completely. This is empathy. As I talked with the student who dropped the beads after everything was cleaned up, it was clear that they felt the love and kindness of their classmates. This kind of thing happens all the time in our classroom and in each of the other classrooms throughout our school. We can learn so much from our children.

I leave you with this quote from Maria Montessori. “Let us treat them [children], therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.”

Wishing you a lovely weekend,

Karen and Angie


Upper El: Singing for Peace

“…we have before us in the child a psychic entity, a social group of immense size, a veritable world-power if rightly used. If salvation and help are to come, it is from the child, for the child is the constructor of man, and so of society. The child is endowed with an inner power which can guide us to a more luminous future. Education should no longer be mostly about the imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.” -Maria Montessori

This week we celebrated the International Day of Peace, a day established in 1981 by the United Nations for all of humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace (internationaldayofpeace.org). On this day each year, we join Montessori schools from around the world to Sing for Peace. Peace education is a major part of the Montessori curriculum, in fact, Maria Montessori is considered by many to be a founder of peace education. As Montessorians, we believe that the root of peace lays in the education of young children and we work with students to establish global citizenship, respect for differences, and personal responsibility from a very young age. It was really wonderful to gather as a school again this year, toddler through middle school, to sing for peace with elementary and middle school children signing the song as they sang.

Our Upper Elementary lessons this week included lots of individualized math and spelling work. The fourths learned about the Seven Triangles of Reality and the fifths learned about proving equivalence between a triangle and a rectangle and a rhombus and a rectangle. In biology we learned about the classification system scientists use to categorized living things. In history we began our lessons on Human Evolution with an examination of what it means to be human.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend,

Karen and Angie