It was now more than four decades ago that I sat in ecology class and heard for the first time about global warming. The professor made predictions which have now all come true. I left the field of Environmental Zoology because I couldn’t handle the habitat destruction I had to face day to day whether in the field or when talking to colleagues. Even now I can’t read a whole Greenpeace or Sierra Club magazine. I recently heard that one of my former students is having the same problem in college – the field of environmental studies is just too grim. The salient point that stayed with me from graduate school was that environmental policies come and go, but education is what makes a difference in the future of our planet.
Although the news is depressing, there are more and more success stories. At last global warming is being addressed. Many say it’s too late to make a difference, but others say maybe not. Everyone is recycling, composting, using their own grocery bags and switching to more efficient cars. Park City has adopted a “No Idling” ordinance largely due to the initial efforts of Soaring Wings mom Mary Jacquin. Disney is making movies about our Earth. A few years ago I got to visit a California condor breeding program that my nephew supervised in Oregon. I was amazed at the advances in technology since I worked in the field. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the condors are on their way back from the brink, but they sure have some talented and dedicated people on their side. While in Portland I also got a personal visit with a black rhino at the zoo as well as two Siberian tigers. Again, I can’t say their habitat will be saved in time to repopulate, but they certainly have a strong backing in those who are willing to give them everything they need to breed in captivity. Also while in Oregon I was delighted to see recycling containers on the streets, composting bins in restaurants and low-flow toilets in every public restroom. I’ve been teaching in Canada lately where they won’t give you a bag for your groceries unless you ask for it and then pay for it. I was in Dallas last spring where environmental consciousness does not seem as pervading, but the Montessori teachers at the conference I attended made the most of the few recycling containers we could find. And back home in Utah it’s great to see families outside hiking, biking, skiing, gardening and enjoying the Earth.
I love seeing all the new Earth-friendly ideas throughout the community. Environmental education is now an important part of most school programs. Although the economic crisis was trying, it encouraged us to downsize our cars and homes and to conserve fuel and energy. At last our culture is noticing that plant-based foods and other products are not only healthier for us, but go a long way toward healing the overgrazing our lands have sustained for centuries. Eagles, wolves, peregrine falcons and bison are making a come back. Foxes, muskrats, ducks, raccoons and cranes are happily creating a ruckus in my backyard in Park Meadows. Although the housing development in Park City has displaced many species, ironically I realized that at least some of the people who have moved in are Sierra Club members, avid bird watchers and have installed dozens of bird feeders and backyard water features. Even Greenpeace newsletters have had more and more good news in them.
“Recycle”, “compost”and “biodegradable” have become household words that even 3-year-olds use adroitly. Our planet is still a wonderful place to live and, just in the nick of time, a public awareness of its needs is growing. It is our job to encourage this appreciation in our children. Incorporated into almost every Montessori curriculum unit is a consideration for the child’s place in the ecosystem. We talk about people as animals and our role as caretakers of the Earth. Every day in the classroom we remind the kids to make the most of every piece of paper and use rags instead of paper towels for clean-ups (“Trees died for that paper, you know”), use water sparingly (“Let’s leave some water for the plants and animals”) and treat everything with care rather than encouraging the “We can always buy another one” attitude that many of us grew up with.
At home, try changing from paper napkins to cloth ones, paper towels to cleaning cloths, disposable diapers to cloth or “G diapers”. Remember to take your shopping bags to the store with you (have your child remind you). Use only the amount of water you really need for washing, bathing and brushing teeth. Remember to turn off your car engine when waiting to pick up children at school. Help your family to be conscientious of saving paper and picking up litter. Put spiders and bugs somewhere out of the way rather than killing them (“They have their job to do, too”). For your own family Earth Day celebration, sit down and make a list of things you can do differently to help the Earth. You’ll find children are often much better at remembering these things and understanding why they should change some of their habits than adults. Even though, individually, these practices don’t make much of a difference in the health of our Earth, they will make a big difference in the attitude of your child, in whose little hands the future of our planet lies.
Spring time is exciting for babies – they now have the opportunity to wear fewer clothes and spend more time outdoors. We will move our meetings onto the patio when the weather permits and notice the new life springing up.
With our Spring Sing on the 3rd and Spring Break the following week we only meet twice this month, but we will make the most of our time together discussing the child’s place in the family including “Theories in Birth Order” and “A Family for Life”.
You are welcome to drop in on our Spring Sing on April 3rd from 9:00 – 12:00. Each class is planning songs and poems plus recitals by our dancers and pianists. It promises to be a lively time!
At first glance the Toddler classroom seems very simple. It is designed to be simple. We want the child to walk into her first school experience and see a beautiful, beckoning world of possibilities presented in such a way as to be neither confusing nor over-stimulating. Simple activities are laid out as offerings for the practice of large and fine motor skills, matching, sorting, shape recognition and self-care skills. These are the obvious lessons of the Toddler Class. But the careful observer soon notices that there are subtle lessons too.
One of the first subtle lessons is responsibility. The toddler is responsible for taking care of his possessions and dressing himself to the best of his ability. Most of the class is now involved in toileting independently, so remembering to provide clothing choices that your child can handle by himself is very helpful (avoid overalls and difficult buttons or snaps). He is responsible for putting away his work, cleaning up spills, using careful hands and being respectful of things living and non-living. The teacher engineers the environment so that the child’s responsibilities will be simple ones. For instance, if the pegs spill on the floor there should not be so many that the child is overwhelmed with the responsibility of picking them up. As he gradually becomes more and more capable in these areas his confidence grows encouraging him to try the next task.
Another subtle lesson is making appropriate choices. The child chooses how to spend her day in school. It is often the first time a child has had a lengthy span of time in which to be free to choose her own activities. She discovers that some choices result in satisfying experiences while other choices may result in conflict. Again the teacher engineers the environment so that most choices are simple ones and she is there to guide the child through the more difficult ones.
The world of scientific principles is another subtle lesson in the Toddler Class. The teacher does not announce, “Today we will learn physics” to a class of toddlers. But each time an object rolls down the tracking tube (and the children will experiment with many possible objects) they are confirming Isaac Newton’s observations. Every time the child practices pouring, sponging, mopping or washing he is discovering the attributes of water. Caring for the classroom pets is a beginning study of zoology. Noticing leaf shapes while on “toddler walks” is an introduction to botany. Matching and sorting activities are precursors to identification and classification. Even watching snow melt is a study of science in the eyes of a toddler.
At home notice the subtle lessons your toddler is learning. Your goal may be to walk to the car but your child’s goal may be noticing how his boots splash in the puddles and how the water is absorbed into the ground along the way. On the playground your goal may be staying clean, but your toddler’s goal may be in discovering the properties of water and dirt. When drawing or painting your child may not be so interested in producing an aesthetically pleasing product as in experimenting with the textures of the media – how the crayon glides across paper differs from how it marks the table, or the wall! Keep your mind open to possibilities and provide appropriate materials with which you and your child can continue a scientific exploration of the world.
Please plan to come to our Spring Sing on Friday, April 3rd. The Sunflowers Class will host a Sound of Music Sing-a-long. The Tadpoles will offer a Hopping and Popping Sing-a-long. Please bring your family along with toddler in costume from 8:45 – 9:30 am. Dismissal for toddlers is at 9:45 on this day.
Also, please put our Earth Day Open House on your calendar for Tuesday April 21st at 4:30pm. Students will show off their budding Earth science skills!
Monday – Music
Most of the students can identify a few of the compositions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and know a little about his life. They’ve progressed in identifying instruments by their sound and recognizing the mood and ideas presented by the various pieces of music. We have begun the study of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky by listening to the “Nutcracker Suite” and how he told the story with music. We will sample “Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake” in April.
Tuesday – Seasons
Excitement is in the air as the flowers bloom, the bugs reappear and we no longer need to many clothes to go outside! Spring is here. In your travels this month call your child’s attention to the new buds, birds building nests, new calves and lambs and discuss what people do differently in the spring.
Wednesday – Geography
Maria Montessori saw that we might succeed in evolving toward a more peaceful way of life if children can appreciate other cultures in a sensorial way. Toward this end we conclude our study of each continent throughout the school year with an all-school celebration of that continent’s cultures involving food, music, songs, stories, games and costumes.
In November we complemented our study of Native Americans with the cultural immersion experience of the Navajo Rug Show an our gift exchange with Grandmother Frances. In December we studied Winter Celebrations including school celebrations of Diwali, Hannukah and Las Posadas. In January every class wrote letters and prepared packets for our friend Reinaldo who lives in Paraguay. January’s studies of South America culminated with our own “Carnaval” celebration including a parade, dancing and South American foods. In February we studied Asia and tied together lessons with an all-school Asian Celebration.
In March our studies of Europe centered around our European ancestors as we began our preparations for our Earth Day Open House Tuesday April 21st. First and second year early childhood students will prepare to turn their classrooms into a continent featuring costumes, crafts and foods of the continent. Third year students will draw flags, maps and may write stories or reports from the country of their ancestors. The intent is to allow our early childhood graduates to investigate their own ancestry while celebrating the rich diversity of cultures on Earth. Thank you in advance for your help with costumes and scheduling. On Tuesday April 21st please bring your student and your family at 5:00 pm to sample a little from each continent. Class costuming will be as follows.
Turquoise Class – Asia (costume choices might include a kimono, a sari or a karate uniform)
Rainbow Class – South America (costume suggestions include an earth-toned poncho, a soccer inform or a Carnaval costume)
Cottonwoods Class – Europe (costume ideas might include a dress with an apron for a girl or shorts with knee socks for a boy)
All third year students: Talk with your child about your family’s ancestry. Choose a country to represent, keeping in mind that this will entail a traditional costume and traditional dish. Costumes can be as authentic as you wish, for instance, grandpa’s actual lederhosen or a pair of shorts with suspenders and knee socks. The food should be something that is easily served in small bites. Please let teachers know by April 13th what country you have chosen and help students at home by creating a visual display on a tri-fold poster board. Children will make flags and maps of their countries in class.
After Spring Break all ec classes will study Africa. So many countries in so little time! As always, anything from Africa that you have to share would be most appreciated.We’ll send packets to our friends Soureya of Niger and Assitan of Mali and plan an African Celebration. Soureya and Assitan are now nine and ten years old, respectively, and live with large families in very small homes. We have been exchanging letters and small gifts with them since they were toddlers. We send letters from the students and can include any small gifts that will fit in an envelope such as coloring books, stickers or picture books. If you or your child would like to add a picture of your family or a small gift to the packet for Soureya or Assitan, please send them in to class in the next couple of weeks. Thank you for your support. Our relationship with these children makes our geography curriculum come alive and adds to our cultural immersion lessons.
Thursday – Poetry
The children enjoyed the Robert Louis Stevenson poems we read in class in March. We talked about how, as a little boy, Stevenson was sick in bed quite a bit so he made up imaginary friends and games which he later used in his poetry.
In April we will study the modern poet Shel Silverstein. His books include The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and The Missing Piece.
If you have a Silverstein favorite you’d like to share, please send it in.
We have been practicing songs and poems for our Spring Sing Singsong on Friday April 3rd from 10:00 – 11:00am. Turquoise Class will wear the springtime best. Rainbows will wear the t-shirts they made in class and brightly colored skirts, pants or shorts. Cottonwoods will wear a solid color top and jeans. See you then!
Friday – Biology
We enjoyed class visits with Macanuda the box turtle, Eric the corn snake and Puffy the bearded dragon. Macanuda is happy to eat a live worm before onlookers, Eric eats frozen baby mice and Puffy chases crickets around her cage which always adds excitement to class zoology studies. Most of the children know that reptiles usually live on land, have scales, breathe air, lay eggs and can be snakes, lizards or turtles. Snakes and turtles make clean, relatively care-free, sturdy and personable pets. (Lizards are okay, too, but they are harder to handle for a young child unless you get a big one like Puffy.) If you are looking for a new responsibility for your child, consider adopting a reptile.
Birds are the topic for April. We will be watching for birds as they come back from their southern vacation spots. If you have a feathered friend who can visit the classroom, please talk to your child’s teacher. We will wait to visit the Tracy Aviary until May so that we can catch the bird show.
Monday – History
Our study of History continues in April, with work on the history of our school year as it will be recorded in this year’s yearbook. We are assembling the best photos of the year. Please send us any you may have and let us know if you’d like to help.We will conclude the year by compiling our own personal history books.
Tuesday – Geography
We begin a study of Africa this month including topography, endemic plants and animals and cultures. If you have something African to share, please send it in. This unit culminates in our all-school African Celebration including native foods, music, dancing, costumes and stories.
Wednesday – Art/Music
We are working on crafts, games, foods, songs and recitations for our Spring Sing.
Thursday – Zoology
With spring already here we look forward to studying returning birds through April.
Friday – Field Trips, Etc.
This month we are headed to the Kimball Art Center to admire our entries in the annual Wasatch Back Student Art Show. Be sure to check them out!
We will prepare this month for our annual field trip to the Recycle Utah Water Festival on the 16th.
When we return from Spring Break we will begin preparations for our River Trip May 14th and 15th. So much left to do – so little time!
As we begin working on the yearbook everyone will have a job to do, whether creating artwork, laying out photos or organizing sales and advertisements. We like the children to take responsibility for their yearbook, but we can also use any photos or time you may have to contribute. Please send photos to class by April 24th.
We’ll spend lots of time before Spring Break on our Spring Sing on April 3rd. Drop off is at 8:30am and families are welcome to come from 11:00 – 12:00 for the Moose Tracks Silly Sing. Our performance is at 11:15am. Dismissal for elementary students is at 12:00 on that day. Each student should come dressed in their springtime best.
Earth Day Open House
On Tuesday, April 21st Moose Tracks will put on a an Earth Science Fair from 4:30 – 6:00pm as part of our Earth Day Open House. Details will come home soon.
— Robert Louis Stevenson
Eagle’s Nest Student
When I grow up I only want to do this one thing. I want everyone together just as family. I want to be a peace maker and carry all the love. I want everyone to be happy, every single one. The girls, the boys, the babies, even moms and dads should all be having fun together on sunny days like these. But in the busy city it’s hard to make peace. So many people fight out there. They don’t care about these things. And that is why I, Jordi McBroom, will become a peace maker and change the world.