You can tell by the “surprise” storms that spring has sprung! And with the buds and daffodils come multitudinous plans for the school year’s end. We will be asking for your help often in the last few weeks of school so be sure to look over the “Mark Your Calendar” section and add all events that apply to you to your own May calendars! And try to take some time from this busy schedule to smell the blossoms with your child.
Now that the weather is warming it’s time to start taking advantage of the outdoor classroom again. For Toddlers this means stopping to look at the flowers pushing their way out of the ground, the first bugs waking up and the new buds. For Early Childhood students it means more walking, biking and hiking, exploring what’s new in the surrounding gardens and parks and helping to plan camping trips. For Elementary students the outdoors is a great place to sketch, to write, to practice music, to climb trees and build hide-outs. At our school we make a point of getting outside whenever possible. It’s important to have real experiences in nature to confirm what we have studied, to notice something new and to make a connection with our planet.
When I speak to a group of people I often ask them for favorite childhood memories. At one conference of Montessorians I heard about a child dancing in the rain in Singapore, another playing in the wind on the beach in Pakistan, another eating fruit right off the vine in Michigan. No one ever says their favorite childhood memory was watching a movie or playing a video game or staying in a hotel. It’s always climbing trees and catching frogs and playing in the garden. When my son was in about 8th grade he told me that his favorite memory of going to Soaring Wings was the time he and his buddies dug a gigantic hole on the playground. I was disappointed that he hadn’t mentioned the bead chains or one of my stunning geography presentations. A few years ago when he was 23 years old, he sent me a text message that said, “My favorite thing at Soaring Wings was when we listened to the trees with a stethoscope.” Still nothing to do with the expensive materials or the fabulous curriculum, but a simple outdoor activity.
The April 2008 Scientific American reported;
“Americans are losing interest in going outdoors. Visits to parks and forests…peaked between 1981 and 1991 after 50 years of steady increase. Since then they have been declining…an overall drop of as much as 25%.”
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods says:
“A growing body of evidence indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health.”
He points out that the increasing occurence of learning disorders in young children is in inverse proportion to the amount of time children are spending outside in unstructured experimentation with nature. Digging, climbing, building forts…we considered this to be just messing around when we were kids, but it turns out we needed that time with the Earth.
Most of us live in Utah because we so value the natural beauty of the place. But Louv points out that our children may not grow up to value the wilderness we have carefully set aside for them if we don’t make sure they, too, have a connection with the Earth.
This month the Toddler classes will be taking “toddler walks” – toddler-paced explorations of the surrounding environs, Early Childhood is going to the Tracy Aviary and Elementary is spending the better part of a week applying the year’s curriculum to practical experience in the desert, canyoneering and on the river in Moab. As you plan your summer remember to leave lots of unstructured time for your children to mess around outside. Consider keeping a box of camping equipment at the ready so you can just throw in some hot dogs and head into the Uintahs or out to the desert even just for the night. Summer in these mountains is a magnificent thing. Make sure you grab a few nights under the stars for those childhood memories to come.
In May we bring our year’s discussions full circle with a description of the planes of development. Or, what to expect as your child grows up. We still have space for El Nido parents and babies in the fall. Lina is excitedly planning for the new school year. The class meet Fridays any time that’s convenient for you and your baby between 8:30 am and 11:30.
Our toddlers have gained much over the past school year. Most have mastered simple sorting tasks, spooning, pouring and wiping up spills. They can dress themselves independently and are responsible for putting their materials back where they belong. They have dabbled in various forms of artistic expression and have been working diligently on colors, shapes, numbers, letters and recognizing their names. If you have taken some time to “Montessori-ize” your home, you have seen your child gain confidence and independence in being able to choose clothing, put toys where they belong and help with simple cleaning tasks. As you prepare for vacation this summer, plan to arrange for your child to continue practicing what she has learned this year.
With a small cutting board and a butter knife your child can slice bananas for a fruit salad and spread cream cheese or sunbutter for a snack. With a small broom, dust pan, a sponge cut in half and a wash cloth cut in quarters she can clean up spills on her own. With a small bucket and a nail brush she can keep her sand toys well scrubbed and help clean off the patio table.
Many of our students who are three and older are enjoying working on letters and numbers. Try writing lower case alphabet letters, one at a time in the sand, with chalk on the sidewalk or on paper and challenging your child to find something that starts with that sound – “b” for ball or bat or baby. You can play number games in the same way – ask your child to find 3 rocks, 3 leaves or 3 sea shells.
Summer is a great time to take “Toddler Walks” which means exploring the natural world at the toddler’s pace, taking time to notice the texture of stones, bark and leaves and to watch the ants at work. Time in the car is well spent singing favorite songs, playing “I Spy”, reading aloud and playing with a home-made “mystery bag.” This can be made from a sock or draw string bag with objects inside which the child tries to identify by touch only. Great mystery bag objects could include shells, stones, small toys, pom poms, clothespins, plastic eating utensils; anything that has a distinctive shape and texture. Most of all, give your toddler opportunities to make her own choices and allow time for her to complete her activities at her own pace. Have a wonderful, toddler-paced summer!
We’re rapidly approaching the end of the year. Here’s what we will cover over the next few weeks:
Monday – Music
We’ve gone from working with rhythm to hearing the emotions of Mozart and the storytelling of Tchaikovsky. We covered “The Nutcracker”, “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty”, as well as Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”, listening to the music again and again in class. The children were impressed that a little Russian boy was able to envision such beautiful fairy tales and later tell them through music. If you enjoy the ballet be sure and catch one with your child the next time it is around.
In May we’ll study Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite” and finish up with some modern composers. Possibly John Lennon, Jack Johnson, Taylor Swift…Pharrell Williams? Who does your child like to listen to? Besides Disney?
Tuesday – Seasons
During May we’ll study the parts of flowers and work on our garden. If you have any fresh flowers to contribute, we’ll use them for dissecting, looking at under a microscope and flower arranging.
Wednesday – Geography
In May we’ll study Australia (including surrounding islands) and have a little time left over for Antarctica. As always, please share any artifacts or ideas for guest speakers from these continents.
Thursday – Poetry
Now that we know many of R.L. Stevenson’s and Shel Silverstein’s poems almost by heart, we’ll see what the children can make of Emily Dickinson. They are usually very adept at interpreting her “riddles” and are fascinated with her peculiarities.
Friday – Biology
Daily observations of our classroom birds and lessons on bird anatomy and specializations has prepared us for a trip to the Tracy Aviary at Liberty Park on May 14th (see below). We’ll be noticing how each bird has particular adaptations that enable it to eat, hide, mate and raise young in a particular environment. Through May we will be studying mammals, including visits with Buddy the chinchilla and concluding with a short “Me” unit, and discussing our place as animals in the ecosystems of Earth.
Last Field Trip
On May 14th from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. we will make our annual trip to the Tracy Aviary followed by a picnic in Liberty Park. Remember school t-shirts, sack lunches (no backpacks or Tupperware, please) and remember to apply sun screen. Water shoes or sandals are great for wading in the pond. We’ll need drivers too. Drivers should bring a bag in which to carry lunches, a first aid kit, a water bottle, spare pants, a cell phone and $6 admission. See the sign-ups on the classroom doors if you can help. This is always a really fun field trip.
Monday – History
The Elementary Class is concluding their study of recorded history by writing their own autobiographies during the last few weeks of school.
Tuesday – Geography
We wrap up our geography unit with a study of Australia. We’ll have just enough time for a look at Antarctica before we adjourn for the summer.
Wednesday – Healthy Lifestyles
We plan to take advantage of the warmer weather to work on outdoor game skills between planning for the River Trip, choreographing our Closing Ceremonies dance and concluding with our peaceful living activities.
Thursday – Biology
We will wrap up the Biology sequence with a look at mammals and our role in our ecosystem. In true Montessori tradition we will confirm our observations of how ecosystems work with our annual River Trip.
Friday – Field Trips and Mother’s & Father’s Day Fun!
We have lots of fun Friday adventures planned for the remainder of the school year, including admiring our artwork at the Kimball Art Center, rafting down the Colorado River, communing with nature at Swaner Nature Preserve and our annual trip to El Restaurante where we will order and enjoy our almuerzo en Espanol!
Moms, plan to join us for our Mothers’ Happy Half Hour on Thursday May 7th, 2:45 – 3:25pm.
Dads, please come to our Father’s Day Fun Day Friday May 22nd, 11:30 – 12:00.
Spring River Trip
May 14th – 16th we’ll be applying our outdoor curriculum during our annual Spring River Trip in Moab. This trip solidifies and polishes the year’s social and academic work. Air out your camping gear and bring your favorite campfire stories!
PC Children’s Fair
The Fair is coming up May 31st, so plan to stick around after Closing Ceremonies! Elementary students will be selling tickets, helping with games and performing at the bandstand. Plan to be at City Park 10:30 am – 3:00 pm on the 31st to support your little fund-raiser, rain or shine!
Thanks to our dedicated parents who all give something of themselves to make our classes an exceptional place for learning and establishing friendships for life.
asked in the Tadpoles Class (1 1/2 to 3 years old)
Amelia – I like hugs about her.
Cedar – She plays.
Erik – She has work to do.
Anna – She drives a car.
Charlotte – She does activities with me.
Evalyn – She gives me kisses.
Dexter – She plays.
Sierra – Mommy pretty.
Zachary S – She makes me breakfast and I eat it.
And those over 3 years say…
Linda – She has a kind heart.
Leti – She’s awesome.
Michelle – Laughter and love.
Leah – She’s crazy supportive.
Leigh Ann – She’s kind and caring.
Leah M – She puts up with me.
Denise – We can be friends and have a lot of fun together.
Natalija – She has always given me unconditional love and support.
Amy – I love everything about my mom, especially how practical she is – because I’m not.
Shannon – She can handle anything.
Lina – She is strong.
Duna – She was strong and powerful and really funny and my best friend…just like my daughter.