Elementary Update: November 2011

Looking forward to getting in our routines from last week’s weather (ah-hem) interruption!  The class is all sorts of busily engaged. Engaged in what you say? The children are engaged in nothing short of their learning.  It is a thriving environment chock full of projects and undertakings that are teacher prepared and child managed. This month we have seen the fulfillment of our first Art Unit centering on the Native American Indians. We have painted a Chief, crafted clay pots reminiscent of the Sioux, fashioned masks; paying particular attention to face structure and painted markings, as well as learned how weaving on a loom is accomplished. Our last tasking of a landscape painting at sunset with teepees was finished at The Currier on our latest Field Trip. Elementary is for “going out” excursions. Montessori said this age of developments has the child ready to explore their surroundings in a new and meaningful way at some distance and in some places far from their close, cozy, and safe home and school settings.  We take to that philosophy in a big way. As a group we took our “maiden voyage” to see The Mayflower reproduction and Plimoth Plantation. After years of yearning to bring a class close to that fictional reality of time and place we were finally able to do just that ( in between pelting spats of rainstorms) on a picture perfect day in September! We’ll be calling on that experience as we move towards Thanksgiving with an eye to Fundamental Needs of both the Pilgrims and Natives.

Our History Studies are off and running as a result of both our Art and Field Trip experiences. It is Montessori’s Cosmic approach to education that begs the questions, who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? And how do I get there? Otherwise known as the interconnectedness of things – it is genius at the core. We are moving into our third study of Native Americans of the Southwest after the Eastern Woodlands and Plains Indian studies. These studies have captured the 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students.

The 1st years are getting their “sea legs” learning how to discipline themselves to accomplish math and language tasks daily. Apart from the three R’s they are off and running learning about our Earth and the various land forms and the 5 Classification of Vertebrates (parts of the animal studies). I “think” their sticker shock has worn off and they are all digging in with less and less fatigue. Work actually energizes. We love to see the gradual shift from Children’s House student to Elementary student.

All did a wonderful job on their Peacemaker Study.  We kicked off our study with an Amherst Library visit to get in the research mood. This year we were treated to the life stories of Annie Oakley, Dr. Seuss, Maria Tallchief, Mahatma Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Jane Goodall, Queen Elizabeta of Romania, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mother Theresa, Pocahontas, George Washington, Buzz Aldrin, and Ole Kristenson.  Don’t know the last one? That’s Mr. Lego. I can’t say enough about the time, effort, and dedication your children put into this project. I even heard MANY say, I can’t wait for next year – I know who I’m going to study!

We are knee-deep into our Martial Arts P.E. Unit. I wasn’t sure how the children would enjoy this unit but overall I would have to say we have scored another winner. Their instructor is kind and knowledgeable and seems to keep the class alternating between listening, practicing, running and exercises in a well-balanced blend. We have 4 more sessions. After the holidays we’ll be starting another unit TBD.

You may not have been aware, but we had an outreach program from Bridges an organization that provides services and support for domestic and sexual violence victims.

For three weeks before lunch we had 2 young women for ½ hour in duration provide the children with information through books, scenario and role-play that would have them appreciate the kinds of bullying that can occur, the places it can occur and what they can do about it. We really call it Bully Prevention – or Bully Proofing for our kids. The instructors were amazed and complimentary firstly, about how much our kids already knew and secondly, that they are an empowered bunch to help other in circumstances as well. I am proud of our community and have always said if your school needs a bullying policy- it is too late; bullying occurs there already. To date we have had no need for bullying policies. I know pride goes before the fall – but we’ll keep our traditions until such time as necessity forces us to do something different. It is a luxury of being a small community.

Moving swiftly into November – This week we will be treated to a presentation from Barbara Medlyn a.k.a. The Rock Lady from The Quartz Source store in Milford. Look for your children to suddenly become passionate about rocks and minerals. Some may be making booklets, other posters in the coming weeks.

We should be finishing up the state studies very soon. These will continue to serve as our backdrop as we move beyond the first inhabitants of what is now the United States and we move into early American History; the founding of our country.

In Mathematics, our beginning of year focus has been to see what your child has retained. After extensive review, we are moving out into fraction operations for some, introduction of fractions for others, large division for some, carrying and borrowing for others, beginning multiplication and memorization of multiplication facts as well as word problems for all.

Have fun with math and instead of turning on the television set in the car or at home make up some math word problems and discuss what operation you need to apply to be able to solve it. Make math a topic of conversation at every chance you can.

Elders (2nd grade and above), are studying Rivers of the World and the Work of Water and will be getting homework soon. This is their geography unit which will relate to Fundamental Needs yesterday, today, and tomorrow here, there, and everywhere and will relate to an end-of-year cultural study. * Back to the cosmic nature of the elementary studies.

In Science, other than our ongoing study of Plants, elders will take up the topics of cells; the parts of a cell, the difference between plant cells and animal cells. We will also begin a study of the nature of the elements. You will see a homework assignment on an element of their choice! All topics will begin before the first of the New Year.

Lastly, we need to know the last day your child will be in school before the Thanksgiving Holiday. This will help in our planning of an evening event of 1 hour in duration for our class. We would like 100% participation so we will schedule it as soon as we can secure all your info. Forgive me if this is a repeat question – but if it’s not on a piece of paper in front of me…….so send it or jot it down and we’ll confirm a date for our last event before Thanks-giving for you ASAP.

And – a final request. We need magazines all kinds! National Geographic, Smithsonian, nature as well as fashion and entertainment, historical, car and home handyman, decorating, cooking,  or travel in short, magazines you are soon to dispose of for a class project. If you don’t have any but care to buy one and donate it to us – we will happily accept.

Thanks for all you do,

Claire and Sue

ElementaryCarolyn McKinney