Upper El’s Week of Adventure

In the beautiful month of May, the Upper Elementary class takes an exciting trip to Maryland and stays four nights at Echo Hill Outdoor School (E.H.O.S.) to extend their outdoor and environmental studies, and of course to have fun! The fifth and fourth grade class stays at the E.H.O.S. campground while the sixth grade class often takes a daring and adventurous boat trip.

Although it is a place to learn, we have fun outside our regular activities: hayrides, meeting new friends from other schools, bonfires, roasting marshmallows, etc. Other things we learned about this week is that if you chew a lifesaver with your mouth open, you can see sparks! A big part of Echo Hill is the delicious food served buffet style daily, however if you don’t finish your food because you put too much on your plate, it goes into the “slop” bucket (S.L.O.P. stands for Stuff Left On Plate). The slop is weighed at the end of the meal, and added up after our last meal before leaving. The least amount of slop the better. The three schools in attendance one week accumulated 70 lbs of slop. We still have a lot to learn about wasting food!

During our extra time in between lessons, you can head down to the beach and canoe, beach hike, wade, or sit and talk, or if the beach isn’t appealing, you can wander, play ball on the ball courts, or stay on the tent side and shower or read. We met old friends and new ones and had lots of fun. The tents weren’t luxurious, but that made it more fun. The bug nets kept out the bugs so they didn’t crawl on you in the middle of the night.

To end our amazing journey at Echo Hill we walked down to the Merick Hall and had a Stick Ceremony. The Stick Ceremony is where one by one a classmate takes a stick, says what they loved about Echo Hill and what they will miss, and throws the stick into the fire. This was a very sentimental part of the trip. One fifth grader said, “It was my favorite part of the trip because we played games and everyone had fun!” Another fifth grader said, “I liked that we could throw sticks into the fire so a little part of us would always be there.”

Each class was fun and unique, and we learned many things. It was a week worth attending!

Compiled by Upper Elementary students

Recommended reading for parents:

  • How to Help Kids With Sleepover Anxiety by Beth Arky of the Child Mind Institute, viewed May 13 2019, [https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-kids-with-sleepover-anxiety/]
  • Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help Children Grow, by Michael Thompson
  • Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv
  • The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life In a Virtual Age, by Richard Louv

Going Out in Upper El

In accordance with Montessori philosophy, an important function of an Elementary Montessori educator is to give students explicit lessons in practical life. Practical life lessons encompass what we do each day to sustain our own health and to maintain a positive relationship with our immediate community and society at large. Practical life work is important and beneficial for the elementary Montessori student, as it meets the needs of a child in the second plane of development and it develops the skills necessary for defining and finding one’s own unique, specific role in society.

Upper Elementary students routinely go outside of the classroom to extend their studies. Procedures for going out as well as expected behavior while outside of the classroom are explained to Upper Elementary students. Topics may include Grace and Courtesy while planning a going out (phone manners), how to speak to a docent or guide, how to behave at a museum etc., how to read a map, how to ask for directions, how to behave on public transportation, how to order food at a restaurant, and how to follow up your visit with a thank you note to your expert guide or docent.

Children in the second plane of development differ from first plane children in a number of ways, and the practical life curriculum speaks to these differences. The second plane is “a period for the acquisition of culture, just as the former was for the absorption of the environment” (Montessori, 1989, p. 3). The practical life curriculum delivers lessons in the acquisition of culture that are now of great interest to the child.

Practical life work develops real life skills that can be used immediately and routinely during real life experiences in an effective way. This empowering experience of mastering real life skills builds confidence in the second plane child. This development of social confidence provides a very effective model to the child for their developing academic skills and confidence. The sense of responsibility developed in practical life easily translates to academic responsibility. Students who make and follow a weekly work plan clearly know that what they plan and what they do is important and effective. Other academic skills developed through work in practical life include increased focus, lengthened attention span, improved problem-solving and critical thinking.

Practical Life work develops skills necessary for establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with the community and with society. The delivery of the Montessori curriculum, including the practical life curriculum, serves a critical social need.

An extremely important social task lies before us: activating man’s value, allowing him to attain the maximum development of his energies, truly preparing him to bring about a different form of human society on a higher plane. (Montessori, 1992, p. xiii)

The practical life curriculum effectively contributes to activating the self-value of the second plane child. Lessons in going out afford him authentic, real world experiences, validating the importance of his role within society.

Upper El going out
Upper El on a field trip
Upper El Class

References:

Montessori, M. (1989). To educate the human potential. Oxford: ABC-Clio Ltd.
Montessori, M. (1992). Education and peace. Oxford: ABC-Clio Ltd.

Pandora’s Socks

Who doesn’t love to try on a different persona? To be someone completely different, with a completely different personality, qualities, attitudes, capabilities and problems; to be funny, angry ridiculous, serious, sad or distraught. Every year, Upper Elementary students become someone else in a different time period, in a different setting, and with a unique set of circumstances through their involvement in a school play.

Preparation is a full team effort

Mrs. Beck chooses plays early in the school year according to what the students will be studying in Culture. After a final decision is made, Mrs. Cooper and I meet in October to brainstorm about a setting and props that need to be made, and in November, we do a read-through of the play. I then begin to prepare students for auditions. From that point to the final show, the Upper El classroom buzzes with excitement, anticipation and maybe a little bit of anxiety. Their heads spin with ideas about their character’s actions and words, phrases or the lines they want to add to make their scene more humorous. (We often go with their ideas, because they really are funny!)

Here is the story of Pandora’s Socks and Other Fractured Greek Myths. 

Exercises determine acting roles

In the past, students would prepare for a role by trying to memorize some lines or by simply reading from the play with inflection. This is often an unreliable way to predict a student’s performance as a character. So this year, I prepared made-up scenarios for students to role-play. Various scenarios were printed out, cut apart and placed in a basket for students to pick from, such as: You just got home and discovered that your little sister completely messed up your room while you were at school, and now you’re in trouble and YOU have to clean up your room before you can go out to play. OR, Your best friend let loose the news that you have a crush on someone.

There was only one stipulation in the exercise: the role-plays had to be convincing. Not surprisingly, we saw a range of reactions from each scenario. The exercise was voluntary, but eventually, even as shy students watched their classmates, they too wanted to give it a try. It was a lot of fun and a great way to practice “acting”!

Next, students signed up for their top three character choices in the play. They practiced monologues of each of these characters and were able to demonstrate their acting abilities. Once auditions were finished and roles were assigned, students received their scripts to take home over winter break. When everyone returned in January, teamwork was in action.

Rehearsals involved working on one scene at a time, often in small groups, to develop and hone the students’ characters. Students enjoyed getting to see their friends rehearse their scenes and provided positive feedback or ideas to help develop the scene. In music class, Mr. Sherick guided students with music for the play.

From research to set-making

In art class, Mrs. Cooper organized and rotated students in groups to work on props and the set backdrop. Since the play backdrop featured constellations, students researched Greek mythological characters and their constellations, and traced and painted them on the backdrop. More tech savvy students worked on designing the program and creating it on the computer.

From October through to the final dress rehearsal, Mrs. Struck and I designed, created costumes, and also recycled current costuming. There is always a need to have something newer and fresher, and we have learned to become very creative with improvising.

By late February, the stage, the sound system, mics and lights were all in place. Then began the process of “blocking” where we worked out entrances and exits, placement of props, who will be responsible for the props, and figuring out where the play needed better flow. We brainstormed ideas and even new dialogue where necessary. Students with natural “stage manager” abilities initiated guidelines to help smooth out behind-the-scenes disorganization. After each complete run-through of the play, we gathered as a group to evaluate what worked well and what didn’t. We took time to make sure everyone was acknowledged for what they did well.

It’s showtime!

And then . . . the magic happens, and the characters come to life before an enthused audience. The energy is high, but the students are confident in their abilities because of all the hard work put into rehearsing.

Bravo! Encore!

The whole process of preparing for the play develops a multitude of skills and enrichment for the students. Their creativity flows, their input is valued, their responsibility for their part of the play becomes heightened, and they become more mindful of how they communicate with others. They work as a team in a non athletic way, problem-solve, and design a performance around a script. They develop a character, and figure out effective character interaction with other characters in the play. The students get to know each other in completely different ways, and develop new, better or strengthened friendships through the process. But most of all, they get to have fun.

Dee Hosaisy, Director, Pandora’s Socks and Other Fractured Greek Myths

Pandora's Socks play prep
Pandora's Socks play prep
Prepping for UE play
Pandora's Socks Upper El

Spanish at TMS

Spanish is taught at TMS in the Elementary classes. Depending on the occasion, classes are centered around holidays that lend themselves to learning the Spanish language, vocabulary and conversation. This video features a couple of days that were spent on the Mexican celebration of the “Day of the Dead.”

Math Materials We Use

The use of the didactic math materials developed by Maria Montessori is one of the most recognizable hallmarks of a Montessori education.

This system in which a child is constantly moving objects with his hands and actively exercising his senses, also takes into account a child’s special aptitude for mathematics. When they leave the material, the children very easily reach the point where they wish to write out the operation. They thus carry out an abstract mental operation and acquire a kind of natural and spontaneous inclination for mental calculations. (Montessori, 1967, p. 279)

These materials are distinct in that they guide students to explore mathematical principles independently in a concrete and experiential way. This allows students to utilize all of their senses to internalize math concepts, and ultimately allow them to achieve abstraction. The materials are developmentally appropriate, carefully designed to meet the needs characteristic of the plane of development of the child intended to use them. The materials appear time and again, within the spiraling math curriculum. Upon each appearance, students revisit what they already know, and are provided a reference point for where the new information now ascertained from the material is to be organized.

Golden beads used for introductory lessons in the primary classroom, such as the introduction to place value, are later used by the upper elementary student to understand more complex lessons, such as the first square root lesson. The golden beads are familiar, isolating the difficulty to understanding the new, more advanced concept of what square root means.

The same holds true for the binomial cube; through use of this familiar material, difficulty is isolated when it is used to later demonstrate more complex concepts. In this way, work done at the primary level scaffolds the work done at the upper elementary level. “Children can create mental structures from previously learned material into which new carefully designed material can be assimilated” (Lillard, 2005, p. 236). This is the elegance of the use of the didactic math materials within the Montessori spiralling curriculum and the genius of its design.

References:

Lillard, A.S. (2005). Montessori: The science behind the genius. New York: Oxford University Press.

Montessori, M. (1967). The discovery of the child. New York: Ballantine Books.

Math materials
Math materials
Math materials
Math materials
Math materials

Peace Education

“Dr. Maria Montessori is universally known for her contribution to the cause of peace and the brotherhood of nations to which she has dedicated the best years of her long and active life, laying the foundations of a true science of peace by means of her innovative form of education.”

Maria Montessori saw with great clarity the huge potential of freedom not in the manifestation of the adult, but rather in that of a child. This is why her classrooms are so different.

Upper Elementary classroom
Upper Elementary

The Montessori classroom is a prepared environment with mixed ages as in real life. It is where the students are allowed the freedom to make good choices as in real life. It is where the students are able to select an activity and work at it for as long as they like. It is a place where knowledge is not just passed down, but most importantly, it is a microcosm in which the student is guided to what is good and what is just.

It is a place where the children can play out their roles and interact with their peers and move about freely. Where they can experiment with what happens when they conduct themselves selfishly or generously, explore what happens when they show impatience or tolerance, and live with the outcome when they demonstrate meanness of spirit or empathy.

Upper Elementary Peace class

It is an environment where the “invisible curriculum” of Grace and Courtesy plays a significant role in the modeling of PEACE. For example:

  • How to ask for help from a teacher or a friend.
  • What if someone says “You’re not my friend.”?
  • How to watch someone do work.
  • How to do clean up.
  • How to agree or disagree.
Upper Elementary class meeting

These rehearsed social scenarios are great tools for the construction of a peaceful life. The Montessori classroom is an ideal place for children to gain confidence and to satisfy the child’s need to function independently.

Upper Elementary discussion

Montessori said, “Establishing lasting peace is the real work of education…”

Upper Elementary outdoors

To rephrase this: Establishing lasting peace is the real work of the child.

Upper elementary math work