Primary goes back in time


As part of our study of the United States, Primary took a trip back in time! When the students arrived in the morning, they noticed things looked a bit different. Their classroom had been transported back to the 1800s! We ran the school day as if we were back in the time before electricity and running water, convenience stores, manufactured goods, and computers. We cleared all the “modern” materials from our classroom other than the bathroom and a box of tissues. There were no lights in the bathroom, so children took a (battery powered) lantern in with them. Washing hands took place outside with a bar of soap, using a watering can to rinse.

Children spent their day writing on slates, collecting firewood, carding wool, using a washboard, embroidering, reading, playing music, and preparing a meal. We made a community lunch, including skillet cornbread that was cooked over a fire.

We placed all our tables in rows, and held our morning meeting with the teacher at the head of the class. We had some special guests from the Upper Unit, who came to talk about the Living History experience they had during their annual four-day trip to Glen Helen last week.

We wrapped up our day with a visit from singer, Papa Joe, who brought his banjo and dressed in period clothing to sing several songs. We hope our students enjoyed this journey back in time!

Posted in cooking, McGuffey, outside, Primary, social studies

Lower Elementary Learns About the Mid-Autumn Festival

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Last week, our Lower Elementary students learned about the Mid-Autumn Festival in class. The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known by several other names including the Mooncake Festival and the Children’s Festival, is celebrated in various places around the world, but it is one of the most important holidays in China and Vietnam. It’s celebrated on the night of the full moon that occurs around harvest time, and it’s an occasion for families to spend time together and to honor the sense of unity and harmony that exists within a family.

Students read two books to get a sense of how the holiday is celebrated and to learn about its roots in mythology: Mooncakes, by Loretta Seto, and Thanking the Moon, by Grace Lin. Many students completed a Mid-Autumn Festival Word Search in order to familiarize themselves with terminology related to the holiday. Two slideshows were available to be viewed on Lower Elementary’s classroom computer: one showing photos of Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations around the world, and the other showing depictions of moon celebrations in Chinese art. Students also got a chance to see decorations that go along with the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival as various kinds of paper lanterns popped up in the classroom throughout the week.

On Friday, everybody got to try a taste of a mooncake for themselves! Some students tried a small piece of an authentic mooncake with a lotus-seed paste filling that was purchased from the Asian Food Market here in town (they came in a beautiful tin, which everybody also admired), while other students ate homemade, gluten-free mooncakes with an almond-butter filling. Although we did not get to make mooncakes as a class, several mooncake molds were available to be used with play-dough throughout the week so students could get a feel for how the intricate designs are pressed into the dough.

Posted in Lower Elementary, social studies

Extended Day Kids Transform Garden Bed

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Last week while the Upper Unit was away at Glen Helen, the kids in Extended Day helped beautify the planting bed on the east side of the office. Weeds were pulled, mums were planted and watered, and rocks were beautifully painted to decorate the area. Be sure to check it out the next time you’re near the playground!

Posted in extended day, McGuffey, outside

Roman Numerals in Mathematics and Language Arts


Many Montessori materials contain elements that link to one another, often bridging the gap between two or more content areas that might seem like an unlikely match. Take the use of Roman numerals, for instance. The first place that many Lower Elementary students ran into Roman numerals this year was not in Mathematics, but in Language Arts!

The Montessori Grammar Boxes use Roman numerals as a way of distinguishing between different levels of the material. Students start off by working with the filling boxes labeled II A, II B, II C, and so on, and then they move to the filling boxes labeled III A, III B, III C, etc. The Roman numerals on each box represent how many different parts of speech students will be working with inside of the box, with the boxes labeled II including only articles and nouns (there are no boxes labeled I because the Grammar Boxes demonstrate different parts of speech as they relate to each other, requiring at least two parts of speech to begin with).

Students sort through the word cards from the filling boxes, arranging them by their parts of speech. Next they work with larger, rectangular cards that demonstrate phrases or sentences which the students then re-create, both with word cards and with pencil on paper. Finally, students stamp or draw the appropriate Montessori grammar symbol above each word that they have written. While the word cards from the filling boxes as well as the Montessori grammar symbols themselves are both color-coded, the colors are not always the same across materials. This is done intentionally so that students cannot complete the activity only by using color association, and must be thinking at a deeper level in order to understand the category that each word belongs to.

At the same time that our students are completing their first Grammar Boxes, they are also working with the Roman Numerals Hundred Board in Mathematics. As with the standard Hundred Board, there are 100 numbered tiles that must be arranged in order on a square grid. But unlike the standard Hundred Board, there is no control chart for the Roman Numeral Hundred Board. Instead, students are given a list of the Roman numerals for the numbers 1-10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100, and they must use their own reasoning and logic skills to figure out exactly what number is represented by, say, LXXVIII. This process requires lots of addition along the way! Many students like to use the control chart for the standard Hundred Board as an extra guide to help them find the correct place on the grid to put each tile once they decipher each Roman numeral.

It’s a joy to watch the work on the Roman Numerals Hundred Board begin to influence how students understand the ordering of the Grammar Boxes. Students will often correct themselves mid-sentence, saying, “Today I completed Grammar Box I-I-I-B… I mean, 3-B!”

Posted in language arts, Lower Elementary, math

Days 3 and 4 at Glen Helen

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We had more beautiful clear weather for our third day at Glen Helen. Students went out in their trail groups in the morning sunlight. Our third day’s programs included a Geology hike, where students learned about the types of rocks in the Glen and how they were formed. Students finished their hike at the iron-rich Yellow Spring for which Yellow Springs is named. Other hikes explored meadows, thickets, and forests, or led students through cooperative games where they were challenged to work as a team and solve problems creatively.

Afternoon fun activities included a forest hide-and-seek game where students camouflaged themselves, an exploration of survival skills, and a rousing game of Capture-the-Stick in the meadow.

In between hikes and in the evening, everyone enjoyed dorm time. Students played games, read quietly, drew, rested, or if they still had plenty of energy, went outside for another round of jumping. The highlight of the evening was the night hike, a very special experience exploring the nocturnal world.

Friday morning, everyone was tired but happy. A little rain began to fall just as the final hikes ended. Students had lunch and received farewell notes from their naturalists. After some big hugs, we waved goodbye to the Glen—until next year!

If your student loved their experience and thinks a year is much too long to wait to go back, Glen Helen offers week-long summer camps. Information is on their website (click here). The Glen is also open to day visitors, so families are free to come to the Glen, hike the trails, and see some of the areas your children have been exploring. Information is on their website for this, too.

Posted in field trip, McGuffey, Middle School, outside, science, Upper Elementary, upper unit

Day 2 at Glen Helen

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On Day 2 of the four-day program, Glen Helen students went on an all-day field trip with their naturalists. They began the day by packing their own lunches. Afterwards, they headed out in their trail groups for the day’s adventure.

One of the highlights of a summer/early fall trip to the Glen is a chance to do stream biology. Each trail group does the stream biology hike, though they may do it on different days. Today’s group had the chance to hike to two different area of the creek. They assessed the health of the stream habitats by measuring pH, turbidity, and other characteristics of the water, and also investigated the creek’s many inhabitants.

After getting back from their long hike, students took a break for a snack and rest time. Then at 4:30, they chose from several fun activities offered each day. Some options McGuffey students have enjoyed include building shelters out of natural materials in a special off-trail area, tree-climbing, envelope-making, and playing Quidditch.

In the evening, McGuffey’s staff hosted recreational activities and snacks at the dorm. The students organized their own jumping contest outside the dorm and had a wonderful time. After it started to get dark, we played indoor games and ended the night with a Choose Your Own Adventure story. We had a great day!

Posted in field trip, McGuffey, Middle School, science, Upper Elementary, upper unit

Glen Helen Adventures Begin

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Our entire Upper Unit (Grades 4-8) arrived safely at the Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center in Yellow Springs for four days and three nights of science, nature, outdoors and fun.

After orientation and lunch, each group headed out on the trail for their first hike, Living History. Along the route, groups encountered various figures who would be living in the Glen area in 1796. Students talked with the characters and acted out their own historical roles as they completed a project. We can’t wait to see what comes next!

Posted in field trip, McGuffey, Middle School, social studies, Upper Elementary, upper unit

Montessori Work Periods in the Upper Unit

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In a Montessori classroom, students participate in work periods when they are not part of a lesson or presentation with one of their teachers. The photos above provide a snapshot of our work periods in the Upper Unit classroom today.

During these times, students first plan their tasks (or “works”) for the work period. Then, one by one, they set up each work on their task list, complete it, and put it away. Work periods often involve students talking quietly when they are working in groups, and moving around on their own as needed to find their materials. Students are busy in many different subject areas at the same time, depending on the work plan they have made for the day. They work by themselves, next to a friend, or in a group, and usually do all three within the same work period.

Observing a work period in action can be quite a revelation, and can offer deep insight into the Montessori method. We welcome parents and family members to contact their classroom’s teachers if they are interested in scheduling an observation!

Posted in Middle School, Upper Elementary, upper unit

Pizza from the garden


Last spring, some classroom parents (who happen to be farmers) helped the Primary class start a vegetable garden. We enjoyed watching it grow in the spring, and when we returned in the fall, we discovered we were pretty good farmers!

This season we successfully grew squash, tomatoes, basil, green peppers, pumpkins, strawberries, and cantaloupe. We’ve been enjoying eating the cantaloupe as a snack, and students are often seen in our outdoor classroom munching on basil.

Last week we harvested tomatoes, basil, and a green pepper and made our own pizza sauce! After chopping, mixing, and blending, children watched and smelled as the sauce boiled down in the hour before lunchtime. Every child in class devoured a small pizza (with gluten-free and dairy-free options) as an addition to their lunch.

The results? Delicious!

Posted in cooking, McGuffey, outside, Primary, science

Berry Basket Weaving

baskets3baskets4baskets5baskets6baskets7baskets2 baskets1baskets8baskets9Our first art project of the school year seemed to showcase the variety of personalities that exist within our student body. Hidden among the many treasures of supplies in the art room is a large box full of plastic berry baskets (not that easy to find these days!) Students in grades one through eight used simple weaving methods to fill their baskets with a variety of colors and textures. We started with plainer and larger ribbons and yarn to fill spaces, then added details with thinner yarns, ribbons and beads. This project gave students several opportunities to problem solve; some items needed to be secured with tying knots while others required fabric or hot glue. Plastic yarn needles work best for  some yarns while fingers or metal tapestry needles proved better for others.

The green plastic baskets weren’t very exciting to the kids when first presented, but the end results were pretty amazing. In the process vs. product debate, I would call this one a tie.

Posted in art