Middle School Chicago Trip: Day One

Tuesday was the middle school’s first full day in Chicago and we saw a lot! We started on the South Side and ended in the North. Many miles were walked and they had many new experiences.

We started the day with a train ride to Chinatown located in the South Side of Chicago. The children enjoyed experiencing the sights in Chinatown. Chicago has the second largest Chinatown in the US (outside of San Francisco) and it was fun showing them a vibrant ethnic neighborhood in a major US city. We visited Chinatown Square where the students posed with their Chinese zodiac symbols and ended up our tour in Ping Tom Memorial Park.

From there it was back on the “El” for a train ride back into downtown Chicago where we walked the “Magnificent Mile”. The students saw many of Chicago’s architectural landmarks like the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, and The Old Water Tower. The walk ended at Oak Street Beach where everyone had a chance to skip stones or just sit with their toes in the sand.

Tonight we will be heading up to the world famous Kingston Mines blues club for dinner and the early show. Tomorrow we hit the Art Institute and the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower.

Posted in field trip, McGuffey, Middle School, outside, Upper Elementary

Feeling Self Portraits

This semester in Peace the Upper Elementary students have been talking about emotions, feelings, and moods. We started off by looking at the Atlas of Emotions where we talked about the five “universal emotions” and emotional triggers. I’d like to encourage parents to take a few minutes and check out the Atlas of Emotions by following the link above.

We then talked about the differences between emotions and feelings and discussed constructive things we can do when we experience negative feelings. Creating these tools at a younger age can help our students be more resilient as they go through life.

We finished off by creating “feeling self-portraits”. The students began by making a pencil self-portrait and then, using a specially designed color wheel, they colored in the portrait with colors that reflected how they were feeling at the time.

It was interesting watching the students share their feelings through artwork.

Posted in peace, Upper Elementary


Primary students have continued the year of animal study with a unit on reptiles. We learned that reptiles can live in water or on land. They can have short legs or no legs at all. Most reptiles lay eggs and the young reptiles can take care of themselves after hatching.

Our shelves are filled with reptile models and puzzles as well as a snake skeleton and snake skin. Students have been fascinated and creating their own reptile works, for example, carving a turtle from play dough.

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Grammar in the Upper Unit

Upper Elementary and Middle School are finishing up a unit of grammar. The Montessori method of grammar instruction uses manipulative symbols for various parts of speech. UE enjoyed reading the Parts of Speech fairy tale, which is a method of memorizing the parts of speech and explaining their function, and played games that helped explain various parts of speech. For example, students tossed a tennis ball to one another, demonstrating a preposition using the tennis ball when they caught it. In the photo, two students are under the ball! Montessori Grammar is also taught using miniature environments, beginning with the Grammar Farm, where students set up a scene and then write sentences about it to analyze.

In the Upper Unit, a model grocery store and cargo ship are the miniature environments for both UE and MS, allowing them to construct more complex sentences to work with. Upper Elementary identifies the parts of speech in a sentence and learns that some parts of speech, such as nouns, have several different roles they can play. In Middle School, grammar study extends to studying subtypes of speech, such as kinds of conjunctions, and diagramming sentences. All of this work helps students understand how the English language is put together, and provides excellent preparation for learning foreign languages.

Posted in language arts, Middle School, Upper Elementary, upper unit


Primary recently continued our exploration of Africa by shifting our focus to Ghana. Although it is a small country, about twice the size of Ohio, it has many unique characteristics.

We were so lucky to be visited by a parent, Naaborle Sackeyfio, who is from Accra, Ghana. She told us about living along The Gold Coast and shopping for arts and crafts in the marketplace. Naaborle brought a beautiful brass bracelet with a Sankofa bird. The significance of the bird is about going away and returning to home. The children also learned the word “Akwaaba” which means welcome and were treated to a traditional Ashanti tale of Anansi and the Spider by Gerald McDermott. We thank Naaborle for taking time to share her stories and experiences with us!

Ghana is where the well-known kente cloth originated, woven on looms by the Ashanti people. The children in Primary had the opportunity to work on a loom during our work period. We were also very excited to discover that Ghana is the world’s second largest producer of cacao! The students spent two weeks exploring Ghana with books, photos, musical instruments, artifacts, and games.

Posted in Uncategorized

Population Density

This semester the Upper Unit students are learning about the physical and cultural geography of Asia. We began with a look at the differences in land mass, total population, and population density between North America and Asia.

Using the data provided the students then created a visual representation of the difference in population per square kilometer between North America and Asia. Middle school students were asked to calculate population density after being given the population data and the size of the continent in square kilometers.

This activity gave the students a concrete way to observe the population differences between these two continents.

Posted in Middle School, social studies, Upper Elementary, upper unit

Open Doors

At McGuffey, it’s important that students feel at home, not just in their own classroom, but throughout the campus. We do this in a variety of ways, including Partners, the Step-Up Program, and Open Doors.

Open Doors occurs each month when we open the doors between Primary and Lower Elementary, and allow the students to choose where they want to work. Older students have a chance to visit the classroom they once called home, while younger ones get to visit where the “big kids” work.

Over time, we find most children not only feel comfortable in both spaces, but with both sets of students and teachers! Each session is an incredible opportunity for our older children to be teachers, and for the younger ones to be exposed to big ideas.

Posted in community, Lower Elementary, McGuffey, Primary


The Primary classroom began a traditional Montessori study of the five classes of vertebrates (animals with backbones): fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. During these first two weeks, we studied fish. We read about the characteristics that define fish, such as living in water and breathing with gills. We conducted a science experiment with a coffee filter to see how gills work. The children explored many interesting fish activities and welcomed some fish visitors to the classroom.

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#Take3 for PE

The students of McGuffey Montessori found a way to combine being outdoors and active with doing something good for the community.

Taking our inspiration from the Facebook group #Take3 Oxford our students set out to pick up trash in our neighborhood. The Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, and Middle School students each set out to different areas around McGuffey and collected over four big trash bags full of garbage!

It’s always inspiring to see the enthusiasm that our students bring to cleaning up the environment!

Posted in community, Lower Elementary, Middle School, outside, physical education, Upper Elementary

Practical Life

The purpose of Practical Life in a Montessori classroom is to help the child gain control of her movements and build independence. These works appeal to Primary-aged children who can often be heard saying, “I can do it!”. Practical Life exercises can be categorized into four different groups: preliminary applications, applied applications, grace and courtesy, and control of movement.

Over the course of this year, we have been introduced to several engaging and exciting works in applied applications which are activities that can be found in every day life. Sorting beads into colored bowls with a wooden spoon. Bags and bags of carrots have been peeled. The children have loved practicing with a real hammer (after donning real safety goggles first!) to pound golf tees into an enormous pumpkin. Finger muscles are then strengthened by pulling tees back out. The cubby area is mindfully cared for by cleaning off the boot shelves and another child is practicing using a screwdriver with different sized screws. These pictures show concentration and pride as our students practice and master what they see adults doing every day.

Posted in Uncategorized