Filtering by Author: Nicholas Stocco

Books to Love at School and Home

Books are a beloved and important way for children to explore the world around them.  In the Montessori classroom for children under 6, there are specific criteria for books, including: 

  • Books that have a variety of styles of prose and esthetically appealing illustration styles.
  • Books that relate to the child’s own life and expand their understanding of the experiences of others.
  • Books that can be looked at or read independently.
  • Books that convey a sense of joy and appreciation for life and the world around them.

To get more insight into this topic, we recently had a conversation with Sarah Rinzler, a self proclaimed bibliophile and recent MNW graduate, who became “hooked” on Montessori when looking into preschools for her son. Sarah, who is currently an assistant at Chestnut Grove Montessori, shared some of her tips and insights about embracing books with children both at school and home.

What do you see as the characteristics of a really great book for a Montessori Children’s House classroom?

I will admit that I do “judge books by their covers.” Or at least, it is the cover art that first draws me to a new book. Beautiful, interesting, unique illustrations are important to me in choosing books. Attractive pictures are more likely to entice children to explore with books on their own, especially if they are not yet reading. I also strive to find books with a variety of art styles and which depict the wide array of settings and cultures present in the child’s world and the world as a whole.  

Selecting books with rich language and vocabulary is also important, but variety is important too so I want to strike an overall balance with some books with simple text, others more poetic or rhythmic. I also look for books that are funny! There’s nothing better than making a group of children laugh.

In terms of a book for the classroom, it’s almost always essential that the book to be based in reality, with context that the children can relate to. I don’t discount books that have fantastical elements like talking animals, princesses or superheroes, but if I did read this type of book I would be sure to consider my audience and have conversations with the children about which themes are realistic and which aren’t. I don’t believe that a child who reads “The Cat in the Hat” will believe that cats can talk that Thing One and Thing Two may one day show up at his doorstep, but I would take a moment to acknowledge this.

I also prefer books whose goal is not to “teach a lesson.” Children don’t learn how to act from hearing a story that tells them how to behave; they learn from their own experiences.

You wear two hats, one as a mom to a 5 year old and one as a recently trained Montessori who is entering the classroom. How do you decide if a book is a good fit for the home vs the classroom? 

In the home, I personally feel that we don’t need to shield children from fairy tales. I think it’s a losing battle, because at some point or another they’re going to be exposed to them. At Nana’s, for example, at a friend’s house, at the library, it’s going to happen. They will find a book that teaches them that all girls aspire to be princesses who wait around for their whole lives for a knight in shining armor to come and make them happy! And I actually think it’s great when that happens, because then you have a golden OPPORTUNITY to talk about the ideas in those books, and talk about why you may not (or maybe you do!) agree with that philosophy on life.

So much of Montessori education is based on the idea of exposing children to situations that will give them the opportunity to practice cognitive and social skills so that they develop independently. We sort of guide them into these situations that secretly turn out to be “learning experiences.” We can’t teach them self-control, for example, but we can put them in situations in which they need to control themselves. They learn self-control by experiencing it. Along those lines, books and stories can help them experience some things about life that can translate really well into opportunities for helping them learn about life.

This can lead to some great, and sometimes hilarious, conversations about life and how to treat people and how not everyone is nice all the time. My five year old son told me that he thought Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker in James and the Giant Peach were so mean because their underpants were too tight. It’s kind of silly, but the point is that, here we see something happening that we don’t like, and don’t want to see in our children. So, let’s take this chance to talk to them about it. Now, that doesn’t mean that we will read these kinds of books at school. All of this stuff I’ve been talking about really applies to YOU at home (families and caretakers), and what kinds of stories YOU are comfortable sharing with your children, and how much “real life” YOU want to dive into with them. 

What’s your favorite way to find new, wonderful books?

In general, as I mentioned, I wander around and pick up books that appeal to me aesthetically. My favorite haunts are the Library, Kids at Heart, and Powell’s. I do have enough of a collection now that I will also explore what’s new by my son's and my favorite authors. I pass around books and recommendations with my parent friends (this is such a great resource!) and always look for used copies at bookstores and online. 

Dip into a treasure trove of book ideas for the Montessori 3-6 environment by visiting our Primary Course Assistant lists on -  Casa Friendly Books to Share

Posted on September 26, 2014 and filed under From MNW Staff, Primary, Resources.

Wait List for Primary Weekend Workshop October 10-12, 2014

We will contact those on the wait list, Monday, October 6, if space has opened up or not.

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Posted on September 26, 2014 .

Come Celebrate with Us!

For nearly a decade, The Celebration of Light has been a time for Portland’s Montessori community to come together and support the work happening at Montessori Northwest. We’re profoundly grateful for all of the support we’ve received through the years which has helped us achieve many of our goals, including expanding our teacher training courses, cultivating new AMI teacher trainers, and initiating significant momentum around community networking and organizational partnerships.

At this year’s event, we look forward to sharing news about our satellite teacher training beyond Portland and our vision to open a demonstration Montessori classroom within an at-risk community here in our area. While there will still be a special appeal to the community, there will not be a silent or live auction, so the evening's focus can rest on celebrating this great work with friends, both old and new. 

Join us on Friday, January 30, 2015, from 5:30 - 9:30 pm, at the Melody Ballroom, for the 10th Annual Montessori Northwest Celebration of Light, as we raise a glass to the teachers, administrators, parents, and supporters who compose this incredible Montessori community! 

Posted on September 23, 2014 .

Montessori is Early Intervention

MNW Primary Trainer Ginni Sackett strongly recommends this New York Times article ‘The Way to Beat Poverty’, written by the highly respected team of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuBunn. These renowned advocates for worldwide human rights turn their gaze a little closer to home here, making a persuasive case that if we want to fight inequality, we’ve got to give help early – even before birth. 

“One reason the United States has not made more progress against poverty is that our interventions come too late. If there’s one overarching lesson from the past few decades of research about how to break the cycles of poverty in the United States, it’s the power of parenting — and of intervening early, ideally in the first year or two of life or even before a child is born.”

The article provides great talking points for Montessorians and references some quotable science, including the intriguing connection between ‘toxic stress’ early in life and cycles of poverty over generations. 

“…the constant bath of cortisol in a high-stress infancy prepares the child for a high-risk environment. The cortisol affects brain structures so that those individuals are on a fight-or-flight hair trigger throughout life, an adaptation that might have been useful in prehistory. But in today’s world, the result is schoolchildren who are so alert to danger that they cannot concentrate. They are also so suspicious of others that they are prone to pre-emptive aggression.”

Kristof and WuBunn are not the first to take on this topic; but they provide an excellent rationale why donors should be endowing nursery schools and not just big-name universities.

Click here to read the entire article, 'The Way to Beat Poverty', by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which appears in the September 12, 2014 edition of the New York Times.

Posted on September 22, 2014 and filed under Articles, From our Trainers.

Don't Miss Our Primary Workshop

On the weekend of October 10-12, Ginni Sackett, MNW Director of Primary Training, will be presenting a workshop entitled: Self-Discipline and Joyful Learning: Normalization in the 21st Century Montessori Children's House at Montessori Northwest. We asked her a few questions about what participants can expect from the weekend:                                                                                                        

What excites you about the workshop?

I am most excited about the opportunity to work with a great group of dedicated Montessori practitioners in a focused, interactive, and engaging format; empowering each participant to take their work with children to new levels of success.   

Describe the workshop's format?

There will be various types of participant engagement, including: power point presentations, demonstrations, small group breakouts with specific tasks, full group de-briefing sessions, targeted readings, and exploring participant scenarios as the basis for the creative application of Montessori principles in challenging circumstances. 

What will participants gain from attending the workshop?

Participants will leave with practical, creative strategies based in Montessori principles to support positive, pro-social behaviors and intellectual achievement in young children, and increased understanding of how teachers use conditions in the environment to transform challenges into successes and guide children to achieve the developmental purposes of all the Montessori materials.

Register now! Space is filling up for this workshop. Early Bird rates available through Thursday, September 25. Registration deadline is Wednesday, October 8. Click here for all the details and to register.

Posted on September 17, 2014 and filed under From our Trainers, Primary, Workshops.

Specimens in the Elementary Environment

From her recent post on EAA-Talk, Elise Huneke-Stone, Director of Elementary Training at Montessori Northwest, shares her thoughts on how to keep the teacher's and children's specimens and sharing from overwhelming the prepared environment. 

In the elementary practice classroom at the training center, I've instituted a practice borrowed from my tenure in the classroom for displaying specimens. In each 'area,' (math, history, geometry, language, etc.) there is a large tray on the top of a shelf. I use identical big rattan serving trays. That's the "sharing tray" where the children or I can display specimens or artifacts or things brought from home or even their work as relates to that aspect of Cosmic Education. I keep a general supply of small baskets and book stands to group or display things. Children (and students in the training) are encouraged to write a little display card and/or share with the group in a gathering.  

There are two trays for biology (one for botany, one for zoology) because that's where the most specimens showed up! Additionally, I have a little extra biology display space that's teacher-managed: A series of 5-6 crocheted doilies across the top of the biology shelves, each housing one particular specimen or small collection (e.g., 3 sand dollars). Most of these specimens rotate, either seasonally or more often.  

This way of preparing the environment has had so many benefits: reducing clutter, increasing order, controlling my own collector impulses, keeping things fresh for the children through rotation of objects, making it easier for the children to clean and put things back, etc. There was the added benefit of the grace and courtesy that was possible when the children were involved. The child who brought the artifact or specimen shared with the group how it was to be treated, handled, observed, etc. Additionally, the rule was that if the tray was full and you wanted to bring something new, you had to make space for your object by politely informing someone else that it was time for their object to go home. The process became entirely managed by the children.  

One other thought: My favorite book as a child was Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. It's the story of Jo from Little Women all grown up and running a boarding school for boys (and a few girls). In it there's a description of the "natural history museum" that the children built in an old barn, with a glass-doored curio cabinet with many drawers for the housing and display of their treasures. I'm still searching for that cabinet, decades later.  

There is nothing like a single isolated rock, shell, branch, feather, leaf, or bone to spark the imagination of the elementary children...

Warm regards,

Get more great insights from Elise by attending our upcoming Elementary Workshop: Stories & Self-Construction, October 10-12. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Posted on September 15, 2014 and filed under Elementary, From our Trainers, Materials.

Explore Our Library

Did you know that Montessori Northwest has built one of the largest Montessori libraries in the world? Did you also know that it's open to the public? You can search through over 900 titles, including:

- Books that are no longer in print or accessible. Some, especially a few foreign language titles (Spanish and Italian), can only be found elsewhere at the Library of Congress or in Italy.

- Rare translations, like the Kalakshetra versions, which you cannot find on Amazon. In fact, after searching local library websites, we discovered that most don’t even have the Clio Series or the Montessori-Pierson versions in their holdings. We are the keepers of the knowledge!

- Many practical texts for parents, from how to set up the home environment to sensory integration to dyslexia. We also have the latest psychological, sociological, and neuroscience literature.

- A huge repository of periodicals, including: the NAEYC Journal, the NAMTA Journal, AMI Communications, EAA Newsletters, and Forza Vitale! Our AMI & NAMTA periodicals go all the way back to the 60’s! 

- A special Assistants to Infancy section in honor of and memory of Karin Salzmann (1934-2013), with books from her own library and donated by her family.

The MNW library is open to teachers, students, parents, and the general public, from 8am-4pm, Monday through Friday. Most books can be checked out for up to three weeks. If you have any questions about our library or are interested in donating books, please contact us at


Posted on September 10, 2014 and filed under From MNW Staff, Resources.

Simple Uplift for Math Memorization Tables

Here’s a brief how-to from Primary Course Assistant, Corinne Stastny, for creating sturdy petite folders for Memorization tables, that are ready to be used, or perhaps set aside for a child to finish another day. Nothing like adding a little pizzazz to this otherwise rather staid looking area of the Casa!

Materials: Double stick tape, practice paper, final paper (card stock works well and/or something with a different color on front and back), color printer, and a corner rounder, if you like.

1) Practice with some simple paper first so you can create a template that works well for your materials. Basically, I use a template similar to this one: envelope. Play with the dimensions a little so it will hold a full set of papers nicely (not too tight/narrow). I like to have a high enough back that the papers are supported and don’t curl.

2) Print the cover with the words if you like and cut to size.

3) When ready, cut out your shape from your good paper. I like double stick tape to secure everything. And also delight in using the crafty corner-rounding tool MNW’s buddy Sally C. brought back from Japan.


4) As a final touch that ensures durability, laminate the whole thing when you’re done. Then, use an exacto knife to basically surgically reopen the mouth of the packet (see photo right). Many thanks to Shannon W. for this tip! When using laminate, trim close, but not too close to the edge of the paper. Slightly round the corners as these can be quite sharp.

Looking for ways to enrich your Elementary environment? Check this out: Elementary Material Making Workshop with Gloria.

Posted on September 9, 2014 and filed under From MNW Staff, Primary, Resources, Materials.

Welcome Students of Primary Course 39

Our academic year students convened for their first day on Tuesday Sept. 2. So far, we’ve had a great time getting to know each other and enjoying this time “at the beginning”. This year’s students represent an eclectic group – with a variety of academic backgrounds and personal interests united by their emergent passion for Montessori education. They are a well-traveled group, and a number arrived here from outside North America. For balance, three are actually native Oregonians. During this first week, we are smiling our way through the intricacies of orientation, exploring the joys of collaborative learning, and learning our first songs; all while plunging directly into the wonders of Human Tendencies and stages of development as well as identifying the elements of a positive learning environment for adults. It is indeed “a good place to be” – here at the start of a great journey together!

Click here to learn more about our Primary Training Course.


Posted on September 5, 2014 .

Public School Standards for the Elementary Classroom


As elementary guides know, part of our job in the classroom is to help the children balance freedom to choose their work with responsibility for choosing wisely, and one of the tools we have at our disposal is the local School Standards. We are obliged to provide these standards for the children to use, but any guide who has taken a look at recent iterations of these standards will realize that they require a great deal of modification before they can be understood and used by the children. In fact, my experience is that each iteration of standards is longer, more specific, and more difficult for the children to understand!

In order to meet this need in my own classroom, I worked hard this spring to adapt my local standards into a form that the children can use. As it would be silly to ask every guide to duplicate this work, they are now publicly available at The Montessori Gardener. These documents are based on the school standards in Washington state, but my hope is that guides will find them easy to adapt to their local standards. Use them well!

Alexa Mater is a mathematician and the elementary guide at The Eastside Montessori School in Bellevue, Washington. She is a native of Portland, OR, and a former Upper Elementary student of MNW’s own Elise Huneke-Stone.

Click here to learn about our Elementary Training course.

Posted on September 3, 2014 .

Elementary Material Making with Gloria

If you have ever admired a teacher-made material in MNW's Elementary model environment, then you’ve probably been admiring Gloria’s work. Gloria Singh, having been a guide at both the Elementary and Toddler levels, has had lots of experience making beautiful materials for her classrooms. By providing time & space to focus on material making, we want to help you make your classroom even more beautiful.

In this first workshop, Gloria will be offering her expertise with the Body Functions of Vertebrates material, also known as the 5 Classes of Vertebrate nomenclature. Gloria will have all the materials prepared & printed; all you have to do is show up! When our time is done, you’ll walk away with a brand new material, ready to be laminated! 

Connect with other guides, share tips you’ve learned, and have fun while working to elevate your classroom community. All skill levels are welcome from pros to first-year teachers. Let’s make something together!

When:  Saturday, September 27, 2014  (registration closes 9/19)
Where:  Montessori Northwest 622 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR
Time:   9am – 1pm
Who:  Elementary Teachers & Assistants
Cost:  $50 fee – covers registration and materials


Future Material Making Workshops: October (verb packets) & January (fraction charts). Dates and Times TBD.

Click here to view and print a flyer for this event.

Posted on September 2, 2014 .

Elementary Students Explore the Sensorial Materials

Yesterday, as part of the Foundations Course, our elementary students had the opportunity to explore with the sensorial materials from the Primary Prepared Environment. The aim of this exercise was to familiarize the students with the Primary materials, to deepen each student's understanding of the child's experiences prior to entering an elementary classroom, and to orient them for what lies ahead in their training. Trainers were on hand to answer any questions, or provide guidance about how to use the materials. As you can see from the photos above, many students chose to do sensorial activities with blindfolds.

Posted on August 29, 2014 .

Supporting Inclusion in Montessori Communities

“A child is mysterious and powerful and contains within himself the secret of human life.”    -Maria Montessori

Montessori schools now have an unprecedented opportunity to serve an even wider swath of children with an ever-expanding range of abilities. We are revisiting the Montessori materials and practices with these special children in mind.

“Helping Hands” is designed to bring together Montessori educators and special education professionals to discuss strategies and ideas for supporting children with special needs.  These informal discussions will help participants create a network with each another, and use our combined expertise to strategize effective modifications that work within a Montessori structure, in order to set reasonable goals and evaluate interventions.

Facilitating the discussion will be Sarah Werner Andrews, Director of Primary Training at Montessori Northwest; Dave Andrews, speech-language pathologist, and supervisor for David Douglas Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education Program;  and Tim Andrews, special education teacher and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support Specialist.

When:  Thursday, September 25, 2014
Where:  Montessori Northwest 622 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR
Time:  4:30-6:00pm – Light refreshments provided
Who:  Open to All
Cost:  Free

Please RSVP to MNW Community Outreach Director, Braden Pemberton, at 503.963.8992 or

Click here to view and print a flyer for this event.

Posted on August 27, 2014 .

MNW Introduces Pints of Interest


Pints of Interest is your chance to informally come together and connect with others in the Portland Montessori community; discussing some of the most relevant topics of our craft.
You are invited to catch up with friends and make new connections. Pints of Interest is a great venue to talk with others and share what's working in your classrooms, ask/give input, and think about “big picture” ideas. The topics for the evening will be pre-announced and appropriate for all Montessorians working at all levels.  Your host for the evening will loosely facilitate the conversation.

Come out, order a pint, and plug in--We'll see you there!

The first POI will take place @ rontoms, on Thursday, September 18, 2014. Socializing begins @ 4:30pm, discussion goes from 5-6:30pm.

The facilitator will be Braden Pemberton. Braden holds both his primary and elementary AMI diplomas from Montessori Northwest. Currently he is the director of community education at MNW. When not facilitating he likes to play board games, collect vinyl, and cook.

Future Pints of Interest: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 and Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Venues and facilitators TBD.

Click here to view and print a flyer for this event.


Posted on August 20, 2014 and filed under A-to-I, Primary, Public Event, Elementary.

Welcome Students of Elementary Course #3!

Yesterday, students from Ireland, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Canada, as well as, Hawaii, Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, arrived in Portland, joining several local students, for the start of Montessori Northwest's Elementary Course #3.

Together they explored our prepared environments, learned about MNW systems, met MNW staff, started to get to know each other, and most importantly, began orienting to the Montessori principles that will guide their training year and their future work with children.  

Students collaborated with each other and with the staff about what makes for a positive learning experience, discussed how to make sure that each student's needs are met, and that learning is joyful, focused, and productive.

The day culminated with elementary trainer, Elise Huneke Stone, sharing the story of Maria Montessori with the students--a MNW tradition. We look forward to the days ahead, but for now, welcome students of Elementary Course #3!

Click here to learn more about teacher training at MNW.

Posted on August 19, 2014 and filed under Elementary.

5 Reasons to Take AMI Teacher Training at MNW

Facilities 10.jpg

Since 1979, Montessori Northwest (MNW) has offered rigorous, practical, and in-depth Montessori teacher preparation. The quality of our graduates reflects the quality of our training: knowledgeable and compassionate, with a teaching practice grounded in a thorough understanding of Montessori principles and child development. 

1. RECOGNIZED AROUND THE GLOBE. MNW’s training courses are affiliated with The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), which was founded by Maria Montessori in 1929. Today, AMI champions the spirit of her discoveries through its affiliated training centers. An AMI diploma from MNW is recognized in over 110 countries as a mark of teacher training excellence.

2. VARIETY OF COURSES. MNW offers training courses at three different levels: Assistants to Infancy, (0-3), Primary (3-6), and Elementary (6-12). All courses are conducted by AMI trainers, master teachers with a profound understanding of Montessori theory and practice.

3. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Our bright and spacious facility is located in Portland, OR, a city characterized by its dedication to individuality, award-winning public transportation, and easy access to everything from trendy cafés to snow-covered mountains.  Come see for yourself why we consistently get voted “Most Livable City in the US.”

4. CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION. Dr. Montessori said, “The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind. If we therefore mind this embryo as our most precious treasure, we will be working for the greatness of humanity.” This powerful statement lies at the heart of Montessori education as an aid to life. MNW graduates empower children to take responsibility for themselves and others, to seek solutions, and to work together for the common good.  

5. ICNING ON THE CAKE. “It’s a transformation for many people of they way that they think of themselves in the world. In the way that they think about themselves in relation to children.” We hear this sentiment consistently from our graduates upon completing their training. The work begun at Montessori Northwest has the power to change lives for the better.

Click here to learn more Montessori Northwest’s Teacher Training.

Posted on August 7, 2014 and filed under Primary, Elementary, A-to-I.

Excuse me, have you ever heard of Nice School?


Recently, we heard form Laura Piskor, a graduate of MNW and former administrative assistant at the training center. After teaching in New Zealand, working as pie baker, and a yoga instructor, she's back to guiding a classroom in Chicago. Laura was kind enough to share the following experience with us:

I introduced the poem, 'Nasty School' by Shel Silverstein a few weeks ago. We all thought it was very silly. Afterward, the children and I had a short discussion about how we were in a nice school, not a nasty school. Then, my assistant, Ben Harris, took it a step further. During our afternoon program, he sat down with some of the children and they went through Nasty School line by line. They brainstormed what a nice school would be like and tried to come up with the opposite idea or the nice version for each line. With the children's suggestions in hand, Ben then put it all together and made it into a poem. I was really impressed with their creativity throughout the entire process.

Excuse me, have you heard of Nice School?
They teach nice things, and have nice rules.
They only take the nice and polite,
And never accept children who fight.
— excerpt from 'Nice School'
Posted on August 6, 2014 .

How to Organize a Glass Classroom Event

Next week, for the second time in two years, MNW will be hosting, Montessori in the Square, a public glass classroom event in the the heart of downtown Portland. While it may seem like a tremendous undertaking, we feel it is one of the best and most unique ways to raise awareness about Montessori.

In response to numerous requests following the 2013 International Montessori Congress, MNW published a document entitled, "Organize a Glass Classroom Event of Your Own!" This resource includes tips about creating an event timeline, developing  floor plan, how to publicize the event, what promotional items to create, and more.

Click on the photo above to download a free copy!

Click on the photo above to download a free copy!

So, if you've been considering organizing a glass classroom event in your community, click on the photo to the right to get started. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Posted on July 23, 2014 and filed under A-to-I, Elementary, Portland, Primary, Public Event.