“Survey! Survey! Come Getcha Survey!”

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As Community Network Coordinator, I’m helping lead the charge in developing and executing several goals outlined in MNW’s ambitious Strategic Plan. One big project at the moment is a campaign of three critical surveys whose data will reveal important information about Montessori Northwest’s subsequent next-steps.

School Survey
The overarching goal of our Strategic Plan drives at making Montessori available to more families. In order to measure MNW’s progress, it is essential we have quantifiable data on how many children in the state of Oregon are benefiting from Montessori programs. A survey is currently in the hands of every Montessori Head of School across the state asking them to look at 2012-2013 enrollment numbers.

Alumni Survey
The collaborative energy of Montessori Northwest’s 800+ alumni is also needed to achieve the goals outlined in the Strategic Plan. A survey was recently sent to help determine how alumni can best get involved, in addition to providing their feedback on the developing Montessori Northwest Alumni Association (MNWAA).

Student Hosting Survey
A central component of Student training is the experience of observation and practice teaching in AMI prepared environments. MNW seeks to strengthen this dynamic relationship. A survey to Heads of School and Teachers who host our students has been distributed to gather the perspectives and opinions from this very important constituency.

You can plug into all this exciting work too. Please ensure that Montessori Northwest has your current contact information. Feel free to email me with an update. I wish you a healthy and prosperous Winter!

With Warm Regards--Jeff Friedman
jeff@montessori-nw.org
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Posted on December 3, 2013 .

Look to the Leaves

It's that magical time of year when our attention is drawn to the fantastic color-changes, shapes, sizes, and physical characteristics of the falling leaves. It's the perfect time to present the leaf presentations from the botany work to the Elementary students.

A few days in advance, the students were invited to bring in a collection of leaves and a beautiful collection was assembled. A few were chosen to be used as examples to illustrate the parts of leaves and their many characteristics.

A few days in advance, the students were invited to bring in a collection of leaves and a beautiful collection was assembled. A few were chosen to be used as examples to illustrate the parts of leaves and their many characteristics.

The presentation shelf is prepared with all the materials needed for the Trainer to present the series of leaf lessons.

The presentation shelf is prepared with all the materials needed for the Trainer to present the series of leaf lessons.

Specially made nomenclature cards and booklets give the adult students more specifics about leaves and experience with a material that they will eventually make for their own classrooms. 

Specially made nomenclature cards and booklets give the adult students more specifics about leaves and experience with a material that they will eventually make for their own classrooms. 

Elise Huneke-Stone, MNW's Director of Elementary Training, shows the Elementary students a demonstration indicating that leaves give off oxygen. A clipping of an aquatic plant is submerged in such a way as to catch the bubbles of oxygen the leaves release.

Elise Huneke-Stone, MNW's Director of Elementary Training, shows the Elementary students a demonstration indicating that leaves give off oxygen. A clipping of an aquatic plant is submerged in such a way as to catch the bubbles of oxygen the leaves release.

The Montessori Elementary classroom feeds the six to twelve year old child’s insatiable appetite for learning, offering boundless opportunities to build their own knowledge within a collaborative community. The AMI Elementary training supports your growth as a storyteller, imagination-sparker, and ethical compass to provide the child with the keys to explore the universe.

Interested in learning more about Elementary Training? Learn more here.

Posted on November 25, 2013 and filed under Elementary, From MNW Staff.

Watch the Power of AMI Teacher Training

This 20 minute film gives an overview of Montessori education from birth through age 12, contains interviews with people training to become Montessori teachers as well as teachers in their classrooms. It's a nice introduction to Montessori and the training process for anyone considering becoming a Montessori teacher.

WHY CHOOSE AMI?

The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) was founded by Maria Montessori in 1929 to protect the integrity of her work. Today, AMI continues to uphold these standards by offering high-quality, authentic and rigorous teacher training through its affiliated training centers.

The AMI diploma is used in over 110 countries as a mark of teacher training excellence. Graduates of AMI training courses must demonstrate understanding of educational theory, child development, observation techniques, use and presentation of the Montessori materials, and ability to create appropriate activities for children. The practice teaching component solidifies this learning through hands-on work in Montessori classrooms.

AMI courses are conducted by AMI trainers, master teachers who have completed the Training of Trainers program and have a profound understanding of Montessori theory and practice.

In the past ten years, Montessori schools have nearly doubled their student enrollment, and positions at AMI-recognized schools go unfilled. Your AMI diploma allows you to pursue your Montessori career with the confidence that comes from extensive training and foundational knowledge.

Options for undergraduate and graduate credit are available through colleges and universities affiliated with individual training centers. Explore our Teacher Training section to learn more. 

On Infants & Toddlers

Corinne Stastny, Primary Course Assistant at MNW, mother, and former Montessori Teacher, lends her insights into Montessorians working with the youngest members of our world; babies and toddlers. 

Observation is at the core of the Montessori guide’s work. During 250 hours of observation of children aged birth to three, students at Montessori Northwest take detailed notes about what they see, and interpret these observations through the lens of Montessori theory and practice.

Observation is at the core of the Montessori guide’s work. During 250 hours of observation of children aged birth to three, students at Montessori Northwest take detailed notes about what they see, and interpret these observations through the lens of Montessori theory and practice.

The Montessori approach to children under the age of three evokes much curiosity and enthusiasm from those more familiar with Montessori at other age levels.  Those of us with Primary or Elementary backgrounds know we love our prepared environments, know we love Montessori, and are sure that babies and toddlers everywhere would no doubt fall in love with a Montessori learning environment designed for them!  However, we also know that Montessori is not always easy to convey or understand in just a few short sentences.   

I’ve picked the brains of Assistants to Infancy (A to I) trained alumni a bit, combined it with my own experiences applying A to I principles with my child, and am happy to give some introductory resources for families creating mindful environments for little ones.  My focus here is just on babies who are not yet walking, as the most common question I hear from curious enthusiastic souls is “Someone’s having a baby and is curious about Montessori. What should I tell them?”  Below is a menu of resources, choose what you feel best captures the imagination of your target audience!

Know that the same essential principles apply to Montessori at any age group: respect and communication, supporting independence, free choice within limits, learning through experience, preparing an environment that matches the specific needs of the child. 

While rather involved, the inspiring texts of Understanding the Human Being by Silvana Montanaro and The Child and the Family by Dr Maria Montessori can be a strong resource for families seeking to a deeper connection to theory.

AidToLife.org– This beautiful, clear, and powerful website, provided by AMI, offers simple, straightforward advice that is easy to understand and apply.

MichaelOlaf.net - Michael Olaf and Susan Stephenson have inspired Montessorians, parents, and parents-to-be for years. The Joyful Child, a book focusing on 0-3 in the home, is now available and a rich resource!

In a Montessori Home is an inspiring book and DVD package from NAMTA featuring families enjoying Montessori principles in the home.

There are some fabulous blogs about applying Montessori in the home. A few particularly enjoyable ones are The Full MontessoriMontessori Moms, and Montessori on the Double.

Aside from schools, A to I graduates often share their knowledge via private consultations.  Montessori Northwest has the names of a few of these parent educators, and would welcome the names of more!

Come to Montessori Northwest, where we have a model home and toddler community environments.  We have regular open houses and are happy to schedule individual tours Monday – Friday.  The Assistants to Infancy training course is enrolling for the summers of 2014 and 15, and we are seeking not only teachers-in-training for this level, but also families whose infants can participate in on-site observation sessions both summers.  Being part of the observation is an incredible window into the Montessori approach to this age group! 

Visit our website, http://montessori-nw.org/info-assistants-to-infancy, or Email Andrea for more information--503-963-8992.

A portion of Montessori Northwest's model home environment for babies and toddlers.

A portion of Montessori Northwest's model home environment for babies and toddlers.

Posted on November 18, 2013 and filed under Articles, A-to-I, From MNW Staff.

Life and Death in the Kimberley

Typical landscape in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. 

Typical landscape in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. 

I visited my sister Robyn and her three young children in Australia recently. They live in a hot, remote, and beautiful part of Western Australia called the Kimberley, defined by its ancient landscape, red dirt, and boab trees. I don’t get to see my two nieces (Kailey, 5, and Millie, 3) and my handsome young nephew Sam (almost 8) very often, so it was a rare time for us to be together. While I was staying with them, however, a sad event occurred: Hopscotch the family rabbit died.

Hoppy had been in the family for a number of years, alternately crabby and affectionate, depending on his mood of the day. In general, though, he was a good rabbit, and gave the children an opportunity to be responsible as they attended to his physical needs: feeding, giving water, cleaning the hutch.

On occasion, Robyn would remove Hoppy from his hutch and put him in an old, rusted-out, flat-bottomed boat on their property. This would give Hoppy a chance to hop about and stretch his legs without risk of him escaping into a dingo’s jaws. On the day of Hoppy’s demise, he’d been placed in the boat with a bowl of water and an open hutch for his comfort. He’d done this many times without incident. We left to go on a boating tour of nearby Lake Argyle (which, fun fact, contains enough water to fill nineteen Sydney Harbors). It was after dark when we returned from our trip, and we immediately put the kids to bed.

“We should go get Hoppy”, I said, once the children were tucked in. Together, Robyn and I went out to the boat. Hoppy was lying in some leaves, very still. Unusually still. Immediately, I thought, “That’s one dead rabbit, right there”. My sister took a little longer to convince.

“Hoppy?” she called uncertainly.

Predictably, Hoppy made no response.

“Hoppy?” Robyn called again with mounting alarm. She nudged him. He did exactly what you’d expect a dead rabbit to do. Robyn’s hands flew to her mouth.

“I think he’s dead”.

“I think you’re right”, I agreed, nodding.

“I can’t believe he’s dead!”

I nodded again. “He certainly is dead”.

We silently regarded the furry, motionless body. 

“How do you think he died?” Robyn asked. 

“Hmm…. heatstroke? Snakebite? Old age? Who can know?”

We stood there, a little shocked, staring at the earthly remains of Hoppy the rabbit. Our thoughts turned to the same topic: what should we tell the kids?

“Maybe we should tell them he ran away”, Robyn ventured.

I thought about this for a while. He ran away… how would the children respond to that? Maybe they’d think he’d return at some point. Maybe they’d want to go looking for him. Maybe they’d be worried for his safety, imagining him being attacked by dingoes or being hungry or scared. Maybe they’d become anxious that other animals – or even people – would run away, too.

“I think we should tell them he died”, I said.

My mind turn to the Montessori training and the suggestions I’d received about how to deal with this type of situation. True and brief. Compassionate but not pitying. I was already writing the speech for the children in my head. I delivered some of it to my sister, and explained how this was a sad but useful opportunity to acquaint the kids with the realities of death and dying. Eventually we agreed that we’d tell the children after school the next day.

In the meantime, we went to work committing Hoppy’s corporeal form to the earth from whence it came. Which is to say, we dug a hole and buried him.

The next day dawned and the children didn't notice Hoppy’s absence prior to departing for school. When they returned home the next day, and were enjoying an iceblock on the veranda, the moment seemed ripe to break the news to them. Robyn and I had sketched out a plan, and I felt confident delivering the story.

“So… there’s something that we have to tell you”, I began. “Something quite sad”.

Three pairs of eyes looked at me. They continued to eat their iceblocks, but I had captured their interest.

“Do you remember Speckles the dog?” Speckles was Robyn’s beloved dog who had died a few years earlier. Sam and Kailey were old enough to remember her.

“Speckles was a good dog. She had a long life, and had a lot of fun. We loved her very much. And when she got old, she died, and we couldn't see her anymore”.

Okay… here it comes.

“Last night when we came home, it was very late and you all went right to bed. Mum and I went to the boat to get Hoppy and put him in his hutch. But when we saw him, we found out that he’d died”.

Blank looks.

“Hoppy was dead. He wasn't moving. He wasn't playing or breathing”.

Sam’s bottom lip started to quiver. He was older, and he was following along in a way that the two younger girls weren't. I forged ahead with the story.

“Mum and I were very sad that Hoppy had died. We knew we needed to bury his body, so we dug a big hole over near the windmill. Then we put his body in the hole, and covered it up again”.

“Can we see him?” asked Kailey.

“No, honey. We can’t see Hoppy anymore. He’s dead. That means we can’t see him again. He can’t move or play or eat or breathe anymore”.

The children took this in. They were quiet, but not devastated. Millie ate her iceblock without understanding. Sam became thoughtful. Kailey appeared to be mentally chewing this over, as well.

“It’s sad when pets die, because it means that we can’t see them anymore. But we will always have happy memories of them. If you like, we can each take a stone and put it on Hoppy’s grave, which is the place where he’s buried. You can have a nice memory of Hoppy anytime and anywhere you like, but sometimes it’s good to have a special place to go to remember him. And his grave is a special place”.

There was general agreement that stones should be placed on Hoppy’s grave. We all gathered some stones (mine being much larger and heavier to deter any enterprising dingoes from grave-robbing), and we journeyed to Hoppy’s final resting place.

Kailey looked down at the mound of dirt, her stone for Hoppy clutched tightly in her hand. 

“I want to see him”, she said, a little sadly.

“We can’t see him anymore, Kailey love. He’s dead, so he can’t play with us or be with us anymore. But we can remember some nice stories about him. What was your favorite thing about Hoppy?”

She considered this. “He was soft and nice”.

“Yes, he was, wasn't he? Hoppy was a soft and nice rabbit”.

I put my big stones on Hoppy’s grave. The children did the same with their smaller rocks.

“Bye, Hoppy”, I said, modeling the finality of the moment. “You were a soft and nice rabbit”.

“Bye, Hoppy”, Kailey echoed.

We stood there for a few minutes until our shoes were discovered by the large and aggressive ants that had emerged from a nearby ant nest. We stamped our feet. This was still the Kimberley, and life continued, uncaring that Hoppy did not.

We walked back to the house.  “That went well, I think”, said Robyn. I agreed.

There had been no hysterics, no real tears. I had been very cautious to avoid using any euphemisms for death. I didn't say Hoppy was sleeping. I didn't say that he’s passed away. Euphemisms are for adults, who understand the real meaning behind the words. The children needed to know that dead meant dead: not breathing, not moving, not playing or eating or thinking anymore. Dead meant never coming back.

Robyn informed her husband, Mat, about Hoppy’s death that evening. Mat is an electrician who works at the Argyle diamond mine about 200 kilometers (124 miles) away. Millie, the youngest, was all too happy to inform Mat about Hoppy.

“Hoppy got dead!” she reported enthusiastically. “We dug a hole and buried him!”

For a very young child like Millie, the event was easier to accept. Hoppy was here, and now he’s not. And it makes for a good story to tell Dad, apparently.

The next evening at bedtime, Kailey became very sad as the true impact of Hoppy’s absence hit home. She cried, lamenting both the loss of Hoppy and the loss of a pet. In between shuddering sobs and back rubs, we remembered all the things we loved about Hoppy: how soft his ears were, how it was funny that he would attack the hand broom, how he would nuzzle your hand while you held him. Kailey went to sleep with fond memories of Hoppy in her dreams, even as her tears dried on her cheeks.

Hoppy had a long and happy life, and there’s no tragedy in dying peacefully at the end of such a good run. With death comes sadness and loss, but also the realization that it’s part of a very natural cycle, one in which we ourselves will someday participate. By offering to the children a true, brief, and compassionate story of Hoppy’s death, we laid the groundwork for a healthier attitude to death: what happens to the one who died, but also what it means for the living who remain.   

Posted on November 15, 2013 and filed under From MNW Staff.

Quote me on this...

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Montessori Northwest's students look to the texts of Dr. Maria Montessori for inspiration and guidance when working with children.

Here we see an exercise in which Primary students read passages from Montessori, then consolidate their meanings into more contemporary language--Creating some beautiful temporary original artwork for our walls. Do you have any Montessori quotes hanging on your walls?

Posted on November 14, 2013 and filed under From MNW Staff.

Thoughts on History, Heritage, & Culture Workshop

Ginni Sackett, Montessori Northwest's Director of Primary Training, teaching a workshop on History, Heritage, and Culture.

Ginni Sackett, Montessori Northwest's Director of Primary Training, teaching a workshop on History, Heritage, and Culture.

Having left the Primary environment several months ago to join the Montessori Northwest Administration, it was like a homecoming with "my people" to participate in the second session of Ginni Sackett's Primary Workshop Series: History, Heritage, Culture. The joy of working with children and families came rushing back to me as our community of colleagues approached the realities of engaging children from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in neutral, fun, experiential activities.

Complementing nuggets of lecture, we flipped roles to play like children. When free of discrimination, prejudice, and stereotype, children can come to embrace the universal similarities that thread across our species! Similarly, from movement to story and the artifacts within an environment, the adult is privileged - forced - to undergo a self-analysis that ensures they are practicing the preaching. After all, anything less would be disingenuous.  

In short, as Montessorians girding humanity's future through the vehicle of these young children, there is a relief in knowing our work is inherently designed to foster utopian results.

Register for the final workshop in the History, Heritage, and Culture series, taking place on November 20th, here.

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Posted on November 13, 2013 and filed under Articles, From MNW Staff.

Foundation Work in Elementary

Elementary students at Montessori Northwest have a unique Foundations Course integrated into their learning experience. Several times throughout the year, they hear from MNW’s Primary Trainers to learn about the first plane child. The focus of these lectures is the work of self-construction as it relates to foundational theory, physical, emotional, and social development. These areas of focus, along with the development of literacy and numeracy for the child under age six, create a “foundation” for what is built upon in the years that follow. 

We asked a current Montessori Northwest Elementary student to share her thoughts on the Foundation Course. Here’s what she so eloquently said:

There are 23 of us, all eager to learn about Montessori education for the Elementary children. But in order to understand the 6 to 12 year olds, we need to understand their previous experiences.  The integrated Foundation Course is our opportunity to learn about the child in his formative years, the child who will become our Elementary learner.  From lecture readings to dramatizations, from the exploration of the environment to Walking on the Line, from Maria Montessori’s discoveries of the child to the trainers' profound knowledge and wisdom, we truly immersed ourselves in the world of the 1st plane child.  Through our work on the Foundation Course, we were all able to learn about and to communicate our understanding of the 0-6 year old, the trained adult who supports this child and the prepared environment. 

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With this foundation in place, we have an understanding of how the child’s absorbent mind and sensitive periods guide him in becoming the person he is, and how the adult and the environment can positively serve that child’s potential.  Our task, as elementary teachers, is to collaborate with him in his next stage of development.

From a personal standpoint, having previously undergone the primary training, I had the opportunity to re-visit and reflect upon principles of practice.  What stands out in that reflection is the importance of understanding the difference between child work and adult work, and the significant implications of that understanding.  Our Montessori theory tells us that the child is internally-motivated and process-oriented, whereas the adult is externally-motivated and product-oriented.  The child’s work is to self-construct so that he can ultimately be a productive member of an adult society. 

As is often the case, understanding the theory is the easy part.  The challenge lies in the practice.  As Montessori educators, we have the clear advantage of working in an environment that supports and guides the child’s self-construction. Within a structured frame-work, we allow them to work at their own rhythm, with developmentally- appropriate materials that are freely-chosen so that they can respond to their inner directives. That being said we are still adults who can fall into the pitfalls of our agendas and timelines.  In our spiritual preparation we must regularly examine ourselves to ensure that we are staying true to our Montessori principles of following the child, and not imposing our adult expectations on them.  In doing so, we will create a psychological atmosphere that tells the child that he is in a safe place to do his work, with adults that are on his side.  The result will be children who are among things, joyful, benevolent, trusting, and non-competitive.  These characteristics are in fact manifestations of the child’s natural state.

Many adults and parents believe otherwise.  They think of children as having tantrums, being whiny, uncontrolled and generally demanding.   Unbeknownst to them, these negative behaviors are defense mechanisms that the children build to defend themselves against adults who are imposing their adult rhythm on the child.  When the child is able to follow his inner laws of development, he will drop his defense mechanisms and choose pro-social behaviors. 

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It is our task to advocate for young children by finding accessible ways to inform parents and caregivers on the child’s need for a process- oriented, self-directed learning opportunity.  Of course, this has to be done in a way that does not critic nor judge, but rather inform in a compassionate and supportive way.  We live in a society where there are many working parents who are under high demands from the working world, and we do not want to add to their stress.  We do however want to stress the importance of temporarily altering our adult characteristics for the sake of the child’s developmental rhythm and needs, and ultimately for the sake of a better world because put simply: happy children make for happy adults. 

Our future work as Montessori educators will be charged with many wonderful and eye-opening moments with children, but it is also one that comes with a great deal of social responsibility.  I think we can take comfort in knowing that the child will be our ally if we trust his human potential and stay true to the Montessori principles. 

Yours in training--Maryse Cohen 

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Material-Making for MNW

Celebration of Light Collage

Hello friends and colleagues.

It is that time of year again when our thoughts, energy, and efforts turn towards preparing for the annual fundraiser for Montessori NW, the Celebration of Light, which will be on Janauary 24, 2014. We will be featuring one-of-a-kind Montessori materials and we’re hoping that you will be able to support MNW this year by providing something special.

We’re hoping to have all age levels represented. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Assistants to Infancy: Visual or grasping mobiles; a set of lovely rattles; embroidered placemats, Topponcino; toddler sized-aprons; language cards with objects; a few books; a Practical Life set-up such as glass washing, etc. A “Newborn Kit” that may include an A to I recommended book, rattle, topponcino, and mobile or templates and instructions would be very exciting for expecting parents or friends of expecting parents!

Primary: A beautiful set up for a simple activity such as leaf washing, pouring, sorting, or simple art activity; art to display in the classroom;  set of language cards; set of art materials; set of folding cloths or dusting cloths, etc. A special “To Do at Home Kit” appropriate for the 3-6 aged child would appeal to teachers and parents alike!

Elementary: A collection of lovely bookbinding materials; special art materials; carefully chosen books; set of beautiful Word Study charts; a few Animal Story folders; a collection of teacher-written stories (What Elementary teacher wouldn’t need more stories?!!!); quilted checkerboard; Hand chart; etc.

We also would love to feature a class, workshop, or event in your area of expertise. Do you have skills in bookbinding? Maybe you can teach an infant massage class for parents with their babies?  Are you an avid crafter or scrapbooker? Perhaps you are knowledgeable about local areas that might be of interest for Elementary teachers for their Going Out programs and would be able to offer a tour of that location. Experienced hiker who could lead nature walks or hikes? Teach a cooking class?

There are so many ideas to consider and great ways, both big and small, to get involved. We welcome your help and participation. Please complete and return the donation form by December 6. You’ll find it attached or you can access and submit the donation form  via our website. Items should arrive at MNW by December 21.

Please contact me with any questions regarding your donation. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your participation!

Gloria (Hammond) Singh

Elementary and Assistants to Infancy Course Assistant, A to I Alum 2007

gloria@montessori-nw.org or (503) 963-8992 x 111

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