The Parkside Montessori School
53 Norwood Avenue
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043
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As the holiday season ends and each new year begins, it is always gratifying to see the children return to Parkside, happy to be together again and back to the routine of school.  Sometimes January seems like the beginning of a dreary and unexciting time, but over the break we have placed many new materials and exercises on the shelves which our students are enjoying.
In Practical Life, there are some particularly fun and favorite activities.  Basting continues, and now we will introduce our dropper bottle exercise.  Other exercises include weaving, whisking, straining, mirror polishing and tapioca tweezing.  We will also be bringing in our shaving cream work where the children use shaving cream that they spread over the top of a table to make  shapes, letters, numbers and free-form designs.  Another very popular Practical Life winter activity is our skating penguins.  The children try to balance small  penguins on a block of ice on a tray.  There are obvious challenges to this including keeping the block of ice from melting while trying to keep the penguins on their feet!  But our students are totally up to this challenge and have a lot of fun with it. 
There are several new Sensorial exercises.  We will add the second and third set of cards to our Geometric Cabinet, and the third color box will be brought in where 10 sets of color slides are to be shaded from darkest to lightest.  We will also put out our special blocks that the children use to construct a winter skyline and follow up with a skyline art project. Again, with the introduction of each of the progressively more difficult Sensorial activities, the children are enhancing their visual discrimination skills.  We will also add winter puzzles, large and small, to the puzzle corner.
On the Math shelves, our students will be busy counting buttons to place on the snowman and snowflakes to put on a snow scene.  There are some challenging winter matching exercises in Language. 
January marks the return of the dinosaurs to our classrooms.  Our students have always shown such interest in and fascination with these mysterious creatures of long ago.  We will have complete sets of museum quality dinosaurs in each classroom which we have collected over the years.  We will be talking about the individual characteristics of quite a few including Allosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Plesiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Velociraptor, Dimetrodon, Parasaurolophus, Ankylosaurus, Pteranodon, and of course Tyrannosaurus Rex, the most popular and well-known of all. The children will be able to play with them and learn about them in a very concrete way.  Many of our students are very familiar with dinosaurs because of what they may have seen on Dinosaur Dan, Dinosaur Train and other television shows, computer programs and local exhibits.  One fascinating aspect of our dinosaur theme is our discussions as to why the dinosaurs disappeared,  and also how we have been able to learn about them through the study of the fossils that were left behind and discovered by paleontologists.  In Practical Life there will be an exercise in digging up dinosaur bones.  In Math, we will be counting and stamping dinosaurs, and matching and punching dinosaurs in Language.  Of course there will be many dinosaur books, both fiction and non-fiction, and lots of dinosaur puzzles as well.  At the art table we will pinch and pull dinosaurs, do some dinosaur rubbing, and trace the footprints of various kinds of dinosaurs. 
For the first time since early 2020 (just before COVID), “Snack for Two” will be coming back to our classrooms. Since September our children have been learning not only how to care for themselves and their environment, but also how to interact in a positive manner with others. And so the introduction of “Snack for Two” this month into our classrooms is a natural follow-up to what we have been working on.  On circle we demonstrate the activity.  The teacher calls on a child to help with this demonstration.  After circle at work time, each child has an opportunity to invite someone to join he/she for snack at the specially set up snack table.  The “host” or the child who invites, will set the table and serve the snack (water and mini pretzels).  When the two have finished, both help clear the clean the table. This individual snack time encourages new friendships, fosters conversations, and allows the children to practice good manners and courtesy.  As we pass by the table where they are sitting, we love hearing the wonderfully interesting and often adult conversations that take place between the two children.  Many times the two snacking together are not necessarily close friends, and that is the fun of it…watching these sweet interactions between classmates quietly take place.
Martin Luther King’s birthday falls on January 16th this year, and we will be spending some time talking about his life and work.  His message of peace, respect for others and non-violence relate nicely to our ongoing peace curriculum.
At the very end of the month we will be talking about animal hibernation and life underground.  The children remember that the bulbs which we planted in October are still resting underground in their cozy winter beds.  We will be talking about the other things we might discover under the ground such as worms, insects, rocks and acorns.  We start these discussions in preparation for the legend associated with Groundhog Day on February 2.  More about this next month.
“And now we welcome the new year.
     Full of things that have never been."                  
                                                 Rainer Maria Rilke