The Parkside Montessori School
53 Norwood Avenue
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043
“The instructions of the teacher consist then merely in a hint, a touch - enough to give a start to the child. The rest develops of itself.”
Dr. Montessori’s
Own Handbook
          We begin 2024 rested from our December holiday, and the children do seem happy to be back to the routine of school, eager to work and play together with the many exercises that we have added to the shelves over the break as well as some old favorites. While January can be a long and sometimes dull month,  at Parkside we add some excitement to the early part of winter by bringing in materials related to one of our most popular annual themes, that of the Dinosaurs.  These creatures seem to be incredibly fascinating to young children, and so it is an ideal subject to explore in some depth,  especially since we have five weeks to do so.  And so for the month of January, every area of the classroom will feature dinosaur activities.  
In each classroom we will have large baskets of museum quality dinosaurs which clearly show special characteristics, shapes and colors of many different kinds of dinos.  We will learn about the various carnivores, herbivores and omnivores.  To enhance language development, the children will be calling them by their actual names, including the plated Stegosaurus,  Plesiosaurus the swimmer,  the three horned Triceratops, the very tall plant eater, Apatosaurus, the flying Pteranodon, the honking Parasaurolophus, the spiky Ankylosaurus, the fast-running Velociraptor, and of course the favorite, the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex to name a few. The children really enjoy taking these baskets off the shelf and working with them with a friend or own their own.  These interactions become both valuable learning experiences and also opportunities for imaginative play.  We introduce the dinosaurs on circle, just one or two at a time, talking about the interesting facts about each one as we add them to the baskets. We will also talk about the various theories as to why the dinosaurs became extinct , including an asteroid or comet slamming into the earth or perhaps major global climate change.  We will discuss the role of the paleontologist in discovering much about the life of dinosaurs through the excavation of their bones.  There will be dino digging in Practical Life, dino sorting and puzzles in Sensorial, dino stamping and counting in Math, and dino identification and matching in Language.  At the art table we will have dinosaur sponging, dinosaur rubbing, dinosaur stencils and tracing dinosaur footprints.  At the end of our unit, the children often have a very good understanding of these creatures of long ago by using all of the concrete materials on the shelves.  We  know that their knowledge is also fostered by different dinosaur television shows, videos, exhibits and parks that they may have experienced outside of school. 
Every January there are many new exercises being added to our Practical Life shelves.  We do this because by January the children have achieved a fair amount of proficiency in their use of the various exercises that have already been introduced.   We will be doing mirror polishing, whisking, learning to use an eyedropper with colored water, simple weaving of ribbons and tweezing tapioca beads.  Our shaving cream activity where the children can make pictures, shapes, letters or numbers over a shaving cream covered table is coming in as well.  It’s a favorite for sure.  As with all Practical Life, the children use aprons, basins, pitchers, washing and drying cloths (or  polishing cloths) with each exercise, self-contained in its own place on the shelf and ready for our students to take it to a table to enjoy.  One other particularly fun and challenging activity is our toy penguins skating on small blocks of real ice in a mold. The children love this work, as they try very hard to keep the 3 penguins upright on the ice which requires not only really focus, but also fine motor precision.  
In Sensorial we are expanding our study of shapes by introducing both the large and small hexagon boxes.  These two boxes are made up of many smaller triangles which fit together to make different shapes such as rhombus, trapezoid and parallelogram. In January we also bring in our skyline blocks which our students use to make city skylines.  Many are familiar with what a skyline is as we live close to NYC.  So they can create their own version of a skyline with an accompanying a special art project. Also in Sensorial, to help develop auditory discrimination, we introduce the sound cylinders.  In Language, in addition to our detailed study of dinosaurs,  we will have a number of winter matching and sorting exercises and many winter books, both fiction and non-fiction in our libraries alongside our extensive dinosaur book collection.   On the math shelves the children will be busy counting buttons to place on snowmen and snowflakes to place on a snow scene.  Again, many of these exercises have been hand made by our teachers. At the art table, we will be creating snow scenes, snowmen, icicle trees and snowflakes.
In the middle of the month we will be talking about Dr. Martin Luther King whose birthday is celebrated on Monday, January 15.  His messages of non-violence, respect for others and peace are still so relevant today, and relate nicely to our ongoing Peace curriculum. 
The children are continuing to learn how to interact with each other in a gentle and positive way.  One helpful classroom activity coming in this time of year, first to the older class and then to the younger, is “Snack for Two.” Each child will have the opportunity to invite someone to join him or her at a special snack table in a designated area of the room.  The “host" (the one who invites) will set the table and serve the snack (water and a couple of small pretzels) to the “guest”.  When the two have finished, both will help clear and clean the table.  Snack for Two can encourage new friendships in a natural way. It is a good way to practice courtesy and foster verbal interaction.  We as their teachers love to listen to the wonderfully innocent and interesting conversations that take place between the two children as they snack together.
Towards the end of the month, another concept which we will be studying is that of animal hibernation and “life underground.”  When we planted our bulbs in October, we talked about what we might and actually did see under the garden beds that we were preparing,  such as worms, rocks,  acorns, sticks and insects.  At the art table we will be making our own interpretation of life underground which is leading to our celebration of the legend of the Groundhog in early February.  More about that in next month’s Notes. 
As we move into a new calendar year we wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year and thank you for being part of our Parkside family…some new members, some returning, but all appreciated!
“It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day.
It’s a new life…
And I’m feeling good.”
                                                                    Nina Simone
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