The Parkside Montessori School
53 Norwood Avenue
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043
This month we continue to observe and enjoy all of the natural changes taking place during this season of rebirth and growth. It has been special for the children to watch our different bulbs bloom over the last two or three weeks as we walk to the playground.  We have created pussy willows, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and cherry blossoms at the art table.  This month we will observing and then creating “shy” violets, irises, geraniums, lilacs and rhododendrons. 
As we enter out last weeks of school, there are still new themes, activities and materials to enjoy.  Over the last few months, we have studied dinosaurs, birds, the solar system and then our own special planet earth with its oceans and continents.  For our next thematic unit, we will turn our attention inward to study that very special “machine” that is the body.  We will learn about the various body systems including skeletal, muscular, circulatory, digestive and the brain and our senses.  We will show, again with concrete materials, how each of these systems work together to make our bodies the amazing machines that they are.  Later in the month we will talk about the importance of keeping our bodies healthy and strong with a focus on good nutrition, regular exercise, and proper sleep.  We have a large and colorful sectioned Food Pyramid/Plate made by Mrs. Valentine showing each food group.  Some sections are larger, such as fruits and vegetables, indicating the importance of consuming more of those in our daily diet, and some are smaller such as fats, oils and sweets showing the importance of limiting the amount of those that we eat each day.   We use sets of toy foods in baskets that represent each food group.  The children can place these on the appropriate section of the mat.  This activity is particularly geared to participation by more than one child, thereby encouraging cooperative and productive play amongst our students.  Books and puzzles about our bodies and nutrition have been placed in our Sensorial and Library areas.
We began May by talking about the the Maypole, its European origins, and how children welcomed spring by dancing around the Maypole in the fields and forests near their homes.  We have a Parkside Maypole, expertly constructed by Annie’s husband years ago, and we used it on circle so that the our students could re enact moving around the it. Then we made Maypoles at the art table.
Another special May project is the study of the life cycle of the Painted Butterfly.  We are watching each phase of the entire process as it happens,  using our classroom “Butterfly Gardens”. We began by looking at the tiny caterpillars which are continuing to grow over a period of days.  They will then form themselves into chrysalises, and they will eventually emerge as beautiful butterflies.  Once our butterflies are out and flying around the special netted container (our Butterfly Garden),  we will bring them to the playground and release them. This process of metamorphosis takes about two weeks, and the children are excited to see the changes that take place each day/week and then to bring them outside.  Concrete materials again are the key here, and, in addition to having the growing caterpillars in each classroom, we also use toy replicas of the eggs, the caterpillars in a couple of different stages of growth,  the chrysalises, and finally the beautiful butterflies all of which clearly illustrate the entire life cycle of the butterfly.   We have many beautiful books, both fiction and non-fiction to read along the way.
As the ever-popular recent Practical Life activities continue (dishwashing, bread slicing, color mixing, coffee grinding and silver polishing), we will bring in cheese slicing. We use small saltine crackers and slice the cheese with a special tool into little squares.  As with other food prep exercises, the children then pass the cheese and crackers to their friends.     
In Sensorial, as part of our study of the brain and our senses, we will bring in a tasting exercise in addition to the smelling (identifying five different scents) and hearing (shaking containers with different levels of sound) exercises.  As an extension of all the work we have done this year with ever more challenging Montessori shape materials, we have added a new piece of work whereby the children form shapes given to them on cards. To do this they use colored rubber bands and a peg board. 
So while our school year is winding down, we continue to try to add materials to the shelf which are both important learning activities and also sources of fun for our students.  Over the last nine months we have been watching them evolve into more confident, capable and caring individuals.  It has been a very good year full of positive social, emotional and cognitive growth,  and your curious, innocent, affectionate and happy little people keep all of us focused and hopeful in an otherwise complicated and sometimes difficult world.  You as our parent partners are so much a part of your child’s early education and development.  We offer our heartfelt thanks for your interest, cooperation and support during this very busy, successful and happy school year. 
“The aim of Montessori education is to develop each
person’s abilities to the fullest extent while celebrating and
enhancing his or her uniqueness and cultural background.
The goal of education is the development of autonomous, competent,
responsible (to themselves, other humans,  and the environment),
     adaptive citizens…lifelong learners and problem solvers.  Respect
competency, responsibility, self initiative and
self management are valued.”
                                                                                          Montessori in Contemporary American Culture                                                                                    Marlene Barron
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