The Parkside Montessori School
53 Norwood Avenue
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043



The excitement of the holidays is over, and the children seem happy to be back to the routine of school, enjoying each other and working with the new materials we placed on the shelves over the break.  January is the month of the dinosaurs at Parkside, truly one of our most popular thematic units.  Our students are incredibly fascinated by and drawn to these mysterious creatures, and it is a great subject to explore with young children.  Related materials include baskets in each room of many different kinds of dinosaurs which are life-like and detailed.  We will learn the names as well as the interesting characteristics of each dinosaur.  We will also talk about the difference between carnivores, herbivores and omnivores.   There will be dinosaur counting, dinosaur matching both pictures and small objects, as well as many dinosaur books, both fiction and non-fiction, on our new library shelves.  Art projects include dino pinching and pulling, rubbing, sponging, and stenciling.  We will make dino footprints, and in language there will be dino punching.  We will also focus on fossils, and in practical life we will be digging for dinosaur bones, and we may even add dinosaur “washing” this year.   An important part of our dinosaur study focuses on why these creatures disappeared, and there are several interesting theories which we share with with our students.  No matter how many circle discussions we have or how many dinosaur-related materials are on the shelves, the children never seem to tire of the prehistoric animals.

In Practical Life this month several new and fun exercises will be introduced, including shaving cream (a real favorite), mirror polishing, whisking, celery cutting, straining, and work with an eye-dropper (in preparation for next month’s color mixing).  As with all of the exercises of Practical Life, these activities promote growth in coordination, precision,  process, and focus, all of which are crucial to success in other areas.

In Sensorial we continue our work with shapes. The geometric cabinet has been brought in.  It is a large piece of equipment which contains 6 drawers with 6 shapes in each drawer and accompanying cards with solid, thick and thin lines to match.  The triangle box is also on the shelf, and it contains isosceles, equilateral, and scalene triangles to be formed into larger triangles.  The hexagon boxes, large and small will be coming in as well.

The children are learning to care for themselves and their environment (washing their hands, putting on their coats,  taking out and also returning their work to the shelves).  They are also learning how to interact with each other in a positive and peaceful way, and in January this is greatly facilitated by the introduction of “Snack for Two”.   A child may invite another to have snack with him or her at a special snack table near a special snack shelf.  The host (the one who invites) sets the table and prepares the snack for serving (water and a cracker),  and both children sit together and enjoy the one on one with each other.  Their conversations are often so sweet and interesting.  After they have finished, both clean up the table and put away the snack materials.  These interactions can often encourage new friendships, foster conversation, and promote courtesy.

Our Peace curriculum continues this month with the introduction of the “Peace Flower”.  The purpose of bringing the Peace Flower to our Peace corner is to help the children begin to understand how to settle any conflicts that may arise during the normal course of the day.  Thankfully, these conflicts are usually minor and sometimes relate to a youngster not understanding why another may not want to hold his or her hand,  share an activity, or sit near them on circle or at a table.  If a child becomes upset with another or perhaps with one of us,  we gently guide them to the Peace Flower where they can take turns holding the flower and using their words to express how they feel to the other child.  Hopefully, by going to a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of the classroom,  the children with our help will be able to express their feelings freely, and really listen to what the other has to say.  Listening is an important skill for all to learn. One of the best ways to become a thoughtful listener, for children and adults alike, is to be able to enjoy the gift of being heard.  Of course conflict resolution takes time, especially with very young children, but as the year progresses, the teachers are usually able to step back and let the children work through whatever problem they have.  However when we first start to use the Peace Flower, our guidance is needed and often sought.  At the end of the interaction between two children using the Peace Flower, we always suggest that each child raise his or her hand and touch the other child’s hand with the word “Friends”.  They inevitably leave smiling. 

Again, it is great to be back at school and to be starting a new year with our students and their families.  We have lots of new materials on our shelves, and all of us are continuing to enjoy so much our renovated space.  We look forward to a happy and productive 2019.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace
with your neighbors, and let every new year
find you a better person.”

                                                                           Benjamin Franklin


As winter weather begins to settle in, here at school we are settling in to our renovated classrooms with a sense of both relief and gratitude.   With much help and cooperation from so many….PCUM, teachers, parents, and friends, we are finally back downstairs.   Again, we wish to thank all those parents who gave so generously of their time in helping us build our new shelves, cabinets, tables, etc., and also our teachers and many volunteers  who helped us move a very large amount of furniture and materials back downstairs from our temporary classrooms.  We also thank you for your financial donations. We could never have done it without you.  It truly does “take a village”.  Our students seem really excited and pleased with their new classrooms, and because we have more room, there are more activities for them to enjoy. 

December always seems to go very quickly with the holidays in full swing.  Much of the new materials on the shelves are related to the holidays…both Christmas and Hanukkah.   We will be painting, decorating, sponging, and even punching our menorahs, Christmas trees, dreidels, wreaths, candy canes and Santas. 

December Practical Life includes some popular exercises.  We are continuing to peel clementines and use basters.  We will work with beads and tweezers and make structures with pipe cleaners.  The activities are presented in holiday colors, and the children are further refining their motor skills, but having lots of fun at the same time. 

Our Peace curriculum continues this month.  In its simplest form, Peace is being kind and caring towards others,  staying busy and productive, and feeling happy.  In the first lesson in October, we set up our Peace Corner with the Peace Bowl and stones.  When a little one does something kind for a friend or teacher, they are encouraged to put a stone in the Peace Bowl.  At first, the children enjoying tossing many stones into the bowl because they like the noise the stones make as they hit the bottom of the bowl!  However, they come to understand with our suggestions and direction, that each stone represents an act of good will or kindness.  In November we began to talk about how each of us has a “Love Light” which shines when we feel happy, when we are busy and having fun, and when we being kind and helpful.  Sometimes our lights get a little dim if we are sad or tired or angry, but they will always return to full brightness.  We have a flashlight game where the children tell us if their lights are shining or a little dim, and they enjoy telling us the reasons for their feelings…good or bad.  Often we hear that their lights are shining because they love their mom, dad or sibling, or they received a new toy, or went to a special place.   Just as often they will share their sad or angry feelings that usually relate to a problem with a friend or sibling, being tired, or just missing Mom or Dad.  Descriptions are of course very simplistic when we start.  Gradually they become more comfortable with sharing their feelings.  The Peace Table also includes a Peace Flower or Peace Stick which are tools to help with conflict resolution.   More about this next month. 

As we near the end of the year, happily back downstairs,  we wish you all holidays filled with joy and peace.

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace.  One must
believe in it.  And it isn’t enough to believe in it. 
One must work at it.”

                                                                                                                                          Eleanor Roosevelt


As we begin our third month of school, we remain hopeful that  we will be returning to our downstairs classrooms before its end.  The progress has been steady and significant.  There is much work to be done before the move, but we are up to the task, and we will let you know when help is needed.  We do want to thank you for the positive response to our on-line “Wish List”.  Already some needed equipment has been ordered by parents, and we are so grateful.  There are still items on the lists (Walmart, Overstock, Childcraft, and Alison’s Montessori) to purchase.  We have had a little trouble with items being automatically removed once ordered.  So if you decide to purchase something on any of those sites, please let us know via e mail so that we can make sure it comes off the lists and there are no duplications of orders.  Again, thank you so much for your participation.

One of our lessons this month as a follow up to leaf identification, is to show the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees  We are observing both kinds of trees on our walks to the playground.  We have talked about how and when the leaves change color even though the colors this year have been somewhat less brilliant.  Perhaps this is due to an unusually warm, humid and rainy September and early October.  Since we have spent some time showing the children the many different kinds of leaves,  it is always gratifying when they share with us the trees and leaves that they see in their yards or parks they frequent, and when they can pick up and identify leaves during our circle moving games. 

Our bulbs have been planted and are now resting in their “cozy beds”.  We explained that it will be a long time before they emerge as beautiful flowers in the spring.  We also tell them that the winter rain, snow, sleet, and cold temperatures will not harm our bulbs.  We are now covering the beds with pine straw which serves to deter hungry squirrels from digging up and munching on our bulbs.  The discussion about protecting the bulbs is as interesting to the children as the actual planting that they each experienced. 

Much of our time in November will be spent preparing for Thanksgiving, and these preparations naturally complement our ongoing discussions of Peace in the classrooms.  Our Thanksgiving theme is both a lesson in history and geography as we tell of the Pilgrims long and difficult journey across the ocean to find a new life in a new land.  They arrived in December and faced a harsh winter where many were ill and there was little food.  However, they came not to an uninhabited land, but to one where they found people (the Native Americans) who were willing to help them survive in this new land.  The Pilgrims were shown how to build homes, hunt and fish, and how and where to plant food.  The first Thanksgiving resulted in  a celebration of the successful harvest where the Native Americans and Pilgrims came together and were thankful for that harvest.   As many of you know, we have our own Thanksgiving Feasts here at Parkside.  They will take place on Monday, November 19 and Tuesday November 20, both in the morning and the afternoon. We will be asking for donations of harvest foods which we will share at our celebrations.  All month the children will be working on making placemats and Pilgrim and Indian hats as we get ready to recreate the first Thanksgiving of 1621.

Our new shelf activities will revolve around harvest time and Thanksgiving. We will continue pumpkin scrubbing in Practical Life and bring in clementine peeling, a real favorite.  We will also introduce table setting flower arranging, and napkin folding.  In Sensorial, the geometric solids are on the shelves, and the children are becoming familiar with the cone, sphere, cube, pyramid, etc.  The Geometric cabinet with its many drawers holding trays of different-sized circles, rectangles, triangles, and polygons will be brought in.  Language will feature Thanksgiving and harvest matching exercises, along with identification of and matching Native American symbols.  And of course in math we will be counting leaves, feathers, footballs, and pumpkins. Books and puzzles are changed to reflect the November themes, and some more challenging floor puzzles will be brought in. 

Our time in our temporary space is nearing the end. Both students and teachers have done well in the upstairs rooms, and the PCUM has been incredibly helpful and flexible.  But we are excited to return to our classrooms, and thankful that we all made it through this period of change and transition positively and productively.   We wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a
Very Small Heart, it could hold a
rather large amount of Gratitude.”

                                                                                                                             A.A.Milne, Winnie the Pooh


October is here, but we are not quite ready to put away our sea creatures.  This year, perhaps more than in other years, these animals have held a great deal of fascination for the children.   And so we are continuing to study the different kinds of whales and sharks and other sea creatures for a little while.  In our work with the children we adhere to the basic Montessori tenet that the teacher be a keen observer of the child and be guided by the needs of each student.  You as parents most likely realize that this age is a peak time for vocabulary development, and the children certainly seem capable of absorbing new names and terms, from the baleen whale to the hammerhead shark.   However, it is October, and so we will now be talking apples, pumpkins, leaves, and all things fall.  We are learning about the different kinds of apples as well as leaves and showing them on circle.  Examples are the delicious, granny smith, cortland,  rome, and macintosh apples.  The leaves we focus on are maple, oak, gingko, sassafras, tulip, beech, and sweet gum. and there are moving games associated with these circle lessons.

Our daily schedule, even in our temporary space, remains the same each day.  Consistency is important, especially during this time of transition.  When we move back downstairs to our original space, the surroundings will be different again, but in order to make that next transition (one that we welcome) go smoothly, we will maintain the normal classroom schedule.  This is as follows:  After entry into the classroom and a short ease into our day period,  we have snack.  Then we proceed to circle time where we greet the children and do some singing and moving.  We also use circle time to introduce, by demonstration, a new activity that will then be placed on the shelves.  After circle, we have our “work time” where the children move into the different areas and choose what they would like to do.  The teacher’s job is to gently guide them with their choices, always keeping in mind their individual learning styles and readiness levels.  If a child chooses the same particular job every day, that is fine if they are enjoying the activity and benefitting from the experience.  Again though, our aim is to make sure that they have the opportunity to explore all of the curriculum areas, and, because work time is the longest period of the day and our teacher/student ratio is very good, we are able to do that.  Through this part of our session, we continually move around working with the kids in small groups or individually.   After our work time, we get ready to go outdoors, and after outdoor (or indoor) play time, we end the session with some songs and a story.

Since this is the beginning of our school year, it also may be helpful, in addition to describing the daily schedule,  to go over the set up of our Montessori classroom.  There are four basic  areas…Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Math.  As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, Practical Life includes washing and polishing exercises, pouring, spooning, grasping, tweezing, etc.  Large and fine motor skills are honed in this area as well as a sense of order and process.  The Sensorial area contains all kinds of building, sorting, arranging and comparing, size, shape, weight, and color.  These activities enhance sensory development, and again, large and small motor development.  In Sensorial we have many puzzles, both large and small.   In the Language area there are many matching exercises, including object to object, picture to object, and picture to picture  There are also concrete go-together and well as sequencing exercises, and writing and tracing letters and names.  We also offer sand paper letters and the movable alphabet to foster letter identification   Math features lots of small object counting,  matching numbers to pictures, dot to dot work, number stamping, and concrete addition with objects. 

Of course we have an art area which includes different art mediums and tools and both seasonal and skill-related activities.  Art activities are available every day,  and our easels will be set up once we move back downstairs.  We are hoping that the move will be in November, and we can report that significant progress has been made over these last couple of weeks.  We will keep you advised of the possible date for our relocation back down to our regular classrooms. We do continue to be amazed at and grateful for how well children, teachers, and you the parents have adapted positively to our temporary classrooms. 

Every month new activities are brought into each classroom area that reflect our monthly themes.  So, for example, in October in Practical Life there will be pumpkin scrubbing in addition to the sponging, pouring,  spooning, fishing,  and baby washing already on the shelves. In Sensorial, the broad stair will join the pink tower, red rods, and cylinder towers and blocks,  and we will also bring in an apple tasting exercise.   Language features apple and leaf identification and matching.  In Math there will be lots of counting pumpkins, apples and leaves.  At the art table we will have apple, leaf, and of course Halloween projects.  We have a large repertoire of Halloween songs, and leaf and apple songs as well.  A word about Halloween: 

The children should not wear their costumes to school.   It makes what is already a very exciting day a little too long for children so young.  We will be celebrating with games, songs, and treats, but no costumes.  If you would like to send in a treat, please let Annie know.  We would need only one for each morning class and one for each afternoon class.

Also, towards the end of October, we will be planting bulbs outside with the children , a Parkside fall tradition.  On circle we demonstrate how to prep the garden bed with a large shallow container of dirt, and we use the necessary tools for the prepping and the planting of crocus, daffodil, tulip and hyacinth bulbs into that box of dirt.  Then, when we move outside, the children have a good idea of how to actually plant the bulbs into the ground surrounding our playground and entrances, and they each have the chance to do that.  We explain that our bulbs will sleep deep down in their “cozy beds” all winter long and only emerge months from now in the spring.  We talk a lot about seasonal changes at Parkside, despite the fact that summer is still hanging on,  and there have not been too many beautiful crisp fall days.  Our hope is that by the time we do our planting it will feel more like fall.

As the weather cools, we ask once again that you please label your child’s lunch boxes (on the top), water bottles, back packs, sweaters, hats, jackets, boots, etc.  Preparation for outdoor play time and dismissal is FAR more organized and efficient.  For those who have already done so,  thank you so much.

“And so we discovered that education is not something whichthe teacher does,
but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being (the child). 
It is not acquired by listening to words, but by virtue of experiences in which
the child acts upon his or her environment. 
The teacher’s task therefore is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives
in a special  environment made for the child.”

                                          Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind


Our September opening this year has been unlike any other.  But despite the change in classroom locations, we are off to a relatively peaceful start.

Not all, but most of the tears at the door have subsided now, and the children are enjoying themselves as they begin to forge new friendships and also become reacquainted with each other.  While the move of some of our furniture as well as our educational materials from the basement to the upstairs was very challenging during the last hot and humid weeks of August,  all of us are settling in and working out the logistics of our new but temporary space.   It certainly helps that between all the teachers there is plenty of experience setting up classrooms, and as a group they are very flexible which is such an important part of the job.  PCUM has also been incredibly helpful, allowing us to disrupt their upstairs routine and giving us their rooms and areas of storage.  And we would like to thank you our parents for being so cooperative and supportive as we work out all of the kinks in an effort to keep things running smoothly.

Since for many of us summer vacation is a fairly recent memory, it seems appropriate to have Sea Life and Life at the Beach as our September themes.  The children are learning about the different kinds of shells…clam,  conch, slipper, tiger cowrie, spindle, moon, etc, and we have the actual shells on trays for the children to explore and handle.  If any child want to bring in shells to show, we would be happy to have them.  This week we will begin our study of sea animals including learning about the playful friendly dolphin, the shy octopus, the great white shark,  the singing humpback whale, the gentle, slow-moving manatee,  and quite a few others.   Books and  puzzles, songs and games are all reflective of these themes.

In Practical Life, spooning, grasping,  dry and wet pouring,  baby washing and tweezing exercises have been put on the shelves.  Also, shell digging has been brought out, and it is very popular.   The children dig out different shells they have learned about from a container of sand and match them. In a couple of weeks we will bring in our fishing exercise.  Using a little net, various little sea animals are fished out of a bowl of water, and matched on a towel.  Our Practical Life area fosters both large and small motor skills, a sense of order in a task, and an understanding of process.

In Sensorial, we have our magnetized fishing game on the shelf as well as the basic sensorial materials such as our pink tower, broad stair, cylinder blocks,  and color boxes.  The area of Sensorial enhances sensory discrimination, and for now the visual and tactical senses.  Later on we will be bringing in exercises that help refine the senses of smell, taste, and hearing. 

Because we are studying sea life, Language contains lots of sea life matching cards as well as objects, including the baskets of sea animals and shells.  In Math we will be counting and sorting fish and shells as well.  Also in Language we have brought in name tracing and picture story, where a youngster picks out an interesting picture, glues it onto a paper and then tells his or her teacher what they see in the picture while the teacher writes down their story. We have many Sea Life books on the shelves, both fiction and non fiction, and our art projects, as you have probably noticed, also reflect this month’s theme.

The refurbishing of our downstairs space has begun, a bit later than we had hoped, but progress is being made.  However, it appears as though we will be upstairs for the next few weeks, and our hope is to be back down in November.  Despite this period of change, we are excited because our newly refurbished space will look great, complete with fresh paint and brand new carpeting as well as some new furniture and equipment.   So while we never could have expected what happened, we are happy that it is all working out,  and that the children are fine.   When we do go back downstairs,  we may be enlisting your help with relocating our equipment and furniture….actually moving back down to our regular space.  It would in all likelihood be over a weekend.  We will keep you posted on how things are going. 

“I can’t change the direction
of the wind, but I can adjust my sails
to always reach my destination.”
                                                                           Jimmy Dean


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