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



During December, a short but busy month, we spend time preparing for the holidays.  In Practical Life, we will continue clementine peeling, and we will also continue to make our beaded bracelets in holiday colors as well as candy canes made of pipe cleaners, great exercises to strengthen fine motor control.   In our cutting area we will be introducing beaded garland cutting.  We have spent lots of time cutting and fringing paper with the classroom scissors, and the garland cutting takes that skill to the next level.  We will use the cut beads at the art table in our creative art bin.  Sometimes when there isn’t a formal art project which addresses either a specific skill or a special classroom theme, we put on the art table our large sectioned plastic bin with lots of different materials such as feathers, pieces of fabric, sequins, plastic gemstones in assorted shapes, foam pieces, etc. for the children to choose and use to make a collage.  The gluing of beads is particularly popular, and helps to enhance small motor control.  Also at the art table this month, we will be making menorahs, trees, wreaths,  candy canes, ornaments etc.   As always the classroom songs, books and puzzles reflect holiday themes.

Last month we introduced both the Peace Flower and the Peace Stick into our classrooms, and placed them in the Peace Corner.   We read a short story explaining how we use the Peace Flower.  The book gives three different examples of children having a disagreement.  In each case one child holds the flower and explains with teacher help why or she is upset with a classmate.  Then the other child takes the flower and responds by explaining his or her own side of the story.  At the end, both children finish the encounter by saying “Friend”. 

In the older classroom we have brought in the Peace Stick.  The story (or legend) we describe is how a long time ago many of the Native American tribes were fighting with each other.  A very old and very wise chief of one of the tribes called a meeting, and they all gathered under an old oak tree.  As the chief was suggesting ways to settle their differences other than fighting, a limb feel from the tree.  All there took this as a sign that they should listen to the chief.  They agreed from that time on to settle their arguments by holding a stick and talking and listening to one another.  When we finish the story we take the large stick which was used in telling the story, and each child ties a piece of colored ribbon around it as their commitment to try to settle their arguments through talking and listening.  Learning conflict resolution whether by the use of the peace flower or peace stick is often difficult for young children and takes time.  There is  dramatic play to illustrate examples. Most children are comfortable explaining why they are upset, but it is more challenging for them to listen as their friend explains his or her problem.  So far we are having some success with both methods. Learning that there are ways to settle arguments without being physical is an invaluable lesson for all. 

Just as important is the positive approach to peace (kindness and respect)  which we explained in October’s notes.  When a child shows even the smallest act of kindness, they are strongly encouraged to put a stone in our Peace Bowl…. also in the Peace Corner.   Maria Montessori was always seeking ways to promote peace in the world, and she too lived in turbulent times.  Her lessons about peace in the world are as important today as they were then.

Your children here at Parkside provide a wonderful distraction from some of the serious problems in our complicated world.  We hope that you will find some quiet time this season to spend with them as we will with our own families.  As parents you certainly know well what a source of joy they are for all of us. 

“If we are to have peace in this world,
then we shall have to begin with the children.
                                            Mahatma Gandhi

We wish you all a joyous and peaceful holiday season, and a Happy New Year!


We, teachers and students alike, are busy busy busy as we move into our third month of school.  Materials are changing in the classroom, and the children are always excited to see which new activities will be placed on the shelves each week. 

Learning about Thanksgiving takes up a good deal of our time this month.  On circle we tell the story of that very first harvest celebration in Massachusetts back in 1621.  The Pilgrims journeyed for months over rough seas, dealing with illness, hunger and homesickness.  When they finally arrived on Plymouth Rock they realized that they had not come to an uninhabited land, but to a land most definitely inhabited by people who would help them survive.  The Native Americans showed them what to plant and where to hunt and fish.  At the beginning of their second winter, the harvest was abundant, and all came together to celebrate the bountiful harvest.  This celebration became the first Thanksgiving.  We have a Thanksgiving “set-up”, a realistic toy which includes the Mayflower and figures of Pilgrims, Indians,  as well as tables, trees, cabins, etc.   At the art table we will be making placemats, Pilgrim hats and Native American headdresses as well as horns of plenty.  This is in preparation for our Parkside Thanksgiving feasts which will take place on Monday and Tuesday, November 21 and 22.  In an effort to make it somewhat authentic we will be asking for donations for our feasts of harvest foods, like corn, apples, sweet potatoes, corn and pumpkin muffins or bread, turkey, grapes, cranberries, mashed potatoes, etc.  There will be a sign up sheet in the hall a week or so before our celebrations.  The Thanksgiving unit contains lessons in history and geography, as well as learning about the importance of pulling together for the good of all, a message still so relevant today and also not unlike the lessons in our Peace curriculum.   We will also talk about the importance of gratitude, and when we ask the children to share the things that they are thankful for, we are sure to receive interesting ideas ranging from “my baby brother or sister” to “Spiderman” to “my light-up sneakers”.

This month in Practical Life as we prepare for the holidays we will be doing table setting, napkin folding, flower arranging, clementine peeling, bracelet making in fall colors.  We will also bring in ladling, funneling, and some more difficult tweezing exercises.   In Sensorial our Geometric Cabinet has been brought out.  It is a large piece of equipment with many drawers, each one housing six of a certain kind of shape.  There are also cards to match in solid, thick and thin lines.  This cabinet holds many opportunities for extension of the initial recognition of and discrimination between basic shapes.  Language contains lots of new matching exercises including Native American symbols and very detailed horns of plenty. We will be reading books about the Thanksgiving and its meaning.   We will be counting feathers and pumpkins in Math. 

We continue our discussions this month about trees, focusing on the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees. Last month we talked about the many deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in fall) like maple, oak, sassafras, tulip, gingko, etc.  Now we will be looking at the different types of evergreen trees such as the pine, holly, rhododendron, ilex, hemlock, etc.  Many of these are right outside our doors here at school, and we will be pointing them out on our trips to the playground.    

Now that we have planted our bulbs in there “cozy winter beds” and learned about all the different leaves/trees around us, we are struck by how much the children enjoy learning about the changes in nature that are taking place around them.  Many have excitedly brought in leaves from their yards or the parks they frequent. It is both fun and gratifying for us, especially during the upcoming Thanksgiving season.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life
It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It
turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order,
confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast,
a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. “

                                                    Melody Beattie


While we have just completed our first full month of school, our children have settled in well and are enjoying each other and the many  activities and Montessori materials on our shelves.   There are still a few hesitating at the door, and even a few tears, but overall it has been a peaceful start.  We have been fortunate with the above average temperatures, and we have heard many stories of summer trips to the beach and aquariums.  We aren’t quite ready to put away all of our sea creatures, as the children seem to be really enjoying learning about the busy, hungry sea gull, the shy octopus, the slow-moving manatee, the playful, friendly dolphin, and many others.  As the temperatures turn cooler,  though, we will be turning our attention to all things fall…apples, pumpkins, trees and leaves, and the changes that come with a new season. 

In Practical Life this month baby and table washing will continue along with sponging.  All of the children, including all our returning students, love these exercises.   Pumpkin scrubbing and apple cutting will be introduced.  In Sensorial we will have apple tasting.  We have been bringing in several different kinds of apples to be identified and tasted.  In Language, we will be looking at and sorting the different kinds of trees and the leaves that they produce such as oak, maple, sassafras, gingko, tulip, etc.  On our walks to the playground the children are observing all the different kinds of trees and bushes and hearing their names.  In math we will count tiny apples, pumpkins and leaves.  Our art activities include leaf rubbing and painting, glitter and tissue pumpkins and apples, and several Halloween projects.  And of course we will have lots of Fall and Halloween books and puzzles.  Please note: The children do not wear their Halloween costumes to school on Halloween.   This would make what is already a very exciting day a little too long for children who are so young.  We do celebrate with games, songs and treats.

Another special project in October is our bulb planting which will take place later in the month.  We will be planting crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths near the playground and our entrance.  The children are fascinated by the fact that the bulbs are planted now, in fall when the ground is still soft,  but will bloom months from now.   We show them and they will see for themselves that the bulbs stay in their “cozy beds” all through the fall and the winter, and will emerge as beautiful colored flowers next spring.  It’s a nice lesson in the natural changes each of the four seasons brings in temperature, on the ground, in trees, and in the sky.   We plant the bulbs fairly deeply, using a special tool, and then cover them with pine straw in order to deter the always hungry squirrels looking for food in the winter. 

Here at Parkside an important year-long theme is “Peace”.   We tell the children that peace simply means caring about one another and showing kindness in the smallest of ways (helping a friend roll up a mat or put away work, giving up a seat next to the teacher to a friend who really seems to need to be there, helping a teacher clean up after snack or lunch,  taking a friends hand who needs a partner, comforting a friend who is upset.)  We do some play acting on circle to demonstrate different examples of being “peaceful” , and eventually we will show examples of how to be peaceful at home as well as school. We have set up our Peace Bowl in our Peace Corner in each classroom where the children may go and place a colored stone in the bowl following an act of kindness.  In the beginning it is often  the teacher who points out to the child that he or she has been a peaceful friend, even if they don’t realize it.  We want to help them understand that being peaceful fosters a calmer, happier environment for all.  Sometimes, at session’s end, we bring the Peace Bowl over to show the children how many stones (acts of kindness) are in the bowl.  Eventually, the Peace Corner is used for conflict resolution.  We will talk more about that next month.

“Peace is not something you wish for.
It is something you make, something you do,
something you are.  And something you give away.”

                                                                                      John Lennon


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