We have almost completed the first two weeks of school, and we happily report that things are going very well. Our children, both new and returning, are settling in nicely and enjoying themselves. There is still some hesitation and a few tears at the door upon entry. Again, this is a normal part of the back to school process, and our job is to help this significant transition in all our lives, children, parents and teachers, as peaceful and comfortable as possible. Each year as fall begins, it can take all of us some time to jump back into our often busier and changing schedules. This is especially true for young children. The key is to have our classrooms well organized and set up with the children’s needs utmost in our minds as we prepare. We have been here since July getting ready for this new school year by purchasing, creating and prepping new materials and activities, and also sprucing up the classrooms with some painting and replacement of shelves.
This year we welcome four new staff members. Kristy Ellison worked with us last year as a substitute as did another new staffer, Mary Moore. Also joining us are Jada Miles and Meg Temkin. In the next couple of weeks their bios and pictures will be on our website. Jean Rose, who was with us for close to 25 years has retired. She stayed with us last year, even though she had moved from Montclair to Basking Ridge. Kay Arakelian was facing a more and more difficult commute from Bergen County as the years passed, and she has found a job about 5 minutes from her home. We miss them, but are grateful for their many years with us, and we are excited to have our new teachers with us.
The purpose of these monthly or sometimes bi-monthly “Notes” is to give our parent community information about upcoming dates and events and also to describe in some detail the new Montessori materials that are coming into each of our six classroom areas…Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, Art and Library.
Generally speaking, our Practical Life area includes activities that enhance concentration and a sense of process and order in a task and the development of large and small motor skills. In this area they will be given the opportunity to complete some of life’s “practical” tasks. Hence the name Practical Life. There are many water activities including pouring, table and baby washing and sponge squeezing. There is also spooning, tweezing, zipping, snapping, buttoning, etc. Later on we will bring in food prep, ladling, funneling, basting, shaving cream, shoe polishing, mirror polishing and many others.
The Sensorial area features building, sorting and arranging materials which serve to develop discrimination, motor and patterning skills. There is lots work with shapes, colors, cylinders, blocks, and many many puzzles, large and small.
In the Language area there are many pre-reading exercises such as matching objects and pictures, sequencing and go-together cards, and work with the sandpaper letters for the purpose of recognizing letters and the sounds that each makes. We offer tracing and then writing exercises, picture story work (for oral language development) and other reading readiness tasks.
The Math area includes sandpaper numbers which teach number identification as well as many many counting exercises with concrete materials, many of which have been made by our teachers. Later on we will bring in addition and subtraction, again using concrete materials.
In the Art area, our students have the opportunity to work with many different mediums and materials. There is usually an art project every day, but if there is not, other art materials are always available, and the children are free to go to the art table during our “work time” and also paint daily at our easels if they so choose.
In each room there is an area containing book shelves filled with story books. We have an extensive library that has been enhanced over many years to include both many traditional storybooks, as well as works by newer authors, many of whom have won awards. There are also “concept” books which are related to our monthly theme.
As with all of our materials and exercises, every month we change what is on our shelves including books and puzzles.
As in other school years as our returning families know, each month we focus on a different learning theme which will be reflected in all of the above classroom areas. As summer vacation has just ended, it seems like September is an appropriate time to focus on beach and sea life. We begin at the edge of the ocean talking about the small creatures that inhabit the shells we find on the beach. The children are learning the names of these shells including clam, conch, slipper, moon, cockle, murex, worm, oyster, tiger cowrie, etc. These are put on trays for the children to touch, match and learn each one’s name. Then we will move further into the sea and talk about the some of the large animals that inhabit our oceans such as the playful and friendly dolphin, the slow-moving and gentle manatee, the hungry and very fast-moving shark, the shy octopus and several others including different kinds of whales.
In keeping with our theme this month, Practical Life will include some fun exercises such as shell scrubbing, shell digging, “fishing” in a large bowl of water and tweezing and spooning sea creatures. Sensorial will feature many sea life puzzles, large and small. We will also have “fishing” with magnetic rods and a discrimination exercise using different sizes of shells.
In Language will be the trays of shells as mentioned above as well as baskets of the authentic museum quality sea animals for the children to take off the shelf and with the help of their teachers, learn the names and characteristics of each. These collections also promote lots of imaginative and cooperative play. We introduce the sea animals gradually in our circle lessons. Our experience is that with each new learning theme, the children are fascinated by the interesting facts about shells and sea animals (this month) and later in the year trees, dinosaurs, birds, the solar system, and the continents. Their minds are like little sponges as they absorb lot of information seemingly effortlessly.
On our Math shelves are numerous counting exercises using tiny shells and fish. We also make sea animal counting and stamping books. Our Book Corner is filled with many books, both fiction and non-fiction about beach and sea life. As you may have noticed, in the Art area we have been working on lots of sea life projects. And so from the very beginning of our year the many and ever-changing activities are keeping our students busy and engaged.
We thank you for your cooperation and support during these important early weeks of school. Please feel free to share with us any ideas, suggestions or concerns you may have, and we will be doing the same with you. We are off to a good start, and we look forward to a happy and productive school year (our 36th!)
“We must create a favorable environment that
will encourage the flowering of a child’s natural gifts.
The first thing to to done…is to discover the true nature of
the child and then assist him or her in his or
her normal development.”
The Secret of Childhood