This is the first edition of our monthly newsletter for the 2019-2020 school year. As we complete our second full week of school, things are settling down nicely. September is a time of transition for children and adults alike. Our job as teachers it to make this time for both new and returning students as calm as possible and to gently guide them through the newness of the beginning of the school year. The children want and need to feel safe and to know that we care about them and will be there to help at all times. While there are still some tears at the door, which is very much expected and normal during the first few weeks of school, the children are for the most part happy and comfortable.
As many of you know, each month Parkside features a different learning theme. The materials on the shelves in all classroom areas reflect this. These areas include Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, the Classroom Library, and the Art Table. September, which comes at summer’s end, seems like a good time to focus on sea life and life at the beach. We have begun by learning about the small creatures that inhabit the shells we find on the beach. The children can touch and look at the different kinds of shells that are on trays in the classrooms. Then we will move further out into the sea to study the many fascinating sea creatures that inhabit our oceans, including the playful and intelligent dolphin, the shy octopus, the slow moving and gentle manatee, the giant squid, the singing humpback whale, and the hungry shark.
In Practical Life we will have a fishing, shell digging and shell scrubbing in addition to the other spooning (tiny shells) and pouring exercises, table scrubbing and baby washing. The Sensorial Area includes building, sorting, and arranging blocks, cylinders, and geometric solid shapes. In September there will be many sea life puzzles, large and small, on the Sensorial shelves. In the Language area we will have matching shells and sea animals, and there will be baskets of the sea animals for the children to play with and learn to identify. Also in September we introduce the traditional Montessori Language activities such as name tracing, matching word and picture cards, sequencing, go-together cards, and picture story. Here a child picks out a picture from a basket and glues it onto the top of a piece of paper. Then, sitting with a teacher, they tell a “story” about what the picture represents, and we write their story down. This is a good exercise in oral language development. In Math there will be lots of counting of both shells, sea animals and other little objects, and the children will also be stamping sea animals next to numbers. At the art table we will be creating beach scenes and sea life pictures including fish and sea mammal rubbing, sponging, dot art, and “pinch and pull” art. And of course, our library corner will include lots of beautiful sea life books, both informational and fiction, as well as many more traditional favorites, some of those focusing on returning to school.
Another important theme we introduce in September is that of Peace. Our Peace curriculum continues throughout the school year with different concrete lessons about the meaning and practical application of peace. Simply stated, we tell the children that to be peaceful means that we are kind, caring and helpful to others, friends and teachers alike. It also means that we want to stay busy and productive in class to ensure a happy environment for all. Our first peace lesson this month will be the introduction of our Peace Corner with our Peace Table. On the table is an empty bowl and a small tray of pretty colored stones. We play act on circle showing the children examples of what it means to be peaceful…helping a friend put away their work, comforting a friend who might be sad, taking a classmate’s hand who doesn’t have a partner, or working hard on a special activity. During the course of the session if a child shows peace towards another, we encourage them to put a stone in the Peace Bowl. In the beginning there are many stones thrown in the bowl, as the children love the sound it makes to add stones. But eventually they come to really understand the significance of placing stones in the bowl, and the stones are representations of the kind and peaceful acts that we show in the course of the school day. Despite the young ages of our students, our Peace Bowl helps to foster a sense of community and and an understanding of the shared responsibility we all have to be kind to one another. This will be a year long endeavor, indeed a life-long endeavor.
In closing, we appreciate what both parents and caregivers have done to help us through this busy and sometimes painful time of transition. The early weeks of school are a time for making new friends and learning the routines of the classrooms. We think we have made a good start in achieving those goals thanks to our patient and loving teachers and thanks as well to your own patience and understanding.