All posts by afarnum

Back to School Pot Luck Picnic, Fri. Sept. 2nd!

Let’s celebrate the start of school with one last splash in the pool! The party is being held at Green Mountain Camp in Dummerston from 4:30 until 7. Jay and friends will be on hand to play world music, we’ll have the grill going and all you need to do is bring your swimmies and something to share. Toddler and Children’s House Families: Sides/Salads; Lower and Upper El Families: Desserts; and Middle School Families: drinks.

Toddler, Lower El and Middle School Parent Orientation

Tuesday, September 13th from 5:30 – 6:30pm. This is an evening meeting for parents to learn about the upcoming year’s curriculum, program, expectations for students, and ways to be involved in your child’s education. Parents with children in more than one program should send one parent to each program level. Childcare will be provided. Please sign up for childcare at the front desk.

Not So New to Us!

So often things that are reported as new “discoveries” or trends in education are things that Maria Montessori observed 100 years ago and incorporated into the time tested, scientifically proven approach we use at Hilltop. Three such ideas are: the importance of movement in learning, the benefit of developing internal motivation rather than being given external rewards, and how to have STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) in education in an integrated, concrete, real-world way. These are all important components of the curriculum and experience that students have at our school from toddlers through Middle School.
The connection of the Hand to the Mind:
This article, “Why Kids Need to Move, Touch and Experience to Learn,” explains the reason behind our classrooms that encourage movement, and materials that require manual manipulation. The human mind is wired to learn through moving and experiencing, not through sedentary rote memorization. The classroom and outside environments at Hilltop, encourage concentration, movement and experiential learning.
Internal Motivation, Not External Rewards:
This article “Could Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose be the Keys to Motivating Students?” uses a TED talk by Daniel Pink to suggest that, just as financial incentives have been seen to not motivate employees to do creative problem solving, so using tests and grades and other external motivators are not beneficial to children. To foster intrinsic motivation students should be given opportunities to do real-life problem solving and feel a sense of purpose from doing real tasks where they can develop a sense of skill, pride and accomplishment. This can be:
  • serving a friend snack, as the toddlers do with great enjoyment and pride
  • washing a table, a classic Montessori activity often accomplished in our Children’s House classrooms
  • writing persuasive letters to the Head of School on why Lower El needs a bigger garden, and seeing it through with materials, digging, and planting!
  • building lamps for the auction, using precise measurements, calculations, and skilled craftsmanship
  • running a bagel business, soup business, coffee cart, and providing childcare to raise money for an odyssey (as our Middle Schoolers doSTEM and STEAM have been what Montessori is all about for 100 years:
There is a movement in education circles to talk about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) or when you throw the Arts back in there it becomes STEAM. This approach emphasizes how all fields relate to each other and that project based learning on real life situations is a better approach to learning that segmented subjects with hypothetical questions. Again, this is what Montessori is based on and what happens every day at Hilltop Montessori School.
  • The metal insets combine art, with geometry, and are a preparation for writing.
  • The “timeline of life” is a lesson in history, biology, geology, and can be beautifully rendered in colored pencils, or felted wool!
  • Developing the “Museum” projects in Upper Elementary requires combining disciplines to prepare a written and physical illustration to communicate a complex concept.
  • Building water wheels combines math, physics, and design in a hands-on building project
At Hilltop Montessori School we do STEAM!

Classism in the Classroom

April 16, 2015

On Wednesday, Kerstin (Lower Elementary Teacher), Rebecca (Children’s House – Willow Room Assistant) and I attended a training at the Vermont Learning Collaborative on “Classism in the Classroom” (http://www.learningcollaborative.org/classism). At Hilltop, we work consciously to address diversity and inclusion in many ways. In Southern Vermont, we do not have as much opportunity to experience racial and ethnic diversity but we strive to whenever possible. We do have more diversity of family structures and many members of our community who are gay and lesbian. We also have the opportunity to be sure to be inclusive of the economic diversity that we have. And, as we are thinking about expanding that economic diversity, we want to be aware of all the potential class biases that we might have. This training, in conjunction with the discussions we have been having with students, faculty, and the board, are informing how we move forward with increased awareness and inclusion. It is important to ask:

 “Is this accessible to all students?” “Are we excluding people with this curriculum/book/action?”
Much of the training served to reaffirm the cultural curriculum and peace curriculum that is a part of our programs. And, there is always room to analyze, update, and improve.
Some of the topics that come up in this context include:
– how can fundraising be handled in an inclusive, respectful way
– how directly should we be addressing class differences in the classroom with children at different program levels
– what books and materials could we add at different levels to be sure to be including people of different classes
– how could the “fundamental needs” curriculum of Lower Elementary be augmented to more directly address class differences
– additional fees for extra things (after care, pizza lunch, etc.) can exclude some, despite our attempts to include all the fees in the tuition
– would a sliding scale of fees for some things be a way of being more inclusive
We will be continuing to look at these topics within the current context of our community and looking to the future.