All posts by LCampbell

Free Play by Amelia Fontein, Lower Elementary Assistant

Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath it’s shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping” ~ Maria Montessori

If you travel to Hilltop Montessori School around noon on a weekday, you might be surprised to hear chatter and laughter coming from the forest adjacent to the parking lot. Walk the short dirt path into the woods, and you’ll encounter children darting among the trees, building forts from bark and fallen branches, collecting fistfuls of acorns and pinecones, and creating a magical world of their own making. This environment offers lessons that are just as valuable as those taught inside our classrooms. Just as our morning classroom work cycle gives students the freedom to choose the “work” that they are developmentally ready for, our Elementary recess and after school time lets children choose any activities from fantasy play in the woods to developing their skateboarding skills.

In the increasingly structured and technological world in which we live, it is of utmost importance to provide children with unstructured play time in the natural world. At Hilltop, Elementary Recess and After Care are both designed to offer this time for children to engage in imaginative, free play within a safe, supervised environment – often in “Haytown”. The name “Haytown” has been around for years! Originally children collected cut grass from the freshly mowed fields and used that as their currency.

For our elementary students, social-emotional learning is a component of free play that we support during Recess and After Care. Children are constantly driven to resolve conflict with peers, collaborate on long-term projects, negotiate around shared resources, and make decisions to reach their own goals. We repeatedly see children devising compromises to divvy up bricks, logs, acorns, etc., working in a group for weeks at a time on elaborate forest dwellings, and learning to navigate the socially tricky ins and outs of running a Haytown business. Outside of Haytown, we often observe groups of students working together to develop rules and guidelines for games like Four Square, Capture the Flag, and Monkey Bar Tag.

Another enormous benefit of unstructured play is physical fitness and dexterity. Practicing pull ups on the monkey bars, lugging logs through Haytown to build a fort, learning how to ride a unicycle, balancing on a fallen log in the woods; these activities allow children to build their strength and coordination through play.

Finally, playing in the natural world allows children to expand their sense of wonder, creativity, and imagination. The economy within Haytown is living testament. Children open restaurants, antique shops, insurance agencies, newspaper publishers, general stores, arcades, and drive throughs. Customers looking to buy goods or services can use quartz stones, known as “crystals”, to make their purchases. Children are continuously dreaming up original business schemes, finding new uses for old materials, and using their imaginations to create a true culture and community within Haytown. This is a genuine joy to observe.

So, next time you pick up your child take a moment to observe some of the amazing structures that have been built and the learning that’s occurring during that unstructured time. As Maria Montessori reminds us: “Play is the work of the child.”

Guiding the Child at Work

September 8, 2017
It is only week two and the classrooms are already settling in and getting “normalized”. As Montessorians we use the term normalized to describe when the students have the rhythm of the day and, together and independently, work and grow where they need to.
Children are choosing their “work” and building their concentration. In Montessori classrooms we call the student activities “work” because the children are choosing materials that are helping them to grow where they are developmentally needing to grow, and that is their “work” as children. Dr. Montessori also chose this word knowing that “work” should ideally have the same joy and appeal for adults, as the activities the children are choosing on which to work. We should all be learning and growing through our “work”.
As guides in the classroom, the adults are careful not to interrupt a child at work. We want to foster that concentration and focus, rather than encourage distraction. This is something you can work to build at home too. When your child is engaged in something, let it come to a natural close, rather than interrupt with any words of praise or requests for another activity.

September 14, Parent – Meeting The Year Ahead and Supporting Home to School Life

Lower School 5 – 6 pm, Toddler, Supporting Independence, Homelife and Boundaries,  Lower El, How We Support Social Development & Extending Class Routines to Home & Children’s House, How Parents Can Support What We Do

Upper School 6 -7 pm Upper El, Family to School Communication, How We Support Executive Function Skills and Middle School, Media and Technology

This is an evening meeting for all parents to learn about the upcoming year, curriculum topics, expectations of students and building student-parent-teacher relationships. We strongly believe that parents play a critical role in their children’s education. We hope to help parents have a greater understanding of their child’s work and development, ways to be involved in your child’s education and creating consistent expectations and experiences!

Family Picnic this Friday night 5 -7 pm

This Friday from 5 until 7 p.m., we’ll be celebrating the start of school at our Annual Back to School Picnic Pot Luck at Green Mountain Camp in Dummerston.

The weather looks good for Friday. Bring a favorite lawn game! We will have use of the Camp’s pool with a life guard on duty and our very own Jay Cook will be entertaining us with his musical trio. The Board will be providing grillable items and we ask that you bring something to share.

Toddler and Children’s House families: Desserts
Lower and Upper El families: Sides and Salads
Middle School families: Drinks (non-alcoholic that is…

Middle School Performance “Unclaimed” Monday 5/8 & Tuesday 5/9 at 7PM

The Middle School is busy writing and rehearsing its annual performance. The newly titled show, “Unclaimed”, is a dramatic miracle that has taken shape. The creation of this show is like a bit of alchemy. The musings of individuals, small groups of collaborators, and full class brain storming stirs the pot and eventually turns to gold.  Ultimately, the performance is the vehicle we use to process our experiences in Alabama and the year’s work in exploring the evolution of the American identity. Always fascinating, powerful, tuneful, funny, and moving! The Middle School performances are Monday, May 8 at 7:00pm (with a festive reception afterwards!) and Tuesday, May 9 at 7:00pm in the Arts Barn Theater. There will also be a school show on Tuesday morning at 10:00am. We hope to see you there!

Math Day at Hilltop, Sat. Feb 11, 9-11:30 am

Math Day at Hilltop, Saturday, Feb 11 from 9 -11:30 am. Bring a dish to share for lunch and we’ll provide pizza.

Learn how math is taught the Montessori way. Parents will be treated to a journey of our math curriculum through the years, from toddler to eighth grade, with ample opportunity to ask questions along the way.

Meanwhile Hilltop students are invited to a very special, FREE, Circus and Storytelling Workshop with local performers, Bill Forchion, Billy Higgins and Kali Quinn in our Arts Barn. With the help of these talented performing professionals, the children will stage a performance that very morning after the math presentations. You won’t want to miss that!

RSVP by emailing frontdesk@hilltopmontessori.org with the number of adults for the math presentation.