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Supporting Middle School Micro-Economies, A Real Life Experience!

September 29, 2017
Co-authored by Lily Buren-Charkey, Middle School Entrepreneur, and Tamara Mount, Head of School
Throughout the year the middle school takes on the daunting task of raising around ten thousand dollars for our odysseys! This year we are raising money for our River of Spirit Odyssey to Boston, a comparative world religion and science of water study, connecting with many different faith communities and cultures. In the middle school we are guided by the question,  “What Does It Mean To Be Human?”  Our trips help to answer this question as we experience things first hand, including the task of raising the money.
Raising ten thousand dollars by June seems like an overwhelming task, but with the student run micro-economies it becomes possible. Not only are we cooking and preparing food, we are managing businesses, practicing organizational skills, marketing our products and developing customer relations skills. These business are all about taking the initiative to get things done, which plays into the middle school’s philosophy of independent learning. Micro-economies are small, usually eighth grade student run, businesses. Micro-economies already underway this year include:
  • Bagel Lunch, in which we make bagels to order every Wednesday to serve to the whole school
  • Bake Sales at the Coop once a month
  • Rockin’ Ramen at BrattRock last Saturday
  • Coffee Cart on Thursday mornings, now by donation as part of welcoming parents to stay and see All School Gathering (next one on Oct. 12)

Peace Education Presentation on Grandparent and Special Friend Day

October 6, 2017
The national political rhetoric, climate, and actions of the past year have been disturbing to me. I could have been thrown into a deep depression, finding it hard to get out of bed each day, were it not for what we are doing here at Hilltop Montessori School. The events in Charlottesville, just before the start of the school year, especially hit home, as I went to the University of Virginia, and therefore feel a familiarity and attachment to that town. And now there is the incident in Las Vegas, and the challenges in Puerto Rico, again emphasizing how people are viewed and treated differently, and the many challenges we face as a society.
I have gone back to Dr. Maria Montessori’s writings and have been reminded of her motivations and discoveries. A hundred years ago she saw that the mechanized approach to education was designed to produce people who blindly followed leaders and allowed themselves to be controlled. She put forth the idea that children could be respected as individuals, given choices in what and how they learned, and be supported by caring adults who served as guides to an environment prepared for their learning. This approach supported children in developing independence along with a deep appreciation and understanding for the connectedness and community that they have with all people, with all living creatures, and with the world and universe. Montessori can be seen as an approach to education, but she also developed it as a methodology towards world peace. She evolved her ideas in the context of World War I and II, and was nominated several time for a Nobel Peace Prize. Many of her comments on education and peace resonate strongly today.
At Hilltop Montessori School, we “teach” peace in many contexts:
  • self – developing inner peace and the skills to make peace with others
  • environment – instilling an understanding and appreciation for the environment
  • cultural – celebrating our differences and knowing our connectedness, compassion for all
  • community – living our supportive interdependence
The role that Hilltop Montessori School is playing in supporting the development of responsible citizens, and striving towards peace has kept me going. This was the theme of the message I shared on Grandparent and Special Friend Day along with this presentation. I welcome any comments or reflections, by emailing me or stopping by anytime.

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.

Middle School Alabama Odyssey 2017 Day 5

Day 5 – Sunday

Church service at Ye Shall Know the Truth Baptist Church

Picnic with Mary Lee Bendolph and the folks of Gee’s Bend.

Afternoon – Dr. Bernard Lafayette

Evening – Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Boynton

I rarely go to church and it’s usually on Christmas Eve. The atmosphere in this church was so different from the ones that I have been to with my family. The singing especially was really different. They seem to have so much more energy and it was really powerful to see and be a part of.   -Emmy

Being with the people of Gees Bend was like being with people you already knew.    -Riley

Mary Lee Bendolph (from Gees Bend) was like the nicest woman I ever met.   -Van

(Editor’s note: Today we discovered Van’s natural talent for quilting. Get that boy some sewing needles!)

Dr. Lafayette’s stories were amazing and he and his wife were so friendly. It’s hard to comprehend that of everything he endured in his career, the scariest thing was riding a horse. He was very funny, too. Afterward, I got his autograph and he wrote “To Leah, the future is in your hands.” Then I asked him if he had known Septima Clark from the SCLC and he did!!! I am so happy. Estatic, even.

-Leah

Dr. Lafayette: freedom fighting, snake holding, AK-47 swallowing, horse fearing, badass.    -Mason

Hearing Lafayette’s story showed me that even the small contributions you make toward equality are worth it.   -Huxley

Just thinking about how incredibly courageous [Dr. Lafeyette] was. Until now I don’t think I’ve grasped how crazy powerful nonviolence is. He protected a man that beat him, pointed a gun, and planned for his murder. I would never have the intense dedication, power, patience, and courage to do that now but I hope someday that I will.

[Dr. Lafayette] started talking about fear and how sometimes you find yourself in situations and have to stand up even if you don’t know the consequences.    -Zoe

 

Middle School Alabama Odyssey 2017 Day 1

Day 1 – Wednesday

What a day. After a swift and jubilant flight to Chicago we found ourselves with a 4 hour delay. We did a little terminal surfing, Starbucks slurping, card playing, aeronautic cuisine tasting, and generally did basically everything terminals 1 and 2 had to offer at O’Hare International.

But we made it, got our beautiful vans, and drove to our Birmingham home, The Hargis Retreat Center. We sang, we dialogued about why we have come, and read from Eric Holder’s analysis of our countries racial challenges. Then we packed everyone off to bed…we hope…Spirits are high, generosity is aplenty. We are ready.

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.

OPEN HOUSE Dec 6 for Prospective Families Tuesday, 9 – 11 am

Open House Schedule

9am –  Welcome
9:15 – Tour and observations
10 -10:30 –  meet with program director for discussion and Q&A
10:30 – 11:00 wrap up session with representative students, Head of School and Admissions Director

Reservations are not necessary for Open Houses, but please be sure to sign in when you arrive. We welcome parents interested in the school, for their toddlers through middle school (students interested in middle school may also attend the open house).