Changing Education Paradigms

World-renowned expert Sir Ken Robinson describes how traditional models of education do our children a great disservice.

Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.


Healthy Habits, Happy Children

When elementary teacher April Dane noticed the cupcakes and brownies piling up week after week, she knew something had to change. “We were having store bought brownies and cupcakes with pink frosting almost every day,” she says, referring to the treats brought in to celebrate the students’ birthdays. While she appreciated that parents were generous enough to bring in treats, she was getting concerned about her students’ health. At the same time, she had noticed her students’ enthusiasm for the outdoor classroom and courtyard gardens, and that some were showing an interest in anatomy.

“I wanted to bring more of an understanding to the children,” she says. “It was about incorporating nutrition lessons and learning about the human body and eating healthy snacks and learning about vitamins and minerals and vegetables and fruits, and maybe using our gardens more. When the children could taste a pepper, or a tomato, and make salsa, they became so excited to see that process happen. I thought it would be great if we could do more — if we could have more choices, and more soil, and have the kids be more involved. I wanted them to be able to pick things from the garden to use in our cooking projects and coordinate that with our curriculum.”

Over the summer, she began reading about Alice Waters’ The Edible Schoolyard Project and doing more research into school gardens and integrating nutrition into school curricula. She went to the PTO with a proposal to expand the gardens in the back and in the front courtyard. Once she got the green light, the next step was to get staff and parents on board. At an August in-service, she invited FMS parent and naturopathic physician, Dr. Maria Cavalle, to speak about the importance of nutrition for growing children. After a couple of garden committee meetings this past month, several FMS Parents have volunteered to help with everything from building planter boxes to teaching cooking classes.

“In the back gardens, we are hoping for something peaceful that incorporates seasonal herbs and flowers, lemons and grapes, and possibly fruit trees. In the front we’ll do vegetables,” April continues. “The next step is to build planters in the front and pull out existing sprinklers so we can start planting.”

Primary, elementary and middle school students are learning about anatomy and the importance of adopting healthy habits. Middle school students recently helped assess and research best planting methods and helped get the courtyard gardens ready for expansion. E3 went to a local farmer’s market and made a Friendship Fruit Salad. And many classrooms are enjoying healthy birthday snacks such as whole wheat muffins, yogurt parfaits, bagels and fruit kebabs.

In E4, children choose a healthy cooking project on their birthday to make and share with their parents and the rest of the class. “Everyone was really excited,” says April. “The difference between last September and this September is amazing.”

Want to help? Email Ms. April at Together we can help our children to grow up healthy and happy!

Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.

Fall Comes to Foothills

Fall is in the air, vegetables are in the garden, and the classrooms are filled with activity.

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Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.

Helping Gardens Grow

FMS is getting ready to expand its garden area this year, thanks to the help of our wonderful staff, parents and students. We are planning to build new planter boxes (thanks to the gracious assistance of a few FMS fathers); fix the sprinklers; and start planting! One of our elementary teachers, Ms. April, is spearheading this exciting new development with the hopes of teaching the children more about nutrition, health and the natural environment. If you would like to get involved, please contact her at We really have some amazing, knowledgeable and proactive parents in our community and we can’t thank you enough.

This week, middle school students got involved by cleaning out the garden and researching best planting practices. On their classroom blog, E4 writes:

“Thank you to Middle school friends for researching and cleaning our garden! After finding out some facts about the plants in our courtyard boxes, they cleaned and cut back tomatoes, peppers, and sunflowers. Next, they provided us with a list of plant information. We are preparing to build more planters and add more sprinklers. Now we know we can always turn to our middle school students for knowledge and assistance! It was interesting to learn how to care for sunflowers and tomatoes. Here are some helpful hints:

  • We should use distilled or rain water for sunflowers because other types of water can be poisonous to the flower.
  • They need at least two feet of space to grow
  • They need to be watered every other day
  • If the flower is dead, cut the head off then uproot it
  • Tomatoes need deep soil so the plant’s roots can hold it upright
  • If you don’t prune tomatoes regularly, the plants will develop extra branches called suckers. Suckers take away energy from the plant.”

Stay tuned for more garden expansion updates!

Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.

Sunflowers and Dream Jobs

Last week, our middle school students explored different career options and spent some time in the gardens. Here are their thoughts:

Rochelle: This week I learned that sunflowers grow toward the sun, so if you put them in shade they will most likely fall over.

Ian: This week I found some tips on taking care of sunflowers, like putting them in direct sunlight and to water them with distilled water.

Olivia: I have grown an interest in architecture after doing my project, which was drawing a layout of a house and the rooms inside it.

Logan: I have always been interested in skyscraper architecture and during this assignment I was able to design my own skyscraper and learn how they are built.


Nicole: I chose interior design because I love decorating different kinds of things, especially rooms because I can make them my own.

Erin: After going to the optometrist this weekend, I began to have a sudden liking for the job. I made a graph about our class to see how many kids go to the optometrist.

Matthew: I tried doing a police officer’s job by checking fingerprints and learning about the crime rate in Nevada. I was surprised at how difficult it was finding out whose fingerprint was whose. Police officers have a hard job.

Benjamin: I chose microcomputer programmers because it has always interested me to create a new program for the computer. I coded a history quiz game for my project.

Paulina: I chose zoology because I really like animals and I thought it would be interesting. Some of the branches of zoology are shown in my project, including cetology, the study of whales and cynology, the study of dogs.

Hayden: I learned that plumbers would do water throughout the whole house. Anything that involves the sink or anything similar to that is what they fix.

Sofia: I learned about two careers, first the different types of photography and then dentistry. My collage shows the different types of careers in photography.

Kyla: I learned that once tomato plants are overgrown, it doesn’t make a difference if you trim them, and the ones we removed were hard to pull out because they had so many roots.

Brennan: I learned a lot of cool stuff about programming and I have always liked computers, so this is a career I might be interested in.

Maddie: I learned that if you don’t prune tomatoes regularly, the plant will develop extra branches called suckers that take away the plant’s energy.

Bella: I learned that you need to plant the plants in deep soil so that the roots can spread out and the plant won’t fall over.

Talia: With a love for styling, making the room of my dreams will be a project to remember.

Sondra: With the thoughts of a designer, I took the time to make the room of my choice.

Also, E1 Student blogger Bella explains about the upcoming FMS World History Day:

“Every year we have done International Children’s Day and it has been a great experience, but we wanted to try something new this year so we came up with World History Day. World History Day is instead of going into different states and countries the kids will go into a different time period. The same thing with the costumes: The kids still get to dress up, but this time instead of dressing up as a person from around the world their going to dress up from a different time era. The way it works is the younger kids are going to be doing the invertebrates to the age of mammals and then it goes all the way up to the middle ages in upper elementary. This is a way for children to learn about the timeline of history and get a feel of what it was like. I believe that is a great change for our school and it will help children develop and learn about the different time periods.

After World History Day is over all of Middle School is going to do a miniature parade in order. The kids are going to walk through and look at our booths and see such things as The Age of the Invertebrates, The Age of Fishes and Amphibians, the Age of the Reptiles, the Age of the Mammals, Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, Ancient India, The Middle Ages, and finally the Renaissance. At the end of World History Day I hope that kids will find a better understanding of history and what it has come to be since the beginning of life.”

Thank you to E1 for this blog — read more here! (FMS Parents only).

Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.

Kissing Camels and Cytokinesis

Middle School students visited Roos ‘n’ More to learn about exotic and endangered animals; played games to learn about the order of operations; studied diffusion through semi-permeable membranes by observing eggshells; created flipbooks to illustrate the complex process of mitosis; and more.


Other studies include discussing U.S. History during the pre-Civil War era and WWII; learning grammatical concepts like irregular verbs and vocabulary words such as ‘anthropomorphism’; reading Julius Ceasar and Animal Farm; memorizing funeral orations; and, finally, analyzing political cartoons with the sixth-graders.

Read more on the E1 Classroom Blog (FMS Parents only).

Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.

Courtesy in the Classroom

Let’s peek inside the doors of P2, where students are learning about the concept of courtesy in the classroom.

“Grace and courtesy are fundamental concepts taught by Dr. Maria Montessori  in her original school for young children of working class parents. It was the recognition of how the children and their ‘guide’ (teachers) interacted with each other inside the classroom that helped create a peaceful and productive learning environment.

Today, we see that when each child recognizes that their voice and their actions have a direct impact on the flow of the whole class, they experience the power of working and being with others.

Not only do they begin the lifelong process of developing inner control and discipline but they experience the joy of being in harmony with the collective. It is a profound and important lesson in social development.

Some examples of practicing grace and courtesy begin first thing in the morning when the classroom doors are opened and the children are welcomed into the classroom. You may see a teacher extend their right hand greeting the child individually by name.

This action calls the child to the present moment and gives them a deep sense of belonging to the whole group. At the same time, this gesture reminds the child that they have entered a special place of learning and that they individually play an important role in that space.

Pushing in a chair after completing a task, is another tangible action of courtesy and one that our students experience numerous times a day. While the act is practical and signals to the child that they have completed their task, it reinforces the awareness that other children are using the environment with them.

Replacing a job in the condition they received it in and at the precise spot on the shelves also creates the awareness that if they do their part to preserve the order in the room, the whole Montessori classroom functions at a higher level. Watching a young three-year-old cheerfully push in a chair and roll up a mat is one of the delights of being a Montessori teacher.

Try this at home:

Create a simple method of organizing their toys or books. Use baskets and shelves to find a specific home for each toy or groups of toys and then teach your child to consistently replace the item in that exact spot. Actions speak louder than words, so in the beginning you might have to show your child the correct location for the toy and repeat the lesson until they have absorbed the idea. Once your child sees the advantage of having their toy accessible in the same location, it will be easier for them to return it consistently to that spot.”

–The P2 Teachers

See more pictures on their blog (FMS Parents only)

Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.

The First Great Lesson

In Montessori education, students often start off their school year with “The First Great Lesson.” Says Ms. Vickie, teacher in E2: “The lesson is intended to make an impression on the children and spark an interest in the world around them. We do a series of experiments that demonstrate basic science to inspire and motivate them to want to learn new things.

“Maria Montessori said: ‘Knowledge can be best given when there is eagerness to learn, so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture. [In lower elementary], all items of culture are received enthusiastically, and later these seeds will expand and grow.’ (To Educate the Human Potential, pg. 4).”

As a grade level, we would suggest that the parents look through the classroom blogs for pictures of the First Great Lesson and discuss them with their child and see what they learned and what they thought was exciting and fun!”

First Great Lessons often touch on the origin of the earth, science, physics, astronomy, composition of matter, geology, chemistry and biology. This is the ultimate way to spark excitement for learning; to build a foundation for future learning; and to give a “big picture” perspective on how fields of study work together within the universe. For an example of lessons given, click here.

Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.

Primary Starts Off Right

Let’s peek into the window of P3, where primary students are already making friends and learning new things:

“We are having so much fun getting to know your wonderful children. We love our new friends already! We spent the first week easing into the school routine. We will spend the next few weeks of school building our classroom community, getting to know one another, learning important social skills and practicing all of our school routines.


Our goal is to take the time to explain the daily steps needed for our children to truly succeed. We have found that children progress much faster throughout the school year, and accomplish much more academically, if we take the time at the beginning to model and practice appropriate behaviors. We will teach children how to get along with one another and solve problems in a peaceful and respectful manner. We want every child to feel a sense of belonging and of course have fun!

We are working hard at building independence and responsibility. The children are practicing the morning routine of putting their lunch box in their cubbie, washing their hands, choosing a work, and putting their finished work in their file folders. During snack time, the children are serving themselves, cleaning their snack area and getting to know each other through daily conversations during snack.

Our returning students are doing a wonderful job being role models to our new students and helping and guiding them throughout the day. We are thrilled to be spending our year with your children. It is going to be a full year of growth, friendship and laughter!

This month’s themes are: Safety and Community Building, Health and Nutrition, Living vs Non-living, Land and Water. In addition, each month the children will be doing self-portraits to display on the wall. The children had a great time looking into a mirror and drawing themselves. We have some very proud artists!”

— P3 Teachers

 See more pictures on Primary 3’s blog (FMS Parents only).

Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.

Living the Writerly Life

Let’s take a peek inside E5 this week, where students are learning about tectonic plates, metacognition, and living a writerly life:

“Our first week was amazing, and filled with some exciting community building activities! From post-it note competitions, to ‘Saving Fred!’, our students have started to build a solid foundation of working together to solve problems and using different strategies to brainstorm creative solutions. We are thrilled with our intelligent, kind and thoughtful class and can’t wait to see them thrive this year.

Our 6th years taught our First Great lesson this week, starting with the birth of our universe and spanning to the formation of planets. Concepts such as the Big Bang theory, centrifugal force, gravity and tectonic plates were covered. We are so proud of our 6th years hard work and preparation.

Elder Mary assisted in teaching the first great reading lesson on Metacogniton. We modeled the importance of thinking while we read, truly enjoying our literature!  As the year continues we will touch upon more great lessons in both Cultural and Reading. We have also launched our Writers Workshop. During our ‘Sacred Writing Time’, the children have been exploring various collection strategies. These strategies will help them when they feel like they feel like they have writers block. Ask your child today about any ‘seeds’ they may have written in their notebooks.  Often time conversations about their writing in school will help them remember a great story for their notebooks. We encourage the children to live a writerly life, observing, taking notice of the small things, and pausing to capture a seed and record it in their notebooks.

We will keep you posted on the happenings of our E5 community. Our blog is a great place to see reminders of important dates and events that are coming. Thank you all for your continued support at home!”

–E5 Teachers

Visit the E5 Blog for pictures (FMS Parents only)

Foothills Montessori School is a private Montessori school serving families in Henderson, Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.