School Blog

Peace Rose

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The gift of the yellow rose is a concept  that comes out of the Montessori peace curriculum where a silk, yellow rose is used in the classroom much like a talking stick for the students to take turns sharing their feelings and resolving their differences.  Dr. Maria Montessori put her educational philosophy forward during the throes of WWI and it remained relevant through the second World War.  Part of her drive was to instill the concept that each one of her students had the potential to be a peacemaker.  In the classroom today, we carry on her legacy.  It is our belief that children in a classroom are no different than people interacting with others in society.  There will be stretches of peaceful interactions and then differences of opinions will arise naturally in time. It is natural to feel the full range of emotions from happy to sad, and to feel the frustration of not getting their way. It’s during that time, when we guide the students to verbalize their disappointment and find their voice in an exchange that is respectful and on point.

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Dr. Montessori had such respect for the intelligence and latent independence buried in the soul of a child that she was determined to create a learning environment that supported her inspiration.  Early on, she shifted the common view that children were undeveloped adults to that each student was an individual child responding to the stimulus of their environment and directly affected by the quality of relationships of the pertinent people in their lives.  The power of the Montessori method today is that we collectively are modeling a way of existing in the world.  We are sensitive and committed to living the values of respect, trust and honesty.  Not only do we offer a pathway for developing intellectual acuity, but the structure and context of interacting with other people is engaged and nurtured daily.

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In the classroom today when differences arise, the Montessori teacher is listening very carefully for the child’s perspective and the human tendency to blame others for their discomfort.  It is encouraged that a student seek a teacher’s assistance if they feel like they are stuck, and there is little or no response from the other child.  However, even then the teacher is there to help facilitate conversation between the children, not to solve the conflict for them. As the children learn to identify their emotions and verbalize their discontent, they learn to see the other child as someone very much like them trying to make their way in the classroom.  An inner strength begins to emerge when children experiment with compassion, and open communication.  They feel the power of expressing needs and then listening to one another. Conflict resolution arises naturally in an environment where peace is cherished and the power of verbal exchange is experienced successfully.

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2015/2016 School year comes to a close.

Transitions are a natural part of life. As we approach the end of our school year the daily routine of going to school will shift into summer vacation time. Summer is a great time to decompress and let the demands of the school year settle, giving children the chance to have unstructured time. Academic skills can be maintained by reading, thinking, and having interesting conversations. It also is a great time to engage children in exploring the world around them. Visiting the library, playing at water parks, and taking early morning walks can give children the time to observe their experiences and put into action all of the communication skills they have developed throughout the school year.

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Math can easily be integrated into summer routines as you playfully ask your child to count, to add, or to subtract any combination of objects and things in front of you. Older students are encouraged to reinforce math skills by checking out materials online that deal with place value, fractions and percentages.

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Questions for younger children can be framed as “How many forks will we need for dinner?  Please set the table?” or “If all of us are going to the water park, how many towels will we need?  Please go gather that many towels.”

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Early morning is the best time to be outdoors during our hot summers, and it is a great opportunity to sit outside, listen to the birds, watch your pets in the yard, and have that sweet simple time together.  Local facilities like Discovery Children’s Museum and Springs Preserve offer good opportunities for outings, and don’t forget that the Las Vegas 51’s play games all summer long.

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Our summer break is also a time to slow down our fast pace and take the time for unhurried conversations.   A recent NY Times article by Paul Tough (5/22/2016) called To Help Kids Thrive, Coach their Parents states: “The Jamaica experiment helps make the case that if we want to improve children’s opportunities for success, one of the most powerful potential levers for change is not the children themselves, but rather the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of the adults who surround them.  Furthermore, positive influences in children’s early lives can have a profound effect on the development of what are sometimes called non-cognitive skills…a set of emotional and psychological habits and mindsets that enable children to negotiate life effectively inside and outside of school:  the ability to understand and follow directions; to focus on a single activity for an extended periods; to interact calmly with other students; to cope with disappointment and persevere through frustration.”

We appreciate the support and dedication that all of our families bring to FMS every day.  Together, we create and evolve a community of learners and citizens of the world.  Enjoy the summer time!

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Confederate Instructional Training

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The Civil War lept off the pages of the history books and landed squarely on the backs of our Middle School students as they found themselves working in army regiments, just like soldiers did during the Civil War. Confederate Instructional Training (CIT) was held at the local park with Ms. Erica as the Sergeant, supported by sixteen parents acting as Corporals. Each of the Recruits (our Middle School students), were randomly assigned their regiments. When one student was out of step, a shoe not tied, some other task not completed; the entire regiment was obligated to do 10-15 pushups. Students who may had never worked together before during the school year, found themselves depending upon everyone in their regiment to pull their own weight.

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Five stations of training were set up including erecting a Sibley tent, building a stretcher, administering first aid, making and eating hardtack (a staple of the war made by mixing flour and water), and running with a thirty pound pack (simulating the hardship of carrying a pack for 20-40 miles a day during the Civil War).

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As each of the regiments completed their tasks, the communications between the students increased as they saw the benefit of everyone doing well, and the hardship imposed on the whole regiment when one person failed.  The CIT was the culmination of the study of the Civil War for the Middle School students.  Not only did it bring to life some of the difficulties the soldiers faced, it inspired a deeper understanding of the complexities of the Civil War and the human cost of the conflict.

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The underlying reaction by the Middle School students from participating in the CIT, was a deeper respect for the soldiers and the hardships they endured for the sake of their beliefs.  After eating the hardtack during their simulation, Mary observed “how horrible the food must have been during the war.”  She also was moved at how important it was to “move as one in their regiments” and to quickly bond with all of the students in her regiment.

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Keji felt a deeper appreciation for the complexity of the Confederate’s side and how that many of the soldiers were not slave owners, but were simple farmers trying to preserve their sovereignty and felt compelled to push against the North, who they felt were threatening to take over their farms.

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Kameron was impressed with the number of soldiers who were killed during the Civil War, but after doing the CIT, he felt more kindred to their stress’ and challenges.  He said, “Before the CIT, I just looked as the dead soldiers as a number, now I have a much better understanding of how they might have felt.”

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Participating in the regiments taught Hank, that multiple things were going on at the same time, and the “more we communicated among ourselves, the better we did.”  He discovered that there was a need for the regiment to act cohesively, but at the same time he also experienced the “need for individuals to share their leadership skills and to initiate action, especially when they were erecting the Sibley tent.  A-Sam also stressed the need for his regiment to work cohesively, as one misstep by an individual affected the whole group.

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A common response to the CIT by all of the students,  was the revelation that it was really hard to be a soldier during the Civil War, and the absolute agony our country endured when brothers fought against brothers.  Abolishment of slavery was a hard fought change in the United States that emerged from the blood that was shed during the Civil War, but it came at a steep price, and now our Middle School students have a deeper appreciation for what that price was.