Art is Essential 

Due to budget deficits, schools throughout the nation are finding ways to cut their spending, and often the first thing to be removed from the curriculum is art. At Foothills Montessori School, we are committed to offering art education. We see the value in arts education and appreciate the significance it can have on student development. There is evidence that supports it helps our students to develop stronger academic skills, improve their decision-making processes, foster inventiveness, and help build self-confidence. These are the things we want for every student that joins our community. 

We asked our art teacher, Ms. Angela, what the goal of our art curriculum is for our students and she said, “The goal at FMS has been to support fundamental academics, supplement our cultural curriculum, and bridge gaps by developing new ways of seeing.  At a young age, children begin to communicate through artistic expression.  Long before they are able to read and write, they tell stories through their artwork.  Creativity through expression in the arts helps to improve innovative thinking for our students at every level.  It’s the ‘out of the box’ thinking that provides so many areas for growth. Students exposed to the arts become adults with improved focus, decision making skills, self-confidence, and civic engagement.”

During our spring school closure in 2020, Foothills Montessori continued to provide our art curriculum remotely. The art curriculum was delivered through project-based challenges. Project-based challenges in the arts allow our students to devise strategies for problem solving. As teens and adults, life is full of trials and obstacles.  Determination and commitment gained through project-based learning helps prepare our students for future challenges.  No matter their level of development, their capacity expands.

In closing, the Brooking’s Institute did extensive research and published an article in 2019 on the impact of the arts educational experience.  Their findings determined that arts education not only positively impacted emotional and social outcomes for students by fostering greater compassion for others; but it concluded that the students they researched had 13 percent higher standardized writing scores*.  Our students create magic everyday with their creativity and dedication to their arts based projects- many of which become treasures or family keepsakes.  The true beauty in arts education is that those experiences are helping to frame our future.  Students that become strong leaders, inventors, designers, communicators, and citizens.  Whatever they choose to become on their path, the arts provide them with tools to use for a lifetime.

*Brian Kisida and Daniel H. Bowen Tuesday, February 12, 2019

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2019/02/12/new-evidence-of-the-benefits-of-arts-education/       

Managing Challenging Behaviors Starts with You

All children exhibit challenging behaviors at some point in their life. It might be when they are three and bite another child that reaches for a toy they are playing with. It might be your seven year old that refuses to go to bed on time and then refuses to get up in the morning. The teenage years are universally dreaded by most parents because of disrespectful language and outright rejection of your guidance. When these challenges begin to pile up, all parents ask the same question: How can I change my child’s behavior?

The answer: change your own behavior. Consider how you react when you encounter unhelpful behaviors and consider how you react when behavioral expectations are met. Do you pay the same amount of attention to the behaviors you want to encourage as the ones you would like to discourage? It is a hard pill to swallow, but parents and caregivers dramatically influence children’s behavior.

So what can we do?

1. Notice

Encourage the behaviors you like by noticing. For example: If your child has been refusing to pick up their toys when you ask, notice them when they do it on their own. It could sound something like, “I see you decided to put your puzzle and cars away. Now we have a few extra minutes to read a book together.” You will soon see that the behavior you pay attention to is the behavior you will see most often.

2. QTIP (Quit Taking it Personally)

Dr. Becky Bailey refers to QTIP in her book, “Conscious Discipline”, and it is a simple reminder that behavior is a way for children to communicate, not “get back at us”. Sometimes, we assume children act a certain way to annoy us, purposefully push our buttons, or defy our directions. However, usually, children’s behavior is a direct result of how they perceive their environment. It is up to us to push away those assumptions to address the root cause of the behavior.

3. Model Calm

Most people have figured out ways to communicate without behavioral outbursts by the time they reach adulthood. If we are stressed about an upcoming work deadline, we don’t throw a tantrum on our supervisor’s office floor. Instead, we make a plan to manage the stress and remain calm. If we take the time to model this behavior, talk aloud and plan, in front of our children they begin to see appropriate ways to problem solve.

4. Remove Negative Verbs

“No” is a common word parents use to manage behavior. We get frustrated when we explicitly say, “No” to a child and they do exactly what you said not to a minute later. It is baffling that this happens repeatedly until you realize that most children do not begin to comprehend negative verbs until they are seven years old. Instead of saying, “Do not _______”, try giving them a command of what you would like them to do. For example, instead of staying, “Don’t run in the house”, say, “If you want to run, put your shoes on and go outside.” You communicate an expectation to them and give them an alternative option in the same simple sentence.

Family is made up of the most important people in children’s lives. Healthy relationships, effective communication, and behavior modeling help our children develop into the best people they can be. It all starts with you!

Self-Care for Your Family

The excitement of returning to school this fall has been both energizing and exhausting for students, families, and staff. Reopening a school amidst a global pandemic is no easy feat but, ultimately, is the best thing for our students. You might find yourself feeling worried or anxious by things outside the scope of your control. These feels are normal for both adults and children, but it is imperative we all take the time to practice self-care and allow ourselves to maintain our physical and mental health.

Often, emotional well-being is a foreign concept to children. They may act out, throw tantrums, or even give you the silent treatment. Establishing a self-care routine for both you and your child will benefit the whole family. Practicing self-care will give your child additional tools to regulate and express their emotions in a healthy way. You may even learn some new ways to unwind too!

Here are four easy self-care routines you and your family can establish together!

  1. Get Active

Whether it is a mini-dance party in your living room, yoga on the lawn, or a plunge into the pool on a hot day, engaging in physical activity isn’t only great for your physical health but your mental health as well. Exercise of any kind, not just high intensity workouts at the gym, release endorphins and trigger a positive feeling in the body.

  1. Journaling

Taking time to write down what happened throughout the day encourages us to cope with negative experiences and celebrate positive ones. Journaling is especially good for children because they are in a sensitive period of development and it supports them in acknowledging their feelings and problem-solving.

  1. Nap Together

Sleep helps us feel energized, aids in de-stressing, and gives our mood a boost. Most people, especially parents, do not get enough sleep. Establishing a quick 30-minute nap in the afternoon will not only help you feel refreshed but allows you to bond with your child. Children love to sleep with their parents because it gives them a sense of closeness and safety.

  1. Make Time Reserved for Family

Many of us are guilty of taking our work home with us. Whether it is responding to an email after work hours or going into the office to work on a project during the weekend, these things add stress to our lives. Sometimes working outside of work hours is necessary, but by establishing a strict “family time” during the week ensures we commit to building relationships with our loved ones. Strengthening your relationship with your child will help them feel more secure in an ever-changing world.

End of the school year! 2020

What an unusual ending to our school year!  Our remote learning is up and running for the majority of our student body and a limited number of primary students have attended class on campus.  Despite all of this upheaval, the essence of the FMS community is seen in all of the interactions among the faculty, students, and parents. We have not lost sight of the values of integrity, clarity, and the drive to create and deliver meaningful educational experiences for our students. Without the daily contact that our student body thrived on, we have learned to rely on technology to bridge that gap.  It has worked admirably well, but the personal contact is sorely missed.  We realize how much is communicated in the simplicity of a smile, in person.

Our hearts were touched by the family car parade held at school on May 16th. It revealed the depth and breadth of support from our families and the momentum we have to preserve and recreate our collective experiences.  We are grateful for the opportunity to serve the educational needs of our students, and look forward to a renewed vigor and strength of our community in the fall.

Have a safe, healthy and restful summer.

Greetings

Greetings FMS students and families!  As we adjust to our new way of staying home and being mindful of the part each one of us plays in helping our community stay healthy, we also want to share our deepest intent of nurturing and supporting our FMS family. We are in uncharted territory and the need to stay focused on what matters most is an important challenge for each of us.

We are complex, social mammals (ask your child “ what makes a mammal a mammal?”) and the need for contact, reassurance, and sustained interaction is a vital emotional and psychological need for all of us. We have certainly felt the immediate pullback of physical contact with each one of you, yet the heartfelt connection we know between us is strong and growing. The value we place on each student (and their families) is in clear sight of each teacher and administrator at FMS (including our direct reports at Endeavor, our parent company).  We know the health and well being of every student, their family, and the FMS staff, along with their families, matters most to the long term well being, productivity, and growth of Foothills Montessori School. We are committed to this vision and offer our professional experience, hope, and action towards this noble aim.

Community of the Cure Fundraiser

How do you measure the value of Montessori education when there are so many options available?  Is it the academic acuity, and the ability to reason and think through problems? Yes, those analytical and observational skills serve a young student well, especially as they progress on their educational path. However, some of the intangibles which support and help develop the student into a well-rounded person are also foundational to the FMS experience.

FMS alumnus, Sidra Wohlwend, began her Montessori education as a preschooler and graduated with her middle school class in 2017.  Now a Junior at Coronado HS, Sidra was nominated by another FMS alumnus to apply for a 7-week leadership program sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Sidra credits her enthusiasm for applying for this position to the confidence she developed while a student at FMS.  She also notes that the sense of service to others, which is a foundational tenet for the FMS student body, was impressed upon her early in her primary years while participating in the annual service projects.

Sidra now finds herself guiding 30 peer volunteers (including seven FMS alumni) while raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  They are well on their way in achieving their ambitious monetary goal and are grateful for all the community support. The link below gives you the means to donate directly to their team (Cancer Crushers) if you would like to support this worthy cause. You may also consider attending their gala event on Tuesday, 2/25 at Anthem Country Club (5:30 pm-8:00 pm).  You will enjoy food, music and a silent auction, including a special music performance by Desert Bloom, a band formed by two other FMS alumni (Kameron and Kennedy). https://communityforthecurenight.weebly.com

Mindfulness

Ms. Erica introduced the practice of mindfulness to her middle school students in January 2018. Currently, students are given a 15-minute daily window to practice guided meditation, breathing techniques, or simply sitting quietly.  Then once or twice a week, students are engaged with individual works from the mindfulness shelves.  The methodology and resourcefulness of materials have evolved every year.

Over 80 different mindfulness works are available on the shelves, quietly creating a lasting impression on the students that there are many paths to creating quiet of mind.  Even when students are not actively engaged in using the materials, a quick glance to the shelves is a reminder for the students that all the tools they use are simply tapping into an awareness that is always available to them.

One of the biggest developments in the program this year was the introduction of snails to the classroom.  Two large terrariums house the variety of snails in their classroom homes.  Some are small and some are not so small, everyone of them is curious and sweet.  Once a hand is sprayed with water and the snail is placed on the palm, the snail’s four antennas begin to come out and the snail begins to move slowly.  Snails have limited sight from their pair of eyes and no sense of hearing but are equipped with a highly developed sense of smell.  The process of holding a snail naturally slows the mind and clams emotions.  Truly engaged in a “snail’s pace,” the person holding the snail reflects a calm, slowed mental rhythm.  A new bulletin board featuring  “Lessons of the Snail” will be available to the students to reflect upon the many life lessons learned from our invertebrate friends.

Ms. Erica’s scientific approach to the subject of mindfulness includes doing an extensive classroom survey of her students to determine how effective her techniques and processes are working.  The survey results were very positive in every area of her inquiry.  Several former FMS graduates have also reported the mindfulness tools and practices that they learned from being in her class have really stuck with them and provided them access to their own quiet of mind in whatever environment they find themselves in.

Career Week

“Follow your passion, develop a strong work ethic, lean in when you feel nervous about your skills,” are all words of wisdom gained from the 24 presenters during the middle school career week.  Lawyers, entrepreneurs, writers, doctors, engineers, salespeople, and performers all presented a 20-minute overview of their career path, education, training, and some of the unexpected turns they made along the way.  Many presenters were parents of current or former students, and one presentation was delivered by a FMS alumni!

Flexibility, curiosity, and drive were all on display from the presenters as they described their pathways from attending college to working in their field and discovering along the way deeper ties to their field, or in some cases switching to new careers altogether.  An optimistic and inspiring attitude permeated the presentations as parents revealed they may have been reticent to talk in front of an audience at times during their career and how they worked through their own insecurities.  Some of the advice was practical such as “try to find a need and fill it” and when you have that idea “get big quick.”  Others simply emphasized that it matters far less than what you are doing for a career and far more on how you are doing for your life.

Students asked very good questions when engaging the presenters and were able to form viable impressions of the stated career.  The seeds of tomorrow were planted among the students as they were able to absorb the wisdom and life experience from our parents and begin their own reflective process of dreaming of a future career.

 

 

From Our Garden

From our garden, the FMS school community is experiencing the power of nature to tickle the taste buds, inspire minds, and reveal the connective power we share with plants and animals.  Under the watchful eye of Ms. Kerri (E6 Teacher) and Farmer Danielle (Green Our Planet), FMS’ garden is thriving.  FMS is partnered with Green Our Planet and is benefitting from the weekly lessons Danielle is imparting to our students.

Parts of a plant, life cycles of plants, and the vital roles that many insects play in pollinating and helping to propagate plants is all part of the hands-on lessons students are receiving when visiting our garden.

Not only are students able to taste the vegetables coming out of the garden, but they are realizing where food comes from.  They are experiencing the plant life cycle, first hand.

Watch for garden news coming from the individual classrooms, including opportunities to volunteer and help our program thrive.

Look Up…8th grade graduation speech by Kian Salek

Good evening, everyone. On behalf of the graduating class, I’d like to welcome all parents, teachers, honored guests and students to the graduation of 2019. It was about 11 years ago when I began my journey at Foothills Montessori. I remember it like it was yesterday. There I was, sitting on the P1 carpet with the other students, playing in Ms. Valerie’s garden and using the peace rose to settle very important disputes. Those were the days, but we have come a long way since then. As the years went by, we encountered many challenges and obstacles that taught us how to learn from our mistakes and like Albert Einstein once said, “Failure is success in progress.”  As we kept growing, we learned important life skills like organization, time management, responsibility and teamwork

Eventually, we got to middle school. These two crucial years taught us how to become independent and empathize with the world around us. We went from followers in preschool and kindergarten, always looking up to the “big kids” in E1, to ambassador leaders in middle school. We have made it to the top and we couldn’t have done it without the support from our amazing teachers and parents. As John Irving once said, “You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else.”

Even though our amazing journey at Foothills ends here, we begin another journey that will be filled with new opportunities and experiences. FMS has given us the foundation we need to succeed in life and we will never forget how this school has shaped us into the people we are today.

While we have cherished every moment at this school, it is now time for my peers and I to look up to the future and prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead. When I look at my classmates, I see future scholars that can achieve anything and I am excited to see them go far in life. If you think about it, some of us have spent around 108 months together, and during this time we have been through both cheerful and heartbreaking memories, from our fantastic school trips to the devastation on October 1st, 2017. After today, we will part ways and take different paths. Most of us won’t see each other after tonight. And if you find yourself a little anxious about starting at a new school, just remember this; the sky’s the limit, so look up and soar like a falcon.