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.

Loose Parts and Tinkering

“Happiness is absorption, and absorption is the opposite of willful attention.” * The development of willful attention is a major goal of education, and specifically Montessori education.  Concentration, order, coordination and independence are the fundamental pillars of Dr. Montessori’s educational philosophy and yet, now in this technological age when children spend very little time outside just hanging out and playing with what nature offers, FMS is embracing an educational initiative called “loose parts” and “tinkering.”

It is a philosophy that advocates for more outside time in general for students doing common activities like reading and learning in small groups and, specifically, it also advocates providing students with common household items to “tinker with.”

Teacher guidance is minimal and student creativity is dominant. Common items found at home like buttons, Q-tips, plastic hoses, smooth rocks, small sticks, etc. are offered to the students for them to handle and create freely.  Emphasis is on the process of grouping items together in unique ways, fulfilling a student’s vision at that moment, then returning items to the shelf.  Nothing goes home, no product is made.

Tinkering allows for individual expression and creativity when children get their hands on materials and are experiencing the flow of the minute they are in.  It also encourages communications and socialization among students as they problem solve, negotiate solutions, and drive towards common visions.

Using small and large items encourages both fine motor and large gross motor skills. Ms. Val, lead teacher for the outdoor classroom, has been experimenting with this concept using big empty cardboard boxes to create a play space, along with setting up a “mud kitchen.” She has seen very positive results.

We are experimenting with this idea in our school overall and Ms. Rosie, our lower elementary head teacher and department head, is leading the charge to educate FMS teachers on the philosophy and practical application of this initiative.

Much of the idea is to do tinkering and “maker spaces” outside where large motor skills can be used to build temporary, interactive, child-directed applications. “Playing and experimenting are key themes for the loose parts philosophy with inspiration for this: Tinkering Tenets • Merge Science, Art & Technology (with the Outdoors!) • Reinvent old technologies (and discover new ones) • Use familiar materials in unfamiliar ways • Embrace your tools • Seek real-world examples everywhere • Create rather than consume • Put yourself in messy, noisy & sometimes dangerous situations.”**

“Kids will play with anything.  Literally, ANYTHING. Early learning professionals frequently cite a long list of benefits that playing with loose parts bestows on developing humans: creativity, dexterity, problem-solving, socialization and teamwork, to name a few. Given the universal kid-love of building random stuff from random stuff, it is heartening to see designers exploring ways to bring this form of play out of the indoor environment and into the public arena.”**

As FMS curriculum continues to build on the Montessori foundations, it also evolves to meet the needs of current students.  Bringing “loose parts” into the school and actively encouraging “tinkering” acknowledges the need for students to also have unstructured time for themselves to experiment, create, and interact with others in a social, temporary situation.

*A. Gopnik, New Yorker, 5/20/19

**The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson & Mike Petrich

Re-Enrollment 2019

A component of academic success at FMS is for our parents to be well informed of the expectations students will encounter as they make major transitions from one plane of development to another.  Each of the major transitions brings an expansion and deeper exploration of the curriculum, including increased expectations of students functioning more and more autonomously. The best way for families to prepare for these transitions is to attend the re-enrollment information meetings provided by the faculty and intended for the parents of currently enrolled students. These meetings are excellent primers for knowing in advance what will be expected of students as they move into higher grades for the 2019-2020 school year and are ideal platforms for asking specific academic questions of the staff.  Thank you for appreciating the importance of these meetings and for helping to directly support your child through these transitions.  Please refer to the meeting schedule below:

January 30 @ 5:00pm  – pre-K students moving up to Kindergarten (children must be 5 by September 30th, 2019)

January 30 @ 6:00pm – 6th grade students moving up to 7th grade (parents of 5th grade students are also welcomed to attend to learn more about the middle school program)

January 31 @ 5:00pm – Kindergarten students moving up to 1st grade (lower el)

January 31 @ 6:00pm- 3rd grade students moving up to 4th grade (upper el)

Expanding the Mathematical Mindset

Recent neuroscience research has shown that our brains are capable of growing and developing our entire life time. Furthermore, approaching the teaching of mathematics using a ”growth mindset” and embracing mistakes/struggles actually strengthens the synapses in the brain to learn more deeply. These are some of the cutting edge concepts being applied by researchers at Stanford University. Recently, Ms. Amy and Ms. Danna, FMS lead teachers of 4th – 6th grade, had the privilege of attending the training facilitated by Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University and co-founder of “You Cubed.”

What they learned is that many students feel limited in their abilities to grasp and perform mathematical functions when they rely on traditional tactics of memorization of facts and developing the ability to produce right answers in a timed manner.  The science shows that “many of our mathematical concepts are held in our visual and sensory motor memories.”(Journal of Applied Computational Mathematics: J. Boaler, L.Chen, C.Williams, M. Cordero) So by giving  greater emphasis on visual and physical mathematics, students are using more of their brains to actually grasp underlying math principles.  When it comes time to test their knowledge, students who have used this process have performed better than their peers relying on traditional teaching methods. We can actively stimulate the visual representation of math concepts such as graphing equations and using pictures to represent computations which takes nothing away from getting to the right answer, it simply expands the way math concepts are presented and then understood.

To further explore these concepts and see the research on this innovative approach to teaching and learning mathematics, we encourage you to visit the You Cubed website at https://www.youcubed.org/professional-development-at-stanford/

Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani, Professor of Mathematics at Stanford and the first female mathematician to receive the Fields Medal (the Mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize), was a strong proponent of “doodling on large sheets of white paper, scribbling formulas on the periphery of her drawings.”

According to her colleagues, “Mirzakhani was able to conjure aspects of such spaces to consider, doodling on a white sheet of paper to try an idea, or remember one, or search for a new one; only later would she transcribe her adventures in the conventional symbols of mathematics.” “You don’t want to write down all the details,” she once told a journalist. “But the process of drawing something helps you somehow to stay connected.” Her Ph.D. thesis began with counting simple loops on surfaces and led to a calculation of the total volume of moduli spaces. This allowed the young scholar to publish three separate papers in top mathematical journals, one of which contained a surprising new proof of the famous “Witten conjecture,” a milestone in theoretical physics connecting mathematics and quantum gravity. Mirzakhani’s mathematics is treasured for its great creative leaps, for the connections it has revealed between distant fields, for its sense of grandeur. (New York Times Magazine)

As we go further into the technological age and the era of information, it will become more relevant for workers of the future to be able to absorb and analyze large amounts of data, and to be able to see relevant patterns of usable information. FMS students will have the benefit of understanding Mathematical concepts more deeply by using visual tools, and to potentially explore some of the hidden complexities that Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani did.

Gardening at Foothills Montessori

Over the years, FMS has had many green thumbs planting flowers, herbs, and plants on campus including the greenhouse. Ms Val manages in the primary outdoor classroom.  Last year, there was a concerted effort, led by Ms. Kerri(E6), to partner with Green Our Planet and create a sustainable gardening program.  The fruits of her labor are coming to fruition as we see the plants thriving in the new brick planters located in the campus courtyard.  Every classroom is represented on the gardening committee and exciting results are starting to bloom.

There are essentially four areas on campus that are dedicated to growing plants: the center courtyard, the east side behind the lower elementary classrooms, the green house in the primary outdoor classroom, and the pollinator garden found outside E6 (upper elementary) on the west side.  Each area has its purpose and the students, teachers, and parent volunteers are involved with the maintenance and growth of the areas. In addition, primary classes are focused on creating a sensory garden with plants which feel, taste and smell amazing. We are even considering starting a seed library.

As stated by the committee, The FMS garden is a learning garden. Maria Montessori observed, “When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.” Our garden encourages students to experience the natural world, gain insight into how all living things work together, demonstrate respect, adopt peaceful practices and develop an awareness of personal responsibility for contributing in a positive way to the world. Teachers and staff utilize the garden to facilitate outdoor learning across all domains and school subjects, and to nurture self-reflection, mindfulness, and family engagement. Garden lessons increase opportunities for outdoor learning, support healthy eating, and inspire students to protect, conserve and improve the natural environment around the world. “Education is not something which a teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment.” (Maria Montessori)

As the garden grows, elementary students will participate in professional chef demonstrations using produce from our harvest. Also, be on the lookout for notification of upcoming farmers’ markets where students will be selling items from the garden.

Ambassador Leaders

Ambassador Leaders

Leadership is a complex and useful skill that may lay dormant in a young person until they are actually called upon to use it. This summer, six FMS middle school students were invited to attend a week-long leadership training program sponsored by the Ambassador Leaders program.  Some of our students attended the training at Harvard Law School and others went to UCLA.  Each student was nominated by their teachers and then submitted an application to be chosen to attend the training.

Their week was filled with seminars on team building, communications, and learning how to identify their own leadership styles. Successful business people presented during the week modeling many of the leadership traits the students had learned about.  Our students were challenged with creating a community service project and figuring out its motto, purpose, and a strategy for implementing the idea.  Some of our students came up with an idea focused on water; preserving it and providing clean water supplies to communities which they called “One Drop.”

When asked, “What did you learn about yourself through this experience?” One student commented that the experience “opened her up,” another had to “step out of her comfort zone and engage in conversations with people she had just met.”  A student also commented that his group had to speak about their community project idea in front of an audience of over 100 people, and he was “pleased with his performance.”  The experience certainly provided opportunities for students to become more confident in public speaking and collaborating with peers.