Category Archives: Giving Back

Montessori Childrens Academy NJ

Celebrating the Seasons the Montessori Way

One of the greatest gifts Montessori children receive as part of their education is the gift of time.  They are given time to observe different types of work being done by peers.  They are given time to make choices about what work they would like to do during the school day.  They are given time to focus on their own work and time to explore without interruption during their three-hour work cycle.  This gift of time provides Montessori students with many benefits.  They learn about independence, decision-making, and the joy of learning for learning’s sake.

When holidays pop up on the calendar, Montessori students are given another gift.  Instead of a holiday taking over one day on the calendar without any connection to the days before or the days following the holiday, Montessori classrooms embrace celebrations of the seasons in a more cross-curricular, more involved, less obtrusive way.  For example, in the weeks prior to a holiday of importance, the Practical Life shelves may reflect the colors and symbols of the season in the pouring, sorting, or transferring works.  The Language area and circle time activities will most certainly incorporate poems, stories, and songs related to the seasonal celebrations.  Math works may use counting items that correlate with holiday themes.  Art supplies change to stimulate the children’s unique artistic expression using materials inspired by the time of year.  And perhaps the best part of the classroom to share information about specific holidays is the Cultural area, where the children may find continent boxes filled with photographs, artifacts, and items associated with various holidays and the cultures from which they originated.

The beauty of celebrating in this way is that the security and predictability of the child’s school day remains intact.  Children rely on this type of schedule.  They thrive and perform best in an environment where they understand the expectations and where they feel they have some control over their day.  Instead of having one day in the month where things become chaotic (and we have all attended school holiday celebrations that leave us exhausted and overwhelmed!), the season of celebrations unfolds slowly.  The children learn about the history, discover the traditions, and find delight in celebrating a variety of holidays over the course of time and within the parameters of how their school environment is already set up for them.  To enhance this learning and make it even more meaningful at The Montessori Children’s Academy, parents, relatives, and special guests often come into the classrooms to share their personal experiences with special celebrations, giving the students great insights into and appreciation for other cultures and the people within their community.

If we really think about it, we will realize that there is more to learn about a celebration than can possibly fit into one classroom session for it to be truly meaningful.  Montessori children learn about the celebration as something more than what they might see on television or in advertising.  Most would agree that the commercialization of many holidays could easily cause children to misunderstand the true meaning behind the celebrations.  However, in a Montessori classroom, the commercial ‘noise’ is silenced as children are provided with age-appropriate information about the people, places, foods, and traditions surrounding the holidays.  Celebrating the seasons the Montessori way provides children with the opportunity to engage in meaningful activities that teach them so much more than about just one day on the calendar.  By learning about holidays, they learn about other cultures.  They also gain an awareness of what is different and what is similar among people worldwide.  They learn tolerance and acceptance.  They learn about what brings joy to people around the globe.  The Montessori approach to celebrating special days is a gift to children as it expands their minds, their hearts, and their worlds.

Here are just a few Montessori-inspired ideas for making your family holidays more meaningful:

  • Visit your local library and check out books or music CDs related to the holiday before it arrives. Let your child choose one or two books to read each day leading up to the holiday and keep a CD in your car to listen to when driving around town.
  • Take out a map or globe and help your child find the part of the world where the holiday originated. In the days surrounding the holiday, share one new fact about the culture.  If it is a more global holiday, research how it is celebrated in different parts of the world.
  • Turn down outside ‘noise’: If the media tends to overload commercialized messages about the holiday you are celebrating, consider turning off the TV and tuning in to what makes the holiday important to you.  Make a ‘holiday happiness jar’ where you write the things that you enjoy most about the holiday on little slips of paper.  Each day, take out one of the notes to remind you what is important about the celebration.
  • Share special memories you may have of celebrating the holiday when you were a child and discuss what things are the same and what things are different when celebrating today.
  • Include your children in the preparations. Let them create a special centerpiece for the table or make decorations to display on the front door.  If special foods are part of the celebration, invite your child to help measure and mix ingredients.
  • Maintain a ‘normal’ schedule as best as you can. Children do best when their day follows a predictable pattern.  If you have special outings or you know your daily schedule will be interrupted because of holiday preparations or celebrations, prepare your child so that he or she knows what to expect.
  • Carry on a tradition from your upbringing or begin a new one with your child to help make the holiday even more special and personal!
The Montessori Children's Academy

Sing for Peace!: International Day of Peace Celebration 2016

September 21st may not be a date you recognize, but around the world and in our Montessori community, we look forward to celebrating the International Day of Peace on this day.  Established by the United Nations in 1981, the International Day of Peace began as a way to promote a time for people worldwide to “honour a cessation of hostilities…and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace” ().

The Montessori Children's Academy

The UN’s theme for the International Day of Peace this year is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace”.  Youth from around the world have been invited to share via YouTube their video messages of peace with ideas related to this year’s theme.  Solutions related to ending poverty and helping the environment are evident in the concerns of today’s youth.  The videos can be viewed on the United Nations Peace Day 2016 YouTube Channel, and they include brief messages from young people representing many different nations.

To do our part to celebrate this special occasion, The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) plans to take part in a variety of activities leading up to September 21st.  Each class will choose its own special way to celebrate.  Some will be reading books about peace, making peacemaker necklaces, or learning how to say ‘peace’ in different languages, while others will recite peace poems or decorate symbols of peace.  Then, on the big day, we will all participate in a worldwide event called Sing Peace Around the World.  The goal of the project organizers is to have the song “Light a Candle for Peace” sung continuously over a 24 hour time period all around the globe.  The singing will begin in New Zealand and end in Hawaii 24 hours later.  Our designated time to sing “Light a Candle for Peace” in Chatham, Morristown, and Short Hills is 9:30AM.  Please consider joining the endeavor–wherever you are at that time, take out the lyrics and sing along!  To date, nearly 90,000 children from around the world are registered to participate in this event, including all of our MCA students.  We hope the sounds of children singing for peace will echo across every land on every continent, and that it will reach into the hearts of all people in every corner of the world.

Of course, peace education and awareness is not something MCA recognizes only for one day or by singing just one song.  It is an important component of the Montessori curriculum and an integral part of each and every day in all of our schools.  Everything you find in a Montessori classroom has an intentional meaning and an underlying lesson and goal.  For example, the manner in which Montessori classrooms are prepared aim to promote the development of self-discipline.  The Montessori materials are designed to provide students with challenges that spark their critical thinking.  There are countless opportunities in Montessori classrooms for creative problem solving.  Montessori students are exposed to Cultural Studies, where they learn about people, places, and traditions from around the world, gaining a global awareness and appreciation for similarities and differences among people in all nations.  The focus on ‘grace and courtesy’, as well as the modeling of respect by the adults in the classroom, helps children to, in turn, learn to exhibit grace, courtesy, and respect.  These are all intentional features which are carefully woven into the fabric of Montessori education.  Dr. Montessori developed her method of education to teach not only academic subjects, but also to instill important values in children.  Montessori education is intended to help students learn how to work cooperatively and in harmony, to discover how to solve problems peacefully, and to find ways to promote peace in their interactions with others throughout their lives.

As Dr. Montessori said, “The child is capable of developing and giving us tangible proof of the possibility of a better humanity.  He has shown us the true process of construction of the human being.  We have seen children totally change as they acquire a love for things and as their sense of order, discipline, and self-control develops within them…. The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind” (Education and Peace).  Maria Montessori knew the importance of education for the greater good of the world, and she insisted on providing children with many opportunities to learn and internalize their roles as peacemakers through educational experiences, which encompassed not only academics, but the development of responsibility and character as well.  As she is well known to have stated, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.”  Dr. Montessori was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and her advocacy for peace has made a lasting impression.  We are proud to uphold her legacy for spreading peace throughout the world.

Below are the lyrics to “Light a Candle for Peace”.

The Montessori Children's Academy

Please feel free to share the song with others, and help us to promote peace in our schools, our neighborhoods, our towns, our nation, and all around the world.  We wish everyone a meaningful International Day of Peace!

Light a Candle for Peace
by Shelley Murley

Light a candle for peace
Light a candle for love
Light a candle that shines all the way around the world
Light a candle for me
Light a candle for you
That our wish for world peace
Will one day come true!

Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world

Light a candle for peace
Light a candle for love
Light a candle that shines all the way around the world
Light a candle for me
Light a candle for you
That our wish for world peace
Will one day come true!

Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world

For more information about Montessori peace education and other peace initiatives, as well as to find children’s books about peace, check out the resources listed below, some of which were used as references in this article:

Duckworth, C. (2008). Maria Montessori’s contribution to peace education. In Encyclopedia of Peace Education.
Montessori, Maria. (1992; first published 1949). Education and Peace (The Clio Montessori Series). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Wolf, Aline D. (1996). Nurturing the Spirit: In Non-Sectarian Classrooms. Santa Rosa: Parent Child Press, Inc.

Pennies for Peace 2015-2016

By: Camilla Nichols-Uhler, Hannah Ferris, and Alex Chiu

Since September, MCA students have been raising funds for Pennies for Peace, a “service learning program that brings cultural and philanthropic education to students and educators all over the world”.  Each campus recently totaled its pennies, with the help of our math-savvy students, and now plans to send the contributions on to assist children at schools throughout Asia.  Read on to learn how many pennies our MCA students counted, resulting in a significant contribution to this very worthy cause!

Program Overview

Pennies for Peace is part of the educational component of the Central Asia Institute (CAI).  CAI is an international development organization that works with communities to improve access to education in Asia.  The CAI believes that education can alleviate poverty and reduce conflict.

Pennies for Peace is a fundraising program designed specifically for children, and its philosophy of “students helping students” is relatable even to preschoolers.  MCA students, whose capacities for compassion find their foundation in the Montessori Philosophy, have taken ownership of this yearlong project.  The children collected pennies from home and then brainstormed additional ways to engage the community to help them with their fundraising efforts.

Through their classroom Cultural studies, the children have learned a great deal about the state of education in certain areas of Asia.  And perhaps of more significance, they have also come to understand the importance of sharing some of what they have with others who are less fortunate.  When the MCA students discovered that just a few pennies could buy school supplies like notebooks and pencils for children in these far-away communities, they realized that many pennies could do even more.  They wondered if they could work toward collecting enough pennies to build an entire school.

Connecting Curriculum with a Cause

The Pennies for Peace program ties in nicely with the Montessori Culture and Science curriculum. Over the course of the year, MCA students have learned a lot about life in the more educationally deprived areas of Asia.  For example:

  • In many communities, the need for children to work on family farms often prevents them from going to school;
  • Often the physical terrain is very difficult to travel, and many children cannot get to schools in larger villages because roads through the Himalaya Mountain Range are dangerous;
  • Cultures place an emphasis on boys’ education at the expense of girls’ education. In some areas, only 12% of girls can read.
  • The culture in countries is very different from that in the United States: many families move from place to place based on the seasons to farm, they celebrate different holidays, and they eat different types of food.

In addition, participation in Pennies for Peace relates to the Montessori Peace curriculum, which aims to teach children how people working together peacefully can make the world a better place for everyone.  The Pennies for Peace program also taught the MCA students about organizing their efforts for a good cause.  They learned the process of brainstorming ideas, developing a plan for collections, and then putting that plan into action.  All of these efforts resulted in building their understanding that working together towards a common goal is hard work, but that it reaps wonderful results and is well worth it!

MCA Students and Families Take Initiative

At first, the children came to school with handfuls pennies that they found around their homes.  The sound of the pennies clinking as they were dropped into the collection jars was music to the children’s ears.  As the number of pennies in the jar grew, so did the enthusiasm and creativity of our students, leading some of our students and families to go beyond dropping their pocket change in the classroom penny jars.  We are extremely grateful to everyone for supporting this schoolwide project, and we wanted to recognize a few for their extra special effort:

  • One of our students took advantage of the warm autumn weather and sold lemonade to his neighbors. He accepted payment only in pennies and explained to his customers that the lemonade proceeds would benefit MCA’s Pennies for Peace  He collected thousands of pennies in one afternoon!


  • Back in December, on an unseasonably sunny and warm Saturday, one family spearheaded a community fundraiser with the help of our friends at Café Beethoven in Chatham. Their children and friends from MCA created posters illustrating facts about the project and shared their knowledge about the countries they studied through the program with passersby.  Many kindly donated their coffee change after learning about the project.  This group of friends raised a total of $270 at the Saturday morning Café Beethoven fundraiser.

Cafe Beethoven

  • Recently, our MCA Elementary students sent a letter to the Short Hills Director, Mrs. Amy Hidalgo, and our Elementary Director/Senior Director, Mrs. Jeanine Christiana, pitching an idea for yet another Pennies for Peace In this letter, they asked permission to host a car wash before the end of the school year.  They explained in the letter:

E letter

Bragging Rights

The students at MCA are growing in their sense of responsibility as citizens of a global community through their involvement with the Pennies for Peace project.  As part of the Pennies for Peace philosophy, MCA students have helped spread the word about the project to other Montessori schools in the Tri-State Area, including sharing information about their participation with their pen pals at Brooklyn Heights Montessori School.  Our students recently found out that their friends at Brooklyn Heights are also in the process of totaling their pennies.  They realize that together they are making a difference!

Across our three campuses in Morristown, Chatham, and Short Hills, the MCA community has raised a grand total of $1,081.43 so far this year for Pennies for Peace.  That’s a lot of pennies… 108,143 to be exact!  Our Elementary students are currently working on a Math project to determine exactly how many school supplies this $1,081.43 can purchase for their friends on the other side of the globe.  Perhaps they will not build an entire school, but they are well on their way to building enormous positive changes in the lives of children in Asia who will benefit from their hard work this year.

We are incredibly proud of our students for sharing information about Pennies for Peace with their families, their Montessori counterparts at other schools, and their communities.  And we want to sincerely thank all of the parents, staff members, and community members from Chatham, Morristown, and Short Hills who contributed their pennies and their time to our various projects this year.

For more information about the Pennies for Peace program, please visit their website





References for this post:

“Pennies for Peace – a Free Service Learning Program.” Pennies for Peace. Central Asia Institute, Oct. 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.