Tag Archives: early learning

Reflections at The Montessori Children’s Academy

As we enter this new year, we thought we’d take a look back at just some of the MCA special events and highlights from September through December. In just a few short months, the children have experienced so much both inside and outside of the classroom. Reflecting upon the fall 2017 semester, we are filled with gratitude for the opportunity to work with our MCA children and families, as well as with others in our local areas and the broader Montessori community. As we look forward to what 2018 holds, we are filled with hope and anticipation
for all that we are yet to discover and achieve together!

Commemorating the International Day of Peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Harvest Family Fun Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit from Our Local Firefighters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Diwali

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Music

 

Picasso Studies

                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elementary Study of Atoms

 

 

 

 

 

MCA’s Disaster Relief Bake Sale to Support Montessori Communities in Puerto Rico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paws of War Assembly with Jason and Dixie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Around the Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gingerbread Decorating

Looking ahead to 2018…

Promoting a Lifetime of Healthy Habits at MCA

 

By Polly Bliss with Alex Chiu

Teaching health class is my favorite time of the day at MCA. The hand washing and vegetable songs are music to my ears, and I enjoy the great questions and funny, honest comments your children make during class. If you have Diet Coke for breakfast, I may hear about it!” ~ Nurse Bliss

Health lessons at The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) are based on five simple principals that are the same whether your child is in our Preschool, Kindergarten, or Elementary Program.

They include:

1. Washing your hands, brushing your teeth, and taking care of your body.
2. Practicing safety.
3. Taking a deep breath.
4. Eating more fruits and vegetables.
5. Exercising.

Every day, we should all be doing these five simple things.

1. Wash Your Hands! Brush Your Teeth! Take Care of Your Body!

The simple act of washing hands prevents us from getting sick and stops the transmission of illnesses. We encourage the children to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, before they eat or prepare food, and when they come in from playing outside. The first thing children should do when they get home from school is wash their hands.
A Practical Life lesson MCA preschool students learn in Health Class is how to use a tissue, and children are reminded to keep fingers out of their noses and mouths. A favorite lesson is titled “Germs are Not for Sharing.” Using a spray bottle, we dramatically demonstrate what happens when sneezes and coughs aren’t covered—the children do NOT like to get sprayed with the pretend germs, and they quickly learn to use an elbow to catch their coughs and sneezes to protect themselves and others. In the Elementary Program, we take the topic of hand washing further by discussing viruses and germs and the many ways our immune system protects us.
In the fall, our preschool lessons also focus on body parts and how each body part has a specific job to do. We discuss ways to keep all of our body parts healthy and working properly. At the Elementary level, we discuss each body system, how the body systems work together, and ways to keep each body system functioning for optimal health. Later in the year, during Dental Health Month, students learn all about teeth and how important it is to keep teeth clean by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. A local dentist and hygienist visit our classrooms for a fun, interactive dental health lesson, as well.

2. Practice Safety!

In winter, Health lessons focus on what to do in emergencies and calling 911. We talk about what an emergency is and what an emergency isn’t. Students are given different scenarios, and they must decide if it’s an emergency or not. They also learn to call 911. This is a tricky lesson because children cannot practice actually making the call to 911. However, as fewer of us have land lines in our homes, it’s important that children know how to use cellular telephones, so students should practice unlocking the phone, choosing a name to call from the contact list, or accessing the keypad–these are essential skills needed to call 911 in an emergency. Our Elementary lessons also focus on personal safety. After this lesson, you may find that your children remind you, their parents, not to text and drive or cross the street while looking down at your phone!
Poison Prevention Month in January provides us with the opportunity to teach the students about things that are good for our bodies and things that are bad for our bodies and that could hurt us. Students are introduced to a basket of poisons, such as cleaners, laundry detergent pods, dishwasher pods, and medicine, and in Health Class, they discuss the many things children should not touch or put in their mouths. At home, please remember to keep all poisons out of sight and out of reach. Elementary students also discuss medicine, both prescription and over the counter medicine, and they are taught how important it is to read directions and to take the proper prescribed dose. Students are reminded that a safe adult should always administer medicine to them rather than the children taking the medicine on their own.

Later in the year, during the month of May, our safety lessons focus on staying safe around water and the importance of wearing sunscreen. Students often end up reminding their parents to apply sunscreen, which is a wonderful way to see how they have internalized these important lessons!

3. Take a Deep Breath!

Throughout the year, and in every Health Class, students practice taking three deep breaths. The children learn to breathe in through their noses, the body part that warms and filters the air before it comes into our bodies. They learn to sit up, let their shoulders drop, and let their stomachs go out when they take a deep breath. We discuss how breathing is a great tool that can help us calm ourselves, and the children come to understand how breathing helps to flood our brains with oxygen so we can think better. In Elementary, students also use deep breathing as a strategy to calm their nervous systems, de-stress, and refocus their attention to the task at hand.

4. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables!

To introduce nutrition, preschoolers explore a basket of colorful fruits and vegetables and are invited to form a rainbow with the produce. They learn that each different colored fruit and vegetable has different health benefits. For example, blueberries are brain food, naturally red food is good for your stomach, naturally green food keeps your insides clean and builds strong muscles, naturally orange foods are good for your eyes, and naturally yellow foods are good for your lungs, while white vegetables are great for fighting germs. We also discuss the food plate and how important it is to eat a variety of foods.

It doesn’t matter what diet you follow at home, our health lessons at MCA focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and less junk food. Fruits and vegetables are nature’s multivitamins that come in a form our bodies can immediately recognize, absorb, and digest. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with healthy fiber. We encourage you to send fruits and vegetables for your child’s snack and lunch. If you have a picky eater, there are some strategies you could try to help your child incorporate a wider variety of healthy foods into his or her diet. If your child will only eat vegetables dipped in something or covered with cheese, that is a really great start in developing healthy eating habits. If your child is hungry after school, offer vegetables first. Have vegetables prepared when you are making dinner or setting the table so your children are free to munch on them. Choose different colors, shapes, and textures and let your child pick out new fruits and vegetables to try when you go food shopping.

In Health Class we refer to fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole foods as “go foods”, which are foods that our bodies need to stay healthy and foods that we should eat a lot of each day. “Go foods” also are foods that our bodies immediately recognize and can easily digest. Whole and natural foods have more nutrition in their natural, minimally processed state. At school, we call junk foods “whoa foods,” and these include foods that are loaded with chemicals, sugar, food coloring, preservatives, and anything hydrogenated. Our bodies aren’t designed to digest “whoa foods”. In fact, many foods we consume today wouldn’t have even been considered food 100 years ago. And sugar certainly wasn’t added to practically everything either. Our bodies don’t know how to digest highly processed foods and foods loaded with chemicals and preservatives. “Whoa foods” take much longer to move through our digestive system and since they stay in our bodies longer, it’s no wonder why obesity and chronic illnesses are on the rise.

Our MCA students learn that they should eat “go foods” most of the time and have “whoa foods” every once in a while. If you do choose processed food items, (which are usually the foods you find in the center aisles of the supermarkets), try to keep the number of ingredients listed on the packaging to under five. Another good rule of thumb as you shop is if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the package, it’s probably not good for you. Also, if you lose count trying to count the number of ingredients, it’s not good for you, and if it will stay fresh for a year, it’s not good for you. You might also keep in mind that if your preschooler can reach a breakfast cereal, it probably isn’t good for them, and if your yogurt is loaded with sugar or has candy on top of it, it’s dessert.

During our Elementary nutrition lessons, we discuss the digestive system and how to read nutrition labels including portion sizes. We “re-think our drink” by using a sugar bowl to count out the number of teaspoons of sugar that are in our favorite junk beverages. This can be quite an eye-opening lesson for our students. Try it at home sometime and you, too, will be surprised! Take the number of grams of added sugar and divide by four. For example, if your 16 ounce bottle of soda has 44 grams of sugar, you are consuming 11 teaspoons of sugar. We hope this helps you all to ‘re-think your drink’!

As the seasons change and we get closer to summer, the children are encouraged to visit a local farmers market to see what fruits and vegetables are local and fresh. Not only is this a fun family outing, but a great way to take part in a community event and perhaps discover a new favorite healthy food!

5. Exercise!

MCA students are taught that exercise is also important for healthy bodies. Our bodies are made to move, not to sit in front of a computer or television all day. It’s no wonder so many of us have a stiff neck from looking down at our computers or phone screens constantly. Our MCA students learn that they should engage in at least one hour of physical activity a day. The best exercise for children is simply to go outside and play. Children build strong bodies by playing. Go to the park, go to the playground, go for a walk or a hike, ride bikes together, play a sport, learn to swim, and take the stairs. As parents, we model behavior for our children, so we encourage you to put the phone down, turn off the computer, turn off the TV, and go do something active together with your children. Encourage raking leaves, snow shoveling, vacuuming, cleaning, gardening, and car washing. They are all terrific physical, family activities that also count as exercise. Engaging in physical activity is a family affair that is good for everyone across the lifespan, and all of our MCA students from our youngest to our oldest, learn the value of movement and exercise. The older students extend their understanding of this by also learning about the cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular systems. We are always emphasizing healthy behaviors that keep all of our body systems functioning properly.

Putting It All Together

In every lesson throughout the year, MCA students refer back to the 5 basic principles of taking care of their bodies, practicing safety, taking a deep breath, eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising, and they learn to see the connection between these simple steps and staying healthy. It is our hope that our students are learning healthy habits that will last throughout their lifetimes!

Image credit: intranet.tdmu.edu.ua

An Abundance of Autumn Activities for Fall Family Fun

By Alex Chiu and Alisa Jones

Autumn is in the air! Crisp, cooler temperatures make us grab a sweater in the mornings. Vibrant colors of the changing leaves cause us stop to take in their beauty. Smells of cinnamon, apples, and pumpkins spike cravings of pie and cider. Our senses are beckoned at every turn.

Similarly, the senses of children in Montessori classrooms are heightened as we invite them to tune into all that is around them, not only in autumn, but all year long. While the Sensorial area of the classroom is specifically dedicated to stimulating and enhancing children’s senses, Montessori classrooms enrich students’ sensorial experiences across curriculum areas. This happens in every season through a variety of enriching activities that bring in what is unique to each different time of year.

Fall provides us with an abundance of activities we can do that help to build skills across curriculum areas using easy to find apples, acorns, pumpkins, and leaves. There are so many things we do in our classrooms with an autumn theme, and there are even more that you might enjoy trying at home as well. What follows is just a sampling of some fun fall activities that are easy to do with your family and friends this autumn season.

Fall into Science

• Sort types of apples or leaves by size, color, or variety.
• Grade apples or pumpkins from largest to smallest.
• Examine the parts of an apple or pumpkin from stem to skin to core to seeds.
• Experiment to see if apples (or pumpkins) sink or float (and if you find that apples float, why not create an apple boat by slicing an apple in half, adding a toothpick and paper flag, and letting it set sail in a bowl of water!).
• Do an experiment to find out why apples turn brown. Slice an apple, leave one piece as a control, soak one in lemon juice, one in vinegar, one in water (label them). Set them out on plates, and then observe and log what happens to the different samples of apple slices as they sit out over time.
• Explore gravity! Don’t want to drop the apples or pumpkins from the top of the swing set and clean up the mess? Try rolling two down the slide or a ramp made of cereal boxes. Guess which will roll to the bottom first. Were you right? Why or why not?
• Measure the circumference of your pumpkin and compare it to the measurement for your head.

Practical Life Autumn Activities

• Slice and serve apples. Check out the website www.forsmallhands.com for child-safe kitchen utensils.
• Wash a pumpkin. Have a parent carve open the top, and scoop out the seeds. Design your jack o’ lantern.
• Make applesauce or apple or pumpkin pie or muffins, or any other wonderful recipe you have.
• Conduct a blind taste test of different types of apples and vote to see which is your family’s favorite variety.
• Toast pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle with salt, cinnamon sugar, or a favorite spice to try a new twist on an old favorite.
• Transfer acorns from one dish to another using a spoon, tongs, or, if you’re really up for a challenge, chopsticks.

Seasonal Reading Connections

• Read the Dr. Seuss classic Ten Apples Up On Top and then do some follow-up activities.
After reading, see how many apples you can stack. Discuss with your child what makes it easy or hard to stack them? What could you do to make it more stable? (Pyramid? Skewers?)
• Cozy up with some of our favorite pumpkin-themed books, such as Pumpkin, Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington, The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons, Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper, Pumpkin Town or Nothing is Better than Pumpkins by Katie McKy.
• Go on a nature scavenger hunt after reading We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger. Invite your children to search for seeds, different types or colors of leaves, a stick that looks like a letter, something fuzzy, etc.
• Count acorns or leaves by ones, twos, fives, and tens after reading Nuts to You or Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert.

Autumn Art Projects

• Chop up an apple, add toothpicks, and build creative 3D structures.
• Slice an apple in half, paint the flat half, and make apple prints. Try slicing one apple through the center and another from core to base to see how the prints differ. This makes pretty fall stationery.
• Make leaf rubbings. Peel off the paper around your crayons to allow for a smoother crayon rubbing.
• Create an apple or pumpkin inspired drawing using crayons, colored pencils, or oil pastels. Look closely at your apple, what different colors do you see? Blend them together and cut out in an apple shape.
• Decorate a pumpkin using paint, pipe cleaners, glitter, buttons, or unusual items you may find around the house.

Math Fun in the Fall

• Count the number of trees that have lost all of their leaves in your front yard or on your street.
• Estimate how many seeds are in your pumpkin as you carve it. Then count them before roasting!
• Collect acorns or leaves when out for a walk (you will need a lot!). At home, have your child set out the leaves by quantity from 1-10 (or as high as you can go!).

As you can see, it’s easy to incorporate fun learning activities into family time this fall season. We look forward to your children sharing all of their family autumn adventures with us when they come to school. And as fall turns to winter, and then spring, and then summer, challenge your family to apply some of these ideas to what is unique to each of the seasons for family fun all year long!

 

Clip art credit to:  https://gallery.yopriceville.com/var/resizes/Free-Clipart-Pictures/Fall-PNG/Autumn_Pumpkin_and_Fruits_PNG_Clipart_Image.png?m=1443543781

Packing the Perfect Lunchbox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Alex Chiu

Just one of the many wonderful things about Montessori education is that everything that happens in the classroom is viewed as a learning opportunity. Consider the simple act of having lunch. In a Montessori setting, the children learn how to follow multi-step instructions to take part in setting up and preparing their lunch spaces. This includes retrieving their lunchboxes from where they are stored to setting out their placemats and food, to eating politely, and finally throwing away trash and cleaning up. It’s a lot to remember and complete for our younger students, but they learn the routines quickly and perform the tasks beautifully every time they have lunch at school.

One of the best ways to ensure your child can enjoy eating and socializing during lunchtime at school is by having him or her help to prepare lunch for each day. Providing your child with healthy choices and allowing him or her to decide which to bring on a given day gives your child some control over what he or she brings in to eat and teaches responsibility in getting the lunch packed and ready for school. This begins with including your child in purchasing his or her first lunchbox and continues throughout the year as he or she works together with an adult to pack that beautiful box with daily meals.

Here are some teacher suggestions (or “secrets”) to packing a perfect lunchbox:

1. Label everything! Especially at the beginning of the school year, the children are learning whose lunchbox belongs to whom, and often the children see that their classmates have the same containers or placemats. Not only does labeling all items help your child recognize his or her name, it also helps to make sure all items that belong to you return home!

2. Consider your child’s lunch ‘space’. In a Montessori classroom, children learn to organize their workspaces on a floor rug or table. The same holds true during lunch. Many Montessori classrooms encourage children to use placemats during lunch because the placemats offer the children a visual context in which to organize their lunch and maintain their space among the others sitting at the table. Some teachers have their students make their own placemats to use during lunch, some provide a plastic or vinyl placemat, and some may request that parents send in a cloth placemat to be washed at home as needed for the children’s lunchtime routines. Ask your child’s teacher if a placemat from home is needed.

3. Consider reusable containers. While plastic disposable baggies are easy and light, they are not the best choice for our environment. Since lunch is another learning time in the Montessori classroom, children are encouraged to pack in an eco-friendly way. Not only do you help the planet by packing reusable containers, but you also help your child practice fine motor skills for opening and closing lids. Children learn to match sizes and shapes of containers and lids, and they gain a special awareness when deciding what will fit into different sizes of containers.

4. What about the food?! Montessori children do learn about health and fitness, and preschool is not too early to encourage varied and healthy food choices. While each child has his or her preferences, teachers find that children enjoy a small portion of a variety of foods rather than one large main dish. You might think about sending in a small container of carrots, olives, or cucumbers sliced and paired with a favorite cheese or dip (hummus or ranch dressing). Another Tupperware might be filled with grapes, berries, or apple slices. Still another may provide your child with favorite crackers and a few sliced cold cuts. Having several small portions of different types of foods gives children choice and variety, and creates a ‘picnic’ type of meal which most children really enjoy.

5. Keep it cold (or hot)! Be sure to put foods that need to stay hot in an airtight thermos. Use an icepack to keep cold foods cold. Most schools do not have the space for refrigerators or microwaves in the classroom, so it’s always helpful for parents to take charge of sending the food in the safest manner.

Most teachers encourage students to repack any foods that were left uneaten. It’s important for parents to pay attention to what comes back home in the lunchbox at the end of the day. Perhaps your child is tired of a certain food or is packing too much to be eaten in a given lunch period. Talk with your child about his or her lunchtimes. Ask what his or her classmates enjoying eating, who he or she sits beside, and what special routines the class has for lunch. We may think it’s ‘only lunch’, but in Montessori, lunch is an important part of the school day, too!

Photo from the howwemontessori.com website – a perfect example of a Montessori lunch!

What (Not) to Wear

 

By: Alex Chiu

Many parents anticipate that perfect “first day of school” photo with their children wearing fresh, new outfits, slinging those bright new backpacks over their shoulders, and smiling as they exit the front door ready to start a new school year. Before you begin your back-to-school shopping however, teachers (and especially preschool teachers) would love to offer some advice on what clothing choices are most appropriate for children to wear to school.

Choose clothing that allows freedom of movement
First, parents should consider their children’s daily school activities. Especially in a Montessori environment, children move a LOT. The clothing they wear should allow for comfort and freedom of movement, both in the classroom and out on the playground. Remember, Montessori work can take place either at a table or on the floor. Clothing that allows for sitting ‘criss cross applesauce’ is important!

Choose clothing that is ‘worry-free’
In addition to being comfortable and allowing freedom of movement, clothing at school should be ‘worry-free’. Montessori children work with water, soil, plants, paint, sand, and many other potentially messy supplies. While one of the goals is for children to use the materials purposefully and to be able to master using them without excessive spills, the reality is that spills happen. Often. Montessori education is prepared for that, which is why children also learn the important skills of cleaning up after their messes! However, children are much more likely to participate in all areas of the classroom uninhibited if they aren’t worried about staining a new dress or scuffing nice dressy shoes. They are then free to explore the environment and learn skills across all of the classroom’s offerings.

Choose clothing that encourages independence and safety
Just as many professions have a dress code for professionalism and safety, classrooms also encourage a dress code that is geared toward keeping students focused on what’s important and safe. For younger children who are learning to use the bathroom independently, a proper school wardrobe might include pants that are easy to pull on and off independently. While belts are fashionable, they may not be the best choice for success in toilet training! Similarly, in order for children to feel safe and successful on the playground, consider your child’s footwear. Sneakers or other closed-toe and rubber-soled shoes are the wise choice. These types of shoes allow children to climb and run more safely, and they don’t prohibit children from participating in activities in the gym or on the playground equipment.

Provide your child with time to learn the skills needed for dressing him or herself
Finally, as you assemble your child’s school wardrobe, allow your child to practice zipping the zippers, buttoning the buttons, snapping the snaps, and hooking the eyehooks. As adults, we may forget that these are skills that are learned and require practice. Provide your child with enough time when dressing to complete these tasks on his or her own or with minimal help from you. Then, send your child off to school to do his or her work with no worries about wardrobe and dressed for success!