Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer Garden

Our summer garden is brimming and ready for our young learners to come back and harvest! We will have tomatoes, beets, corn, zucchini, squash, peppers, and eggplants! 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Scenes From a Day

With rain on the way tomorrow, we gave the children the option to stay outside as much as they wanted today.

Friday, June 2, 2017


Sunny weather and growing interest in telling time leads the afternoon explorers to create sundials!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New Work

We put out new practical life work based on interests, needs, as well as seasons. 

Today the new work was foot washing - something kind to do for a friend! It was in use all day.

Monday, May 1, 2017

School Garden Progress

Our school garden got underway this weekend, as many families pitched in to move mountains of soil and bark chips!

Our mountains await shovels!

Ready for planting!

Our play yard needed some new bark chips too.

Our yard smells like fresh cedar!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Passover Fun

Passover is one of the biggest holidays in the Jewish year - maybe even the most important of all of the holidays! The story of the exodus from Egypt has shaped the Jewish people for thousands of years. At Tree of Life Montessori, we focused on concrete parts of the story and the seder to invite the children into the celebration of this complex and sometimes difficult to understand story.

While we normally do not offer crafts with a specific products, some holidays call for that kind of project. The children love making seder plates after learning about the different foods
and their meanings. 

A real, colorful seder plate and photos of the real foods to match.

Passover felt like the right time to introduce land and water forms to the classroom. As we talk about the Red Sea parting and the Jews going through on dry land, children can us stones to build all different kinds of land forms in a tray of water - isthmus, peninsula, bay, strait, archipelago, and so on. It is also a fun demonstration to do when retelling that part of the Passover story.

Our mortar and pestle got a major workout, crushing matzah into matzah meal was very popular!

Crushing walnuts for charoset and matzah granola was also a popular work.

Since the Passover story features frogs overrunning Pharoah's palace, it seemed like an appropriate time to introduce the life cycle of the frog. Models of each stage of the frog's life are offered with a little felt pond that can be set up any way the child wants - the felt pieces are movable. 

Then labels are added to label the different stages of a frog's development - eggs, tadpole, froglet, and adult frog.

In the afternoon children made afikomen holders as well as painted and decorated Elijah's cups to take home for their seder.

After painting their cups they decorated them with glimmering jewels!

At our school we strive to bring Jewish holidays into the context of everyday life, in a way that children can participate in and understand. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sharing Stories

Montessori teachers use oral language activities to share culture, build rapport, and prepare children for literacy. With limited to oral language children have difficulty expressing themselves verbally and on paper. 

Throughout the day children may gather in small groups to hear a true story, have a conversation, play a language game, recite a poem, or sing a song. All of these activties are fun and bring joy! They are also useful in building and reinforcing language in their growing minds.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

STEM in the Age of Screen Time

A few years ago, the idea of promoting STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics - became a very hot idea in education, as the United States faced flagging achievement in these fields. Take a look on Pinterest and you'll find countless ideas for young children involving straws, popsicle sticks, marshmallows, shaving cream, and an endless iteration of vinegar and baking soda "experiments." STEM apps abound so that a child can access those concepts with the swipe of a finger. With that in mind, I would like to present the location for our very own STEM laboratory at Tree of Life Montessori:

Welcome to the future site of our very own school garden.

Growing things is nothing new to preschools, and even in our limited growing space in the backyard, we have grown and eaten snap peas, strawberries, green beans, and lots of flowers. But the front yard, formerly weedy and unkempt, has been calling, and as we get closer to having the space ready for planting, I have been reflecting on the idea of STEM and why the school garden is really the ultimate STEM lab.

There really is no more enticing experiment than putting something tiny in the ground and watching it grow into an enormous plant, much less one that bears delicious and beautiful fruit. There are countless opportunities for engineering - how to build a trellis tall enough for the peas, how to construct pathways that will allow a wheelbarrow to pass through, learning to tie tomato plants to cages in the hopes that its heavy fruit won't pull it back down.

Why did the peppers in full-day sun get bigger and produce more fruit than the ones that are shaded in the afternoon? What happened when we forgot to water on a hot day? What happens to the zucchini we left on the vine too long - will the seeds that developed inside grow?

As for mathematics, we have to look at the seed packets, learn how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart they should be planted, how many rows can fit in our large bed or the small one. How tall will this green bean plant get, will it shade out the carrots?

In a garden we experience over and over the use of hypothesis about why something happened. Why did this plant wilt? Let's examine the roots. Are they rotten? Is there an insect eating them? Is it moldy? What could we do next time to help it grow bigger?

There are countless questions and answers hiding amongst the leaves of a vegetable garden. They may not be explicitly spelled out, but like all of the activities we offer in a Montessori classroom, they are experienced at a sensorial level, and become almost inborn knowledge. And there is no result more satisfying than a beautiful flower to offer to a friend, or something tasty to try.

So put down the science app and the toothpick-and-marshmallow construction projects, and let's get our hands dirty!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Color Tablets

Many traditional Montessori materials seem very simple to the untrained eye. One example of a material that seems easy and fairly dull is the color tablets. The color tablets consist of three boxes of tablets, usually made of wood or plastic. The first box contains two each of the primary colors, red, blue and yellow. The second box contains pairs of 11 colors - primary, secondary, plus brown, white, grey, black, and pink. The third box contains nine sets of graded colors - seven tablets in a gradient from dark to light. These are presented in order, from simple to more complex.

The first box is presented to younger children who have oriented to the classroom and are ready for orderly activities.

First we look inside the box, take out all the tablets, and mix them up on the table. I show the child how to find the ones that are the same. Then we work on it together until the three colors are matched. 

After matching each pair we make a neat column of colors in the upper left corner of the table. 

Once a child has experience with this simple game, we move on to the box of 11 pairs. We introduce them in the same way, matching the pairs into a column of colors. 

After a child can match them, we introduce distance games - setting one of each color on a table, and the matching tablets on another work area across the room. 

Using a special glass bead, which we call a "memory marker," the child chooses which color they would like to find first, places the marker on that tablet, and goes to find its match. This girl has chosen to stack the tablets as she finds the match from the table across the room.

Sometimes teachers lead matching games in which picture cards or classroom objects are matched to the  colors. Here some classified picture cards of fruit are matched to their color. This can lead to interesting observations and conversations about the colors of the fruit - is a coconut brown or white? If it's both, where should we put it? What about the watermelon?

This child noticed that the colors matched their sweater and decided to put them in the same order! 

The largest box of color tablets, which are graded from light to dark, are introduced slowly, with only one set taken out at a time. As the child shows interest and ability, they are invited to take out more sets, and then all of the sets. It takes a lot of commitment on their part to put the sets back in the box sorted by color when they are finished.

 This child has taken out every set and is grading the colors of the third box as he builds a beautiful pattern over many rugs. Other children are drawn to his work and often one child's work will inspire a weeks-long exploration of a material by many other children!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

V'nahafoch Hu!

During Purim we like to celebrate turning things upside down - v'nahafoch hu! Today at Tree of life we turned a few things on their heads.

First we decided that Spring is on its way, in spite of the incessant rain and daffodils that refuse to bloom, even a month later than usual! We spent the first part of the day planting a variety of beautiful flowers.

First we looked at each one and repeated its name, and then we carried them outside toe plant in our colorful pots.

After the flowers we planted we put the pots back on the patio and gave them plenty of water!

In the afternoon, the children had another topsy-turvy time, making beards and wearing them! Of course silly faces came next.

The dramatic play continued!

We are all looking forward to dressing up for our Purim party!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Winter Work

A few scenes from our classroom this winter, as the community builds cohesion and we learn how to be good friends.

Scavenger hunts, lists of objects found in the room, offer lots of movement and more practice reading. working with a friend helps reinforce sounds children don't know yet.

Enjoying lunch together. 

Preparing mini-pizzas for a yummy warm snack. You grate the cheese, I will spread the sauce!

Carefully washing the leaves of a plant offers space for meditation on its size, shape, and texture.

Showing a friend how to whip bubbles with the egg beater.

 Using a blindfold heightens the sense of touch and isolates texture, size, or weight. 

Beads give a sensorial impress of addition, leaving the discovery of the basic math facts to the child's own exploration.

Individual work means living in a community, learning how to make a space for ourselves, and also observing the creative work of others. 

Cleaning the easel is always a great opportunity for big movement and plenty of sloshing water! It's a fun work to do with a friend.

A sunny day invites the children to sweep and scrub the patio.

Older children love to help their younger friends with their clothing, building friendship and community.

We planted an apple tree for Tu B'Shevat! We talked about what trees give us - oxygen, shade, fruit, paper, and wood. Our tree will give us shade and fruit! Children dug the hole and filled it in with all the dirt, making sure to squirt plenty of water with the hose.

It's always nice to write the names of the people you love.

More sunshine means planting seeds, scrubbing the bricks, and enjoying the fresh air.

Someone spilled a whole bucket of water! No need to panic - it's an opportunity for the community to work together to solve the problem.