Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bon Travail

The children have advanced a great deal over the past few months. So, much of my Thanksgiving break was spent putting out some new materials to provide new challenges for them and "commissioning" some new materials for the classroom (poor Josh).

Many of the children have progressed beyond the basic cutting lessons, so near the top of my 'to-do list' was a nice (preferably wooden) container for organizing cutting strips. I was so pleased with the way that this turned out (I really haven't seen a nicer way to organize and display them)!

In Montessori classrooms, children practice cutting with scissors using progressively more challenging strips (this is another example of the way in which Montessori materials isolate the difficulty). The child begins with narrow strips with horizontal lines and then progress to strips which require multiple cuts and turning the strip of paper.

I will be posting more photos of my new acquisitions in the coming days!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bloom! Montessori will be holding Parent Teacher Conferences Sunday, November 22- Tuesday, November 24.
Parent Teacher Conferences are one of the exciting times of the year. It is such a joy to be able to show parents the work that their child has been engaged with over the past few months.
Because Montessori materials are designed to give children a concrete experience of abstract concepts (like number, symbol, etc), most are not activities which result in a paper work product (a worksheet or coloring page, for example). Additionally, in a Montessori classroom, the emphasis is on doing one's best, concentrating deeply, and enjoying work- on the process, not on the product. Children do not take work home daily because doing so can encourage quick, messy work just to have something to take home. Instead, we encourage children to expand their concentration spans until they are capable of doing time consuming projects over multiple work sessions; as a result, children are encouraged to sign and date their work and place it in their portolio.
Montessori schools have different ways of keeping parents informed of their child's progress despite the lack of written work products. Throughout the year, all Montessori guides make detailed written observations of the children during the work cycle. At Bloom! we also take copious photographs of children engaged with the materials.
At conference time, parents are presented with a written report about their child's progress, a copy of the book A Parent's Guide to the Montessori Classroom (to serve as a reference for helping them achieve a better understanding of their child's Montessori experience), an album of photographs showing the child using Montessori materials (annotated with the guide's written explanation of the objectives of the work, the child's accomplishments with the material, and the corresponding page numbers in A Parent's Guide to the Montessori Classroom), and a CD containing additional photos taken of their child during the term.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy watching your child work as much as we do, and we feel priviledged to work with you in the service of your child.

Squirrel Feeders

"When mindfulness embraces those we love, they bloom like flowers."
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Children are naturally fascinated with nature and their powers of observation are more developed than those of most adults. Many of the children prefer to work in front of the french doors so that they may catch the occasional glimpse of sparrows hopping around on the patio or squirrels frolicking on the lawn.

The children have been learning about ways that animals accommodate to winter (migrating, adapting, and hibernating), so I expected them to enjoy making "birdfeeders" out of pinecones (a lesson for which I owe credit to Anna Applebaum and Renee Dorris at Mapleton Montessori in Boulder). What I had not expected was their sheer merriment at watching the birdseed pillaged by a horde of acrobatic squirrels. The children laughed and pointed as squirrels that were as fat as rabbits crept out to the most palty branches on the tree, spirited away the pinecones, and buried their cache in little holes throughout the yard.

I must admit that squirrels are something that I take for granted and that I found myself entertained by their antics. I must also admit that I am always in awe of the mindfulness of children. It is truly a pleasure to slow down and experience life through their eyes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Visit From Local Pediatric Dentist Timothy Nichols of Little Britches Pediatric Dentistry

The children have been learning about teeth and oral health. Today, they were treated to a visit by local pediatric dentist Timothy Nichols of Little Britches Pediatric Dentistry.

Quite honestly, I must say that Dr. Nichols is the most delightful dentist I have ever met; he has an amazing gift for teaching children and putting them at ease. He was knowledgeable, kind, approachable, and so much fun!

Dr. Nichols read Moose's Loose Tooth by Jacqueline Clarke (which had the children both riveted and giggling uncontrollably), taught the children proper tooth brushing techniques, discussed the importance of healthy foods, allowed the children to play dentist to his dragon puppet by using a dental mirror to count his teeth and check for cavities, and left the children with new toothbrushes and coloring books! In every respect, it was exactly what you would wish for your child's first interactions with a dentist- a fun, informative, non-threatening experience. I am sure that his visit will help the children to practice good oral hygiene and I know it left more than one child clamoring for a visit to the dentist. We sincerely thank him for making time to come and share his talents with us.

If your family is looking for a pediatric dentist, I cannot recommend him enough (I only wish he took adults too!). To schedule an appointment, or for more information about his practice, please call 303.651.3733 or visit their website at

One of the sad statistics that Dr. Nichols shared with us was that although the number of cavities have declined in other age groups, their prevalence in children has remained constant. In fact, the US Surgeon general has called dental and oral diseases a "silent epidemic." More than half of all children aged 5-9 have at least one cavity or filling. Cavities are the most common chronic diease affecting children in the United States; they can lead to pain, infection, tooth loss, and may increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

At Bloom! we feel that it is important to teach children good oral hygiene at a young age. We follow the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education's "Guidelines for Good Dental Practices in Child Care." In addition to teaching children about oral health in our curriculum, we serve meals and snacks that limit your child's intake of sweets, serve milk and water (not sugary juices), recommend that all children are seen twice a year by a dentist, and supervise the brushing of teeth after every meal.

Needless to say, after his visit the children were very interested in toothbrushing. In fact, the new toothbrushing practical life lessons got so much use that the classroom truly smelled minty fresh! Perhaps we have a future dentist or two among us...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Improvements to the Outdoor Play Area

This weekend, we began making planned improvements to the outside play area. Thanks to our good friends Shane Beeson and Matt Poepping, the children will be greeted by a new play structure on Monday. Josh, Shane, and Matt spent the better part of Saturday installing the 2" rubber pad cushion, assembling the play structure, and moving a ton of playground mulch. We really want to thank them for their generosity and hard work.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The children have sustained their interest in learning the geometric forms. They demonstrate a high degree of awareness and interest in geometric forms in their environment and palpable joy in being able to reproduce them.

I recently overheard one girl literally shriek with glee upon discovering that she had inadvertently cut a triangle out of one of the cutting strips, watched a young girl provide a demonstration to another child of her observation that a "squished" sphere of playdo forms a circle, and watched a young boy proudly deliver to his dad a resealable bag containing two perfect "spheres" that he had made out of playdo and declined to part with.

The geometric cabinet is one of the most popular materials in the classroom. It consists of a cabinet containing six drawers and 34 plane figures. In addition to teaching the child to discriminate between different geometric forms, teaching them the names of these figures, and providing a foundation for geometry, the child carefully traces the figures and the frames before placing the piece in it's correct spot. This careful tracing helps ensures that the child develops both a visual and a tactile memory of the form and helps to develop the smooth and coordinated hand movements which are required for handwriting and drawing.

The children love repeating this activity and after sufficient practice many of them find that they can even do it blindfolded!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bloom! Montessori Is Certified to be Eco-Healthy!

We are very excited to be endorsed by the Oregon Environmental Council as an Eco-Healthy Child Care. You can see our listing, and search for other Eco Healthy Child Care Options, at:

The Oregon Environmental Council administers the nation's only voluntary environmental child care certification program. In order to be endorsed, the child care must meet minimum standards in air quality, use of environmentally friendly operational practices, testing to verify the absence of heavy metals (verifying the absence of lead, mercury, radon) and volatile organic compounds, and voluntarily compliance with standards designed to reduce children's exposure to toxics and environmental health hazards.

We are proud to state that Bloom! Montessori not only met the required standards, but exceeded them by providing children with filtered water, primarily organic whole foods, minimizing the presence of plastics by using glass dishes and primarly wooden materials that are certified to be lead free and produced by a company in Holland that partnered with Maria Montessori herself, reducing possible lead- contaminated dirt exposure by having children wear indoor shoes, using low VOC paints, using furniture and materials exclusively made of Baltic Birch, Maple, and other solid hardwood (non added urea-formaldehyde wood), and using hard wood floors, rather than wall to wall carpeting (carpets trap mites and contaminated materials and often contain high VOC adhesives).

To learn more about the criteria for being designated as an Eco- Friendly Child Care, please visit the Oregon Environmental Council's website at:

Their website also contains helpful information about how to create a more eco-friendly home.