Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Parent's Day Off

Do you have unfinished holiday shopping?
Do you wish that you could brave the mall without child in tow?
Are you feeling exhausted and wishing that you had a day to relax this holiday season?
As a courtesy for our families, Bloom! Montessori will be open from 10am - 3pm this Saturday, December 19. Lunch will be provided for children in attendance. There is no charge for the day.
Happy Holidays!

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 http://www.littlebritches.com/

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: http://www.oeconline.org/resources/publications/kitsandtipsarchive/2007EHCCChecklist

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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Winter Joie de Vivre

"In depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer."
-Albert Camus

This week brought the first big snow of the year- nearly a foot of sparkling powder in Longmont! While the temperatures dipped, local schools and businesses closed, and commuters crawled along icy roadways, the children got their first taste of snow (literally!). They shovelled walkways, built a snowman, sampled icicles, and warmed up by baking fresh cranberry orange muffins for snack.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Autumn Fun

"Children are inspired with a feeling for nature...He stands with respect to the plants and animals in relations analagous to those in which the observing teacher stands towards him. Little by litte, as interest and observation grow, his zealous care for the living creatures grows also, and in this way, the child can logically be brought to appreciate the care which the mother and teacher take of him."

-Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method, 1912

Montessori believed strongly in the importance of children's regular interaction with nature, both for their physical health and as an important part of the child's education (in which even the youngest child would learn botany, earth science, and art appreciation first hand):

"The education which a good mother or a good modern teacher gives today to the child who, for example, is running about in a flower garden is the counsel not to touch the flowers, not to tread on the grass; as if it were sufficient for the child to satisfy the physiological needs of his body by moving his legs and breathing fresh air. But for the physical life it is necessary to have the child exposed to the vivifying forces of nature in order that he may lay up for himself treasure from the educating forces of living nature. The method of arriving at this end is to guide him to the cultivation of plants and animals, and so to the intelligent contemplation of nature."

As a result, Montessori children engage in many practical life tasks which encourage the child to connect with and care for their environment (raking leaves, shoveling snow, raking sand in a Zen garden, caring for plants and animals in the classroom, and gardening). Additionally, these activities provide opportunities for children to develop gross and fine motor skills and to cultivate an authentic self- esteem by making a positive contribution to their community.

Montessori's beliefs appear to be prescient; contemporary research supports the notion that children whose access to nature is restricted are more prone to suffer from anxiety, depression, and inattentiveness.

This Autumn, the children have been learning about leaves (the parts of a leaf, shapes of leaves, and the important role that leaves form in photosynthesis). Most importantly though, they have learned that leaves are beautiful and fun to play in!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Geometric Solids

In Montessori classrooms the children are permitted to freely choose among a great variety of growth-promoting materials during the independent work period. As a result of their freedom to choose, it is always very interesting to see which materials the children are most interested in using (which can vary dramatically from year to year). Often, children will observe another student using a material and will want to imitate their use of it.

This year, I have been particularly struck by how interested the children are in learning the geometric forms. Even the youngest children in the classroom can already correctly identify the basic geometric forms (cube, cone, sphere, cylinder, and pyramid).

One of the most frequently selected lessons is to select some of the geometric forms, place them in a basket, cover them with a blanket and play a game in which they try to find a specific form with their eyes closed. This game is great for teaching children the names of the forms, both because there is a lot of repetition of the names ("Find the cube." "It is the cube!") and because it coordinates the child's visual and kinaesthetic memory (by combining the visual input of what you see with the motor output of what you feel more areas of the brain are active and the transmission of signals in the brain becomes more efficient, psychologists call this consolidation).
This multi-sensory approach is representative of the Montessori Method for learning, which considers children to be sensorial explorers who learn best using concrete materials that appeal to multiple sensory modalities. It is also a good example of the socialization that is fostered in the Montessori classroom-children enjoy using the materials independently as well as in spontaneously formed groups.

I really hope that years from now the children find learning geometry to be equally fun!

Some of the children enjoy doing the lesson while blindfolded and exclaiming "Ta Da"...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cutting with Scissors

I also updated my cutting lesson with this nice little set (I really like the little wooden box for the scraps and the nice rounded stainless scissors- they seem better proportioned to the child's hand and the children were much more successful with them than they are with Fiskars).
Cutting with scissors is a very difficult task for young children. In Montessori classrooms, they cut strips of paper with progressively more difficult patterns of lines (moving from straight vertical cuts toward wavy lines which require them to turn the paper as they cut).

Pasting Lesson/Collage Box

I have been putting some effort into updating my art area of the classroom. Although I have seen numerous examples of art shelves and art materials in the course of my training and previous employment, I wasn't quite satisfied with the quality of my materials- many of which were made of plastic (which I try to avoid using whenever possible) or not as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

One example was the pasting lesson/collage tray that I have been using. The paper bits were stored in a plastic bin that I had purchased at a hardware store (for lack of something nicer) and the paste was stored in tupperware containers with slits in the plastic lids, as I had seen in my training. Montessori schools generally make a point of having children apply paste with brushes or small spreaders (as opposed to glue sticks or glue bottles) because it serves as one more opportunity for the child to develop their fine motor skills/pincer grasp for handwriting.

So, when I discovered this beautiful birch alternative- with a nice little wooden brush and a nice little glass jar (with a lid that they can screw and unscrew), I had to have it. So far, the lesson has been a big hit in the classroom- it is generally one of the first lessons off the shelf in the morning (and when someone dropped it while carrying it back to the shelf, it became a very nice sorting lesson).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cloakroom Bench

With crisp Autumn mornings finally here, we (I) decided that the cloakroom was in need of a bench to assist the children in removing their warm clothing.
The children have adopted the practice of sitting on the little step into the kitchen to accomplish this task, and seem especially fond of using this low step (even when offered a chair). So, we (Josh) got to work making this adorable little bench for them- a mere 6 3/4" tall (to match the height of the step).
When you enter the cloakroom from outside, it really looks as if elves must live here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Open House!

You are cordially invited:

Please join us for Bloom! Montessori School's Autumn Open House!

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
11am- 1pm
701 James Street, Longmont CO
We are located at the intersection of James Street and Grande Ave, behind Valley Nissan- one block South of Ken Pratt Boulevard
No RSVP required!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Darling Gift from Urban Infants

When plastic water bottles die they hope to end up in the hands of Kelly Friedl...

As you may know, sleep is very important to the lives of young children (and to me personally). Being adequately rested improves their memory consolidation, capacity for abstraction, metabolism, and yes, their little outlooks as well.

I really loathe the childcare practice of having children nap on mats on the floor- it just doesn't seem very cozy to me. So when we opened the school, I made a point of purchasing nice little cots for each child (so the nap room more closely resembles the sleeping quarters in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs than a therm-a-rest convention) and instead of mismatched linens, we supply each new student with their own lovely little tot cot.

The tot cots that we purchase come from a lovely brother and sister owned company called Urban Infant which specializes in making environmentally friendly infant and toddler products. We absolutely love the them (Urban Infants also has really wonderful recycled mitten clips and some really cute baby shower gifts)! These cute and cozy little linen sets are very durable, machine washable, have a built in pillow and pocket, a place to label the linens with each child's name, and they roll up nicely like a yoga mat. They are also made out of recycled PET plastic water bottles! In fact, their tot cots are so amazing, that they have been sold out of them for almost a month!

Today, my shipment finally arrived (just in time for our new students!) and it contained a little gift for the children- this adorable wooden kitchen utensil set! I can't wait to break out a new vegan muffin recipe and start mixing! Incidentally, one young boy asked me today if we could make more of the vegan muffins we made out of the Veganomicon cookbook last week!
To learn more about Urban Infants, please visit their website at http://www.urbaninfant.com/. There is a short, optimistic video about plastic water bottles and landfill waste that makes me cry every time I watch it... you and I are raising the next generation.