Friday, May 28, 2010

End of Year BBQ- Saturday, May 29th 4-7pm

We wanted to remind everyone that the End of Year BBQ is tomorrow (May 29th) from 4pm-7pm! We will supply beverages, chips, condiments, and the protein/ "faux-tein." Feel free to bring a side dish to share if you feel so inclined (but you don't have to!).

We wanted to thank everyone for a successful year and for helping us to create such a thriving Montessori community in Longmont! Thank you for all that you do!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Parent Teacher Conferences: Thursday, May 27- Friday, May 28

We wanted to remind everyone that Bloom! Montessori will be closed Thursday, May 27th and Friday, May 28th for parent teacher conferences (you will need to make alternate child care arrangements during your conference time).

At your conference, you will receive:
- Your child's portfolio of work (since the vast majority of Montessori lessons do not have paper products, most of this will consist of photographs of your child engaged in lessons which the guide feels are "keys" to your child's progress. Each picture has a brief explanation of the lesson and references the appropriate pages in A Parents Guide to the Montessori Classroom)
-A complementary copy of the book, A Parent's Guide to the Montessori Classroom (this is given to you at your first conference to be used as a reference throughout your child's time at Bloom!)
- A CD containing any additional photos
- A written End of Year Report prepared by your child's guide
-A complementary copy of the 2009-2010 Group Photo

If you are unable to attend conferences, these materials will be placed in your child's cubby on their last day of school. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Taxonomy and the Animal Kingdom: Arthropods- Part Five

"The new woman, like the butterfly come forth from the chrysalis, shall be liberated from all those attributes which once made her desirable to man only as the source of material blessings of existence. She shall be, like man, an individual, a free human being, a social worker...She shall wish to be loved for herself and not as a giver of comfort and repose. She shall wish a love free from every form of servile labor. The goal of human love is not the egotistical end of ensuring its own satisfaction- it is the sublime goal of multiplying the forces of the free spirit, making it almost Divine, and, within such beauty and light, perpetuating the species."
-Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method

This afternoon, the children convened in the yard to release the Painted Lady Butterflies they reared from microscopic butterfly eggs into beautiful adults. Although they were visibly stirred by the sunlight and fresh air, the butterflies choose to cooperate with our plan of allowing each child to carefully remove one from the cage and hold it on their palm for a few seconds before watching it flutter away into the warm spring breeze.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Inspired Practical Life Materials: Hammering Nails into a Tree Stump

"No man learns self-discipline through hearing another man speak. The phenomenon of discipline needs as a preparation a series of complete actions, such as are presupposed in the genuine application of a really educative method. Discipline is reached always by indirect means. The end is obtained, not by attacking the mistake and fighting it, but by developing activity in spontaneous work...This work cannot be arbitrarily offered, and it is precisely here that our method enters; it must be work which the human being instinctively desires to do, work towards which the latent tendencies of life naturally turn, or towards which the individual step by step ascends...The child disciplined in this way, is no longer the child he was at first, who knows how to be good passively; but he is an individual who has made himself better, who has overcome the usual limits of his age, who has made a great step forward, who has conquered his future in his present."

-Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method

In the Montessori environment, the primary purpose of all Practical Life activities is to assist the child in acquiring self-discipline (order, concentration, coordination, and independence). For Montessori, discipline is not to be confused with passive immobility ("Be quiet!" "Be still!"), but refers to purposeful work. By directing the child's actions to a purposeful end, their behavior no longer has the appearance of disorder, but of meaningful work. Although there are innumerable examples of Practical Life activities (limited only by the imagination of the child's guide) with differing aims, my belief is that the most effective ones for helping children acquire self-discipline are those that permit them to imitate adult activity in a purposeful way, to care for themselves (and be more independent), or to contribute positively to their community by caring for the classroom environment.

Like all Montessori guides, I am always on the lookout for new Practical Life activities, but I try to be really discriminating- personally, I have a definite aversion to plastic materials and I definitely prefer "classic" Care of the Self or Care of the Environment activities to endless variations of hand transfers. So, you can imagine my excitement when the newest Montessori Services catalogue arrived with this on the cover:

I love woodworking (my first birthday present from my husband was a drill!) and I have long suspected that children would too! Unfortunately, I have never been in a classroom that was equipped with a woodworking bench (hint, Josh!). I have seen lots of guides try to do hammering activities in their classrooms without a bench and a vise, but to be honest, I was never particularly pleased with the way the activity turned out. For most young children, holding the nail and hammering without hitting their finger is quite a challenge, and expecting them to coordinate this with holding/bracing the board at the same time just seemed like too much to me (I don't think it isolates the difficulty enough to set them up to be successful). As a result, up to now, my biggest foray into hammering was allowing the children to hammer golf tees into clay.

But, hammering nails into a tree stump... that is truly inspired! The stump is beautiful, pleasant smelling, makes a nice sound when struck, and very stable- allowing the child to concentrate all of their efforts on hitting the nail. In short, it is the perfect first hammering activity! Pounding nails is a very pleasant, centering, soothing past time, and sure enough, children seem to adore it!

The lovely oak stump that the children are using was donated by Fred Bustamante Wood Products. When we offered to pay, he gave us a kind, unassuming shrug and said "It's for the kids." Indeed! Thank you for your kindness!

Taxonomy and the Animal Kingdom: Arthropods- Part Four

"Now let us imagine a man appointed to a chair of science in some university, with the task before him of doing further original work with the hymenoptera. Let us suppose that, arrived at his post, he is shown a glass covered case containing a number of beautiful butterflies, mounted by means of pins, their outspread wings motionless. The student will say that this is some child's play, not material for scientific study, that these specimens in the box are more fitly a part of the game which the little boys play, chasing butterflies and catching them in a net. With such material as this the experimental scientist can do nothing.

The situation would be very much the same if we should place a teacher who, according to our conception of the term, is scientifically prepared, in one of the traditional public schools where the children are repressed in the spontaneous expression of their personality until they are almost like dead beings. In such a school the children, like butterflies mounted on pins, are fastened each to his place, the desk, spreading the useless wings of barren and meaningless knowledge which they have acquired."

-Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method

Over the weekend, the first of the Painted Lady Butterflies that the class raised from butterfly eggs emerged from its chrysalis. The children stood spellbound over the course of the day as the remaining five climbed out of their papery cases, their wrinkled wings still damp with meconium, unfurled their proboscis, and sat silently in the sunlight.

After the butterflies had a rest, the children sat quietly and peacefully (so as not to frighten them) and allowed the delicate insects to crawl across the palms of their hands.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mud and Puddles

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful."
-E.E. Cummings, In Just-

After two days of frost, drizzle, and even a light dusting of snow, the storm finally cleared enough for us to don our Wellies and resume our Spring planting.
Needless to say, there was a lot of important work to be done: puddles to jump in,

mud to muck in, damp garden beds to explore with friends (populated with an abundant supply of wriggling worms, frenzied birds, the first radish sprouts, and wild mushrooms poking up between the garlic bulbs),

and one of my favorite language lessons: writing the garden. In Montessori classrooms, children repeatedly trace sandpaper letters to learn the correct formation of letters. As a result, once they acquire the finger strength and fine motor coordination necessary for handwriting, they usually explode into the "spontaneous" ability to write letters, numbers, and words. This is very exciting for the child! Upon discovering that they can write, most children desperately want to write everything (names of their friends, the menu from lunch, letters to their parents, etc). This morning, one boy appointed himself the task of making his own signs for the garden and walking outside to stake them in their correct spots in the raised beds. I must say, they turned out quite nicely.
Later, we went out as a group and planted four kinds of heirloom beans- some pretty stringless ones in assorted colors for eating (Red Swan, Climbing French, and Golden Crescent) and some for shelling (Slow Foods Arc of Taste Hidasta)- some peas (Dwarf Gray Sugar and Green Arrow for shelling), and some broccoli raab/rapini (pungent, Italian "broccoli"- actually a relative of the turnip).

We concluded our planting with a little tasting of some broccoli, sugar snap peas, and haricot vert that was very well received.

My sincerest thanks and gratitude to Anna Applebaum at Mapleton Montessori (Boulder, CO) for the "Writing the Garden" work. I never think of Summer in your classroom without envisioning children hand writing lists of vegetables they want to plant in the garden and their darling handwritten garden signs.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eat Your Beets

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious. The beet is a melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip! The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the Autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized. The beet was Rasputin's favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes."

-Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

It seemed like perfect beet planting weather-uncharacteristically cool for May, with intermittent drizzle and dark skies ominously threatening a late Spring snowstorm. I had planned to take the children out after the morning work period to do a little beet planting (two varieties of beets- traditional Italian Chioggia and the small, carrot-esque, Danish Cylindria variety) followed by tasting a beet dish-in this case, a Cold Beet, Blood Orange, and Chevre Salad.
The children seemed enthused enough about doing the Practical Life food preparation tasks that I had set out during the morning work period (juicing oranges for the vinaigrette and whisking together the emulsion), but, to be honest, my confidence began to wane when I showed the children a whole beet and not one knew the name of this strange looking vegetable.
For a split second it occurred to me: perhaps children do not like beets.

Nevertheless, we went out to the garden and sowed several rows of seeds,

returned to the classroom to finish our preparations by carefully slicing some freshly roasted beets, and went to enjoy our snack on the patio picnic table.

The verdict: well, I will allow the clean plates and crimson lips to speak for themselves!

Cold Beet & Blood Orange Salad
3 large beets, roasted
2T Raspberry Vinegar
1 Large Blood Orange
3T Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
black pepper
1/4 log of chevre, crumbled
Quarter beets, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a 400 degree oven until tender (about 30 minutes). Allow to cool, then cut into bite sized pieces.
Cut orange in half. Supreme half the orange and set aside. Combine vinegar, salt, pepper, and juice and zest of the other half of the orange. Slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing emulsifies.
Combine beets, chevre, orange supremes, and dressing. Chill.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Planting Root Vegetables in the Children's Garden

"While it is necessary to give good food to the child, it still must be an educative action."
-Maria Montessori

In the Montessori community, food is used as a vehicle for education. Because fast food is so readily available in our society, less time is spent in the cultivation and preparation of food. Many children have no idea of the raw state of food (in particular, there are few children under the age of four who get to see food in its raw state).
We have a responsibility to assist young children in developing attitudes and habits about food that will contribute to their lifelong health; additionally, we need to assist children in coming to know and master their reality by working on it. In the context of food, this entails allowing the child to see how food is cultivated, viewing food in its raw state (seeing a whole watermelon, not cut up bits of fruit), participating in food preparation activities, and setting a table, serving food, and clearing a table independently (not coming to a table which is set and cleared by an adult). Like all Practical Life activities, food cultivation also aids the young child in developing coordinated, refined movement (hoeing, raking, digging, balancing a wheelbarrow, etc).
In furtherance of these goals, the children have begun planting and maintaining an organic, heirloom, vegetable garden at the school.
This week, the children began planting vegetables that can tolerate a light frost and cooler temperatures, beginning with root vegetables. We planted three varieties of heirloom carrots (Scarlet Nantes, Parisian Market, and beautiful purple-red Dragon carrots)and two varieties of heirloom radishes (Early Scarlet Globe and French Breakfast).
They turned over the soil one last time,

smoothed it out with the rakes,

meticulously sowed rows of carrots and radishes,
and exuberantly watered the garden beds.

In order to achieve a better understanding of what they were planting, the children also conducted a radish tasting and a carrot tasting, in which they were given vegetables in their "raw" state (with stems and leaves attached). In the classroom, the children have been learning about the functions and names of different parts of plants; as a result, they were particularly excited to learn that when they eat carrots and radishes, they are eating the roots of the plants.

During the tastings, the children were encouraged to make judgments about the foods they were tasting and use descriptive language to communicate their thoughts, helping them to develop a more sophisticated palate and a rich vocabulary.

Radishes and carrots are a wonderful choice for a children's garden because of their relatively quick germinating time. With a little luck they can be plucked from their beds and land on our table in no time!

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

School Pictures are Available!

2009-2010 School Photos are Available for Purchase!
The results of school picture day are in... and they are absolutely darling! They even surpassed my expectations... great expressions, beautiful colors, and professional composition.
Parents will receive a complimentary group photo. Additional group photos and individual portraits are available from Studio Q Photography. Parents have been emailed a link to a special website administered by Studio Q, from which you may order prints.
If you have any questions about the packages or ordering procedure, please contact Studio Q Photography at:
Mark Quentin
Studio Q Photography, LLC
Boulder, CO
Our sincere thanks to Mark Quentin for all of his hard work taking the photos and setting up the website; thank you for sharing your considerable talents with our little school.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Our First Farm to School Meal: Roasted Lemon and Garlic Scallion Herbed Pesto

As part of our membership in Slow Foods USA Farm to School Program, we partner with The Family Table Farm, a local farm owned by Mike and Lisel Record, to purchase naturally grown (without the use of pesticides), local produce. When the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares are delivered to the school, the children cook with the freshly harvested produce and eat their freshly prepared dish, sharing the fruits of their labor around a communal table. As the children cook and eat their way through the year, their understanding of local and seasonal produce grows.

Today marked our first CSA meal. It was particularly exciting to begin our program with garlic scallions, as they feature a common local ingredient that is nevertheless nearly impossible to find in commercial supermarkets, and because much of the preparation consists of tasks that the children can accomplish safely and independently. During the independent work period, the children had the option of performing Practical Life tasks that consisted of preparing the ingredients for the pesto.
Some of them chose to crack walnuts, carefully slice garlic scallions with child-sized cleavers (a variation on the traditional Montessori children's house "Cutting Carrots" lesson), or grind fragrant herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, and star anise) with a mortar and pestle.

The children enjoyed their fragrant dish as part of a Spring harvest lunch picnic in the company of their friends. Turns out, there were more than a few fans of the delicate lemon garlic flavor of the pesto. Several of the children happily helped themselves to seconds! Hopefully, it is the first of many great meals to come!