Take Your Parent to School – RSVP Links

Take Your Parent to School!
Tuesday, February 5, 2019 and Thursday, February 7, 2019

Let your child give YOU a lesson! We hope you will enjoy this unique opportunity to spend time with your child in the classroom.

Please RSVP for the event you wish to attend:

Children’s House

Ms. Marketa
Tuesday, 2/5/19 at 3:00pm:  https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20F044BA8AB2BABF85-take1
Thursday, 2/7/19 at 3:00pm: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20F044BA8AB2BABF85-take2

Sr. Jamie
Tuesday, 2/5/19 at 3:00pm: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20F044BA8AB2BABF85-take3
Thursday, 2/7/19 at 3:00pm: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f044ba8ab2babf85-take4

Ms. Shannon

Ms. Lydia

Ms. Emily

 

Elementary

Mr. JR

Sra. Sarah

 

Mr. Brad
The Art of Concentration

The Art of Concentration

The ability to concentrate and focus is at the core of satisfying and successful experiences in many aspects of life. As adults we need to attend to what we’re doing, whether it be the details of a graph we’re explaining at a meeting, the particulars of a recipe, or the art of active listening to the people we engage with every day. This ability has many new challenges in times we live in. Children must be equipped with the ability to concentrate and Montessori education does so much to address this need.

While concentration at the Children’s House level often looks like a student sitting alone with her work, engrossed in the task at hand, successful concentration looks a little different for the Elementary and Adolescent Community student. The Elementary child must learn to work collaboratively with others. This partner and group work means the child will be engrossed in their work, stop to talk to a friend for a few minutes, and then continue working. The ability to be interrupted and return to focused work is an incredible asset as an adult and the Montessori student practices this skill throughout the work cycle as he or she interacts with classmates during work and participates in lessons.

Similar to the Elementary student, the Adolescent Community student often works on projects in groups. Concentration for Elementary and Adolescent Community students means fully engaging in the projects and work. This is done when enough choice is given so that students can take ownership and invest in their work. In contrast, when everyone is given the same thing to do, some students will inevitably be more invested than others. However, students who are invited to choose within a particular assignment or project, tend to focus more because they are more engaged. Students are also focused when the work is challenging, but not so challenging that they give up.

The ability to focus on the present moment and attend to one’s work is challenging given the busy lives children lead, as well as the distraction of so many pinging and buzzing devices. At Greenspring, we support the students’ ability to concentrate with frequent opportunities for self-reflection that are built into the day. In Lower and Upper Elementary as well as Adolescent Community, students reflect on best practices after each work period, and often write in their work log about the work cycle. The process of reflection offers many insights into the child’s experience. Studies show that regular mindfulness-focused activities support concentration. 

Home Challenge:

Challenge yourself to stand back and observe your child the next time he or she is focused on a project. This could be as simple as tying a shoe or as complex as building a Lego invention. See how long they are able to work independently to overcome the challenge and resist the overwhelming urge to swoop in and help. Be mindful of how often you are drawn to ask questions, fix the perceived problem, or otherwise distract from this process. A child’s ability to concentrate is a beautiful thing to observe!

We are Community

We are Community

In a tight-knit group of 10 to 15 adolescents, it is imperative to create a meaningful community in order for the success of each individual. The sense of community is one of the most important aspects of our Adolescent Community – it’s even in the name!

When you think back to your middle school experience, do you remember being connected? Do you remember being able to have difficult conversations with your peers? Do you remember always being treated with respect, even when others disagreed with your viewpoints? We work so hard to make sure that all of this and more becomes part of the new middle school experience.

Why are we working so hard to build community?

Building community early in the year helps to renew bonds from last year and helps to create new ones. Obtaining mutual respect and a spirit of collaboration creates a welcoming environment for new as well as returning students.

When community exists, each child feels valued. A sense of shared purpose unites and working together to accomplish goals is the priority. Our goals are BIG and require the effort of all of our members. Rather than differences providing separation, they are valued as individual strengths as we that make us stronger and better.

One of the most interesting concepts in our classroom is self-discipline and freedom. A strong sense of community is one of the most effective ways to manage individual freedom. The good of the community balanced against individual desires provides tough daily challenges that assist in developing the necessary discipline to manage the freedom offered in the environment. These skills translate into real life and prepare us to take our role as community citizens seriously.

How do we build community?

We play games and have fun together. We share lunch and work with each other, mixing our groups with an emphasis on getting to know new friends. We interview and find out more about each other by sharing experiences, stories, traditions, and even the accomplishments we are proud to have achieved. We make time to appreciate each other and learn how to recognize others as well as ourselves.  

In our community, we learn to problem solve, developing the skills necessary to take care of ourselves as well as others. Pride results as solutions and resolutions are found. Resolutions result and all occurring with direction or intervention of the adult, only when necessary. The students have created a list of rights and responsibilities that empowers, as well and guides, acceptable behavior in our environment. All of our students contribute to creating, as well as enforcing, our shared vision of community.

 

Grace and Courtesy work also serves a role in learning how to act in a community. The older children offer lessons on greeting peers each morning with a firm handshake and making eye contact, greeting visitors with a cup of tea, preparing snack and serving one another, assisting each other by modeling how to ask for help and how to even say no and offer feedback positively and respectfully.

Additionally, we each have jobs in the classroom, contributing and demonstrating responsibility for the environment. Daily class meetings establish our shared goals for the day and create the forum for discussion when conflicts arise. The students run the gatherings so all classroom concerns are heard and addressed through student-led discussions and strategies are modeled strategies for teaching peaceful resolution.

Community Service

The natural extension of building community within our classrooms is to reach outward. We start within our own campus. Answering the request for help from guides, staff members, or students alike is a highlight of our week. Participating in the work of the WHOLE community makes us feel proud. We experience on a small scale that we can create change. We can act individually or as a group – we DO make a difference!  As the students mature within the Upper Elementary and Adolescent Community, opportunities to serve the occur outside the confines of the school. Engaging in the “real world”, the older students are ready to truly actively participate as independent and conscientious citizens, becoming a part of programs and issues far greater than themselves.

Community and service to our community are tenants of our Montessori education and values that will resonate throughout our lives. The rippling effects of a Montessori education can be felt in high school, college, and beyond. 

We are proud to be Community!

 

Experiencing Adolescence Again

Experiencing Adolescence Again

I always loved school (and still do, working in one!) although my enthusiasm dipped in late middle school. It wasn’t just the tricky social navigation that everyone goes through during adolescence: I was usually either bored because the work felt meaningless, or stressed about studying for finals and standardized tests. I cared excessively about my grades and was trained to study to the test and complete assignments the way my teachers wanted them. In my free time, I wrote song lyrics, poems, stories—it was after school, after homework, when I was finally able to work on what I wanted.

Needless to say, I did not attend a Montessori school. I know I would have thrived in the kind of environment that Greenspring offers. All of the extra time I devoted to keep my learning interesting and purposeful could have been my day-to-day at school! I didn’t receive the freedom and responsibility of choice—something that Montessori children are introduced to as toddlers—until I was in graduate school.

So I was thrilled to participate in Adolescent for a Morning this fall, led by Greenspring’s Adolescent guides Ms. Christina and Mr. Elliot. When the morning began, the participating parents and staff were invited to sit in a circle and become adolescents again. Our guides told us that occasionally we would “time-out” from the experience so they could explain the purpose of a certain exercise, but for the most part we’d remain adolescents.

Mr. Elliot asked us to free-write in our journals about our goals for the day, and I thought about what my life was like when I was twelve. All that stress and sadness associated with the competitive race in school. I wanted to give myself a gift, what I never allowed myself when I was actually an adolescent: to be present in the moment, focused on learning for me and not for any external validation. I put everything else aside and dove into this Adolescent Community.

All of us did. There is no hiding in the Adolescent Community. The morning’s community—just like Greenspring’s actual Adolescent program—was small and inclusive. Everyone’s contribution mattered.

We sat in a semi-circle for Math Seminar, and everyone took out the word problems we’d had for homework. Ms. Christina and Mr. Elliot sat in the back, listening. After one parent chose a problem and wrote their process out on the board, the rest of us had some questions for him. Another parent wanted to share and drew a diagram of her method. A third procedure was put up on the board. More questions were asked. I began to visualize different possibilities.

Later that night I asked my boyfriend, who was a math major in college, whether he had ever experienced something like our Adolescent Community’s math seminar. “A little bit, in a couple of my advanced classes,” he told me. “Except the professor would give us the answer at the end of our discussions.”

Ms. Christina didn’t. When a couple of our solutions differed by a few decimal values, one parent asked if we could “time-out,” be parents again, and get the answer. Ms. Christina said, “I wouldn’t impede your learning in that way.”

That sentiment describes how our guides worked with us throughout the morning. They presented us with materials, then got out of the way. We experienced everything for ourselves. We went outside and set our chairs out together, passed around a bowl of tangerines, and used all of our senses to slowly peel them open and taste them, exposing us to mindfulness. We discussed a short story during a literary seminar, building analyses together in the open and focused way I studied literature in college and grad school. Everything we did was connected to something else, part of a larger context. After breaking into two groups and collaborating on an engineering activity, we not only reflected on the scientific significance of our projects but on the interpersonal one, even delving into the link between competitiveness and what it means to be human.

During our math lesson, when we gathered around Ms. Christina on the rug while she presented the Binomial and Trinomial cubes, someone posed that inevitable question asked in middle school math classes everywhere: “When am I ever going to use this?” So, we talked about it: why should we care?

Many ideas went around: learning to work collaboratively, solve difficult problems, and build confidence are all outcomes of math lessons. Ms. Christina said she wasn’t just teaching math; she was teaching life. By overcoming challenges in math class, students learn to transfer those same steps to challenges in their everyday lives.

All of this is true, of course, but I thought there had to be more. It couldn’t be that we learned math only because it taught us we could do hard things. Mathematics, in its purest form, is a way of understanding and expressing what’s around us, like music and art. What is the point of reading and discussing literature? It shows us one way humans articulate and connect with the world through language. When I held the pieces of the binomial and trinomial cubes, I thought of math like I think of poetry. Its purpose is making order out of chaos, making sense of the intangible. If we can begin to understand how the world works in a quantitative sense, we can come closer to those unanswerable questions about our place in the world.

During that math lesson, we began by seeing and feeling the representations of the Binomial Cube. This exploration led us to develop the binomial equation—the mathematical abstraction of the Montessori material. I recognized the equation: (a + b)2 = a2 + 2ab + b2. I remember memorizing it for a state exam in eighth grade. I had never understood what it meant, where it came from, what it was trying to explain. In this math lesson, we built the equation ourselves using the materials, as if we were the mathematicians discovering it for the first time.

These are important concepts in Montessori education: learning hand to brain, concrete to abstract. In a meta-moment sense, Adolescent for a Morning applies these concepts to our education about Greenspring’s Adolescent Community. Participating in the curriculum is more meaningful than hearing about pedagogy. As we know from Dr. Montessori, we learn hands-on. Simply talking about Montessori education seems inadequate. You have to experience it for yourself to truly understand what it can offer.

I left Adolescent for a Morning invigorated, wishing I could be a student again. And I felt grateful to get some of my adolescence back—at least a tiny slice of it—and see how it could have been different. The adolescents at Greenspring are lucky to have theirs still ahead, full and complete, waiting to be tasted piece by piece like the tangerine sections we held on our tongues.

Adolescents Learn Team Building on Week-long Retreat

Adolescents Learn Team Building on Week-long Retreat

Every year, our Adolescent students go on two week-long trips accompanied by Adolescent Guides, Christina Heffner and Elliot Dickson. In the fall, they participate in a team-building retreat and in the spring they go on an end-of-year odyssey.

Students recently spent a week camping, climbing, fishing, sailing, cooking, and more at Echo Hill Outdoor School near the Chesapeake Bay. This trip offered new and returning students an opportunity to connect with one another in a deeper way than they might in a classroom. Everyone learned to depend on one another and live in close quarters without devices (can you imagine!).

The Adolescents learned to sail on a skipjack, raising the mainsail, learning the lingo, and enjoying the breeze on the Chester River. They learned the local history of bay communities, the environmental challenges fishermen are now facing, along with so much more.

Outdoor learning is an important element of Montessori education and a major focus at Greenspring Montessori School. The Adolescents’ retreat is a key part of the upcoming year-long study of the natural environment. In alignment with this, our students will be focusing a portion of their time at school to agriculture and ecology. They go for regular hikes in the local forests, conduct field experiments, and learn from naturalists in the area. On campus, they are working to build vegetable gardens and start a community agriculture program.

If you are interested in a Montessori education for your child, learn more about our Adolescent Community today.