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When looking at this series of photos that was taken in our Casa South classroom yesterday I was reminded of an article I read written by Trevor Eissler, the author of Montessori Madness!, A Parent to Parent Arguement for Montessori Education. The article was published in the April 2013 issue of the magazine Tomorrow’s Child. It is titled, Montessori, A Home. A School. Man, that to me is such a powerful statement for so many reasons. And this is how I feel each and every time I walk through our school. Trevor states that “[he remembers] setting foot in that Montessori classroom. [He] sat down on a chair - a very, very small chair - near the door. [He] had just stepped into someone’s living room. Or was it a science laboratory? Or maybe an office building? [He] couldn’t put [his] finger on exactly what was different at first, but [it] was unlike any classroom [he] had ever seen. If felt different. too. Peaceful. Purposeful.”
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Trevor is a father if 3 Montessori students, is a business jet pilot and flight instructor. Over the years he has taught hundreds of pilots. He is the author of 4 books, Montessori Madness!, 4,962,571, That 17th Hat, and N is for North Korea. He is also part of Montessori Madmen, “an impatient, ragtag group of dads and advocates from around the world, united by a common zeal to bring the Montessori method to millions more. Our mission is simple: to advocate for Montessori education so that one day it’s not called Montessori school; it’s just called school.” Check them out!

May 23, 2013. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

The Second Plane of Development shining through our Casa

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As we come back to school after the Winter Break and the children rejoice on the thrill of reuniting with friends, teachers and old and new materials in our beautiful environment, I sense that my two graduating students are showing signs of readiness for the next stage in their lives. Calla and Waverly are moving towards the Second Plane of Development (ages 6-12) as their skills and projects slowly show a mind that is attracted to imagination, exploration, planning, research and group work. They are slowly passing from a material, sensorial plane to a more abstract, intellectual one. We guided Calla towards making one of her creative ideas into a planned project that became quite a success.

After teaching her how to peel and slice a carrot, she proposed we could make a carrot salad. When I spontaneously asked her what we would need, she came out with some ingredients off her head (some of which she changed in her final recipe), immediately wrote them down, and that sparked the beginning of a solid project. To make it a reality, she had to sit down and seriously think about the ingredients and try to figure out costs of each item to come to a rough total. Prepared with a list and money, off we went to Loblaws to get all our materials. Calla and Waverly were in charge of the whole process: checking the list, pulling the shopping cart, picking the materials, emptying the cart and paying the cashier, preparing the salad in the classroom, cleaning-up, and then treating their friends with an “amazing salad”, Calla’s words to describe the yummy recipe that most of their peers ate and approved.

It is exciting to see these signs of growth and independence in Waverly and Calla, and also to see their peers’ admiration and glee. They become inspired by their creative ideas and skills to make them come true. Ginger told me that one day she will also be a graduate and she will prepare a dish for her classmates, lovely! Justin, Nate and Julius know they will be some of next year’s graduates, and a sense of fulfillment was evident in their excitement, as they came up with some ideas. The seed is planted, thanks to Calla and Waverly.

As I continue to support their journey towards this second stage in their lives, I still revel in the fact that they are with me a few more months and that together we will do exciting work. I will support their growth to let them go, but I intend to enjoy their company and ideas to the fullest. Off you go my little ones, but fortunately for me, not quite yet.

-Florencia

January 13, 2013. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

The Maud Street Garden Clean Up

It was a mild fall day today and a couple of the children and I took the opportunity to get into the Maud Street garden and start on the clean up.

The Maud Street garden was created out of an idea from Yonina, our Toddler teacher. She managed to corral a crew of parents on a weekend to help us build the garden in and outside of the Maud Street playground and organized a Bake Sale with the children to raise funds for plants and seeds.
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Being an avid gardener myself I understand what being immersed in nature can do for one person’s health and well being, the connection to the earth, the community and the greater sense of life as a process. Since opening we have been members of the Community Garden across Richmond Street. The children enjoy the walk to the garden, the opening of the shed with the School keys, the neighbours that they see in the garden and most of all, that feeling they get when taking care of the plants. Maria Montessori said that “The best means of invigorating the child is to immerse him in nature.” That “when the children put a seed into the ground… the children are inspired with a feeling for nature…” This feeling radiates from the children when gardening. They are calm but excited, careful and cautious, intrigued and amazed. The children helped plant the gardens, helped take care of them for the season and now are seeing their project to the end, by helping in the clean up.
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December 4, 2012. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

Another Surprise!

2 surprise baby showers within 1 month of each other is pretty exciting! The children at Westside have had the opportunity to see not 1 but 2 of their teachers go through pregnancy this year. It has been such a special and wonderful experience for us all. From the ext a special rubs and hugs the tummies get to the very inquisitive questions that we all have to answer, it has been wonderful experience. Last week the children and staff hosted a surprise shower for Liz. While Liz will be on maternity leave for the next year, she will be in the school on a regular basis with her babe on hip. We cannot wait!!!
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And all of us here cannot wait to see the final surprise, if Liz has a boy or a girl! Stay tuned!

July 3, 2012. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

Drumming with Rick Monaco

Each an every year that Rick comes to Westside to share his spectacular drumming talent with us we are just blown away. The children at Westside are some of the youngest he works with. And his drums are loud! Really loud! This year the excitement in the air started as soon as the children walked into the School. And it didn’t stop until long after Rick was gone.
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You can also find some more photos on our twitter feed - @insidewestside

April 19, 2012. Classroom life. No Comments.

Toddler Friends…

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November 17, 2011. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

French at Westside - Quel Avantage!

“Can I have some more fromage s’il vous plait?”
“Hey! That’s my travail.”
“How do you say antelope in Francais?”
“Do you want to do “Qu’est-ce que Lindsay porte” with me?”

Yes, bilingualism is alive and well here at Westside. This is the kind of “frenglish” that has become the norm for our Casa community. The children may think nothing of it, in fact that’s the idea, but we still cheer a little inside with every new word, and every appropriate response. We know what we are doing here is working.

At Westside we have set ourselves apart from other schools. French is not an “elective” or a “specialty class” or just a person in the class who says everything in French. It is part of our school’s culture. It is not uncommon to here two Anglophone staff speaking in French to each other, or a non French Speaking staff member tuning in and making sense of a French conversation with a child so that communication between all staff and children is seamless and consistent. Despite the fact that we have 1 official Francophone in the school, our daily operations depend almost equally as much on French as on English.

We also create our own materials. In true Montessori style we feed off the children and adapt the materials to their interests and needs. After the children have been shown the work they have access to it as they do any piece of work, which means they can take the responsibility for their own language learning. What better way to master a language than to teach and practice with their friends, all while having fun.
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For the children the benefits are exponential. As Erica Westly writes in an article for Scientific American Mind “In recent years, scientists have found that being raised bilingual facilitates in children certain aptitudes such as mental flexibility, abstract thinking and working memory which is associated with both reading and math skills…they found that the region of the inferior frontal cortex, which involves both language and abstract thinking, showed more activity in bilingual children.” How should bilingualism be integrated? Well according to her article “Researchers have found that the best way to become bilingual is to start young and practice everyday. ‘Being exposed to a multilingual environment is ideal.’ ” That’s good news for us!

What is great about our approach to second language learning is that it is not about reaching benchmarks in proficiency, it is about igniting a curiosity and promoting learning of all kinds. Every child has different aptitudes and develops different interests so whether or not they develop the interest to continue mastering French, they will have undoubtedly reaped the cognitive advantages, ability to adapt and an openness to other cultures. Quel avantage!

To read the full article “The Bilingual Advantage” go to:
http://tamia.ca/Blog/Entries/2011/8/11_The_Bilingual_Advantage.html
and click on the link to the original article.

-Nadia and Natasha

November 16, 2011. Classroom life. No Comments.

The Second Year of a New Classroom - Casa North

There were days last year when Casa North first opened where I felt like I was in Munchkin land. This feeling would only grow when I was told, “Melanie, you’re bigger than a cow AND an elephant.” Picture it, one adult, with 8 children all 3 years and under. I won’t deny that there were some challenges. There were also many amazing moments. Those children who had begun their time at Westside in Yonina’s class astounded me with their abilities to dress themselves, select their own work and return it when finished (although in the fall months I had to play the game of hunt the activities on a daily basis, since they were not necessarily returned to the correct spot). Those children who were new to Montessori seemed to catch onto the daily routine and classroom expectations quickly. We became a little like a family, especially over lunches (which in the beginning were usually silent, as the children couldn’t do two things at a time, such as eat and carry on a conversation).

Over the year as more children joined the class and the social and communication skills that we worked on daily began to take root, lunches became more dynamic, we shared stories about our daily lives and got to know one another better. During our Montessori work cycle there were even the occasional moments of silence, a sure sign to a Montessori teacher that good work and complete focus is going on.
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Still, by the end of the year I wondered how solid was the foundation I had been laying all year long?

I got my answer this September, as the Casa North crew filtered in on the first day of school. Like old friends they chatted with one another, catching up on what each one had been doing for the summer, and then, what to my wondering eyes did they do? They each strolled over to the shelves and without hesitation they each selected an activity.
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It was almost as though they couldn’t wait to get back to work! That was the moment I knew I had laid a good, solid foundation. It has been so incredible to see the older children assisting the younger ones with zippers and snaps, observing the growing peer interdependence, as they come to recognize each other’s strengths and skills.
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Another amazing milestone has been seeing Casa North students lead Westside to our Friday’s at the park, something which would have been impossible a year ago (I have even noticed a few of the older Casa South students react in surprise when they notice who is in the lead). Our little family has grown to include 14 children along with Natasha who brings sunny smiles as well as French into our little family environment. I no longer feel like a visitor in Munckinland, in fact there are many moments when my presence does not seem to be felt by the class at all. I am truly a Guide to these children on their journey through life, accessible when needed. Exactly where I want to be!

- Melanie

November 3, 2011. Classroom life. No Comments.

The first week of school!

Here they are, snapshots from the first week! What a great start to the school year.
Look for more next week.
Cheers!
Jody

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September 9, 2011. Classroom life. No Comments.

Gardening at Westside!

The children at Westside love to green the school and the earth!
Mike and a group of children went out yesterday afternoon to do some planting. It has been a week since we have been taking care of our new sod out front and thanks to Mother Nature’s help it looks fantastic!
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I always find it so amazing to work with the children in the garden. They are so keen to learn the names of the plants, learn how to take care of them and always tidy up after we are finished. They take such pride in what they are nurturing.
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By the time we were finished, we had planted hostas out front, virginia creeper along the wall, thyme, speedwell and ivy in the planters.

June 1, 2011. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

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