Classroom Updates


The Outdoor Classroom - An Education in Nature

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Monday, 21 October 2013
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The Outdoor Classroom is a program that has been with the school for over seven years, and was conceived and developed by Ms. Donda Hartfield.  This program is unique to our school, and gives our students a way to connect to their natural environment in a meaningful and expressive way.  Spanning around the North- East corner of the school, our Outdoor Classroom is a beautiful natural trail, with gorgeous wildflowers, Utah-native plants, trees and geological treasures.  The school also hosts a natural amphitheater, where Ms. Donda gives lessons and instructions before the children are free to explore on their own.

Through activities, lessons and especially time set aside to spend within the natural environment, our children learn about their world and it's beauty.  They come to understand the fragility of a plant, the necessity of a flower, the purpose of a bee.  Miss Donda has enjoyed many years of her students' discoveries, and she shares with us her teaching experience:

"When a student makes references such as, 'The leaves of the California poppy look like reindeer antlers' or, 'I found a see-through plant' I can celebrate that these students are taking time to observe their natural environment closely and therefore, they are learning about natural nuances and details that make our world uniquely beautiful and effective." She continues by saying: "When a student shows deep concern for a tree that has string tied to its branches for bird-feeder ornaments because 'It might be pulling down on the branches,' I know I can trust that she is learning to care for her environment."  "It is through these kinds of observations that I can smile and know that these students are appreciating and relating with their surroundings in a memorable way."

 

It was a great pleasure to attend the first Early Childhood lesson on "Land."  Miss Donda said to the children: "Look under your feet- you will see the land."  "I am standing on the land, you are standing on the land."  Her lesson reflected the great importance of the land.  The children were able to dig holes in the soil together, but were asked to then fill the hole back up.  There lies a genuine metaphor here: if you use the land, you must return it.  The children might not know at such a young age what they are cultivating by their participation, but they are becoming considerate and thoughtful citizens of our remarkable planet Earth.  Just as the Montessori Classroom places great trust in the hands-on learning process, so does the Outdoor Classroom program at MCS.  The children learn through what they are able to see, touch and smell, and through the rare feeling of human freedom that one gets from living presently in nature.

Miss Donda tells us:  "There is so much to be gained from simply engaging in our natural environment.  And by engaging, I don’t mean necessarily hiking up to the summit of a mountain.  Engaging is truly listening and looking at the landscape, the rivers, the trees and plants, the sounds of the birds and the passing of the clouds.  Engaging is attending to our own naturalness through the breeze and the movement of the leaves, as well as the rise and fall of your own breathing and the subtle, yet profound connection between the two.

Written by: Kellie Gibson, September 12, 2013

Upper Elementary - Introducing: "Uinta"

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Monday, 21 October 2013
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The Upper Elementary program is an essential piece of the complete Montessori education design. During the Early Childhood years and Lower Elementary years, students are learning through their hands-on materials and environmental experience, but as they approach the second developmental stage, they enter a more abstract process of cognitive learning and memory.  Upper Elementary is the next step; it is a program which serves the child in his reach for a more complex intelligence.  The UE program incorporates many areas of interest, including advanced literacy, cultural and historical studies, mathematical applications, core sciences, service, and applied life skills.  The program invests in the child with regard to individual study habits, identifying personal strengths, developing and following core values and creating a sense of true community within school boundaries and beyond.

Language is a principal focus of the Upper Elementary program.  The students learn through prepared lessons on vocabulary, grammar and word study; and are able to practice with Montessori prepared materials such as the Parsing Symbols, Sentence Analysis Charts and Synonym Matching cards.  Students learn through their engagement in independent reading, journal and report writing and prepared oral speech. Group reading and literary analysis on written style, genre and technique provide students the opportunity to develop their own spoken language through impassioned discussion and group collaboration.  Practiced writing skills are put to use each year as students select and promote campaigns for school improvement; this process allows for students to exercise responsibility and social awareness within their own environment.


The science curriculum for Upper Elementary has been tremendously influenced by weekly excursions hosted by the "Great Outdoors" program.  As a core resource to our students, the programs allows students to study through field trip experiences to local ecosystems on hikes, day trips and expeditions.  This program combines classroom and field studies through observation of local biomes and water systems, and participates in environmentally conscious service projects throughout the year.  As Miss Amy tells us, the UE students have recently been studying the hydrosphere, which has included experiments that investigate the water cycle (making clouds and watching plants transpire), water as a resource (making our own mini-well and water wheels), and learning about water's physical and chemical properties (performing pH tests and learning about density).  In the Great Outdoors program, they have kicked off the year studying watersheds by exploring the high places and learning about headwaters, what defines a watershed, and learning how to map out an area.  Together, they have explored many beautiful places in rain, sun and hail, such as Bloods Lake (Guardsman Pass), Provo River Falls (Uinta Mountains), and Silver Lake (Big Cottonwood Canyon).

With a class culture geared toward service, the students participate in many programs that enhance the spirit of their home community.  In light of a school-wide study on watersheds, the "GO" program recently adopted a segment of the Jordan River, which students help maintain and keep healthy in their bi-annual visits.  Upper Elementary students are also responsible for the school's recycling campaign, for which they collect, manage and deposit all recyclable materials on a daily basis.  UE students also participate in the school's fundraising efforts and events to support our COEEF (Children of Ethiopia Education Fund) stewardship, and our Navajo Grandmothers within our Adopt A Native Elder program.

The Upper Elementary students have been collaborating for the last few weeks, and are proud to be the titleholders of a new class name. Through a collective process and much deliberation, they have selected ‘Uinta’ to be representative of their class study and culture.  Unique to Utah, The Uinta mountain range is the tallest in Utah, with Kings Peak being the highest point of our state.  Our Upper Elementary students are well paired for such a title, as they hold themselves to a high standard in academics; but also in personal integrity, responsibility and proactive service.  The Uinta class is diligent, with collaboration and dedication being key concepts in the success of the overall class.  We are looking forward to another year of excellence in Upper Elementary.\

Written by:  Kellie Gibson, September 20, 2013

What's Happening In P.E.

Posted by Britney Peterson
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on Tuesday, 19 February 2013
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By: Aliza Jensen, MCS P.E. Teacher

Lower Elementary P.E.

In Lower Elementary P.E., students learn a variety of motor and coordination skills by participating in a variety of sports, games, and movement activities. Students also gain valuable lessons about teamwork and cooperation by playing with others in a team-building atmosphere.

A typical class begins with warm ups. Each child has the opportunity to choose a physical motion that can be performed while moving across the length of the gym or field. Skipping, leaping, and racecar driving are popular choices. The class then does the warm up across the gym or field together. The children really enjoy coming up with new and innovative ways to move their bodies! After warm ups, the children play a game.  Frequently children have the opportunity to choose a game and teach the rules to the class. Children learn how to play games such as soccer, capture the flag, and variations of tag.

 

Upper Elementary P.E.

In Upper Elementary P.E. students refine their coordination and motor skills by participating in a variety of sports, games, and exercise activities. Students also explore healthy living by learning about eating healthy, staying hydrated, and staying active.

Each day in P.E., one student is the P.E. coordinator. The P.E. coordinator is in charge of various tasks such as leading the group in warming up and stretching. The P.E. coordinator also chooses a game for the group to play that day. This role allows students to gain leadership skills and gives them an opportunity to guide their own unique experience.

Students play a variety of sports and games in P.E. such as soccer, basketball, kickball and various creative tag games. Students also have the opportunity to research obscure sports such as bobsledding, ice climbing, and surfing and present their research to the class. In upper elementary P.E., children gain life long lessons about sportsmanship and learn the enjoyment and benefits of an active lifestyle.


An update from our Dance teacher, Katie Meehan

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Tuesday, 11 December 2012
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Enjoy this update from our Dance teacher, Katie Meehan, about what is happening is the Dance Classes this month.
Early Childhood- We looked to the Nutcracker for movement inspiration. Observing different characters (The Nutcracker prince, the sugar plum faires, flowers and snow flakes). We listened to the dynamic soundtrack of The Nutcracker as we moved like these various characters. Taped pathways on the floor added a navigational component and spatial structure to our movement.

Lower El- We explored using various props as a way to further our experience with dance composition. We worked in groups of four with each group having different props. Some props we used were scarves, hula hoops, hats, sequin fabric, etc. The students all had an opportunity to work together to find a cohesive vision and voice for their dances. The resulting dances were all very playful and enjoyable for the kids to watch as they each performed for their classmates. We have also been working with mirroring in partner format. Mirroring with partners has helped to refine our artistic eyes as movers and observers.
Upper El- We have been looking at various choreographers in the Modern dance field as well as some dance for camera work. We viewed dance pieces by Shen Wei Dance Arts, Trisha Brown, Miguel Gutierrez, DV8, Pina Bausch, etc. Not only have we been observing the choices of these artists but the varying movement qualities of each. In Dance for camera we get to look at the art of dance from a different lens. Deviating from the traditional proscemium setting of a 2D perspective, we further examine movement from different angles with a more intimate perspective.

Middle School Community Service Immersion Week

Posted by Britney Peterson
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on Wednesday, 14 November 2012
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The Middle School students are at the completion of another cycle.  They have spent the past five weeks talking about how to be involved in the community and how service is a way to be involved and be supportive.

During their Immersion this week the Middle School students are focusing on Community Service. They have visited Wasatch Community Garden, The Stable Place, and The Living Planet Aquarium where they have rendered different services.  They have prepared and organized independent volunteer opportunities which they will participate in tomorrow and have also planned trips to the Bicycle Collective and Camp Kostopulos.  They are expecting a visit from Tree Utah on Friday.

Check back soon for a more comprehensive report of what they've been up to, what they learned along the way, and how this process suppports adolescents in their development.

Middle School Team Building

Posted by Britney Peterson
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on Tuesday, 16 October 2012
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Recently the Middle School students participated in their Team Building Immersion Week, after 5 weeks of study. The week started off with a trip to CLAS Ropes Course in Provo where they practiced many team building techniques.  The Upper Elementary students were excited to be able to join them for the Ropes Course Field Trip.  Other activities throughout the week included completing class projects, painting the “Nookery” (their mini workspace under the stairs), hiking up Mill Creek's Alexander Basin train with more team building games, and planning, shopping for, and preparing  meals for a campout on school campus.  Food from the class garden was used for their meals.  The week concluded with setting up a tent in preparation for their campout Thursday night.  At the campout they enjoyed a fire-pit and a presentation by Native American flutist and storyteller, Nino.  On Friday, following the campout, the students participated in a Guided Reflection on the completed week and who they are as a team.  They focused on challenges, celebrations, and goals.

Now, Middle School students have begun Cycle Two, where they will focus on “Changes,” change in literature, change in the world around us physically (fungi, protists, and matter) and social change (being catalysts for positive change). Cycle two’s immersion is geared around Service Learning, being the change we want to see in the world.