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The Outdoor Classroom - An Education in Nature

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Monday, 21 October 2013
in Classroom Updates

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

Welcome to the Toddler Environment

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Monday, 07 October 2013
in School News

This year, our teeny Toddlers from our Suns, Moons and Stars classes are making great strides in a school-wide practice of "Grace & Courtesy."  Our Toddlers are learning some of the most important life lessons of all, and that is how to be thoughtful of our friends and those we love.  Grace and Courtesy are learned through sharing a toy, taking turns on the slide, and being patient while a friend finishes a special work.  These lessons are also incorporated during lunch and snack time when children say "Please" and "Thank you" or "No, Thank you" while practicing table manners.  There are so many opportunities to exercise the principals of Grace and Courtesy both at home and at school, and we encourage parents to practice with their children.

As we settle into a new school year, our Toddlers are learning to adapt to new environments.  Being away from Mom and Dad can be tough at their tender age, but our teachers are working with the young ones to help them become comfortable at drop-off time.  Currently, our Toddlers are learning about their school environment, in the classroom and on the playground.  They are having fun with the new materials that our teachers have set out for the new school year.  Our Toddlers are also learning friends' names this week, with songs from our wonderful teachers.

A health update on our friend Nico-  He was delayed in his intensive chemotherapy, because his blood count was too low.  As of a few days ago, Nico was back on the regime and all is going well.  His parents, Jeff and Shannon are hoping that he will have completed this series within a month from now.  We are all hoping that Nico can come back to school sometime in October.  Get well, Nico!

Written by Kellie Gibson, August 30, 2013

An update from our Dance teacher, Katie Meehan

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 11 December 2012
in Classroom Updates

 

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 Team Building

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 16 October 2012
in Classroom Updates

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.