Monday, December 19, 2011

Giving Traditions

I love traditions, especially this time of the year.  I come from a very large extended family and we were always big on family traditions every year.  I have the fondest memories of being a child and going to my grandparents on Christmas Eve after church in rural Nova Scotia.  Their kitchen would be full of people with instruments and food.  My grandfather would always make rabbit pie and pass the Captain Morgan around the room.  I remember the lead up to Christmas Eve, walking in the woods and checking rabbit snares with him and the endless decorating and baking with my grandmother.  These were among the best Christmases I have ever known.  

My grandparents are not with us anymore and sadly those family traditions have stopped.  I use to feel sad about it but now I realize we have developed our own special traditions.  Among the many things that I do with my own children during this time of year, is to take all those beautiful food bags that all of our families at Maple Tree have generously decorated and filled to the Parker Street Food Bank.  Our family really looks forward to loading it all up and taking it to Parker Street every year.  It is a side of life I am grateful my children get to see and experience.  We are truly humbled by it every year.  
We choose the Parker Street Food Bank as our Giving Project each year because they rely on donations and do not receive food from Feed Nova Scotia.  I think what feed Nova Scotia does is great but there is good to do in our own back yard.  Every year when we go to Parker Street, it is empty.  Every year I wish we could do so much more.  This year was by far our biggest delivery ever!  We dropped off 50 bags in total!!  Thank You So Much for embracing this project.

I also, took the time to explain our project to them and that the food bags themselves were decorated by the children and to be gift bags for all the food going out.  All of the bags were so beautiful.  The children did such an amazing job!

I know this project makes a difference and leaves an impression because on my way out the door I bumped into a family that left the school last year and they were just arriving with bags of toys.  I cannot put into words how moved I was by that.

Anyway, all this to say, traditions do matter and children understand so much more than we give them credit for.  So, from my family both at Maple Tree and home we are all wishing you a Very Merry Christmas and Peace for the New Year!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our December Winner is.....

Congratulations to Sarah!!  She is our winner for December.  This is the perfect time to enjoy your Pampermint Gift set compliments of Heather Smith Dacey and Arbonne!  Thank you Heather and Happy Christmas to both of you!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Music and Elving

Today, was a great day and (sigh) the last of my big commitments.  Ms. Susanne came in yesterday and today to do a lovely music presentation with the children for their parents.  I was glad to help put this together as I know it is nice to make the connections and understand where a song or phrase come from.  It really was lovely despite my worries about space and being crowded.  Thank you so much for embracing our crazy ideas and thank you for helping us with the lunch side of things.  Many parents brought sandwiches and fruit and it was most appreciated.  Thank you for making that easier for me.

On to Elving, we have been doing so much!  I just love how the wool ball ornaments came out.  I must say I was a bit worried that they were not going to harden up and turn out.  But to my surprise and patience (because it took a week for them to dry out and harden up) they turned out beautifully!  We have tired as best we could to label all of them correctly and we did not make them with everyone.  We had an afternoon that was very rainy and so I just busted out and got busy crafting!  I am sure I make the other teachers crazy when I say oh lets just make something and I make a crazy mess and then leave to pick up my kids at three!!  The idea came from the Magic Onions blog  Try as I might I am not able to find the post!!  I know it is from the Magic Onions but I just can't locate it.  Anyway the blog is lovely and they make a lot of nature inspired stuff.  The Sparkly yarn ornaments were made by soaking yarn in glue with glitter and I added a bit of shiny paint because we had some.  After the yarn is covered in glue start to wrap it around a small balloon.  The longer the piece of yarn the greater and more detailed and strong the ornament will be.  Set them aside to dry.  You will need to keep turning them over often as they are drying.  It took ours a good week to dry out and set up.

We also had the children threading beads and tiny bits of wool to make these beautys.  I love how some of the children made a pattern and really thought about how they wanted the layers to look.

 Sparkly stars also.  This one is a big hit and all the children are successful with this craft.
 I do love pinecone weaving.  We've pulled this one out again this year and it is one all the children can do.  I especially like how all the different colours make each pinecone look unique and beautiful.
 Stringing popcorn, cranberries and dried oranges.  Our Tree has never looked so beautiful!
And lastly, don't you just love coloured marsh mellows!

We will be taking extra care next week to pack up your child's handmade treasures and send them home to adorn your family tree.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pumpkins Falling from Space

Last week I noticed Miss M sitting on her mat with the pink tower, red
rods, and brown stair neatly organized.  I could see she was in deep
thought so I did not disturb her.  After about 10 minutes, I observed
Miss M's work again and noticed she took out the knobless cylinder
boxes, 3 were on a pattern sheet and the blue ones were lined up
carefully next to the brown stair.  I was very intrigued about how
precise everything was on her mat.  As I was standing there, a few
other children would come and go to observe, and they knew how
important it was to not disturb her work.  Miss M then asked if she
could use the Mystery bag and the Stereognostic bag.  Of course we
said yes because we want to encourage the children to be in the moment
as long as they are being respectful with the materials.    

in the bag had a specific spot in Miss M's mind.  Next, she took out
the Solar System puzzle and put all the pieces on the mat, except
earth.  By this point I started asking her questions on what she was

 Miss M explained how the pumpkins were falling from space
onto earth (the two bottom mats). Once Miss M completed her work, she
wanted to show and explain to everyone in the class her creation,
which she was very proud of.  The amount of time and concentration put
into this work was very fascinating, it took her over an hour.
~Ms. Stephanie

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Blueberry Yogurt Muffins

This is for the lovely ladies that came out on Saturday for my Workshop on Art at the school!  As promised, here is the recipe for the muffins I made that morning. Thanks for coming out and please stay in touch!

Wet Ingredients
1 Cup of oats
1 Cup of yogurt any flavour (I used vanilla)
1/2 Cup canola oil
3/4 Brown sugar
1 Egg

Dry Ingredients
1 Cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 Cup blueberries or any other fruit (mix into the dry ingredients or you will have purple batter).

Mix the wet ingredients and add the dry ingredients. Spoon into greased muffin tin and bake at 400 for 20 to 23 minutes. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Giving Tree

The tree got put together today.  For those of you that are new to our school, we have been building this tree for the last three years.

I call it our giving tree because we will fill the under neath of it with food for Parker Street Food Bank.  Tomorrow I am sending home the bamboo bags from Plovers.  They will have a note attached explaining our project and each child will get a bag.

During the next two weeks we will be heading to the grocery store to learn about shopping for the bag and making our own grocery list with the children.  You might be wondering how a three year old could make a list that they can read and understand.  That is simple.  We will be using fliers and cutting them up and glueing our ideas to card stock.  All the children will be encouraged to do this.  Frankly, I really don't have to try to hard when we put out glue and card stock!!
The pull to glue something is always great in our classroom.

Please take time to colour your food bags or paint them with your children.  They are to be gift bags for the food we are giving.  We will be talking about food, hunger and need.  When you have your bag decorated go out to the grocery store and let your child fill it.  They will surprise you with what they think is important and please, have fun with this project.  Thank You to my Friend the Wool Fairy for the beautiful branches that were freshly cut this morning for our Tree!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our November Winners are....

 Congratulations to Mara.  She is our winner on the Crafty Advent Calendar!
 Congratulations to Miss Malve, our winner on the not Handmade Advent Calendar (too much on my plate right now) but this one is just as lovely!
Also, our December giveaway is an Arbonne Pampermint body gift set kindly donated by Heather Smith Dacey.  Thank you Heather!  I will be announcing our December giveaway on Friday December 16th as we will be closed and away until January 3, 2012.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Retreating to the Country

 This past weekend we went on a staff retreat.  I took all the lovely ladies of Maple Tree to a beautiful guest house in Port Williams at Taproot Farms.  The House is called Swallows Nest because of all the nesting swallows around the house and property.  I really can't even begin to express to you how utterly beautiful it is there and how perfect it was for us.

In this picture you can see a beautiful symbol on the mantle.  We were told that the original owner was a Waldorf teacher and that she use to host the children she taught in the house for special times.  The place felt magical and it was the right place for six Montessori Teachers to get together and connect not only on a personal level but also to reconnect with some of our materials and work.
Everything was included in our farm stay.  We had amazing food brought to use each day that was local and organic.  We had a massage therapist come in a give each teacher a 45 minute massage.  We hiked, we drank a fair bit of wine, we laughed a lot and we got closer and became even better friends.

 We also worked with the materials and practiced with our master teacher.  Thank You Ms. Wendy!! We love you for this and we sooooo appreciated you sharing your incredible work binder.

 I have included some pictures from Ms. Wendy's binder because you need to see how much work went into making it.  Both Ms. Wendy and myself come from teacher training that dictated that we make our materials.  Material making was just as important as showing your teacher you knew how to use the materials.

Many new Montessori Teachers do not have to make their material anymore and in Ms. Wendy's case she also had to type up the paperwork to complete her work.  Can you imagine?  She typed and she confessed to us that it took her forever because she wasn't much of a typist!

It was important to me to have Ms. Wendy share her binder with us.  I wanted our teachers to see what was expected back then and see also that although some things have become modernized all the basic fundamentals and foundation is still the same.  I think Maria Montessori would be happy to know we still do it her way and nothing has really changed.  If anything, I would say we have a deeper more profound respect for what we do.
PS, if you haven't ever gone to Taproot Farms and you think you might enjoy a farm stay or being a part of their CSA check them out at:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Sound of Silence

My voice carries, especially when I am enthusiastic about something. I have had to learn to lower my voice and soften my tones.  In fact because I have had to learn it myself I know that this is a learned skill.  The first time I saw the silence game I didn't know if I liked it or not.  I wasn't sure if it was developmentally appropriate.   I'm starting to learn differently.  The silence game is when the teacher announces to the class that we are going to try to move around the classroom without making any noise.  Often a “silence” sign is hung on the wall or a candle is lit. I think it is a good thing for children to know that they can control their bodies and voices.  I am noticing  lately that when I attend workshops or meetings  there are often people having side conversations when the instructor or members of committees are trying to talk.  

 Perhaps because of the digital age we have become “constant communicators.”  We are always in touch. We are always replying.  What we seem to be doing very little of is listening. And by listening I don't just mean listening to others I mean being still and listening to those sounds that come out of the silence.  Sometimes at the beginning or end of circle I will say “Close your eyes and listen, when you hear something put up your hand and I'll ask you what you hear.”  Some hear teachers talking in hushed tones, some hear dishes rattling, cars going by, the door opening or even a monster, or a bear....  My point is, the opportunities that come from stillness are endless.  Sometimes we play the silence game where we move around the classroom using quiet bodies and voices.  The children can sustain this for up to 5 minutes.  It doesn't sound like a lot but it takes a great deal of control.  A favorite game that I often play at the end of circle when we are transitioning into hand washing and lunch is the Secret Agent Game.  I take out a chalk board and tell the children that they have to watch for their name and if they miss it they will have to wait for it to come up again during the game.  They become very focused on this game and not only are they practicing attending they are also recognizing their own name in print.

 Another game I play is before circle I will call my group one at a time using a whisper.  Because they are interested in hearing their name they listen very quietly.  We sometimes also play the quietest quietest game where the children get ready to go to the playground as quietly as they can and the children who were really really quiet get to choose their partners.  This is a powerful incentive for some of the children.
 We do not  expect utter silence in the classroom all the time .  Children at this age are learning how to communicate and they need to talk and use language.  The reason  we do silence exercises with the children is because it is important for the children to know that they have the ability to control the sounds that they make.  I also stress (every single day) that we live in a community and that some of our friends are concentrating and that we should talk  in our quiet indoor voices.  I also invite them to practice talking in a small voice. ex.  “Show me how you say “Hi” in a quiet voice.   When we go outside however we make it clear to the children that they are “Allowed to be loud.”  ~Ms. Melanie

Monday, November 21, 2011

Advent Give Away!!

Ok so the giveaway for November is not ONE but TWO advent calendars!  Just in time for the start of December.  One is a project for you and your child to make together and the other one is handmade by me!  The handmade one is a surprise so you will not see it until I post the winners.  So get busy and start commenting!!

Turns out some people are having a hard time posting to this post.   Keep trying though and send me a note by email and I will add you to the draw.  ~m

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snippets from the week

The week has been busy.  We have worked with the addition Strip board and recorded our answers.  I said we were mad about math and we are right now!

Lots of reading work and writing in sound books. One little girl in particular saw a horned owl in her back yard and need to document that in her printing book.

This little boy had the most amazing time planning and constructing with the pink tower and red rods.  Oh, how we loved this work and watching it unfold was very inspiring not only for us but the other children in the class.

How's your week been?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mad About Math

Yesterday, was a day filled with number work.  I had the chance to work with six different children and they all went for math work.  This first piece of work shows a child working with the hundred board.  She is counting and arranging her numbers 1 through 100.  There is a control in this work in that the board she is laying her number tiles on is already numbered so she has to match them and place them.  We will be turning the board over to the blank side and the new challenge will  ordering the numbers without the control chart.  This is a big bit of work in that it takes a long time to complete.  It requires lots of patience and concentration.
Also got the chance to present new work myself today.  I love this part of the classroom and it is nice when I get to just be and work with the children.  I have a friend who had mastered the teen bead hanger and so I gave the presentation to the decimal system.  I showed one, ten, hundred and thousand.  I also placed the number cards and had her build her own Thousand, hundred and ten using the golden bead material from the bead cabinet and bank box.  My friend really enjoyed this work and I can see that in no time at all we will be moving along into the bird's eye view game and the bank game.  

There is lots going on with math and many are in sensitive periods for number work and ordering numbers.  Exciting times indeed!

I also got to practice number rods with P, and spindle boxes and cut out numbers and counters with AB.  It was a lovely morning.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nurturing my naturalist

 This weekend we spent a lot of time hiking and walking our dog.  It was also a great chance to savour and enjoy the woods before the first snow flies and everything changes.  There were moments of quiet and time to listen and feel the wind.
 My girl lives for these walks and I am so glad for them myself.  If I am feeling cranky it is an instant mood lifter.  I love how when we are walking all kinds of conversation just comes and questions get asked and answered.
A while a go we bought a small basket for gathering at the farmers market.  It is just perfect for fingerless gloves and a casted arm!
Yesterday, we were in search of some pinecones.  The day before we had noticed that the ground was covered in them.  We will be needing lots of pinecones for our various holiday art projects.
My girl has a special space dedicated to her seasonal treasures.  It is called our nature table and she has made a space in her bedroom for it under her window.  This space holds all the things she has found that are near and dear to her and it is changing all the time based on what she finds  and needs to keep.
Encouraging a love of our natural environment is really important to me and so we will always have this space in our home.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our October Winner is......

Congratulations to Kelley Lewis, she is our October winner of, Do Unto Otters and Have You Filled a Bucket Today!  Please see me to collect your books.

Our Give away for November will be a handmade Advent Calendar by yours truly.  What a great way to welcome in December and count down the days to Christmas! As soon as it is complete I will post the picture.  I do like the idea of it being a surprise though!

Friday, October 21, 2011

This week......

 This week......

::  we made the most beautiful impressions in natural clay

 :: We worked with those beautiful new wool pumpkins, sorting them into groups
 :: We read the Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
 :: We counted bats
 :: We hammered nails into a pumpkin
 :: We worked on punching out leaves
 ::We transferred spooky spiders from bowl to bowl with tweezers
 ::We were crazy for art
::We worked on reading with the sound baskets

How was your week?  Ours was Spectacular!