Sarah's Update 6-16-22
Make new friends
But keep the old
One is silver and the other gold
A circle is round and has no end
That's how long I want to be your friend
We've spent the past two weeks soaking each other up and having as much fun as we can in our final days together. As we head into summer I want to thank each of you for showing up for our Kindergarten classroom community. Thank you for sharing your talents and time, offering to pitch in when needed, making materials, sending in flowers for arranging, taking home laundry, sharing literature with us, and for all the many other ways you pitched in and lightened our load.
Thank you most of all for trusting us with your children and sending them to Ridgeline each day. We have learned so much together, and I will miss this curious, creative group. I cannot wait to see them join new and old friends in Lower Elementary. We will be cheering them on from down the hall, and once they're settled into their new classrooms, I hope they will come visit us to show our new Kindergarteners the Ridgeline way.
Here is a quick look back at recent weeks and a quick look ahead to summer:
We visited Classroom 5 in the library this week to view their beautifully curated Peacemaker Gallery. During our morning gathering we prepared ourselves to be courteous visitors and to ask questions of the Lower El researchers. I was so proud of the way our group traveled quietly through the library, and how much curiosity they brought to the experience.
Animal Research Presentations
It has been a joy to see friends bravely and enthusiastically volunteer to present their animal research to us. We have had a steady list of presenters practice skills of projecting their voice while sharing their diorama, illustrations and interesting facts. Audience members have gotten a chance to ask clarifying questions and share words of encouragement and support. These presentations are the culmination of much focused work from our friends and one of many opportunities for public speaking and presenting that they will participate in for academic years to come.
Wednesday Walk and Journey Day
We took our last Wednesday Walk yesterday morning with the sun coming along to join us. We played at Kinney Park before heading back for lunch, and this allowed our afternoon to be dedicated to Journey Day and a Kindergarten celebration in the classroom. At Journey Day the school gathered on our well loved trail, and classes enjoyed a moment to shine as they walked across the bridge to join the grade level they'll be part of in Fall. It was so special, and a lovely way to end our last full day together. The beautiful keepsake of a paper flower, made by Angela/Max's mom, was given to each friend, a perfect finishing touch. At the tail end of our day we were briefed by middle school friends, who will help us have the most fun possible at Field Day this morning!
A few families have reached out asking what their child should work on in the summer. My answer is to READ! Read to your child and have them read to you (my new favorite leveled readers can be found here). Is your child an emergent reader who's working hard on letter sounds and blending words? Play alphabet bingo or memory! Find games that reinforce math skills, and encourage your child to keep up their daily journaling practice, writing the date and a few sentences of their choosing before illustrating their entry.
A few summer reading programs my son will participate in are listed below. Maybe your child will enjoy these incentives and resources too.
Eugene Public Library's Summer Reading Program (free book, free tote, and a raffle)
Books With Pictures Summer Reading Rewards (gift card and ice cream)
Scholastic Home Base (free access to digital books, games etc.)
Lastly, you will receive your child's report card today at dismissal. Below you will find a brief explanation of how to best interpret the report card’s performance scale as it relates to Common Core standards and a Montessori classroom experience.
4 This is a rare designation reserved for students who have pursued extra
challenges and are working far beyond the expectation/objective.
3 The student is meeting the expectation. This is where we would expect to see
a student by the end of the year if they have made adequate progress.
2 The student is working towards a fundamental understanding but has not yet
1 The student has been introduced to the concept at least once and has begun
to practice the concept. The student continues to need significant support,
and this may also indicate that the student has not demonstrated enough
growth yet, through observation or presenting artifacts, in this area.
0 The topic has not been introduced yet this year either because it is something
that will be introduced later in the year, the student is not ready for the
concept, or the student has missed the opportunity due to absence.
Note- The use of Montessori materials is ongoing through upper elementary. A student may have mastered a given lesson with a material and lesson, and still have much to learn with the tool and concepts. Ongoing Montessori-specific lessons are unlikely to be scored above a 3 for this reason.
Thank you. Kindergarten families, for a fantastic school year! I hope your summer is filled with adventures and love, and I wish you all happy trails until we meet again.
Sarah's Update 6-2-22
There's a moon
On my walk
At the top of the hill
And it's perfectly round
And it's perfectly still
And it holds
Back the clouds
With its circle of light
And it's perfectly round
And it's perfectly bright
As I sit to write this classroom update, we've just returned from an afternoon full of sunshine and splashing at the park. What a joy to watch friends immersed in imaginative play, building in the sand together, identifying flowers we passed on the trail, and hearing their conversations with each other. I am going to miss this group so much, and I think we are all feeling a bit wistful as we welcome June and the end of the school year. We are filling our time together with...
Visits to Upper Elementary
In the past few weeks we have been invited to visit Upper Elementary to view their impressive research on Western expansion as well as their science fair projects. Before visiting our older friends we asked ourselves how we could be respectful visitors, in what ways we could move our bodies so that we wouldn't disturb one another, and what types of questions we could pose. I was so proud to see our group show grace and courtesy as we made our visits. They were excellent ambassadors while we journeyed beyond our classroom!
Visits to Lower Elementary
I shared today at gathering that Lower Elementary has invited us to visit their classrooms next week, so that we can get familiar with those spaces. I will take one cohort of friends at a time to visit each room, and they will observe work on the shelves and connect with the lead teacher to ask some questions about their upcoming year. We will make these visits throughout the week, viewing one classroom a day. Lower Elementary friends will be outside dining and/or playing, so the room will be a space just for us to orient to briefly.
Talk of next school year is bringing up some big feelings for some of our friends, and there is both excitement and hesitation about the changes ahead. We are speaking openly about the mixed emotions we may be experiencing, and we are holding space for those feelings as they arise. I am sharing how excited I am for the learning they have ahead, how ready I know they are for this experience and how delighted Kristin and I will feel if they visit as older children to show our Kindergarteners the Ridgeline way. If you feel I need to support your child through this upcoming transition with some extra TLC, please reach out to me directly.
Our Kindness Jar is nearly overflowing! We recently practiced the important work of voting by taking turns sharing which option we preferred for our celebration, choosing between Game Day or Pajamas and Stuffies Day. Game Day won by a slight margin, and so it is with excitement that I invite you to send your child to school tomorrow/Friday with a game of their choice (please no games that make noise). Games should arrive labeled with your child's name and will be returned tomorrow afternoon. I've scheduled us for a Pajamas and Stuffies day soon, so stay tuned for details on that!
Friends have been collecting research for two weeks and a few have moved to the final stage of completing their work by creating a diorama. I have been meeting with small groups to brainstorm what paint is needed to create the most accurate representation of each animal's habitat, how they can position their clay animal sculptures they created in art class and how to incorporate nature treasures to depict an engaging scene for our viewing audience.
Class 3 visitors joined us last week to share their animal research, and you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Kindergarteners were so impressed by the presentation they gave us, complete with a bound book, artwork, and a song. Their example inspired some friends to return to their research with renewed energy! It is our goal that by the end of next week all dioramas will be complete and we can dedicate some of our work cycle to sharing finished products with each other and some of our campus community. This work will be sent home with your child once that celebration of learning has occurred!
Here's to the last stretch of the school year, families! Thanks for continuously cheering us on, stepping up for volunteer opportunities and being a fantastic support system for your Kindergarteners and their teaching team! We appreciate you.
Sarah's Update 5-19-22
"Rise up this mornin'
Smile with the risin' sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Sayin', 'this is my message to you-ou-ou'"
Kindergarten families, we have found ourselves in a particularly busy stretch of time as a community. May and June, I find, tend to bring about new opportunities for independence and new levels of boundary testing. Friends have been in our community together for many months, and they know a change of routine is right around the corner. There are feelings of excitement and discomfort too, and they are testing one another and their adults. Socializing and the need for connection feels at an all time high in our classroom, and this strikes me as in direct alignment with the natural shift your children are making into the second plane of development as they prepare for life in Lower Elementary.
Maria Montessori described the second plane child in a 1946 London lecture saying, "the second period, six to twelve, is a peaceful period of a singular regularity. This age is a time of rest. The child of six is different from the child of twelve. The twelve-year-old has grown during the preceding six years, but there have been no great transformations; it has been a time of peaceful growing. For this reason, the second plane is a period of power and mental strength. It is a time for work and mental application."
In the next few weeks, we'll begin to talk more as a class community about the end of the year, and we will give friends a glimpse of Lower Elementary classrooms by taking some tours and saying quick hellos to the teachers in those classrooms, who are so excited to get to know them. Kristin and I look forward to helping all of our Kindergarteners feel secure and supported as we look ahead to what comes next.
Before our little birds fly away for the summer, here is some of what we find ourselves doing:
I hope you are hearing some happy buzz about animal research from your child. Many friends have been enjoying the process of locating a book, exploring its table of contents or index and searching for animals they find fascinating. Notes are being collected, drawings are being created and rough drafts are being written. A few friends received some small group guidance today to narrow down their search, and we all find ourselves at a bit of a different place with this project. My goal is for the finished product to be child led and joyfully constructed. I will share more details soon about ways you can support us in this work.
Social Emotional Learning
Educational Assistant Oliver Gray continues to be a warm and loving presence in our classroom, and he recently read us a beautiful book, The Kindness Quilt. We partnered up last week, and took turns being listeners and speakers. Such lovely insight was shared as friends described moments they witnessed kindness. This conversation became a launching point for a subsequent project, our classroom Kindness Quilt, full of illustrations and written reflections. This will make a lovely display in our classroom, and has paired well with our Kindness Jar, which continues to be a focal point in our room, and a spot where many Kindergarteners are now jotting down their observations to be read by me later in the day.
Gardening Indoors & Out
I am hearing reports that some of the pots of cat grass we sent home are ready for transplanting! We talked through this process as a group yesterday when we noticed our radishes had begun to outgrow their spot in our indoor root view terrarium. A small group helped me plant them in our garden bed, and our radish sprouts have now joined many of our leafy greens and a few new broccoli plants we also added recently. One child suggested we nibble on some lettuce along with our lunch at some point, and I look forward to inviting friends to harvest and enjoy what we've grown.
We have begun to help our bodies relax in a new way by listening to a collection of guided meditation prompts. The narrator of Sweet Dreams encourages us to be calm and use mindful visualization to immerse ourselves in his nature based stories. Our beloved Anna Hibiscus has also returned for audiobook enjoyment, this time with a tale of travels from her home in Africa to her grandmother's home in Canada.
Please know how proud Kristin and I are of your quickly growing children. They are a joy to spend time with, and we look forward to celebrating many group and individual wins with them in the coming weeks!
Sarah's Update 5-4-22
Fly, little butterfly, fly up high
Up high, little butterfly, fly
Fly, little butterfly, fly up high
Up high, little butterfly, fly
Last week we said farewell to our Painted Lady butterflies, as they were ready to spread their wings and fly. We circled around our beautiful tree in the playground, sang, and shared supportive words of gratitude and well wishes for these creatures before they were released. It was bittersweet to see them off, and I am so glad our class got the opportunity to watch their life cycle unfold.
It was so lovely to see so many of you at All School Sing-A-Long. We lifted our voices in community with our fellow students and created joyous music together. It was a lovely celebration, and a memory I'll keep tucked away when I think about this year together as a group.
Quiet reflection has been extra special the past few weeks, as I've gotten the opportunity to share the children's author Beverly Cleary with our friends. Ribsy has been a favorite read aloud for many classes I've taught in the past, and this group fell in love with this scruffy and determined dog too. I saw one wide eyed friend clutching the neckline of his t-shirt while listening to a particularly thrilling moment of the story, and there were parts of the story that were laugh out loud funny. Yesterday we began Henry Huggins, and we got to time travel a bit together to the moment Ribsy and his loyal pal Henry first met. A friend shared this outing inspiration with me, and I think my family will make it a point to wander around these spots during our upcoming Portland visit, as my son particularly loves her audiobooks.
Indoor planting has wrapped up, and our window sills are now full of tiny pots filled lovingly with soil and a variety of seeds. Did your children share that we planted "mystery seeds?" They're mysterious in that they were found in the bottom of a box I unearthed earlier this year, and we don't know what wildflower mixture they are or how old (or not) they may be! We talked about how gardening is often an experiment and one that's full of unknowns. We are hopeful and excited to see what may sprout, and we are happily observing our outdoor garden thrive with our recent rain in the meantime.
EasyCBM Spring assessment has begun for our friends, and they are focusing and using this opportunity to show us what they've learned throughout the year. We'll enjoy a celebration of this learning and of our many acts of classroom kindness tomorrow/Thursday, when we turn our morning work cycle into Game Day! I look forward to seeing what games friends bring to share with our community. All games will be sent home along with work and a special Mothers' Day gift in anticipation of our no school day for children/professional development day for faculty and staff tomorrow/Friday.
Happy weekend ahead, families, and thank you for filling these past few days with tokens of gratitude and love. Arriving to work to find flowers, baked goods and love notes on our classroom door was such a lovely way to kick off teacher appreciation week!
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Sarah's Update 4-21-22
"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things"
Our Kindergarteners are enjoying the warmer temperatures and all the bits of Spring sunshine we're getting. Here are some happenings in our community currently...
What a joy it was for me to get to put on my outdoor educator hat once again and dig in the dirt with friends this week! Our garden bed was so beautifully and lovingly prepared for us (thanks again to the families who rolled up their sleeves on this effort), and we've now got an assortment of vegetables and flowers thriving in that space.We found worms along the way, and friends were so gentle in sharing space with these helpful creatures.
The practical life activity of scooping, digging in and mixing coffee grounds was a hit, and an activity we will be repeating once we begin indoor planting. I look forward to working in small groups for this, and am eager to watch their seed and plant observations come to life on paper and in conversations.
Our Painted Lady butterflies should soon emerge, and we will do the brief work of feeding them before their big release. Some friends have reported that they are following their own caterpillar/butterfly life cycle at home too, and I love hearing about this extension of learning.
Please see the recent E-News for details regarding upcoming events including this Saturday's marketplace and classroom tours. We will spend some of our work cycle tomorrow engaging in extra practical life activities to prepare our environment for visitors. Thank you to Maxwell's family for the timely donation of tulips, which have beautified our tables and given friends many opportunities for flower arranging.
We continue to enjoy the gift of music with visits from Ridgeline parent Sophie Therell, whose gentle guitar strumming and catchy tunes are brought to us every other Monday. Friends have been singing their hearts out as we prepare for our school singalong. Two favorites have emerged, King and Lionheart and Eye of the Tiger.
Thank you, families, for supporting us in all the many ways you do and for sending your bright and energetic children our way!
Sarah's Update 4-7-22
Butterfly, butterfly, what lovely wings
Flutter by, flutter by, and my heart sings
Butterfly, butterfly, I want to know
When it rains, when it rains
Where do you go?
Our Kindergarten scientists are hard at work observing our very busy, very hungry caterpillars as they double in size each day! We have enjoyed using our magnifying glasses to get a closer look at their daily changes, and butterfly journals are allowing us to track their progress and extend the learning in a cross-curricular way. We look forward to the next part of their metamorphosis, which will be chrysalis formation. Thank you to Charlie's family for donating a lovely book about Painted Lady butterflies, the very type we will soon watch emerge and then release. This resource has broadened our use of scientific vocabulary as we discuss these amazing creatures.
Have you heard chatter about our beautiful peace lily, which was recently donated to our classroom? A neighbor was struggling to care for it and needed a new home for this large plant with broad leaves just perfect for spritzing and washing. I immediately volunteered to be its new caretaker knowing that your children will help me encourage it to grow in a healthy way. I explained to our friends that this plant is needing a bit of TLC and that we could care for it by washing its leaves, watering it when needed, reading to it and sharing positive affirmations with it as we pass by during the day. I found one friend hugging its pot earnestly yesterday and many friends have taken a damp cotton ball to its leaves. Some children have used a special stool to read to our new plant, and I overheard one friend whispering to it, "I'm sorry your other owner couldn't take care of you so well, but you are safe here with us." Your children know the power of gentle, empathetic and loving words, and it's a joy to hear and watch them express themselves in this way!
Indoor gardening will begin this coming week, and we will support this hands-on learning with a rich backdrop of literature and discussions. Daily logs will allow us to sharpen our observational skills, and when the timing is right we'll send these plants home for continued care. A big thanks goes to the families of Amelia, Charlie and Ella, who have stepped up to tend to our outdoor garden bed by weeding it and prepping it with fresh soil. We have big plans for herbs and flowers in the coming weeks, and I look forward to looking out and seeing some color and brightness on that side of our classroom. Thanks to Iris' family, the owners of Camas Swale Farm, for offering to donate transplants of greens and other vegetables to grow, harvest and munch on at lunch. When gardening with children in previous teaching years, I've been amazed to watch even less adventurous eaters enjoy eating what they've grown.
On Monday we will begin partnering with Oliver Gray, Ridgeline's Educational Assistant in the Learning Center, to bring a new type of social emotional focused learning to our Kindergarten friends. Ridgeline recently began implementing the Second Step curriculum in classrooms, and we are incredibly lucky to benefit from Oliver's talent and knack for relationship building as he brings this work to us. He is quite familiar with your children already after spending time in our classroom building connections and pitching in where needed. Here is a bit about Second Step and a bit about Oliver:
Oliver Gray was raised in the PNW, but is fairly new to the Eugene area. He is an EA in the Learning center, and is also attending graduate courses at the U of O. He has experience in schools as both a tutor and EA, and is working to become a special education teacher. He most recently spent a year tutoring and teaching STEAM activities for the Free Library of Philadelphia, before moving to Eugene. When he isn't spending his time with kiddos, you can usually find him doing one of his hobbies. He likes to knit, paint, learn new recipes, and try new things (like learning to play new instruments).
In closing, please help me welcome new friend Riley, who will join our community on Tuesday! I am excited to see Riley settle in with the help of a classroom full of leaders who will ensure he gets familiar with our routines and daily rhythm. We are so excited to have his whole family as part of our Ridgeline community!
Thank you for sending your loving and hardworking children to us. I am proud of them for so many reasons, and I learn from them every single day!
Sarah's Update 3-31-22
"I like coffee, I like tea.
I like the java jive, and it likes me.
Coffee and tea and the java and me.
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup-ahhhh."
We've been Java Jiving our little hearts out in Kindergarten. Ask your child to sing this catchy tune to you and enjoy grooving along to the music!
Now that Spring has sprung, a few other happenings in our classroom currently include...
We are eagerly anticipating a delivery of caterpillars, which should be arriving any day now! Our young scientists have been studying up on the life cycle of these miraculous creatures through fiction and nonfiction alike. Today we read a beautiful story, Butterfly House, that's a favorite of mine. It's centered around the joy of observation and caretaking. Here is a lovely retelling in case you'd like to view it together as a family.
Once our caterpillars have arrived, we will be busy providing them a secure and comfortable habitat, and we will use our observation skills to record daily changes before we eventually release our Painted Lady butterflies as a group. I have done this many times over the years with friends, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a group as excited as these Kindergarteners are to watch the magic unfold!
Indoor planting will begin soon! Thank you to Liora and Ella's families for providing seeds for us, which will be used in addition to our Grow This classroom supplies. Friends will utilize individual planters and use their observation skills to make note of daily transformation before plants are sent home for continued enjoyment. A special thanks goes to Calvin's family for donating a root view terrarium, which will provide us with a unique vantage point as we study parts of a plant. Our classroom gets beautiful light, and I am excited to see more plants thrive in our indoor space!
Our outdoor garden will soon come alive with colorful flowers, which we will use for flower arranging and flower pressing, with some pressed blooms being added to collage and other art projects. Our tables are currently adorned with tiny bud vases full of cheerful daffodils. It is incredibly sweet to overhear a friend offer a flower arrangement to someone in the room and to see how it brightens the recipient's work space. This is grace and courtesy in action.
We were recently visited by Ridgeline parent Heather, who shared with us her love of Ridgeline's Marketplace. We spent a few moments hearing information about this upcoming event and brainstorming ideas for how each child could contribute in their own way. Details on our Student Marketplace and the proposal form (due April 4th) can be found here. Heather can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this event!
Outdoor Masking Update
As a class we've begun to talk about masks becoming optional outdoors as of Monday. We've focused on how each family will be making the choice they feel is best for them, and that we as a community will share kindness and understanding with each other no matter what those choices may be. Please know that Kristin and I will be providing extra social-emotional support for our friends as they navigate this upcoming adjustment, and we will honor their choice to wear a mask or not based on what you as a family have decided and the conversations you have had with them. We appreciate you continuing to have supportive dialogue with your child about this and encourage you to read this excerpt from Chrystell's recent email (sent 3/18) for a refresher if you need one:
Outdoor masking will become optional for Ridgeline students on Monday, April 4th.
Other health and safety measures, including outdoor lunch (contingent on air quality), classroom positive case notification emails, use of ventilation, and access to testing will remain in place at this time.
Community- and school-level COVID data will be reviewed in mid-April. If those data continue to allow it, Ridgeine’s administration will recommend that the board proceed to approve optional indoor masking for students at its April meeting. If approved, indoor masking would become optional for students beginning either April 25th or May 2nd.
Thank you, families, for sending your enthusiastic children our way! Kristin and I are amazed by them on a daily basis!
Sarah's Update 3-17-22
Mama, Mama, I want a mango
Papa, Papa, please papaya
No, no, Nana, a ripe banana
Kiwi, kiwi, kiwi, kiwi quince (cha cha cha)
Families, if you want to brighten your day a bit just ask your child to sing you the "Mango Fandango." It's a new favorite in our Kindergarten class, full of movement and opportunity for dramatic flair. It'll have you moving and shaking in no time!
Here are a few other fun happenings taking place in our community at the moment:
The shift to morning snack indoors has been transformative for our class! Each day friends arrive and set about organizing their materials, saying hellos and then finding pencil pouches and their writing journals. A new journal prompt awaits them each morning, and the writing work that this is encouraging has been a delight to witness. I am seeing new skills emerge, already acquired skills being sharpened and confidence growing amongst our group as they place a "finger space" between their words, add punctuation, edit as needed and illustrate with creativity.
Morning Work Cycle
After a brief morning gathering we fall into our predictable daily rhythm of the work cycle. What a joy to see this important part of our day be elongated just in time for Kindergarteners to show us how their stamina has increased throughout the year! More time in the classroom has allowed for more presentations, deeper and more meaningful project based work and plenty of opportunities for "I statement" practice as we navigate our environment together. Friends are making their way to the snack area quite confidently now, and choosing this activity as they do any other work. This has brought a new form of functional independence to our entire group.
Our classroom library has a few new and special books woven into it thanks to Charlie and Ella. These books celebrate strong women in the past and present day. Today we learned about artist and educator Alma Woodsey Thomas, who was part of the Color Field movement alongside other painters who worked solely with large shapes or "fields" of colors as a way to express themselves. Alma was both a Kindergarten teacher and artist, and her work was quite inspiring to us with its rich colors and aesthetically pleasing patterns. We were impressed to learn that hers was the first-ever solo exhibit of a Black female artist, and that her work was shown at the famous Whitney Museum of American Art.
There is a sudden explosion of child-led reading happening in our environment currently. I have enjoyed inviting a few friends to read to us at group gatherings, encouraging them to sit upon our special reading stool as they have a moment in the spotlight. Our small but mighty team of parent volunteers are working hard to make sure children are getting a chance to have an adult hear their developing skills, and many are enjoying tracking their progress in their reading logs.
Art teacher Rena recently guided our artists through creating illustrated butterflies using oil pastels. The children poured love into their work knowing that they will soon decorate the walls of Emerald Valley. Our neighbors there will be delighted to see these colorful finished products. Thanks again to Ruth, Liora's mom, for coordinating this effort!
As we look ahead to the end of the month, Kristin and I are preparing for our next Artist Spotlight on Andy Warhol, which will invite friends to explore color blocking and stamping to create a class mural. Letter writing has become a popular activity in class thanks to contributions of colorful envelopes, washi tape and stamps from families, and we will use these skills to send hand written invitations to staff members to visit us and see our work on display.
The Kindness Jar
Have you heard your child talk about a new component of our classroom, our Kindness Jar? What a feel-good addition to our day this has been to have the children know adults are observing moments of kindness they show themselves, others and our environment. These written observations are read at group gatherings, and friends beam and puff up their chests when their names are included. We are quite excited to be working toward filling our Kindness Jar up far enough that we can celebrate as a community. We will likely take a vote on how best to commemorate this milestone, but a pajama day and/or the invitation to bring a small stuffie/lovie to school has been discussed. Stay tuned!
Enjoy your Spring Break ahead, and know that Kristin and I will look forward to welcoming our friends back on Tuesday, March 29th. We'll be eager to hear about vacations/staycations and how everyone spent their days off of school.
Sarah's Update 3-3-22
The Golden Sun
So great and bright
It warms the Earth with all its might
It makes dark Earth both green and fair and tends each thing with loving care
It shines on blossom, stone and tree, on bird and beast, on you and me
May each deed throughout the day, may everything we do and say
Be bright and strong and true
Oh, Golden Sun, like you
Families, we have been as busy as ever saying farewell to February and hello to March. I am excited to share some of the most important happenings for our community at the moment:
We have embraced work plans enthusiastically as a community, helping to foster choice and independence while providing structure and guidance along the way. Work plans are now toted around the classroom and marked off by teacher and child, and Kristin and I have found them to be helpful tools, which are enhancing our work cycles greatly. I also feel confident these work plans will help transition our friends into Lower El with a bit more ease when the time comes.
We have been given the gift of music by Ridgeline parent Sophie Therell, who has begun joining us for music class two Mondays a month. We met with her for the first time this week, and the children were delighted by her enthusiasm, her beautiful guitar playing and the new songs she shared with us, which were filled with playful movement. Thank you, Sophie, for your time and energy. We cannot wait to continue to make music with you!
Rhythm stick work is a popular whole group activity for us in Kindergarten. I recently became inspired by the educators of Jbrary, whose music I bring into the classroom quite a bit. When I discovered their rhythm stick work, I was hooked, and I knew our friends would be too. We take this instrument playing quite seriously. What self control it takes to listen for the cue to move our sticks to their ready position on our knees, to gracefully move them to a resting position at our shoulders, and to leave them untouched on the ground in between songs. What coordination of movement it requires to place our sticks into their woven basket without making a sound. Ask your child to give you a beat for "Peanut Butter, Jelly, Marmalade and Jam" and some musical and rhythmic magic may unfold!
Liora's mom Ruth continues to receive and organize contributions of art from our Kindergarten friends who are most excited to share with our senior citizen neighbors next door at Emerald Valley. Their metal inset design work has been stunning, full of carefully placed curvilinear patterns and light and steady feather strokes and shading. Art teacher Rena has shared with the children that this coming week's art focus will be creating more beautiful work to fill the walls of Emerald Valley. She mentioned a butterfly theme to our friends, and the excitement was palpable. Friends are so happy to be brightening their space after hearing how much our neighbors have missed having Ridgeline visitors during Covid.
Dressing For The Weather/Pack Extra Clothes
I have a request, families, to check the weather report extra carefully daily (and especially on Wednesdays) to make note of the day ahead. We had to make the sad decision to forgo Wednesday walk yesterday after so many friends were drenched from playing outside right down to very squishy shoes. Many friends keep rain boots at school, and if that's possible for your family we highly recommend it. Rain boots, rain pants and/or rain jackets with a hood are a must for our rain or shine campus. Please contact me directly if this is a hardship, or if I can support you on this in some way.
Many friends went home yesterday with soggy clothes in backpacks yesterday, so please promptly repack a full change of clothes (underwear and socks included), as we also had to do some creative and time consuming scrambling to find leggings and various bits of clothing for friends who had no extras with them. If your child has had their extra clothing in their backpack for a while, we'd appreciate you checking to see if the selections in their bags are seasonally appropriate AND still fit them. This helps ease the burden on the teachers and is a comfort to our friends when they can wear familiar clothing they can access independently. Thank you!
During quiet reflection we are listening to A Boy Called Bat, and at whole group gatherings we are continuing to enjoy a rich selection of books highlighting Black characters and families. We will continue to celebrate Black change makers throughout history as we move through the second semester of the school year.
March brings us a focus on strong and important women in history. Do you have books you would like to send in with your child to help us celebrate Women's History Month? We enjoy borrowing books briefly for our classroom book baskets, so please don't hesitate to send your child with fiction or non-fiction to share.
Thank you to families who provided envelopes, stamps, stamp pads and washi tape for our writing center. I am continuing to build and organize that space, and I look forward to brainstorming with friends about the importance of writing letters, why we might communicate in this way and how we can express our feelings for friends and families in written form. Valentines making gave us a jump start on this, and I know friends are eager to expand on this work.
Thank you for sending your sweet children to us, families, and for letting us grow and learn alongside them!
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Sarah's Update 2-17-22
You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
When the road looks rough ahead
And you're miles and miles
From your nice warm bed
You just remember what your old pal said
Son, you've got a friend in me
Yeah you've got a friend in me
Here we are, families, halfway through the month of February! On Monday we had a sweet and cozy celebration of Valentine's Day. We sang and shared notes with one another after a morning work cycle spent creating hand stitched heart pillows, paper chains, collages and beaded bracelets. It was an extra special day, as we got to welcome new friend Oliver to our community. He has settled in so quickly thanks to our community of confident Kindergarteners who are eager to show him the ropes by giving him presentations and helping him organize supplies. Welcome to Ridgeline, Oliver and parents Jessica and Brian!
If you were to join us in the classroom for an observation you'd witness a bustle of activity. You'd find friends partnering to create stories for our new Storytelling Project, inspired by a Rice University program I participated in during my early teaching days. These stories will be read by the author(s) and cast with friends in our class before being performed as mini plays at group gatherings. I am hopeful this will inspire all of our friends to step into the role of author and illustrator.
If you came to observe you'd also see work plans, a new addition to our classroom, being toted around the room and checked off as activities are completed. These work plans represent all areas of our classroom, and are customized to each child's needs, providing free choice and assigned activities alike. Our friends will utilize a version of this in Lower El, so they serve many purposes including preparing our Kindergarteners for their next step along their educational path. One friend has begun carrying hers around in the front pocket of her overalls to help her "stay on track" and another beamed with pride when she had checked off all of her work plan by the end of the day. These Tulips and Daisies, our new cohorts we unveiled in January, are working hard on new challenges and refining skills through repetition.
Thank you to many families who are supporting us behind the scenes. Amelia's family recently gifted us with a beautiful assortment of greenery and buds for flower arranging. To see friends caring for our indoor environment in this way, stopping by a friend's table with a lovingly prepared tiny vase, has been a joy! Thank you to Amelia's family for also making a handful of wooden tiles for us, allowing children to complete our 100s board after a few numbers had gone missing. This work is in heavy rotation now thanks to them!
Thank you to Charlie and Rosalie and Sebastian's families for raising their hands enthusiastically when I asked for volunteers to work with children outdoors. Sunset and Meredith will join us beginning next week to listen to readers one on one on Tuesdays and Fridays, and they'll likely play some phonetic object games and help with Movable Alphabet word building along the way! I'd also like to extend a hearty thank you to Liora's mom Ruth for helping to coordinate an effort to brighten the lives of our neighbors at Emerald Valley, the assisted living facility next door to us. In March our class will contribute Metal Inset design work as our offering. I am excited to see the feather strokes and mindful symmetry used by our young artists as they demonstrate their attention to detail and creativity.
Tomorrow we will welcome Kami with the Eugene Concert Choir back for our final practice of "Rainbow Connection" and "You've Got a Friend In Me." Yesterday afternoon I emailed you a PDF version of the voucher to use at the Hult Center performance on Saturday, February 26th at 2:30. In that same email you'll find videos Kami created for us, so that you can practice singing and signing along with her at home. My family plans to attend the event, and we hope to see you there!
We will spend the remainder of February continuing to focus on Black History, reading about brave change makers and marveling at their accomplishments. Thank you to Ruby's family for providing us with an inspirational story of Harriet Tubman's life, which led to a rich discussion of the Underground Railroad and how communities work together. Ruby also shared with us a story of sharing and gratitude, Thank You, Omu, which we read and enjoyed before quiet reflection yesterday.
Later this month we will begin to brainstorm how to beautify the outdoor environment behind our classroom, using seeds and supplies from a program I was excited to have our class join, Oregon State's Grow This Oregon Garden Challenge. The next project will be tending to worms in our new bin, and I look forward to learning alongside Kristin and the children as our garden space develops. Thank you, families, for sending your curious and delightful children to us each day and for the many ways you support the work we do!
Sarah's Update 2-4-22
"Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
Look what it's done so far
What's so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we'll find it
That rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me"
I have a lot to share with you, families, in these busy first few days of February. First, please help me give a warm welcome to new friend Ezra and his mother Elizabeth, who joined our Ridgeline community earlier this week. The lead up to Ezra's arrival was full of anticipation and excitement as we readied our space, ourselves and his supplies. By the time Ezra joined us for his first day, friends were lined up to give him presentations and show him the ropes. This is what a tight knit and active community on its feet looks like! This, I firmly believe, is the way to a more peaceful world. This is Montessori! We are delighted to bring Ezra into the fold and to watch him grow alongside all of us.
A big thank you is in order to families who have recently offered their time and talent to help us with classroom needs. Thanks to Charlie's family for providing a beautiful woven rug, which will serve as a conversation spot for two buddies at a time. We practice the art of self advocacy, problem solving and the use of "I statements" daily, and this will provide a well defined space for that big work. A hearty round of applause to Rosalie and Sebastian's family for organizing collage supplies for our busy artists. We have special winter themed projects to create with those odds and ends. And a thank you to Oscar C.'s family for cutting an impressive amount of geometric shapes for upcoming art provocations. They also organized a special Valentine's Day pillow stitching work for all of our friends who enjoy handwork. Thank you to Cassius' family for allowing our class to borrow books about Nelson Mandela and Chinese New Year, and thank you to Max's family for encouraging him to bring in nature treasures from Iceland. How special it is to have a glimpse into traditions and experiences you share as a family! If I've accidentally missed you in this round of thanks, please know that we appreciate you ALL and are so grateful for the ways you support us.
Our celebration of Black history begins this month! I have fantastic resources from Ridgeline and Eugene's downtown library woven into our space, and we will do much reading and contemplating about contributions made by Black community members in our local community and beyond. I am excited to celebrate these change makers and to learn alongside our group. During quiet reflection we are listening to a new audiobook, Anna Hibiscus, a story about an adventurous young girl growing up in a small village in Africa. Next week in our upcoming chapter book we will begin to read about Ruby Bridges and her remarkable bravery. We will also begin to add a soundtrack to our work cycles through a selection of famous jazz musicians. As we highlight some talented Black artists, we'll tap into how the music makes us feel, how it makes us want to move, how it impacts our energy level. My own family is looking forward to heading to the Eugene Science Center's Planetarium later this month to view a Black History Laser Tribute. Have you been to one of their laser shows? They are so much fun and are a unique way to support the Science Center. Your child may recognize some familiar tunes if you go!
For our upcoming Valentine's Day celebration, please prepare to work on love notes and cards with your child between now and Monday, February 14th. Please skip adding candy or sweet treats, and instead simply have your child write their name on cards for our class of 28 students. Please do not address them to individual children. This will make distribution on the big day SO much more easeful. Friends are invited to wear their coziest PJs for our low key classroom celebration.
Report Cards will go home with your child tomorrow/Friday. The email I send in the morning will help provide some context and a framework for our team's grading scale. Completing report cards and writing comments reflective of your child's first semester at Ridgeline left me feeling in awe of all we've accomplished and of the bravery and tenacity of your children. Thank you, families, for sending them to us each day. They are a joy!
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Sarah's Update 1-20-22
While we were sleeping through the night,
Snowflakes are falling soft & white
Floating down with never a sound,
Silently covering all the ground.
As we head into our second semester of learning together in Kindergarten, Kristin and I are observing signs of developing maturity, deepening friendships, and longer, more sustained phases of concentration. We are also observing friends who are so comfortable and settled into the environment and relationships that they are naturally pushing boundaries and exploring the impact of their actions and language.
Our list of "needed grace and courtesies" continues to grow and we are digging in and doing big work of thinking about how our actions, like our words and our movement through the classroom or the way we maintain our indoor and outdoor environment, have an effect on others. We are a tight knit community, and each of these Kindergarteners contribute so much to our group.
If you stopped in for a visit to our classroom you'd see small groups focused on golden bead work, moving large quantities of materials from one location to another. You would witness friends reading to one another, children working hard to identify numbers and letter sounds, lists and stories unfolding with the Movable Alphabet, math and language journaling, pillow stitching, floor scrubbing, painting at the art easel and collage work. We are a diverse group of learners, who occupy our own unique space in our curriculum, and there are many opportunities for Kristin and me to "follow the child" along the way. We are joyfully and energetically "doing the days" here in Kindergarten.
Kristin's third featured artist in our Artist Spotlight series, Seurat, introduced our community to Pointillism. What focus it takes to create the tiniest of dots on a paper and to resist the urge to extend past the margins of the paper, to clean the space and ready it for the next friend. Our audiobook this week is Clementine, a bold and precocious character my son loved when he was a Kindergartener. Friends have enjoyed our audiobook CDs being added to our quiet corner once we enjoy them as a class.
One last exciting addition to our class routine will be learning some new songs and enjoying two visits from a trained musician through Eugene Concert Choir . I was thrilled to enroll our class in this program, and I encourage you to keep your eyes out for some more information in the coming weeks, which will share a bit more about the performance your children will be invited to join next month. We have a classroom full of joyful singers, who are going to thrive with this new approach to music making!
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Sarah's Update 1-7-22
The rain is raining all around
It falls on field and tree
It rains on the umbrellas here
And on the ships at sea
Our first few days back after winter break have been full of connection. Friends have reacquainted themselves with one another, with Kristin and me and with our materials. After we all had some time away from teaching and learning, the classroom once again has its familiar, happy hum.
January 6th is the anniversary of the first Casa dei Bambini opening its doors to children in 1907. To honor this special occasion I told the true story of Maria Montessori, the brilliant scientist and educator behind the work that we do here at Ridgeline. After hearing a bit about her life, we viewed pictures of her as a child, scenes from her time in the classroom and images of her toward the end of her life when she was an established trainer of teachers who'd touched many lives across the world. I told the class that Maria knew that children are capable of anything they put their mind to, and that they are powerful beings deserving of the utmost respect. For a brief moment we closed our eyes and put our hands over our heart to send gratitude to Maria for her work and to be thankful for the gift of being together at school.
We have some new and exciting additions to our classroom life including Letter of the Week, which is a lovely blend of phonemic awareness work and handwriting practice. There are many entry points to this whole group work, and the children are enjoying the challenge! Art teacher Rena recently introduced a collaborative project focused on the outdoor environment work of keeping our school free of trash while helping to maintain and contribute to our campus compost collection. Our class was excited to create illustrations to help everyone in our community distinguish between trash and compost, and they continue to take great pride in keeping our lunch and snack area tidy.
During quiet reflection time we have begun to listen to our first audiobook, The Mercy Watson Collection. We are also enjoying a new chapter book, Anne Arrives, an adaptation of the beloved Anne of Green Gables I enjoyed as a child. Friends were introduced today to the concept of Sustained Silent Reading. We are putting our own spin on this well known practice, and I have begun to bring in a hefty collection of library books from the Eugene Public Library for the children to browse and select from during this quiet and cozy part of our day. What self control it takes to give someone time to read that book you were hoping to get to first, and how amazing it was to watch them protect the concentration of the people next to them. When I told them about how much fun I had picking out books I thought they'd like, a few shared suggestions for my next visit. This morning they will find a clipboard in our classroom where they can write, or dictate to Kristin or me, their requests for book topics. Very few things bring me more joy than a public library, and getting to connect our friends to literature in a new way is a true delight for me as an educator.
Our Wednesday Walk found us using our senses to notice signs of winter. Friends were excited to learn that we will one day soon visit Frank Kinney Park to play during our Wednesday adventures. Lucet work is in full swing, and having knitting forks added to our practical life area has been a success! Thank you to the many families who contributed yarn for weaving and knitting work. You are appreciated for these donations and for all of the many ways you cheer us on and support us as a community.
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Sarah's Update 12-16-21
Ridgeline Team Holiday Party:
Last Friday after dismissal our classroom was the backdrop for a lovely staff holiday celebration. Children prepared the room by sweeping, polishing the floor, scrubbing cabinets, arranging sprigs of rosemary in vases, stringing citrus/popcorn/cranberry garland (thank you to families who generously donated supplies), cutting snowflakes for our windows and creating paper chains. For a finishing touch they created a large mural, which welcomed the team to our classroom. They were excited to receive a thank you from the staff in return and to hear the compliments we received about how beautiful our classroom is and how inviting we made it feel. This is Montessori in action, planning and working together for the greater good.
Other Holiday Happenings:
We are immersed in preparation for our own classroom party this Friday. Much decorating is happening, and several friends teamed up today to create Movable Alphabet invitations to beloved staff members asking them to join our festivities, which will include provocations for creativity and games to play. We will end our week together by viewing a beautiful adaptation of The Snowy Day. I expect many of us will be in cozy pajamas that day to also wrap up Spirit Week.
Friends recently brought home pine tree winter scenes they created with art teacher Rena, and they will soon be sharing holiday gifts with you! These are little tokens of love created by your children to welcome the coziness of the season. We read a beautiful story earlier, The Shortest Day to provide some context for the upcoming Winter Solstice on December 21st. I think we could all relate to the excitement and joy felt by the people in the book as they prepared for days with a bit more sunlight.
Beginning in January we will come directly into the classroom at arrival. We will enjoy quiet time with books, a read aloud and/or connect with various Practical Life activities before transitioning into our morning gathering. I look forward to a gentle start to our time in the classroom each day, and know this will be a great change for us!
The new year will bring about some other exciting developments for our maturing group. As concentration continues to grow and our group's stamina for big, challenging work continues to develop, Kristin and I see the opportunity for a longer, uninterrupted work cycle in the morning and afternoon. We will accomplish this by having a morning snack as a work choice for a few friends at a time, where they will dine outdoors in the area directly behind our classroom. This is a routine Lower El children currently enjoy, and I know our group will love this opportunity too! This is one of many ways we are supporting functional independence, a most important focus in Kindergarten.
Afternoon snack will be a thing of the past come January. We will no longer need you to send that in with your child daily. We will likely still make consistent use of the outdoor environment for play prior to dismissal, but we'll do so when the energy of the collective group dictates it and not on a daily basis. This will give us more time in the classroom each afternoon, and will provide us time to unveil two new whole group activities, Letter of the Week and Handwriting Workshop.
We just turned the last page of Mercy Watson To The Rescue a few days ago, and the children enjoyed her shenanigans and her love of "hot toast with a great deal of butter on it." Our Vincent van Gogh study has concluded, and beautiful interpretations of Starry Night will go home Friday. Kristin will focus on pointillism and Georges Seurat for January's Artist Spotlight.
Lastly, I have recently introduced one of my favorite Practical Life activities to the children, Walking on the Line. We are currently focusing on equilibrium and, of course, practicing our social skills along the way as we navigate shared space. Control and coordination of movement is our goal, and the gorgeous music of the talented Sanford and Judy Jones is our soundtrack. We've practiced walking, marching, galloping and skipping thus far, and I have begun to use this as a transition activity with the intention of spontaneously offering it toward the end of the work cycle for anyone who chooses to take part, eventually utilizing beanbags (thanks to Sam's family for stitching those for us) to challenge our balance a bit more. We will then practice balancing small bells in our hands as we move, an extension of the beloved silence game we play as a group. This takes self control, strength, focus and a willingness to be a positive part of making a community event happen. It's BIG work these young people are doing. They amaze me!
Your delightful children, the support of Kristin and the entire Ridgeline team and YOU, dear parents, made my first semester at our school a true pleasure. I am grateful to each of you and wish you a restful stretch of time before we meet again in the bright and shiny new year.
Sarah's Update 12-2-21
"Oh Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah
Come light the menorah
Come to our party
We'll all dance the Hora
Gather 'round the table
We'll give you a treat,
Dreidels to play with and latkes to eat
And while we are playing
The candles are burning low
One for each night, they shed a sweet light
To remind us of days long ago..."
We waved a grateful and heartfelt goodbye to November yesterday at our morning gathering and welcomed December with excitement as we readied our calendar and ourselves for the next few weeks of learning and growing. If you were to stop into our classroom for a visit, something I so wish you could each do, you would observe a happy blur of activity. Friends are stitching pillows of brightly patterned flannel while others are working hard on the foundations of reading. Some are challenging themselves to create math equations, and others are exploring our sensorial materials, which call to the young child's sense of order. Many friends are opting to strengthen their fine motor skills with inset work from our botany cabinet, using the lightest of "feather strokes" to fill in small spaces with colored pencils. All of the work being done takes deep concentration, perseverance and friendliness with error. Kristin and I beam with pride as we see them sharpen their skills and display some true grit, whether it be on our gradually lengthening Wednesday Walks or in their ability to choose new work and honor the work of others during the morning and afternoon work cycles. They are growing up before our eyes, and what an honor it is to get to witness that transformation.
The weeks leading up to winter holiday will continue to be filled with singing (Hanukkah songs are our focus currently, and they bring such joy to the room), decorating (snowflake making, popcorn/cranberry/citrus stringing and paper chain creating are all on our list of provocations we'll soon have on our shelves). In the next week or so we'll wrap up reading our latest chapter book, Ellen Potter's Big Foot and Little Foot, a story of compassion and empathy. Kristin will coordinate our second Artist Spotlight beginning next week, this one featuring the work of Vincent van Gogh. An invitation to create melted crayon art will be extended to all, just as the Kandinsky project was.
I hope your family is staying cozy and well as we lead into the winter season!
Housekeeping and Gratitude:
-New and improved take-home work folders are heading to you on Friday. These should hold up to rain and travel to and from school a bit better. Please send your child to school on Mondays carrying their empty yellow older, as it'll make organizing them into cubbies much easier for us, and will help avoid the potential of them getting crushed in backpacks. Thanks!
-Thank you to Liora's family for supplying us with many varieties of seeds with which to bring our garden beds to life. It's a goal of mine to get the children digging in dirt and connecting to that part of our outdoor environment, so stay tuned!
-Thank you to Sam's family who recently supplied our class with some beautiful puzzles. Did you know that we often make use of our lovely, long countertops by inviting friends to create art murals there? And did you know that we alternately have a community puzzle of 300-500 pieces going at any given time in that same space? Friends stop by and contribute what they like before moving along. We pat ourselves on the back when we've wrapped a community project like that up, and I would be thrilled to have more puzzles on hand. Do you have any to contribute? We could tackle up to 1,000 pieces, I think! Send any you have along with your child and let me know if we are to keep them or send them back once finished.
A request for donations:
-Is there a family out there who would be willing to supply us with a stash of popcorn to use for popcorn stringing? Ideally we'd have 3-4 gallon sized Ziploc bags to use for this project. A bag or two of fresh cranberries would also be lovely for pattern making with the popcorn.
-Do we have a family or two who would like to dehydrate orange slices at home? I can share first hand that the citrus will make your home smell delightful. We'll use these orange slices to create another type of garland to be hung in our large windows. The sunlight will look so pretty pouring through them.
All of these holiday related donations can be brought to school on Monday, 12/13 and once the need is fulfilled, I'll email the class to update everyone. Thank you for considering these requests, dear families!
Sarah's Update 11-22-21
"You'll sing a song & I'll sing a song.
We'll all sing a song together.
You'll sing a song & I'll sing a song in warm or wintry weather."
What fun it was to share the music of Ella Jenkins with our class last week. She's been a favorite of mine for many years, and her catchy tunes and call & response songs were instant hits with our musical, rhythm-loving group. Her version of "Skip to My Lou" is silly enough to get the whole group laughing. The soothing sounds of Elizabeth Mitchell's music are now a part of our classroom community too, and friends have been enjoying her album "Sunny Day" in the quiet corner.
A highlight of last week was our Wednesday Walk, which centered around exploring a new part of our trail, waving hello to many cute dogs, and stopping to marvel at the flowing water underneath the bridge we crossed. Before returning to campus we carefully selected one fallen leaf each to contribute to a leaf rubbing project in the classroom. Our word web work to follow will be inspired by the many leaves we found, and we'll explore the concept of "adjectives," a component of Function of Words, one of the most advanced parts of our language curriculum. We'll ask ourselves "what descriptive words could we use to tell someone about the leaves we collected?"
Another exciting development for our community has been the shift to PE in our gym! Friends came back from their first adventure to this part of our school with extra enthusiasm for their time with Dan. We've also made our way through the final pages of our current chapter book, The Storm, and this sweet and cozy story of bravery and friendship was loved by all. Our work cycle has friends busy playing math games (the sound of rolling dice and equation comparisons could be heard quite a bit the past few days), creating paper and yarn leaf garlands for at home decorating, steadfastly working on continent maps, completing sewing projects and, for some, working with Roya's mom, Nasim, who joined our class for some 1:1 reading focused instruction. Our Artist Spotlight on Kandinsky kicked off on Friday, and we'll spend the next few days reconnecting with our art cart and some new supplies, which will support our group's love of creating!
Your children are happy and busy bees, and it's been a delight to observe friends settling into their relationships with one another and to see them taking on new leadership roles. I get a kick out of asking a child "are you available to show your friend how to hang up their jacket, because you're so good at that?" or "could you give a presentation on the Binomial Cube to this friend now that you're an expert on that work?" or "do you think you could show the group what it looks like to peacefully move through a crowded space? I've noticed you do that so well!" What a joy to watch their chests puff up with pride as they agree excitedly and seriously and then set about that task. All of your children are displaying heartwarming moments of leadership in our classroom, and we will continue to present them with those opportunities for growth!
-Thank you to Nasim, Roya's mom, who will join us weekly for language support in the classroom. For now her work will include Sandpaper Letter work, sound games and listening to readers at various skill levels. She has volunteered in this capacity in previous years and brings along a wide range of experience and a love for working with young children.
-Thank you to so many of our families who are letting us borrow Hanukkah materials for our ongoing classroom display. Children who have contributed materials have had a chance to share a bit about their meaning, and we will enjoy exploring them more in the coming days. If you need any of these items back within a certain time frame, please do not hesitate to email me directly and I'll make sure to arrange that.
-Thank you to Liora's family for providing our outdoor environment with a new, beautiful door mat. It freshened up that space so nicely.
-Thank you to Charlie's family for supplying our developing continent/geography folders with colorful images from around the world. What conversations and movable alphabet stories these will inspire!
-Work and pillowcases will be sent home on Tuesday, 11/23 prior to the upcoming holiday, and we will see you back at school on 11/29. We wish you a peaceful and restorative time with people you love.
Sarah's Update 11-6-21
"Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, swish your bushy tail (x 2)
Wrinkle up your little nose
Hold a nut between your toes
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, swish your bushy tail."
Families, this week will be short and sweet, as there will be no school Wednesday through Friday. Conferences will be held via Zoom on Wednesday 11/10 and Friday 11/12 (look for an emailed link and a few other details to come by Tuesday afternoon). Kristin and I are eager to connect with you about your child's growth, both academic and social, during the first part of this school year. Please bring any questions or concerns you have to our meeting, and know that these conferences are for adults only and children should not be within earshot, so that we can communicate freely about their progress.
Last week we embarked on our second Wednesday Walk, and this time we featured our sense of sight. We wondered aloud, before leaving our classroom, what sights we might take in while on the trail. We agreed to use our looking eyes to "capture" as many signs of Fall as we could before returning to campus to create our word web about our "looking walk." Friends reported seeing brightly colored leaves, Halloween decorations, bicyclists and bare tree branches along the way. One friend noticed the change in water level in the creek and another noticed that the berries we saw last week are now a darker color than they were. What fun it's been to see many children fetching a clipboard, pencil and paper to do copy work using the word webs we've created. They are enjoying adding their own words as well as writing down ones their friends contributed.
When we return to school post-conferences, Kristin will introduce the group to our first artist of our year-long Artist Spotlight series. Kandisnsky will be our class focus for the remainder of the month, and the children will have hands-on-materials provided to them as a provocation to create their own Kandinsky inspired piece. I am excited to see what our artists whip up during the work cycles to follow.
Sarah's Update 10-28-21
"This is the squirrel that lives in a tree.
This is the tree that he climbs.
This is the nut that he takes from me
When I sit still sometimes."
It is unmistakably Fall in Eugene. You can observe signs of it in our indoor and outdoor environments. In our classroom, brightly colored leaves have been transformed into art supplies for rubbings. Art teacher Rena brough this classic childhood activity to us, and it was a hit! Pumpkin pillows are being stitched by small groups led by Kristin. She patiently helps tiny, capable hands work with a needle and thread while concentrating amidst a bustling classroom full of movement. Most recently, each student in our classroom community contributed to the creation of a weaving. On a large table-top loom, children took turns weaving with orange and black yarn, stopping when they felt satisfied by the rows they'd added and revisiting it over the course of a few weeks. It is now complete and hung near our light table and art cart for all to admire. A new project with harvest inspired colors has already begun.
Math Meetings, a small group approach to progressing through our math curriculum, are well underway. Some friends are spending time solidifying their knowledge of numbers through 10, while others have embarked on the world of the decimal system. All of us are getting our hands on manipulatives that call to the young child because of their beauty and their orderly and well defined purpose. Math journals, which some of us have begun to dive into, will provide an individualized spot for each child to practice whichever math skill they're currently working on. They also provide another way for the adults in the environment to informally assess their work.
Writers and Readers Workshops have centered around Sandpaper Letters and/or Movable Alphabet and journaling work. We continue to create word webs as a whole group, and our reading of Listening Walk was our anchor for our most recent web and our very first Wednesday Walk. What a joy to see our class taking in the trail together, using their senses to explore and challenging themselves to remain quiet enough to hear the faintest sounds. We celebrated, upon arrival back to campus, this opportunity to work together as a team. Then we took the abstractions of the sounds we heard and poured them out onto word web paper. Friends heard the thump of basketballs being dribbled by the middle schoolers, the whir of a lawnmower, the rustling of leaves, the shuffle of a jogger's feet as they struck the bark mulch, a nest of birds chirping, and the rumble of the 4j school bus that went by.
Please keep an eye out for upcoming details regarding parent teacher conferences (week of November 8th) and stay tuned for continued ways you can contribute to our classroom, either by volunteering your skills and time in off-school hours or, in the near future, through during school-hours opportunities. I know some of you feel you have the space in your schedule to contribute, and we are eager to put you to work! We appreciate being in community with all of you and we are grateful to spend our days with your Kindergarteners.
Sarah's Update 10-14-21
“Autumn leaves are turning, turning, turning.
Autumn fires are burning, burning, burning.
Days of in between.
See the changing scenes.
Autumn time is all around.”
Our community's return to the classroom after distance learning has been packed with exploration and learning. Our morning work cycle is filled with the productive hum of children in various states of concentration as they complete the three part work cycle. Along the way I am observing friends using our grace and courtesy skills to check in with each other when paths collide, or to ask kindly for someone to give them space.
Our morning gatherings now include some Autumn themed songs, new poems, and the creation of word webs full of brainstorming and opportunities for children to see written language in action while practicing the art of raising one's hand and waiting patiently to make a contribution. Earlier this week I told the brief true story of Maria Montessori, who enjoyed playing "silence games" with her students. We wondered aloud if it would be possible for us to pass around a bell and make it all the way from me to the last friend in our circle without creating even the tiniest sound. We knew we had a big challenge ahead, and so with a deep breath and a reminder to calm our bodies, we played our first silence game. You should have seen those steady hands, furrowed brows of concentration and faces of joy as we completed the task with success two times in a row! We will revisit many variations of this silence game in the days and months to come.
Easy CBM assessment (language focused for Fall) is winding down, and I am already beginning to use that data to create small group activities and plan future presentations. An informal math assessment began this week as well, and these results will determine the official entry point each child will have in our math curriculum.
We finished our first chapter book of the year, Cynthia Rylant's In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen, and the children seemed to enjoy this sweet and cozy story from the Cobble Street Cousins series. Today we began our second chapter book of the year, Pippi Longstocking. I told the children that Pippi's adventures inspired me as a young girl, and that I have read her stories to many classes over the years. Today we had to stop a time or two to let fits of giggles subside before I could continue reading. Pippi is just that funny!
Please remember that Friday, October 15th is a PD day for Ridgeline staff. We will see your bright eyed children back for more learning on Monday, October 18th. Be on the lookout for work to be sent home tomorrow/Thursday in our new "take home folders." Please marvel at your child's work and then send the empty folder back with them on Monday to be stored in their work cubbies. This will be a new weekly routine and one of many ways we support functional independence through care of the environment routines. Thank you for partnering with us on this!
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Sarah's Update 10-1-21
"Love grows one by one
Two by two and four by four
Love grows round like a circle
And comes back knocking at your front door"
I hope that one bright side of our recent shift to online learning has been getting to hear your child singing some of our beloved Kindergarten songs. "Love Grows" is a true favorite! Though Kristin and I are really missing our friends here in the classroom, we are so happy to be able to see their smiling faces on the other side of the screen, to continue our established routines and rituals of morning songs and calendar work, and to have casual conversations in our small groups. A big thank you to families who have provided tech support (muting and unmuting can be so tricky) and a big thumbs up to everyone for completing Seesaw assignments with enthusiasm. We love seeing the children's creative responses.
When our friends return to the classroom on Friday 10/8 we will welcome our new friend Ben. He has been able to join us for morning gathering, which has been wonderful, and we look forward to helping him integrate into our established community. This will be one of many opportunities for children to take on a leadership role as they help our new friend orient. I am excited to see it all unfold, and I anticipate grace and courtesy lessons will keep us very busy along the way as we remember how to share classroom materials, how to provide and advocate for space and how to peacefully exist together.
While the children are away, Kristin and I have been working hard to get new materials on the shelves, moving away from many of the transitional activities we began the year with and increasing our overall amount of traditional Montessori and presentation based work. Our lesson plans include a lot of practical life activities like floor scrubbing and leaf washing. We will also begin to focus on journaling through what we'll call our Writer's Workshop. Math will kick off with some friends working on number recognition, others focusing on one to one correspondence, and all of us will be doing a bit of math journaling. This will take on many different forms throughout the year including number writing, equation recording and eventually word problem work.
Our benchmark assessment, EasyCBM, will begin once we return to in person learning, and those results will inform the language instruction entry point each child will have based on skills they've brought to Kindergarten with them. Our days will be busy with our morning work cycle, afternoon specials and a lot of time outdoors in between all of that learning. Please remember to send your child to school with a morning and afternoon snack (the latter won't be necessary on Fridays, when our days are a bit shorter with our 1:05 dismissal). Please also remember to tuck into your child's backpack a pillow case labeled with their name, so that we can begin to make quiet reflection time extra cozy. I'm looking forward to sharing a chapter book with the group at that time, and their pillowcases will help us define our spaces for focused listening.
Thank you again for your support during these distance learning days! See you in person soon and on Zoom in the meantime.
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Sarah's Update 9-17-21
"At the beginning is a good place to be.
What will each day bring for you and me?
New life, new friends, new things to do.
At the beginning is a good place to be."
Our Kindergarten classroom is a bustling place filled with laughter, music and learning. We've begun our year together establishing rituals and routines, most important work for children of this age. Dr. Montessori's research, based on years of observation, determined that there are four distinct planes of development one moves through in the first twenty-four years of life. Our Kindergarteners are considered first plane, concrete learners. They understand the world by experiencing it, and they do this through exploration and use of their senses. They possess the gift of an absorbent mind, which allows them to take in all that they are surrounded by and then do the big work of categorizing and sorting and making sense of it all. If your children are returning home exhausted, this is why! We are doing so much together as a community, and this is happy but tiring work as they settle into the school year.
We begin each day together by connecting as a whole group in our outdoor environment. Friends are able to work on social skills here, practice the grace and courtesies we have focused on in small groups and enjoy some fresh air. Some of our day is spent as a whole group in our classroom, receiving presentations/lessons and practicing the three part work cycle, which includes finding a spot to work, choosing a table mat or floor mat, exploring the chosen materials and finally returning them to their home in the classroom readied for the next friend to use. Our grace and courtesy lessons highlight points of interest based on observations Kristin, our classroom assistant, and I make throughout the day. Are we noticing friends moving a bit too quickly through our space? There's a grace and courtesy for that, and we can turn it into a little game where we role play how to move peacefully through the classroom, noticing what it looks like to walk mindfully around floor mats, listening for the soft sound our indoor shoes make as we move. Many friends enjoy taking a turn demonstrating these skills, often taking a bow while friends applaud their efforts.
A large part of my role in the classroom is to match children to meaningful work that calls to them to be creative and to concentrate. In these first weeks of school we will continue to focus on the area of our classroom called practical life, focusing particularly on two aspects of practical life, care of ourselves and care of the environment, both of which speak to our Kindergartener's innate drive for order and movement. We are already reaping the rewards of this work, which began on the first day of school, as we see a group of children who confidently know where to place their personal items in the classroom, how to wash their hands, where work to go home is stored and how to self advocate and ask for help along the way. Practice, practice, practice! Our days are filled with practice of these life skills!
This week will bring new excitement for our group, as our specials of physical education and art will begin! We are looking forward to the learning these experiences will add to our days for our curious and eager Kindergarten class. Kristin and I are most grateful for our supportive community of parents and caregivers who are cheering us on along the way. Thank you for sharing your wonderful children with us!
Gentle Reminders and Important Housekeeping:
-Please check backpacks nightly for paperwork or other important items we may send home. All work created by the children will go home weekly on Friday.
-Please send children to school in appropriate layers including rain gear on wet days. If you'd like rain boots to be kept at school, just email me a quick note to let me know.
-If your family is participating in the UO weekly Covid testing, you will find a kit in your child's backpack every week on Tuesday to be returned to our bin at arrival the next day.
-Please tuck a clean pillow case into your child's backpack. We would appreciate it if you would label it with their name and bring it to school by next Monday 9/27 for use during reflection time. We will soon begin reading a chapter book during this time, and we want the children to be extra cozy and able to well define their reflection space while they listen. We'll take care of storing them in individual bags between use and send them home to you in backpacks on Friday to be laundered over the weekend and returned the next week.
8-33-21 Sarah's Welcome Letter
Hi, families! I am so excited to work together this year and to get to know your children. Kristin Warner, our Kindergarten classroom assistant, and I have big plans for the year ahead. We'd like to help welcome you to campus and orient your children to the indoor environment by having you join us on campus for one of two half hour Kindergarten Welcome Meetings next week.
Please use this SignUp link to choose ONE of two Welcome Meetings to attend. On the day of your visit please park along Amazon Drive in front of the school and join us (masks required for all) to gather in the grassy area near the parking lot. After quick introductions at 3:30pm with Kristin, me and Principal Michelle, we will guide the group to our outdoor environment. Here we will ask parents/caregivers to remain outdoors while we explore our classroom with the children. Please use this opportunity to visit at a distance with one another, and know that if a child is having a particularly difficult time separating from you, you are welcome to stand together outside and simply peek in the windows.
Kristin and I will orient the children to the parts of the classroom, and we will show them where they will store their:
-indoor shoes (slippers with rubber soles)
-water bottle marked with their name
-snack in an easy to open container, packed separately from lunch (practicing at home is helpful!)
-lunch in easy to open containers (if bringing one from home/not participating in the school's lunch program)
-1 extra set of clothes in a Ziploc bag marked with their name (this will remain in their backpack)
-1 extra mask in a Ziploc bag marked with their name (this will remain in their backpack)
We ask, if possible, that you bring the items above to the first day of school, so we can begin fostering the children's functional independence and helping them feel settled into the space from the very start. Look for more information to come from the front office soon re: arrival and departure procedures and other details about the school year.
Please don't hesitate to reach out to me directly via email if you have any questions or concerns about our upcoming Welcome Meetings. Kristin and I look so forward to getting to know your children, and we feel honored you are sharing them with us!
Sarah Maxwell, M. Ed.
Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School