Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Learning from Bugs!

Each spring, the classrooms at The Westmont Montessori School come alive with excitement for the new life appearing all around.  For a child, the insects that appear after a long winter are fascinating, and the metamorphosis that they undertake is magical!

As adults we are protectors, often looking at insects as pests and not thinking twice about getting rid of a bug that has made its way into the house. But crossing paths with an insect can be a great opportunity to foster respect for the environment, compassion for life, and to teach your child to observe and ask questions. 

Here are some great ways to peak your child’s natural curiosities about the insect world:

     - Talk like a scientist – Children are always up to the challenge of learning new vocabulary and they get excited to know scientific names for insects, their stages of life, and the parts of their bodies.

     - Ask questions – Take a walk through your yard or a park and try to spot different types of bugs. Ask open-ended questions about the bugs and discuss what you both think might be the answers. For example, you might say, “I wonder what it eats,” and see what types of things your child comes up with. It’s great to hear the conclusions a child might draw!

     - Visit bugs at work – Beekeepers have a wealth of knowledge about bees and other insects.  It is an amazing thing to see how insects can work as a community to make something as delicious as honey!

     - Teach about bug safety – While some bugs are harmless, others can sting, bite, and emit chemicals that irritate the skin. It is important for children to know that not all bugs can be held or touched. The tricky part though is sharing this information without creating fear.  Observation of insects, like ants, is a great way to show children that although some bugs can hurt you if they feel threatened, most of the time these biting insects will just go about their business, and there is no need to be frightened.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Brain Talk Leads to Brain Growth

Julia Volkman, Montessori teacher and mentor, founder and president of Maitri Learning, educational publisher, teacher of Mind, Brian Health and Education courses, and columnist for Pubic School Montessorian, recently wrote an article for the newspaper entitled, “Learning about the brain improves achievement.”

Interesting article.  In short, Ms. Volkman believes that empowering children to change their mindset will make a difference in influencing their brain “growth.”
She supports having brain discussions with children at home, meaning - talk to them about their brains.  She offers the following tips when doing so.

     - Your brain is changing… right now  (brain functioning term -Neuroplasticity) 
     - Use it or lose it (Neural Pruning) 
     - Practice makes permanent, we have to make effort again and again to learn (Dynamic Skill Development)  
     - Upset brains can’t think (Limbic System) 
     - When we perceive someone else doing something, our brains get activated as if we were doing it (Mirror Neurons) 
     - Daydreaming and down time are good for you (Default Mode Network) 
     - Exercise improves our ability to remember, understand and learn

Montessori education consistently supports brain growth; children are encouraged to repeat activities themselves or give a lesson to a younger friend to solidify their knowledge of a concept.

To learn more about the brain and how we can support its growth, visit Ms. Volkman’s website www.brainbasics .org

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Partnering with Preschool Advantage since 2012

Westmont’s journey started in 1964 when a few parents identified the need for a Montessori environment for their children. An environment that recognizes children under six have “a universal, once-in-a-lifetime ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings” through exploration and discoveryThis environment provides a foundation for both motivating a child to love learning and to develop a willingness to accept life’s challenges. 
Over the years Westmont has grown and become an extended family.  This family comprised of parents, faculty, staff, board members, and alumni families is united in its commitment to early education.  Today, in partnership with Preschool Advantage, we have the opportunity to share our quality preschool education for children of families in need.  
Founded in 1995 by the Lasser family, of Morristown, NJ, Preschool Advantage’s goal is to “launch a lifetime of learning for children in our communities whose families are devoted to their education and who want their children to have the best possible start, but who cannot afford the cost of a quality preschool.”   Preschool Advantage, with their partner schools, help to fund half day quality preschool. To date more than 700 children have participated in this program. 

For more details, to donate, or, more importantly, should you know of a family that could benefit from this program, please visit preschooladvantage.org or contact A. Vanderbilt, Director of Admissions, avanderbilt@westmontmontessori.org or 908-879-6355.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Making: Combining Art and Story Telling

Making books with children provides the unique opportunity of combining different art forms with storytelling.  Handmade books are pieces of art that you can hold in your hand and share with your friends.  Books can incorporate the child’s own words, the words of others, or be completely free of text.  They can be traditional in nature and composed of pages to leaf through, or untraditional and composed of sculptural forms such as origami.  Printmaking, painting, drawing, paper making and the art of decorative papers, including marbled and paste papers, are just of few of the techniques that can be employed in this art form.

“Spring” and “Printmaking” were the themes of our first book project in the after school STARS ART class. The children were given a variety of textures including bubble wrap, corduroy paper, plastic doilies and sheets of craft foam with decorative cut-outs. These materials were glued to sheets of cardboard to form printing blocks.  Four bright colors of printing ink were made available. The children applied the ink to the textures with brayers and then printed the designs on white drawing paper. They were responsible for trading and sharing the colors and printing blocks.

Overlapping textures to create new shapes and printing on the entire sheet of paper were two of the focuses of the lesson.  After the prints dried, they were cut onto smaller sheets so that each child would have six pages for their book.  Holes were punched along one end of the smaller prints and the children bound the pages with ribbons and beads. The older children added words, that they associate with spring, to the inside pages of their book.

At home, making books is a fun activity that can accompany a family vacation, pictures from a favorite sport or plaything, or can be a creative story made by your child or collaborated on by the whole family.

Contributed by Westmont's Art teacher, Vicki Smith.