The next set of Strata: Montessori Adolescent School Student-Parent-Teacher conferences are on Tuesday, Feb. 24, from 3:40 – 8:00. Please sign up for your conference time slot by clicking right here.
“They are probably the highlight of the term,” said Chris about the conferences, “where the students share their achievements and they re-assess their goals moving forward. It’s a celebration of the students’ work, led by the students.”
Many of you may have seen this image from a posting on the DVMS Facebook page this week, or on the Strata: Montessori Adolescent School website. Strata guide Chris told us a bit more about how it came about:
“One of the things we do on a weekly basis where we get a lot of our non-academic but socially responsible and important educations is in our current affairs talks. One of the students brought in an article about tobogganing and the renewed enforcement of the tobogganing law that’s come about. That got us into talking about what led up to the renewed interest in the by-law and we started talking about how important tobogganing is and what it means to some of us and some of our experiences and how fun it is. It led us into a unit on letter-writing and persuasive writing, so Reece had come across the image on the old $5 bill of a tobogganer and he included that as part of his persuasive letter to our local councilwoman about why tobogganing is important to Canadians in a significant way; how it’s culturally significant was his point.”
No, it wasn’t a wild party. The Strata students are learning to re-use some items that would usually end up in the trash or the recycle bin.
“This time of year the rooms are always a bit of a disaster because there’s a lot going on,”Chris explained. “We’re working outside a lot and we’re doing a lot of prep around that. We have an impending deadline where we’re going to be in a new school soon, and on top of that we built a unit around getting outside and surviving in the cold weather, locally, to explore what’s outdoors and available to the kids, and how it’s not all about video games and hanging around in the house when it gets a little cold, so we’ve been out every Friday all day. Part of that was getting out and doing some snow-shoeing and also bringing our lunches and that led us to the idea of building some little portable, recycled stoves.
“We had Darren come in,” Chris continued, “who is Sarah’s husband, who has built some stoves in the past. He has an interest in it so he came in and he led a morning workshop on the process of designing, perfecting, and implementing your designs of a small stove. So, the kids are hard at work collecting cans and designing something and seeing if it works or doesn’t work and then adapting your design, improving your design, so a little bit of scientific method and procedures in the classroom around that.”
Like the Upper Elementary classes at DVMS, Strata’s outdoor education is guided by the fine folks from Luna.
“We have Justin from Luna with us for the whole day on Fridays, which has been fantastic,” said Chris. “They’re really focusing on exploring what’s available nearby. We pop in the car and drive a few minutes. We went to Warren Park last week; next week we’re at Rock Chapel; we’re at Webster’s Falls, the Lookout, all these amazing things that are available within an easy walk or drive, and a lot of great learning and academics comes from it as well. We’ve been researching where the animals go that are so abundant in the summer, like the turtles we see crossing the road, where are they this time of year? There’s a lot of great geography and geology around the escarpment that we’re next to, so we’re going to be going there to explore some of that. We’re going to finish the unit off with a winter camping expedition to Luna. We’ll spend two days and a night up at Luna.”
The camping excursion will take place from Thursday the 19th of February to the 20th.
Chris also emphasized that a lot of what the Strata program is doing with their outdoor education, as well as other areas, is in preparation for their move to the new building next fall [the former Bagnall Lodge building that was previously a part of Canterbury Hills].
“We’re out working with maple syrup right now,” said Chris, “and garden structures with the idea that when June comes and we have our open month of work, there’s a lot of prep for what we’re going to do at that time.”
Chris also filled us in on what’s going on with the Strata micro-economy projects, and why they are such a valuable part of the program.
“The great thing about the markets with us is, they’re a way of generating a little bit of income, but it’s also a way to tackle things like chemistry and math, finances, things like that. For a project like this [the soaps you see above], the student is asked to take on every aspect of the endeavour. They start with researching: a little bit of market research, running the idea they’re interested in past the rest of the group, convincing the rest of the group this is a good idea, getting people on board, building a team; there ‘s a financial side of it where we’re shopping, doing some budgeting, allocating time — this doesn’t all happen during school time; it becomes an interest outside of school time so they’ll stay late during after school time and work on this. It’s almost completely self-driven; that’s the other thing about this, they really take it where they want. There’s no limitations in the classroom; they’re not limited to a material; they’re taking the interest they have and anything’s available if they can show there’s good value, if there’s educational opportunities in it and they can convince us that it’s going to be a good project, away you go.
“When you’re at the market and you see the kids selling these things there’s a lot of thought, research, preparation, and blood, sweat, and tears that goes into creating these items that they’re really proud to bring to you guys because they actually are doing everything from beginning to end. The pride that they have in these things is amazing. There’s an idea of putting some baskets together for Valentine’s this year.”
You can read a little about Montessori timelines in this week’s Upper Elementary West update. Strata students are in the process of creating their own timeline that tells the story of mathematics. Chris explained the purpose of the project:
“The way we handle math at our level, there’s the application of what they know, there’s the whole understanding of the abstraction of mathematics, and how we put it in place: there’s the cooking we do, there’s the math classes with Sarah, but on the other side of it, to really instil a love of or interest in or desire to know more about math really falls onto this idea of the story of math — the people involved in math, the crazy mathematicians who are really unique and unusual characters. Those people have devoted their lives to proving theorems and finding truths that we take for granted today. So, introducing some of these people in the story of math and why math is such a passion for some people, it just brings it to them on a different level. The adolescent brain is about community and ‘What is my role in my community?’, so showing people who have done that work to pull society forward and innovate, those are the great people we stand on the shoulders of, that created what we have and what we enjoy.
“They’re exploring a mathematician or someone involved with math in some area, some way, shape, or form, and we’re going to be going back to this all year and doing some research. In their own words they’re telling me, they’re putting onto the timeline, what they feel is the significant contribution this person made.”
Strata also brought some innovation to their own math work this week, revamping how they organize and maintain their work.
“Part of our responsibility to the adolescent is to help them create an orderly and compartmentalized being and mind, and part of that is by developing within them good organizational habits,” said Chris. “As much as every individual is going to have their own style of organization and keeping track of things, and some are more successful than others, we do our best to really try and find things that work for everyone and we’re constantly adapting and changing things that aren’t working.
“Sarah’s been working hard to put her stamp on the math program a little bit and, like everything in the classroom, it’s trial and error, it’s moving forward, it’s assessing and observation, and it’s tweaking, constantly, you’re always tweaking, always trying to make it a little bit better. What you’re seeing is just that — new math books, new organizational style, new portfolios for the program she’s putting together.”
Year six Upper Elementary families, at the recent Strata application process meeting, we invited you to come for lunch at Strata. You can now choose a date for your lunch. You will be at the school from 11:45-1:00 on one of Jan. 26, 27, 29, or Feb. 17,19, 23. Strata can accommodate up to 4 people at a time for lunch, so two sets of parents can attend at a time. We realize some of you may not be able to make it during a work day. If both parents are able to attend, please register each parent individually so that we do not end up overbooking any specific lunch dates. Thank you, and see you for lunch soon. Sign up for a lunch date here.