Some Upper Elementary West students worked with Anna this week to make some bird feeders.
“We’ve been talking about our responsibilities not only to ourselves and our indoor environment, but also our outdoor environment and our outdoor friends,” said Kathleen, “especially at this time of year when they need us most. When they were done they went and hung them up all over the playground in hopes to help our little birdy friends.”
Keep your eyes open when you’re picking up, we may be fortunate enough to have many more birds sharing our space.
The more traditional areas of elementary education, of course, continue to be a big part of Upper West, where this week some Montessori materials were put to use to help a new student — to both DVMS and Montessori — entrench some concepts.
“These are the Racks and Tubes that the children use for the concept of division,” Kathleen explained. “One boy is new to our school, and Montessori, so this is the first time that he’s done long division with us and I want him to understand what long division is, not just memorize it abstractly even though that might be something he’s done previously. The other boy understands the use of Racks and Tubes and is helping him out. It gives the kids a concrete way to understand division so they’re not just memorizing the steps. There’s also a control of error in the material, so if they make a mistake the material will tell them, so it’s not always me saying, ‘This is wrong, go back and correct it.’ ”
In another math moment this week, Kathleen pre-empted the common student question of “Why are we learning this anyway?” that regularly accompanies the presentation of new math concepts.
“We’re talking about rounding and estimating,” said Kathleen. “It’s true. A lot of the time when I’m teaching a math concept, the kids will be asking ‘Am I learning this just for the sake of learning it or is this something I’m actually going to use in life?’ For this concept of rounding and estimating, it is very useful in every day life. We were talking about going to the grocery with $10 and mom asking for three things and getting up to the till and not having enough money. How can we use our rounding and estimating skills to make sure we have enough money?
“I send them out into the environment a lot of the time,” said Kathleen about how, in general, she overcomes the “Why do I have to learn this?” question. “For example, when we were doing area of the circle, I had them go out into the environment and find circles that they could find the area or the circumference of. I try to make it practical. If we’re doing fractions, we’re doing cooking. They can go with Anna and I’ll ask them to double the recipe, so all these things: decimals and fractions and multiplication and division, we are going to use them in every day life.”
The fancy looking chart you see above is a Montessori Timeline of Civilization, which was out in Upper West this week as they began their study of ancient civilizations.
“Throughout their time in Montessori elementary, from 6-9 [Lower Elementary ages] and 9-12 [Upper Elementary ages] they’ve done the Timeline of Life, the Timeline of Humankind, the Timeline of Human Life 2, and this is the Timeline of Civilization. I love the timelines because it puts everything out in a very linear and very clear picture, so when you’re talking about ancient Egypt you’re also talking about all the different civilizations that were occurring at the same time — they’re running parallel to each other. We ended with the Timeline of Human Life 2 up to the beginning of ancient civilizations, so we were able to look at all the different civilizations that continued without disruption versus ones that were disrupted because of war or migration or whatever the case may be. They can see that ancient Egypt — the civilization stopped and started many times. The colours don’t continue, but then pick up again after.
“Right now, each student has chosen an ancient civilization that they are studying and doing a project on it that’s due in March. They’re doing many different presentations. Some of them are doing a book, some of them are doing a timeline of their own, just on their civilization, some of them are doing poster board presentations. They may be asking you to take trips to the library.”
Both DVMS Upper Elementary environments also recently introduced noise cancelling headphones.
“We introduced three pairs to the environment,” said Kathleen. “They’re actually quite lovely. I wish I could wear a pair! You can still hear, but what it does is it takes out all of the external buzz noise. Some kids like to wear them just because it makes it easier to focus. They’re on the shelf; they’re a piece of material. If you want to use them you can go get them but by no means do you have to. I love them. You put them on and it’s like ‘Aahhhhhh.’ They’re very popular.”
The cozy atmosphere of the Upper West environment was also quite evident this week, with the couch and blanket being put to good use.
“We do silent reading every day,” said Kathleen. “I know the children are required to read at home, but they also like the opportunity right after lunch. They’ve just come in from an hour outside, they’ve just had lunch, and it’s 20 minutes to half an hour of just quiet focused reading time. It calms everything down for them to start their afternoon work cycle. The couch is always a big hit, and we’ve tried to make the environment as home-like as possible. They’re welcome to take out the blanket or pillow and make themselves relaxed.
“The other picture of the two boys, they’re doing their ancient civilization project and I found a website when I was gaining resources for them all to use that is a virtual tour of ancient civilizations. They’re watching a tour of ancient Egypt. They can click on different areas of ancient Egypt — Giza, the pyramids, that sort of thing — and it’ll show you what it would have been like back then.”
In other exciting, cozy news, some Upper Elementary students have organized a movie night at DVMS on Thursday, February 19, 5:30–7:30 pm. They will be showing the movie Despicable Me 2. All DVMS children and families are welcome. Admission is free, but they will be selling pizza ($2), popcorn, juice, and water ($1 each), with proceeds going to the Sick Kids Foundation to support the Garron Family Cancer Centre.
Bring pillows, blankets, and PJs!
As you know, both Upper Elementary classes have been participating in outdoor education with the instructors and guides from Luna recently. Janice accompanied them this week and took some photos of their adventures. Kathleen shed some light on what they have been up to.
“We love Luna! They’ve been coming every Thursday and Friday and the children have been split up and we’ve mixed the classes so that Terrence’s class and my class are going together. They’ve been spending time doing outdoor games, but they have also been learning really important tips and lessons on how to survive outdoors. So, the coldest day of the year when everyone was inside, our kids were outside because they learned how to layer properly and they were fine; they loved it. This week it’s Inuit games so they’ve been learning games kids would play up north and creating the materials to go along with it.
“On March 6, the very last day of term, we are all going out to Luna as a big group so they will spend their last day with Luna Adventures in the winter out there before the March Break. Hopefully the sap will be flowing. We went out there last year and tapped the trees and it was a lot of fun. The kids love Luna, and the instructors are so fabulous. It’s such a great opportunity that no other school gets.”
As usual, children should be dropped off and picked up at Luna, not DVMS, on March 6. We’ll let you know as soon as times are confirmed.
Kathleen also wanted you all to know that the Upper Elementary students in both classes are starting their speech writing work this week and the children will be presenting them towards the end of February. We’ll also let you know when the presentation dates are confirmed, and of course the children will know and will bring a note home. They will know what day they will be speaking on, but the order of presentation will be decided on the day of their presentation.
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.
Finally, please remember that the Upper Elementary children will be skiing on Feb. 2 and 9. Thank you all for getting your waivers in on time. THE CHILDREN NEED TO BE AT DVMS NO LATER THAN 8:00 AM. They will be departing Chicopee at 2:30 pm with an expected arrival at DVMS between 3:30-4:00.