Starting with this issue, we will be sending out this quarterly newsletter about Bennett Park Montessori, its students, and its staff. We hope you enjoy getting to know the school in this way.
For me, these past few months have been filled with joy and learning. What a privilege it has been for me to be begin to witness up close the spirit of love that permeates the great work that goes on in our school. My hope is that, if you have not yet spent time in your child’s classroom, you find a way to take the time to experience firsthand how the Montessori philosophy is being kept alive and well in our school.
As this is my first newsletter article as the president of the Montessori Community Association (MCA), I’d like to tell one reason why we are proud to send our children to Bennett Park Montessori.
First, let me first tell you that I am deeply troubled and worried about the deficit of civility and compassion I experience and witness in the world around me. It seems to me that the amplification of the “us versus them” mindset threatens to drown out and suppress a way of life that is based in compassion, cooperation, and compromise in a diverse and complex world.
As Montessori parents, we are proud that our children are given the freedom to discover their unique selves within a complex and diverse world. Our kids are learning, first and foremost, to answer that most important question: “Who am I?”
As the president of the MCA, I understand our role as one that provides support and encouragement to teachers, administrators, and parents, as we all do our best to grow our children into compassionate and mature adults. Please let us know if you need support, or if you have thoughts about how we can do a better job. We can’t do it all but we want to do as much as we can as well as we can.
Grace and peace,
November 29, evening: Parent-Teacher Conferences & “Meet the Principal” Daytime conferences happen throughout the week; contact your child’s teacher.
December 6, 5:30 pm: MCA Meeting
December 21, 5:30 pm: Winter Concert Concert performances also happen during the day on December 20.
Ms. Debbie's Pre-K 4s and Kindergarten 5s having a wonderful time at The Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence on October 16! See More Fall Photos
Montessori Lesson Corner
Pete Gottfried, Associate Principal
Parents often ask, what is in store for my child at Montessori after they move on from the 3–6 environment. Dr. Montessori believed your child is now moving out of the first plane of development and into the second plane. Some liken this to moving from the Age of What to the Age of Why. Students are less concerned with order and more concerned with their social standing.
In a 5–7 or 6–9 classroom, a casual observer may see lessons being given one-to- one, in very small groups, and occasionally to the whole class. And some of those lessons will be given using materials commonly found in the 3–6 environment. Often a child may exclaim she “already knows that work,” only to be shown the materials are being used in an entirely different manner.
If you would like a look at a typical Montessori lesson that can be given at the 9–12 level, please follow this link to a short video. In this video (on dividing a whole number by a fraction), the large fraction skittles—a material commonly found in the 3–6 environment—are used alongside the stamp game—a material commonly found in the 6–9 environment—to teach the students a very abstract mathematical concept. Using Montessori materials, the child develops a concrete understanding of the concept before moving toward the more abstract algorithm.
New Bennett Park Montessori Logo
Krista Bow-Palgutt, Parent
We have a logo! The MCA hired Timothy Staszak, a local designer, to create a logo for our school. The winning design is a peace sign opening up to a rising sun. Maria Montessori expressed what education at our school is best when she said, “It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open themselves up to life.” You will see the new logo on social media, t-shirts, letterhead, brochures, and school signs. We hope you all embrace it and love it as much as you love this school.
New Bennett Park Montessori Website
Kate Steilen, Parent
This summer, parents Ruth Mack and Kate Steilen made it their project to design a new website for Bennett Park Montessori. We wanted to create a place for parents to find information on the basics. We wanted to help new parents get a sense of how Montessori works from the start. We wanted to show more of what goes on inside the school; profile teachers, administrators, and staff; and give examples of Montessori philosophy. We also wanted to present student activities in pictures and reports.
Let us know what you think, and what else you want to see on the new site, by replying to this email. This winter, we hope to enhance the photos on all pages and round out the design by using our new “sunrise” logo.
The Math Minute
Abby Wisz & Sofia Martino, 7th and 8th Grades, Gabriel Russell’s ELA class
Ms. Andrea’s math class provides great learning activities for all students. In 8th grade math we have learned transformations and scientific notation. We finished the first module, and tested our skills with a test and a project on scientific notation.
In 7th grade math, we have learned graphing, proportional relationships, simplifying ratios, scale drawings, scale factors, ratios, rates, and unit rates. We are currently working on scale drawing projects. We are finding proportional relationships using graphs.
Our math teacher Ms. Andrea has been working at our school for 14 years. She teaches 7th and 8th grade math, coaches the “mathletes,” and helps the student council participants.
The activities in 7th and 8th grade math class are varied and exciting at the same time.
Gym and Swim Class
Tyshawn Hogan & Timothy Lamar, 7th Grade, Gabriel Russell’s ELA class
The gym and swim classes at Bennett Park Montessori offer a variety of activities for students to enjoy. Coach Mike is the teacher of gym and swim class. We have him every other day at 12:15 to 12:59.
In the Swim room we learn how to swim, practice floater kicks, and hand movements.
In Gym class we do warm ups, take the passer test, and play 1- 2- 3- 21. Sometimes we have free time to play basketball.
The most fun activities are the passer test and basketball because we get to face each other. This is what Gym and Swim class is about.
I had a chance to take a quick tour of Maggie Giamo’s art classroom, see some spectacular student art, and try very hard not to make this interview about Ms. Maggie’s side pursuits of roller derby and hockey (she played for Buffalo Beauts, the women’s professional hockey team!). Here she is on art, students, Montessori, and “contour drawing.”
RM: What is it like to teach art in a Montessori school, as opposed to one with a more standard curriculum?
MG: I am so very fortunate to be teaching here at a Montessori school. Since day one, I have felt nothing but complete support and celebration from all staff surrounding my instruction and creativity. Most importantly, I have found that a Montessori school helps cultivate critical thinking and creative problem skills that seem to marry so well with the arts. My students continue to excite me with their dedication, motivation, and innovation towards their art exploration.
RM: When I visited your classroom last week, I saw some interesting line and grid drawings. Could you tell everyone looking at my pictures about these assignments?
MG: The first assignment that we observed were called "Blind Contour Drawings." This is the second year I have started the school year with a drawing unit centered around observation. I have found that some students struggle with observational drawing; being able to deeply focus on an object and translate it as it seen onto paper. Blind contour drawing is a process that takes away an individual's ability to look at their paper while they are drawing. It forces the artist to become a well-trained looker. Students use a paper shield over their pencil to avoid the temptation of peeking at their paper. They also are not allowed to lift their pencil through the whole process, as if they were drawing with one continuous string. Students use mirrors to draw a self-portrait using the blind contour drawing process. We always end up with a big wave of laughter after we reveal our drawings, as we all look quite frightening. This experience not only strengthens students' abilities to observe line, shape, and form in objects, but also allows students to be free of their fear of perfection.
The second assignment we are currently completing are called "Grid value drawings." After students demonstrated their skill and understanding of contour lines and value/shading, we were able to graduate to a more thorough drawing approach called "grid drawing." Grid drawing is a process of realistic drawing where you create a drawing using a gridded-photographic reference and then creating a drawing of a grid of equal ratio on your drawing paper, just like battleship. Next, you begin drawing your photograph onto your grid paper one square at a time, until you have fully completed the composition. This is one of my favorite assignments to start simply because of the reactions from my students when they see their completed work. I'd like to describe it as a "smock": a shocked smile. Most students admit they never felt they were capable of creating a piece of art of that caliber. This technique is a great motivational tool to expose students to their true potential.
RM: I know that in the past you have taught a wide range of ages at the school but that currently you are focused on 9–12s. What kind of teaching opportunities does that shift present?
MG: Ahhhhhh (sigh of relief). This is what I felt when I found out I would be teaching all the 9-12's, mainly because our 4th-6th graders are the biggest sponges right now! It is a great opportunity to teach an entire team of students because of the collaboration, uniformity, and feeling of community when we share our art making together. It's really nice to put all of my energy and dedication into comprising the most rigorous, age-appropriate media exploration and art curriculum for this age range. It's very gratifying to overhear students from other classrooms in the hallway share their connection with art. It really brings an enhanced feeling of community within our wing.
RM: Do you have a favorite project in the art classroom? And could you tell us about it?
MG: I may sound crazy, but clay. It's like the child whisperer of all art media. There's something magically therapeutic about the process. Until a pot breaks. Aside from clay, my favorite specific lesson I have done with the kids has to be our lesson we are currently working on now: Grid Portrait Drawings. It has been so rewarding to see the kids beam over their work in disbelief, realizing what they are truly capable of. My students continue to amaze me, but this lesson has really motivated me to push my students to a new level of art making. All I can say is that I'm a lucky teacher.
RM: Would you tell us about your own artistic practice? What is your preferred medium? Do you have any shows on the horizon?
MG: My artwork (paintings) has always been centered around human portraits and the human form. I knew I always wanted to keep that subject matter in my work. I enjoy the technical challenge of rendering realistic human form, but also the vulnerability and character that a human subject brings to a piece of work. If I were Mrs. Warbucks, I would work with oil paint all day long. Lately, it has been acrylic paints on canvas. There is an alumni show coming up this winter at Buffalo State where I plan on exhibiting some work. I do plan to start some new series of work that will hopefully show (locally) this spring.
RM: What do you do when you are not teaching and making art?
MG: Can sleep be an acceptable answer? (Ha!) When I do find time outside of teaching, school, and art making, I try and squeeze in roller derby, ice hockey, and yoga when I can. I'm very content with art and teaching consuming my days.