Moving up, moving on, beginning, ending - however one wants to define it, there were many commencements the last week of school, and there was a Montessori thread of "responsible independence" that ran through all of them.
It started with a smile-producing kindergarten ceremony. There were mobiles hanging above each child's head with pictures/words of favorite activities. There were songs. There were personal statements from each child proudly read off to the assembled smiling parents. There were songs and there was the candle walk. And then there was...CAKE! The kindergarteners are moving on.
The next commencement was centered around Jessica's farewell, and also the thirds becoming fourths. The Lower El had a private, quiet farewell with the students reflecting on their experiences in Jessica's classroom. This was followed by a celebratory party hosted by Lower El parents.
As with Lower El, the sixth grade graduation was a classroom ceremony. And it was astonishing. There were individual personal statements read to the class. Their sense of self-reflection about who they were when they started in Upper El and what they learned during their years with Dan and Tom were full of humor and honesty. There were gifts to and from the sixths, there was a song, there was poetry, there was a candle walk.
The crescendo came with Middle School graduation held in the pouring, POURING rain on Friday night (though once the event started no one even noticed the rain). In all my years of Hilltop graduations, this reached phenomenal heights. Memorizing a very personal speech and giving it in front of a large assembled crowd of parents, grandparents, friends and teachers is no easy task, and yet this year's eighths delivered their very personal words with grace, aplomb, humor and wonderful timing. They left the tent with black umbrellas sheltering them, stood in a line by their pond with backs turned and then in a crescendo of music, turned around, waving proudly, umbrellas and hands twirling. They are ready to commence their new lives.
Responsible independence: at each age level the students reflected on what they liked, how they had grown, what community meant, how grateful they were to their families and teachers. They spoke in front of their families, their friends, their classmates. They were responsible and they were independent. Those moving on, moving up, commencing and graduating - CONGRATULATIONS!
Lost Until Translated
Juice goose not for the JBLs. Redundant conduit. Two hot legs. Cap 5 terminate. Followspot.
At this Wednesday’s barn design meeting, former HMS parent and theater guru Gerry Stockman, Finn, and parent Dave Snyder spoke in this near incomprehensible language with architect Frank Balla about the theater needs.
What I came to realize from this particular meeting is how the theater will become an integral part of Hilltop’s curriculum as students learn about how to use sound, light, and staging to enhance their school performances; and that a vocabulary, which is foreign sounding to me, will need no translation for the upcoming generation. What has traditionally been mysterious, technical, behind the scenes done-on-Broadway work, will now be available to all Hilltop students.
Today I toured a parent of one of the first Hilltop Middle School graduates. He was totally agog, having bumped through the infancy of the Elementary and Middle School. He spoke of how Hilltop exposed his his son and daughter to new ideas, intellectual risk-taking and critical thought, and how that has allowed them as adults to develop skills and expertise in fields that were just emerging during his children’s early years.
It was, as you may have guessed, an “aha” moment for me, and one which makes me more committed to the Barn project, determined to ensure that all the “redundant conduit” or “hot legs” are included. It makes me – and I hope all of you – more determined to ensure that the pond and the playground, these final pieces of the Keystone Campaign, are finished so that today’s students learn vocabulary and skills that will serve them in fields that are in their infancy today.
Odd and Even
A very simple material. Round wooden red counters. Wooden numerals from 1-10. Sample layout laminated on a card for the child as a model.
Emma laid out the numerals and the counters. Several of the numerals were backward and a couple of the counters were askew, but in my mind she had been patient and copied the model accurately.
Melissa came over and sat down next to her. After complimenting Emma on the layout, she wordlessly put her finger next to the backwards numeral 7. Emma quickly turned it. Same for the numeral 9.
Melissa then asked her to look at the laminated card and back at her work and said, "The counters have a pattern. Can you see what it is?" Emma took a look at the model and moved the lone (odd) counters to the bottom middle of each (odd) numeral. The word "odd" had not yet been used.
Melissa placed her finger above the counters and below the numeral. She slides it down until it rests on a counter, and says "odd" and moves it to one side. If there is no counter to stop her she slides her finger all the way down and says "even". She did this for each of the numerals/counters. Emma watched. No words while Melissa slid her fingers down the row. Only to say the word "odd" or "even".
After doing this for the numerals 1-10 and the counters below them, a discussion ensued about how they were different. How "odd" actually meant it didn't have a twin, it didn't make a pair or have a match across from it. A very simple material. Round wooden red counters. Wooden numerals from 1-10. A knowledgeable teacher using precise language that emphasized the language and the corresponding concept.
An incredible concept internalized. I know because the next day I held up one finger and asked Emma "odd or even". "Odd" she responded. When I held up two fingers, "even".
I have overheard parents reflecting in astonished tones at the "personality changes" they have observed in their children with the onset of spring. For some it's been delightful - the grumps have turned into active, busy, sunshin-y family members. For other there's the wail of "what happened to my active, busy, sunshin-y child?"
Perhaps it's just the season, perhaps it's the school year cycle, but it is certainly what seems to happen around spring break. We see it at school as well. There's a restlessness, an anticipation, a mood that can be accompanied by distraction, noisy outbursts (good ones and bad ones), moments of lethargy and moments of high energy and incredible focus.
Most upper el and middle school students can articulate what's working and what isn't which can make it easier to come up with solutions - whether it's earlier dinner or setting up a new schedule or even re-arranging a bedroom. For younger students it's more of a challenge - and endless questions to try and find out what's going on can frustrate both parents and children.
There are no perfect answers - mostly it's being able to relax, step back and say, yes, this too shall pass. Another stage is sure to come. The question is how soon!
A Responsible Community
There is so much going on – raffles and playground building, tag sale prep and helping with carpools, organizing wood chips and coaching Girls on the Run. Much of what happens goes unnoticed, seems just what one does, but in fact, it’s all these little pieces that make for a strong school.
RAFFLES: Summer Getaway tickets are selling like wildfire! Thanks to all those who have taken them to work, walked around the neighborhood, let their Red Sox or Yankee fans know…and if you haven’t sold yours, please use any of these methods to do so. Remember that every family has the responsibility to sell 10 Summer Getaway tickets!
The Tiny House continues to intrigue a wide variety of people from California (!) to the New York Island. Of course it’s hard to imagine a Tiny House being pulled across to CA or settling anywhere on the New York Island. I’ve been surprised at friends of mine who have bought one on-line so send out the link and encourage your friends and relatives to take a peek. We’re counting on you to sell at least 2 Tiny House raffle tickets.
PLAYGROUND RENOVATION: Thank you Ellie and Andrew Pennell for taking on the sandbox moving project and to all the volunteers coming this weekend to build a new sandbox so that next weekend the swing set can be installed. Group photo please so we can identify all the participants!
TAG SALE: In talking about clearing out the barn in anticipation of the June 10 demolition (yahooooo), up came the idea of having an easy to manage tag sale. Poof, within a day there were 10 families who signed on, food organized and a bouncy house to keep bouncy guys organized.
CARPOOLS: To all of you who organize and drive carpools – a huge thank you. It cuts down on the carbon footprint and eases traffic in the circle. It does take a village to organize one, keep to a schedule and to take a turn and drive a group of noisy passengers.
WOOD CHIPS AND GARDENING: Soon there will be pots of color and a big pile of wood chips to beautify the grounds. If this is something you like to do please contact the green thumb lady – Lynn Stewart.
COACHING GIRLS ON THE RUN; An extraordinary coaching group of Amelia, Sarah, Lynn Brush and Deb Loevy-Reyes run 16 Hilltop girls ragged. Or is it the other way around? In any case there’s a lot of laughter, panting and red faces by the end of each session. Reminder that pick up is 4:30.
Thanks to all of you for the role modeling of “responsible independence” and helping the Hilltop community hum through the rest of the year.
I happened in on a spring lesson in the Birch Room this morning. It was all about the planting sequence from seed to a delicious plate of beans.
Olders and youngers settled into circle and answered questions about what would be needed for the work that Cheryl was presenting: scissors, pencil, glue, paper. Ideas popped out as to what one could do with the sheet of paper that showed the sequence. Besides a straightforward glue and paste there was the concept of a matching game or making an accordion book. This resulted in a big discussion about the word "accordion". "That's what Jay has". Puzzled looks on the youngers. How could the paper on the tray become an accordion like Jay's? Olders do their best to explain.
Then the discussion began about the sequence of growth - from seed to plant to edible bean.
There was lots of discussion about the bean itself. The shape, the size, how the root emerges underground, how the shoot pokes up through the soil, how long it takes to grow, what plants need in order to grow, how the roots stabilize the plant and make it sturdy.
The vocabulary in such a lesson is unbelievably rich: seed, tap root, rootlets, stabilize, sturdy, pod, stalk, harvest. But it wasn't taught as vocabulary, it was inherent in the discussion. The words "stabilize" and "sturdy" were translated in a simpler form: The little roots help keep the plant from falling over.
A simple lesson to start the day that took place in less than 15 minutes. Science. Vocabulary. Respect on circle. Youngers listening to olders. And even that magical moment when one student likened the tap root to the Connecticut River and the rootlets to the streams that flow into the river!
Watching learning happen. What a satisfying way to start my day.
The World's a Stage
This Isn't Peter Pan
Looking forward to Theater Space!
Wednesday morning. Honing in on Thursday's performances of "Night at the Museum" the Upper El class is assembled and Dan and Tom begin pulling together the various skits that exhibit what has been learned throughout the school year. Skits have been written by the students, edited and refined by Tom, Dan or other students. Songs have been written by the students, edited, refined and practiced with other students and Jay. Tom directs onstage; Jay oversees the music; Dan is in the art room finishing up props.
Yes, The world's a stage: the topics range from Native Americans to the three branches of government, to the human body. Nine skits that represent a physical expression of topics covered over the year. Eight songs that the band has practiced throughout the year, the words of which have been rewritten to reflect the skit topics.
This isn't Peter Pan. There is no "I Won't Grow Up" where the audience knows the tune and the words, where parents and teachers help rehearse the lines. The script - well, it's not available through any source except for the students themselves and the lines have to come from and be internalized by the students. It's a script that requires creativity and responsibility from each student. It's a script that demands the courage to explain one's learning in one's own words in front of an audience. It's a script that demands both independence of thought and the ability to create a cohesive skit with classmates.
When everyone is crammed into the Upper El tomorrow afternoon or evening there is no question that we will be looking forward to the new theater space in the Barn. Next year's performances - and there will be many to enjoy - will happen in the new theater and will be fitting for the kind of creative, student-driven performances Hilltop produces.
Blogs, Articles and other Readings
Like so many of you, there's never a shortage of emails that are advertising some fabulous product, webinar or workshop. Many of the ones I receive at Hilltop can be deleted just by reading the subject line. However, every once in a while something comes in that's intriguing. Here are a couple of articles/blogs that should spark an interesting conversation with family and friends.
by Edward Burger
Although this article is directed towards higher ed, the subject is relevant: learn from failure. Everyone talks about it; here is a professor who goes one step further and actually teaches failure, believing that only by trying and failing does one begin to take risks and think beyond the obvious.
by Maria Popova
I found this particularly interesting. Imagine writing something that is one plagiarized sentence after another! Maria Popova re-examines Kenneth Goldsmith's book Uncreative Writing. It could be quite a challenge to write something where Mark Twain's or Maya Angelou's sentences or phrases are used in a different way.
The Dearth of a Salesman
by Daniel Pink
Yes, this is about teaching as a sales job. As one reviewer wryly admits, "While no teacher wants to be a salesman explicitly, we still have to convince our students that what we "sell" them is worth the effort, whether the "buying" is required or not."
So Much Happening
Teachers, students, admin staff, parents. Everyone has the regular stuff they do: give lessons, morning drop-off, answer phone calls, family chores, school chores. What is astonishing is how much happens outside of our regular chores - and how a week with all these "specials" couldn't happen without significant commitment from everyone in the community. Here is a brief summary of how the community made this past week work. Thank you to all!
*A Montessori trainer from Kerstin's certification program observes Kerstin and gave her feedback.
*Hilltop parents/students makes and serves supper at the overflow shelter.
*The Children's House has a field trip to Lilac Ridge Farm.
*The Upper El has a field trip to the Pequot museum.
*Cheryl, Mariam and Sarah spend Friday soaking in new Montessori ideas at another school.
*A Montessori teacher from a public Montessori school in Springfield, MA visits Hilltop and soaks in new ideas.
* Lauren, Melissa and Cheryl host a mini-class to welcome prospective Children's House applicants and introduce them to a Montessori classroom.
*The Faculty/Staff meet to get an overview of the 2013-14 budget .
*Ellie attends a professional development workshop.
*The Design team (Tonia, Sarah A-J, Frank, Leland, Jenny Smith) meet to discuss Barn demolition project timing.
*The Middle School holds an Alabama details meeting.
*Girls on the Run takes place two afternoons after school.
*Lauren tours prospective parents.
The Upper El Team!
Last month it was astonishing to me sitting in Laos receiving a flood of resumes for the elementary teaching positions. Not only were the candidates well qualified, many were Montessori certified. For Upper Elementary especially, this represents a big change from 10 years ago when Upper Elementary classrooms were in their infancy. Believe it or not this is close to the last time Hilltop hired an Upper El teacher.
A very professional hiring team of Tamara, Dan and Tom zeroed in pretty quickly on Jennifer Hed, who, we are delighted to report, has agreed to join the Elementary team by teaching in the Upper El with Tom.
Jennifer is Montessori certified for both Upper and Lower Elementary and has years of teaching experience in Upper Elementary Montessori classrooms in Maryland before moving to Vermont. Jennifer is the parent of graduate Natasha ('98), as well as a younger daughter and son, Naomi and Noah. As a Hilltop parent and certified Montessori teacher she helped train Hilltop's Upper Elementary teachers in the use of the Montessori math materials in 2003-04 and served on the Board. So she certainly comes to Hilltop with a real understanding of the school.
Not only is Jennifer Montessori certified, she has an MEd and an MA, is fluent in Spanish and has spent the past eight years teaching music in schools in New Hampshire and Vermont. In other words, this is one talented teacher joining an already talented Elementary team!
So if you hear some highly jubilant voices from the elementary hallway, you'll know why! We're deep in the interview process for Lower Elementary. Stay tuned!
A Different View of "Happiness"
Perhaps one of the most jarring questions that arose on the trip to Laos and Myanmar was how one views what we, as Westerners, would describe as poverty or at best subsistence living. On this trip I received emails from Hilltop regarding lock-downs, snow days, fundraising and hiring updates; meanwhile I would be walking through a dusty village in southern Laos watching children playing with one marble, guiding their buffalos down to the Mekhong, or sitting and reciting in school. Limited electricity, shoes an extravagance, rickety houses, unrelenting heat. And of course there are issues with childhood diarrhea, landmines, limited educational opportunities, and probably abuse.
On the other hand, from what I observed children also experience a freedom to move about their village, to swim, ride bikes, and wander that is hard to come by in this country. There is seemingly a lack of worry: there were often two kids scrunched on a motorbike with no helmets or children asleep on a table while their mother waited tables.
It is quite a contrast to life here. Below are some photos from my adventure!
Before the December break Jessica Thomas told me that after 27 years (hard to believe) she has decided it's time to move on. I remember hiring Jessica - she started as an assistant in our first year of after-care program at Centre Congregational Church, then moved up as an assistant in the lower elementary program when it moved to High Street, took 6-9 training, became head teacher, moved again to Austine, and finally to this wonderful location on the hill. As she said, she knew she'd been here a long time when she began to teach the children of her former students!
The wheels started spinning. I kept thinking about the Elementary space. I thought about how mature the Elementary program had become, and how ready it seemed for the next big step. I knew, too, that this step had been contemplated before, but the time hadn't seemed right. And I knew that this step would mean a change that ran counter to what Hilltop cares most about - people.
In my heart, I knew I had to do what I believed was right for the school, and so I approached Dan and Tom and put forth the idea that had circulated several times before: what if Dan became Head of the Elementary program? He has the full Montessori Elementary training for ages 6-12; he could help develop a fully integrated, fluid Elementary program, and he has a B.A. in Art from Yale. The art room could be a classroom and art studio. He could teach art through the cultural curriculum. He could teach geometry. He has worked with CORE and could make sure that the literacy pieces flow smoothly. He could teach both a Lower El reading group and some Upper El seminars. Together the Elementary team could decide what support was needed and fully develop the very rich Montessori curriculum.
But there was reluctance for the same reason that I had - it meant the loss of a person.
The loss is Helen. It is a significant loss. Helen has worked in both Hilltop's Middle School and Elementary program as an art teacher. She knows the school and has created lessons that have matched the curriculum under incredible time, money and space constraints. She is a Hilltop parent. She is an artist.
When I spoke to Helen she could immediately see the benefit to the program. Trying to manage teaching art in short periods with large groups as a "special", adapting as best she could her understanding of the Montessori curriculum under these circumstances was frustrating. She was grace and courtesy personified as I outlined the idea.
After several meetings, time to think through the suggestion, check it out with Tamara, and accept the reality of losing Helen, the advantages to the program burst forth. The Elementary team has met several times to imagine how it could work and will be crafting the vision with Tamara, whose Montessori Elementary experience will be critical as the program evolves. Dan will be the Elementary Head. He will teach, lead, observe and plan. He will be the eyes and ears - and spokesperson for the Elementary program.
I am deeply grateful to Helen and to the Elementary team for understanding and accepting how much this change will mean to the school, and to Tamara and the board for supporting the vision. It's an extraordinary opportunity to grow. The Elementary program will become, at last, all that it can be.
We strongly encourage all Elementary parents to attend Moving Up Night on February 5th to learn more about this big change. Tamara Mount will be at school to discuss the shift and answer questions.
Who Taught Wyatt to write?
"Wyatt didn’t seem to do anything “academic” during his first year of Montessori, but he sure was active! He washed tables, sewed on cardboard, traced and made drawings of geometric shapes, looked at picture cards, built a pink tower, stroked boards with sandpaper, and lifted little cylinders by their tiny knobs."
Below is an excerpt from an article (edited here for brevity) I read while sitting in the airport waiting to fly to England to visit my grandson. For the full article read: http://mariamontessori.com/mm/?p=1330 by Pilar Brewley
Peter and Margaret had heard that children in Montessori schools were precocious learners. Their neighbor’s five-year old daughter, Jenny, began to read and write while she attended the local Montessori school. They didn’t know much about the method, but when the time came to enroll their three-year-old son Wyatt in a pre-school, they decided to give Montessori a chance.
Wyatt didn’t seem to do anything “academic” during his first year of Montessori, but he sure was active! He washed tables, sewed on cardboard, traced and made drawings of geometric shapes, looked at picture cards, built a pink tower, stroked boards with sandpaper, and lifted little cylinders by their tiny knobs.
But, they thought, what does that have to do with writing? After all, not once during that first year had Wyatt’s teacher directed him to a workbook, a #2 pencil, or lined paper!
The boy’s parents were nervous; many of the non-Montessori parents spent several hours each week with their children engaged in workbook activities, showing them how to connect dots and color large letters. Peter and Margaret wondered if they should do the same.
Wyatt’s teacher, however, asked them to refrain from offering academic work at home. She encouraged them to involve Wyatt in hands-on activities at home; share fun experiences in nature; and help him build his vocabulary through conversations, poems, and stories about the real world.
One day, when Wyatt was about four-and-a-half years old, the family was having dinner at a restaurant. With a pencil he was using for coloring, Wyatt carefully wrote his name in cursive on the paper placemat. Oblivious to his parents’ surprised expressions, he went on to write in cursive the things he saw around him: fork, dish, napkin, and plant. From then on, he wanted to write words all day long!
His parents were thrilled, but full of questions for his teacher. How was it possible for Wyatt to develop this difficult skill if he never used workbooks or connected dots to learn the shapes of letters? How was he able to hold the pencil so confidently and with so much control, when youngsters normally press the pencil so hard onto the paper that they tear it? And above all, how could he enjoy the activity so much when most children have to be forced to practice their writing skills?
The answers to all their questions can be found in the seemingly unrelated work Wyatt did during his first year in the classroom. His arm and wrist gained strength as he scrubbed tables and squeezed sponges. By holding little knobs with three fingers he learned how to grip a pencil. He gained fluidity of wrist movement by tracing shapes. He expanded his vocabulary by learning the names associated with beautiful pictures of trees, birds, fruits, and insects.
When Wyatt understood the concept of writing – that letters representing sounds are put together to form words – his hand was ready and willing to help him express his thoughts on paper!
This entire process – what is called the indirect preparation for writing – was thoroughly enjoyable for Wyatt because all of the activities he was engaged in fed his psychological needs. In other words, the work he did in the Montessori classroom responded to the internal drives all young children have to learn through movement, to explore their language, and to experience the world through their senses. When a child’s education is designed with these sensitivities in mind, learning is easy and pleasurable.
This indirect approach to education is a thread that is woven throughout the Montessori curriculum, from the early years of Children’s House through the advanced work of Upper Elementary and beyond. The feeling of satisfaction and self-fulfillment it gives the children is priceless.
So, who taught Wyatt to write? The truth is he taught himself when he was ready.
How Montessori Fosters the Messy Art of Learning
Maybe I was attracted to Montessori because it allowed learning to start with curiosity. Not only allowed it, but actually encouraged it. Curiosity encouraged leads to problem-solving. It can happen quickly. Mostly, though, it’s a process that takes time and often doesn’t follow a prescribed path.
A personal example: I’m curious about how a budget line is set. I ask Allan a question. I look at the spreadsheet and try and figure out the why’s and how’s. I go to a couple of websites – which of course lead me to other websites and more possible ideas. I talk to Lauren and then to Amelia to try and get some clarity. I make some assumptions, but in an hour I still have questions. I form ideas about a different approach. One simple question leads me to collaborate with three people, and explore multiple resources. Is my time wasted? Or does real learning take time?
A few moments later I observe the same process in the Lower El. “Where is the map for El Salvador?” a student asks. "Why," I ask, "El Salvador?"
Well, his friend knew all about a soccer team in El Salvador so he wanted to find out where it was and what its flag looked like. That led to questions about how to find out about its soccer team.
Our situations are very similar. Our learning process started with curiosity, and led to problem-solving through collaboration, research, and stick-to-it persistence. By examining a single line item on a budget, we might discover a different -- but better -- approach to how it’s funded. By asking a question about where El Salvador is on a map, that student might write a report, create a map, or have something special to share at ASG. Curiosity can be messy. It’s unpredictable and hard to test within our education system, but it allows deep and meaningful learning. I love it.
Next week's parent conferences started me thinking: How do conferences illuminate Hilltop's mission statement? What is it that happens in every classroom that guides students to attain responsible independence and how is that reflected in discussions that teachers have with parents?
The Children's House students go to their cubbies at 11:30 and I listen while the teachers patiently encourage children to zip their jackets or check whether their shoes are on the correct feet. I watch a Lower El teacher finish up a lesson and assign follow-up work with the expectation that this will be accomplished. When she checks in later, the eyebrow is raised, and the student knows exactly why. If one expects independence then one must be responsible. The student gets the work finished by recess.
A visit to the Upper El or Middle School classroom reveals a broad range of activities. Some are at computers; some in lessons; some chatting in the hallway, some at snack. Several are working on projects together. Teachers and students have a shared understanding of the expectation of responsible independence. Everything that is happening make up lessons about managing one's own learning. The stage is set for conferences.
Starting in Upper El, students know that they will be expected to share their portfolio of work and participate in parent conferences. They know they have to explain the process of taking notes and to respond to questions a parent might pose. In Middle School they know full well that they will be leading the conference. They know they will have to talk about managing their time. They know that they are responsible for what they have or have not accomplished.
Responsible independence is, however, much more than lessons and completed essays and buttons and jackets. It's equally important to understand that one's individual actions impact the larger classroom community. Whether it's pushing in line at the Primary level or unkind words and exclusion in the Elementary program or Middle School, the underlying message is that respecting others is a responsibility that each student has for the well-being of the classroom community.
Implicit or explicit, what you will hear next week at conferences is that Hilltop's teachers are focused on the school's mission: for students to attain responsible independence.
What's the Point of School?
This is the title of a book by Guy Claxton, one of the UK's foremost thinkers on creativity, learning and the brain. He examines why schools are actually built to fail and what has to be done to "rediscover the heart of education." I was struck by what he sees as the "magnificent eight qualities" of a good learner and how the qualities match up with what we try and do at Hilltop - sometimes to raised eyebrows and a bit of what-does-this-have-to-do-with-success?
A powerful learner is curious, has courage, likes to explore and investigate. Powerful learning requires experimentation and imagination. But these wonderful attributes must be harnessed: The "how come?" must be analyzed and looked at methodically. In other words, a powerful learner must also be a disciplined learner.
Powerful learners are also sociable and reflective. They can collaborate and give and receive feedback; they can ask how we got there and 'what are our assumptions?'
These eight qualities are not easily tested. They are often messy. Teachers have to constantly balance between allowing imagination and experimentation and demanding analysis and reflection.
The famed "volcano" work is a great example. In the Children's House the modeling clay volcano is magical; the vinegar/baking soda "explosion" creates a sense of wonder and fosters the imagination. In the lower el the "why" pops up. How does this work? What makes this happen? Given the Montessori curriculum there is also the geography piece, the science of the why's and how's of volcanoes, the myths and stories around volcanoes.
Fostering powerful learners. That is the point of Hilltop Montessori School.