Updates from the classrooms

Upstairs –

Have you seen the children’s little stuffed pillows? How about stitched pouches? Or beaded necklaces? What about envelopes filled with yarn snippings? The children are learning to sew! What an amazing skill to be able to sew on a button, fix a stuffed animal or make something useful for yourself or a friend.

2015-02-11 22.24.08We thought it might be interesting for you to see how we set up materials that help the children learn sewing skills. First, they learn the basics. The children set up a work space, learn to treat the materials with care and watch carefully as others are shown a lesson.

The children start by developing the muscles in their hands as they roll play dough, stack cubes or remove and replace knobbed cylinders. Then they learn to use tools such as scissors. They cut paper, yarn and fabric (hopefully not hair!). They practice tying knots in thick rope or cord. They carefully pull the threads out of small pieces of burlap. They learn how to push beads over a needle and slide them down. They watch the tricky lesson of how to use a needle threader.2014-12-16 20.46.41

When they feel inspired to sew on fabric, we show where all the supplies are kept. We purposely did not place everything together on a tray but are encouraging them to think about their project and what they will need to complete it. They can choose the pincushion they like, the color thread they want to start with, the needle and threader, fabric, etc. When they have filled their sewing basket, they are off to find a table and get started.

Some children will start with a simple piece of burlap and sew down the middle following a pre-drawn line. Some might start learning how to sew a button to a piece of fabric. Have you seen these projects come home with your child? As the children gain skills and confidence they move on to more complex projects such as felt pouches or stuffed pillows. Just like all the materials in our classroom, there is a sequence. And of course one of the more wonderful things about a mixed age class is the younger children are seeing inspiring projects, knowing someday they too will be able to make them.

2015-02-13 01.31.39Sewing is an important, self-supporting skill. When the child loses a button on their jacket, they know they can fix that. When a favorite pair of pants gets ripped, we hope the children will be encouraged to sew it up. Do you have the basic materials for sewing at home? Please ask your child to show you the wonderful needle threaders we have found so helpful at school. We hope you will enjoy sharing your sewing skills with your children or learning new skills from your child. Our next sewing project? Finger puppets!! Who knew that from envelopes stuffed with bits of yarn could come such a wonderful life skill!

Downstairs –

Preparing and eating a snack or a meal can be a very fulfilling part of our daily life. One of the objectives of the practical life curriculum is to emulate daily living skills such as preparing food, cleaning, and taking care of oneself.

In the downstairs classroom, one of our favorite food prep activities is spreading butter on bread and eating it! What follows will outline all the lessons that we use to get to the end product – yummy bread.

Measuring work:

To be able to follow a recipe, you have to be able to accurately scoop and measure ingredients, we have two main works that we use to help teach this skill to the children.

Leveling work – here the child uses the back of a knife to make on level scoop of flour. The emphasis is not on the amount of flour they are 2015-03-19 08.20.32measuring, but on making sure that the scoop is full. The child then empties the bowl back into the container.

Measuring – we then move into measuring ingredients. We use both wet and dry measurements so the child have experience them all. Here the child picks a written measurement, and then fills either the measuring cup, or finds the corresponding spoon, and then adds that amount to a large container.

Now it’s time to grind the wheat!

This is a wonderful work that engages the whole child, it takes a great amount of coordination, effort, and control to turn the mill. The child also practices measuring and opening different types of containers during this work.2015-02-22 10.20.062015-01-26 10.04.06

Next we make the bread. Each day, three children have the opportunity to make bread. This work encompasses all of the previous activities. The child reads the recipe, follows the measurements, mixes the ingredients, and then kneads the bread.




Food prep with bread – is there anything better than eating bread that you made yourself? The final step in this long chain is setting up the bread as part of the daily food prep.2015-03-23 09.22.01

Part of our morning set-up is that a child helps slice the bread for the shelf and another adds small pats of butter to little dishes. The work is then ready for the class. When the work is available, and a child is hungry, they may go to the shelf, place the reserved sign on the tray, wash their hands, and then gather their supplies.


Making and eating bread is a wonderful way to bring the class together as a community.


Playing with nature

As we enter into the winter months, we’re preparing to enjoy all the outside time we can! We have been lucky enough to have Craig Sherwood, Karen’s (upstairs teacher) brother, make us some lovely new playground equipment: tree slices and half logs. We have all longed for a playground that has natural elements, one which encourages the children to enjoy the playground that is around us whenever we venture out into the world. I don’t think the children mind; just look what they’ve come up with…

2015-01-13 00.38.25 2015-01-13 00.46.26 2015-01-05 14.32.21 2015-01-05 14.26.40 2015-01-05 14.25.54

Your child’s day, continued

This is the continuation of our last blog post, regarding what a typical morning is like for our students. Read on to see what the rest of the day is like!



10:00 – 10:15: The two friends decide they are hungry. First, they must pause their bank game work. They find their name tags in the container and then head to the snack table where they place the Reserved sign on the empty placemat. They then go wash their hands, they come back to the snack shelf, read the number cards and take the corresponding amount of snack. They eat and chat. When they are finished they wash their dishes at the dish washing station and place their plates in the drainer.Snack time in the upstairs classroom

The children at UMS decide when they are hungry, or even if they are hungry. Both classes have a built in way to pause work, either for snack, or for a mental break. The entire snack process of serving, eat and washing, again promotes independence and self-sufficiency. The more we allow children to do, the more they can do.

10:15 – 11:00: Your child finishes up her work with her friend; they clean it up and make it “ready for the next person.” They both go off in different directions to find their next work. Your child makes a quick stop in the library to look at a book, she then watches another friend working on a map of North America. After about 10 minutes she sees that the easel is available for painting. She puts on her apron, dispenses her own paint, paints her picture, moves it to the drying rack, washes and dries the cups and brushes, wipes down the easel, and then rolls up her apron (who knew there could be so many steps!).

Often, after a big work, a child needs a break. In this example the child looks at books in the library and then watches a friend work. Watching is a wonderful way for children to be exposed to new materials, many times we go to give a child a lesson and they already know the main points from having watched other children work. We do have guidelines to watching, first you must ask the working child if you may observe, then you have to take two steps back, hands in your lap or behind your back, and you do not disturb the child who is concentrating. This entire process reinforces the underlying theme of respect for each individual in the class. Each has their own rhythm, and each rhythm is worthy of respect from us and from the other children.

E in the library downstairs

11:00 – 11:30: Callie breaks into a rousing rendition of “Punch A Nella” and then starts group time. Today, your child decides to join the group, but others continue to work. A few help Aimee load the dish washer and move chairs for lunch.

Group time starts around 11 to 11:15, each teacher leads group for a week. Group time is optional, the child can continue to work, and a few can help ready the class for lunch, the children can even come and go for group. Again, this allows your child to make her own decisions. Does she want to play “Punch A Nella” and then hear a book about fish? Or, would she rather continue her work? The more decisions we allow them to make, the more responsible and empowered they become.

11:30 – 12:00: After a quick shoe change and a flip of her coat, she is off and running on the playground. She swings until she can no longer pump, then collects rocks in a bucket with a friend until lunch time.

As you have probably noticed, UMS does not require forced sharing of equipment on the playground, but we do have bucket and shovel limits – no hoarding please! Just as in the classroom a child can work with a material until they are finished, a child can swing until she decides she is done. It is hard to wait and to not be able to do what you want to do when you want, but the more practice we have with it, the easier it becomes.

-Aimee Fagan, Downstairs Teacher

Your Child’s Day, Annotated – Part 1

Read here for a glimpse into what your child’s day is like at UMS


8:42: You and your child arrive at the classroom door, the teacher opens the door, offers her hand and says “Good morning”

Your child may or may not shake hands; they might not even acknowledge the greeting. We will still offer our hand every day, and one day they will extend theirs and look us in the eye and say good morning. It is our ritual, that when you come to school, someone will be there to say good morning, that those are the appropriate words to say to someone, that we shake hands when we say hello. All of that is being absorbed in those brief seconds.

8:43 – 8:50: Your child places her lunch box on the shelf, removes her coat and changes out of her shoes and into her slippers. If they are the chatty type they are probably using this as a checking in time with the teachers and their friends, and a time to just observe the bustle of the coatroom.2014-09-22 08.12.34

All of these coatroom activities foster the child’s independence and her sense of responsibility – it is her lunch, so she is responsible for making sure it is placed on the shelf, otherwise there will be confusion come lunch time. At the start of the year we work with the children helping them become independent in changing from shoes to slippers. It can be a challenging job for children, but now we are at the point in the year where all have accomplished this task. Again, this is helping the child develop their self-reliance and confidence. The ability to do is by far a greater confidence builder than any praise.

9:00 – 9:20: After finishing up in the coatroom, your child washes her hands and heads into the classroom. Possibly she has her nametag on a work she paused yesterday, but otherwise she begins to look around the room and think about how she wants to start her day. She wanders over to the Practical Life shelf where she picks the necklace making work, she takes it to her table and for the next 20 minutes she strings beads.

Practical Life materials focus on developing specific skills in isolation, and they help develop concentration, coordination, independence and a sense of order. I have observed that many children start their mornings with Practical Life as a sort of warm-up for the day.

9:20 – 10:00: A friend invites your child to work with the bank game; they set out the decimal cards and get two trays. Your child chooses the numbers 2,000; 300; 70; 6. She goes to the bank and gets 2 thousand cubes, 3 hundred squares, 7 ten bars and 6 unit beads. The two children continue to make numbers and fetch the quantity from the bank. The teacher comes by and helps them check their numbers and read the complex number 2,376.

IMG_3412Often children settle into a more challenging work in during the mid-morning. Here we have two children that are working on the bank game, but for a younger child a challenging work could be 20 minutes spent scrubbing a table or taking care of the plants.


-Aimee Fagan, Downstairs Teacher

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Welcome to our Blog!


Welcome to the first official blog of University Montessori School. We intend this space to be a place that allows you to learn more about our staff, our classrooms, our philosophy and our community. This is a space that will be shared by the Upstairs classroom, the Downstairs classroom, After Care and the Director and Assistant Director. Check back here regularly for bits and bobs about what life is like here at UMS.

We look forward to sharing with you!

-Heather Heisig