With the new year unfolding, we at Dancing Moose look forward to exciting adventures—some planned and some that our children will discover as they are given opportunities to think and explore in their rich classroom and playground environments. One of the most valuable attributes of the Montessori classroom includes time for independent discovery. Children utilize independent and small group time to make choices and act on those choices without concern that someone will rush them to complete, critique, and move on. Each day holds the promise for a new adventure that is waiting to be discovered.
As adults, our lives are often filled with so many predetermined events with expected outcomes that we are caught in a whirlwind. It is captivating to see children working in an environment that is not rushed but is filled with intrigue. Watching a child choose a work on a shelf and turn it into his or her own discovery is magical. Work time activities reflect children putting forth concerted effort and exhibiting great pride in their accomplishments. It is really a privilege to observe the promise that children find in small accomplishments that are unrushed. Montessori early childhood classrooms provide an ideal model for the promise that life holds when we take time to step outside the whirlwind, look around, and see what we might learn from the small and simple things we encounter.
Maria Montessori understood the importance of earned praise a century ago, yet handing out empty compliments in an effort to bolster self esteem persists in children’s lives. Some children are at risk of becoming compliment junkies as they wait for someone to recognize their work and pin on the “good job” label. This empty praise not only encourages children to seek approval outside themselves, expect immediate extrinsic reinforcement, and respond to unearned rewards, it may actually inhibit some children to take risks. If children perceive that they need approval from others, they might think it more safe to rest on their laurels and not risk compromising their status. Some children may perform at mediocre standards because outside praise is constant regardless of effort.
As Montessori advocated, the real motivation to reach high levels of performance comes from within. Observers may take interest in the products children create; they may make observations or ask questions. Children’s real incentive to try ever-challenging tasks, however, comes from the quiet sense of satisfaction that the goal was achieved and a new goal identified. It comes from taking pride in one’s environment, and being part of a community of learners, dreamers, achievers. Intrinsic rewards provide children with the wonderful sense of control over their lives and the desire to keep trying because they experience the personal joy identifying and reaching their goals. Hence, Dancing Moose teachers do not quickly turn to the “good job” label, but the encouragement to “keep working and doing your best” is an ethic that we all stand by.
One of the most important things we can support in our Dancing Moose children is a positive self esteem. Teachers accomplish this important goal in a number of ways. First, they create a safe environment where children do not fear that they will “get it wrong.” Children have ample opportunity to try something and then try it again. Many lessons are self correcting, and teachers understand the importance of allowing children to take risks without fear of failure. Second, teachers listen to children. They take interest in the things that interest children. As a result, children know that teachers care about them. Teachers also encourage children to express themselves in individual and group settings, supporting children’s recognition that their ideas are interesting and important. Third, and perhaps most important, children can predict their environment. They know that their teachers will be well prepared with interesting activities; they will maintain consistent, high expectations that meet the developmental needs of every child; and they will be calm and patient each and every day. These are some of the wonderful outcomes derived from dedicated and capable teachers who work with small teacher-to-student ratios. All of us at Dancing Moose recognize that each child should feel great about themselves every day, realizing that they are shining stars and valuable members of the Dancing Moose community.
It is wonderful to see the wind turbine turning and producing energy for Dancing Moose. The open fields adjacent to the school provide the perfect setting to keep the breeze moving and producing energy that goes to the energy grid.
Inside the school, our large boiler produces radiant-heated floors throughout the school. This is an important feature to help us keep children comfortable and warm, and it is another one of our commitments to maintaining a green school.
We have recently partnered with a recycling company that recycles our paper goods into insulation. They send a check for our recycled products to the Utah Food Bank each month. The bin is located next to the Dancing Moose garbage bins. If you have paper, cardboard, or magazines to recycle, we would welcome contributions to our recycling bin.
As a community, we want to do our best to contribute to a clean and healthy environment. We also want to teach our children the importance of making efforts to be green, so we incorporate all of these efforts into our curriculum. Teaching children to be responsible community members is one way to ensure a healthy future for them.
Christmas is a time of year where many celebrations take place, and Dancing Moose is no exception. Children are busy learning new songs of celebration, memorizing lines for performing a play, drawing and painting backdrops, and learning all the relevant moves to make their performances come alive. All the planning and practice takes time and patience from everyone, including all the children, but the preparation for a performance profoundly demonstrates the learning potential of integrated curricular goals. It teaches children the importance of practicing for a real and foreseeable end point, where they can experience the sheer joy of performing for their family, friends, and teachers. The many details of memorizing songs, actions, and lines, creating artwork, and moving with practiced precision are details that come together to teach children that they are important members of a production.
The Christmas program for 2011 will take place on December 8th, and all of us at Dancing Moose look forward to seeing the beautiful work of our Dancing Moose children as they celebrate this festive time of year.
The school year is fully underway with the first slate of Moose Boost performances accomplished. Moose Boost is an after-school enhancement program that parents may sign their children up for. The last round included cheer leading, hip hop, Lego creations, cooking sensations, soccer, jewelry, ballet, fabric craft, art, and animal club. These specialized topics are designed to enhance children’s talents and to give them an opportunity to socialize with peers and teachers in new settings with inventive topics. Children demonstrate their accomplishments at the end of the program, which is typically six weeks long.
Moose Boost helps parents to feel confident that their children are making the most of those after school hours, fulfilling children’s desires for enhancement classes before they are picked up from school. Learning in a new setting with a new make up of friends supports children’s social-emotional development, and children’s successful accomplishments helps boost their self esteem.
One of the most powerful ways for children to learn about respect is to learn to know and appreciate one another. Dancing Moose embraces the uniqueness of each child; and teachers, who bring their own rich diversity to the school, encourage children to appreciate one another’s feelings and unique contributions. Seeing and befriending children who make look or speak differently is a great place to begin thinking about the benefits of difference; and addressing feelings routinely helps children to develop qualities of respect, empathy, and appreciation. For example, if one child is insensitive to another, the importance of positive comments becomes a topic of discussion at circle time. Stories that reinforce these qualities complement these discussions. In addition, children have opportunities for genuine conversations where they can share qualities that are unique to each of them; they are also guided to share thoughts about how to be a friend, what encourages or hurts the feelings of others, and how to resolve differences that cause hurt feelings.
Appreciating difference is an important concept as children mature in their school experience, but too often it is not deliberately acted upon in early childhood. When children talk and share experiences, they learn to know and appreciate each other, and this should begin as early as possible. Dancing Moose school activities encourage this kind of communication: working together, talking together, and expressing feelings.
There is a significant link between physical and concentrated performance on academic skills. This active time may be experienced indoors or outdoors, but physical exercise is important to help students have a successful school day. When temperatures are especially hot or cold outside, children need open space like the Dancing Moose gym to move and expend energy to keep them physically and mentally fit.Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine published an article just a couple of weeks ago that correlated physical exercise with academic concentration. The study took place in Rome and involved 138 school children.
To determine whether exertion could make students less distracted, the researchers had the children complete several types of gym classes. The children then took a written test that required them to pick out certain letters from long chains of symbols in a short time. (The test is widely accepted as a good indicator of a person’s attention and ability to concentrate.) Results showed that children’s test results rose after each of the classes.
We already know that physical activity is a lot of fun for children. We know that healthy lifestyles require a lot of physical activity, but it is also important to know that taking time for physical activity each day also boosts children’s ability to concentrate on cognitive tasks. Gym time is a great time all around!
Dancing Moose is not introducing a new concept with its Dual Language English/Spanish classroom, but it is certainly taking advantage of the momentum of quality programs around the country that are capitalizing on children’s enhanced creativity and analytical thinking of a dual language program.
Leading researchers in dual language programs, Virginia P. Collier and Wayne P. Thomas, have documented that children exposed to a second language learn at a more rapid rate. Bilingual researcher Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto stated that:
“Several studies have linked bilingualism to improved working memory, which is associated with reading and math skills.”
In research conducted at Nanjing University in China, bilingual seven year-old children outperformed their monolingual peers on two working memory tests—one requiring them to recall and rearrange a series of numbers and the other to retrace a pattern of hops made my an animated frog on a computer screen.
Researchers say that the best way to become proficient in a second language is to start young and practice often (Scientific American Mind, July/August, 2011).
Preschool and kindergarten is an ideal time for children to begin to experience the advantages of dual language instruction.
We look forward to launching our new Dual Language Classroom at Dancing Moose this fall.
New research from psychologists at the University of Missouri (UM) confirms the importance of knowing basic mathematics by first grade in order to be successful in math in fifth grade.
The three basic competencies vital to success are:
- Low-Level Arithmetic
Dancing Moose has had a strong emphasis on basic mathematics skills incorporating the hands-on Montessori materials to the abstract numbers.
We are happy to introduce a new Math Expressions Program that will add to our Montessori Math and be initiated this year in Kindergarten, first, and second grades.
After students understand basic math facts and counting, the new program will:
- Teach them to express math operations verbally
- Teach them to express math operations in writing
- Provide a solid foundation in general education studies
According to David Geary, UM’s Curator’s Professor of Psychological Sciences,
“Math is critical for success in many fields, and the United States is not doing a great job of teaching math.” Further he states, “In order to improve basic instruction, we have to know what to instruct.”
Dancing Moose is excited to meet the challenge of helping students not only recognize numbers and counting, but to work toward foundations of mathematical expressions.