Middle School - April 1, 2016

Dear Families,

Our work this week was guided by the realization that we have less than three months remaining in this school year. Last week we compiled a list of outstanding projects we want to complete during that time. This week we started making progress on a few of those items. During their Independent Middle School time the class brainstormed and recorded a few possible research questions relating to the Burden Iron Works and the Civil War. It sounds like we’ll be getting in touch with our friend Michael Barrett at the museum and probably other keepers of archives in the area to find documents relating to the flow of money into Troy, and the flow of metal goods out of the city, during the war. The students will let the information they find help them shape the style in which they present their work to the NYS Archives Student Research Award panel.

A student asked why we were doing this project and I explained my reasoning to the class. We need to study history for numerous reasons and while we could solely read about events in books, the Montessori approach for all students, and especially adolescents, is to try and make the curriculum relatable and connected to the students’ lives and experiences. Therefore studying history in the streets and buildings where it was made, along a river we could paddle on, is a meaningful way to go about it. I explained that I could have manufactured my own project but that this Archives Award project offers a perfect framework not only for learning about history, but also for practicing other skills that will be needed in high school and college. In high school courses and exams there is an emphasis on students being able to look at primary source material and interpret the information to answer questions and develop their own questions. The Archives Award project also gives specific instructions for exactly how the projects must be presented. Carefully following such directions is an important skill. Additionally the project must be accompanied by an annotated bibliography. This project allows the class to use their Montessori roots to nourish many branches of traditional academic work, which in turn will help them gain confidence in their capabilities as they blossom in future settings.

Some other items on our “Before June 22 To Do List” relate to Community Service projects. Of the potential projects we came up with, there were two that the class was especially enthusiastic to work on. Each student practiced their written communication skills by sending out email messages to adults who they will need to work with in order to complete the projects.

One involves the class collecting children’s books from members of the school community in order to donate them to The RED Bookshelf. This is a literacy organization that has shelves located in places such as hospitals and court settings, where children may benefit from having a book to keep them company. The kids are invited to take a book with them. We will also work with RED Bookshelf to learn how to sort and prepare books for distribution. Check out http://www.theredbookshelf.org/home

Our other service project has many parts. The class is going to host a Coffee Shop style Open Mic at Emmanuel Friedens Church on Saturday May 21. The goal is to raise money this year that will go towards purchasing materials to build new picnic tables and benches for the playground area next fall. This will enhance our community by providing spaces for outdoor lunches, a place to relax during recess, and improved comfort for parents who socialize after school. The school community will be invited to the Coffee Shop and can buy baked goods that the students prepare in advance. Everyone (from the Primary on up to teachers, parents, and grandparents) will also be encouraged to sing a song, tell a joke, perform a dance, play an instrument, do some magic, or share other talents with us all. This project will include designing posters and other publicity materials, running the business aspect of the shop, set-up and clean-up of the event, and work as MCs and performers during the open mic time. Loads of learning opportunities for a great cause!

On Wednesday we made another trip to the Plotter Kill Preserve. We were stunned and excited to see all the changes that had occurred thanks to a nine days of warming spring weather. You can see the difference if you compare the picture of the falls to last week’s image.


Everyone is either almost done reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or has finished the book. Next week we can begin looking at the book in the context of a Hero’s Journey in preparation for each student’s work comparing this classic tale to some other book they have read that can also be looked at through this hero lens.

In math we worked with using charts, graphs, and equations to look at rates. We collected data to find the average time it takes each of us to walk 5 meters and then calculated our rates in meters per second. Unsurprisingly Benjamin, our fastest hiker, walked most quickly across the classroom. We will be developing our own method for testing how quickly the river is flowing when we get back out on the Mohawk later this spring.