As parent-teacher conferences approach, we want to express our gratitude to our teachers and parents alike for guiding our students both inside and outside the classroom. Teachers have been hard at work preparing to have conversations with each of our parents about the first few weeks of the school year and we are grateful for this opportunity to speak with you one on one. Communication is a key strength of our community and parent-teacher conferences are just one of many opportunities throughout the year that we look forward to conversing with you.
For some, it is your first parent-teacher conference ever, as with many of our Montessori parents. For parents of students in our lower school, a new school year brings new teachers, new expectations, developmental milestones, and challenges. For middle school parents, the conferences are more of a dialogue about how your child is performing and adjusting to learning from several teachers.
At Green Hedges, our students learn from excellent, caring teachers and have supportive, understanding parents. We set aside this time to make sure we are all working towards shared goals for your child.
Here are some thoughts on making the most of your parent-teacher conference:
Listen. Listen actively, and let the teacher guide the conversation. The insights they have to share stem from their daily interaction with their students as individuals.
Give and take. Conferences are a productive, cooperative exchange of information. These are essential conversations that help deepen the shared commitment to each child’s personal growth, cognitive development, and joy in learning.
Tell us about your child. Although time is limited, describe what they’re like at home, what interests and excites them, and explain any issues at home that may be affecting your child at school.
Check-in with your child. Sometimes, talking to your child in advance of the meeting, you can ask more specific questions about his or her grades, behavior or performance in certain classes.
Teachers are on your side. Be open to your teacher’s answers, suggestions and recommendations and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
Remember, a parent-teacher conference is just one check-in of your child’s progress. Throughout the year, our teachers are always willing to take an opportunity to sit down with you to discuss any issues that may arise.
For the 2019-2020 school year, Green Hedges School enters its second year participating in Eco-Schools, a National Wildlife Federation program that provides schools with tools to develop eco-friendly practices and an eco-friendly mindset within the school community.
This year, students will identify successes and opportunities for improvement in our Schoolyard Habitat, Consumption and Waste, and Energy Use. Based on their findings, they will create action plans to begin our community’s journey towards ever-increasing sustainability.
Our students are already hard at work making environmental changes on our campus. We are eliminating plastic utensils and providing reusable utensils in each classroom. We continue to expand our recycling program this year by including crayons and markers.
Grade 4 started our Eco Club and is currently working on an Eco Code to guide the School’s work and Grade 7 is conducting a biodiversity study of the campus. Grade 3 continues to be our campus leaders on recycling. Students in Grade 3 collect recycling from our classrooms each week and are our “experts” on the ground when anyone has a question about what can and cannot be recycled.
As the school year progresses, we will continue to create opportunities for everyone to get involved in our Eco-Schools movement.
As your students settle into a new school year, we realize that going back to school comes with both a great deal of excitement and a need to get back into a routine, both for children and parents. Here are some tips to help ease the transition back to school:
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep: As Eleanor Mackey, a psychologist with Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. says in this article about managing back-to-school anxiety, “When we’re tired, we’re moody, and little things can feel really big,” Mackey explains. “Anxiety is much worse if sleep is bad. Make sure you have a good quiet routine and early enough bedtime that your child can get sufficient sleep.”
Set-up a homework station (if your child has homework): Sit down with your child and together designate a time and place where they can do their homework each day. Having the supplies your child needs at the ready can help your child do their assignments more efficiently.
After school: Many children need a break after school, even 10 to 15 minutes to unwind after a busy day. Just a small window of time to engage in light conversation, read, draw, work on a puzzle, or do some other quiet activity can help children transition into after-school activities.
Review school materials and information: There is a lot of information disseminated from you child’s school at the beginning of any school year. It can be overwhelming, but valuable as you and your child may inevitably have questions come up during the first weeks of school that may be answered in communication that is sent through school.
Ask questions and let the teacher know about your child. Every teacher and student spend the first few weeks of school getting to know one another. At GHS we are available to support families and answer any questions you may have. We also encourage you to let us know more about your child to make the beginning of school a smooth start.
While we start every school year with the same enthusiasm and hopefulness of all that is to come, this year, we are very aware that many schools did not get off to the same positive start that we did. Our students, seeing and hearing about the challenges faced by students and their families in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, wanted to help. This week, many of them have put thoughts into compassion and action.
Our two Montessori classes came together to make and sell lemonade to our parents during afternoon pick up. The money raised will be used to purchase school supplies for Houston area schools. Driven by the students themselves, they juiced their own lemons and made the lemonade from scratch. It was a true example of the Montessori mindset in action—helping others and doing things carefully and well themselves.
Our Middle School is helping students impacted from Hurricane Harvey as well. They started a
collection drive last week to collect school supplies for students in Houston and mailed three
boxes worth of supplies to Houston over the weekend.
In just one week here at Green Hedges, we’ve seen two ideas put into action by our students
who understand that there are others in this country who need a helping hand. Sometimes we
wonder how young is too young to show children the impacts of natural disasters, but it can
often be a start of a conversation about how to help those in need.
A recent Washington Post article, Even kids can have a role in helping after natural disasters, is
a great resource for tangible things that parents and kids can do right away to help those in
need after a natural disaster, but it also gives examples of how to show compassion and
helpfulness in your own community.
“Eloquent speech is not from lip to ear, but rather from heart to heart.”
-William Jennings Bryan
Our Grade 8 students are in the midst of putting the final touches on perhaps one of the most significant speeches they’ve given in their young lives—the speech they will deliver at their graduation on June 9. They’ve been working on their speeches for a few weeks now, but in many ways, their preparation has been years in the making.
From the first time our youngest first graders perform their class play on stage in front of the school, to leading our school assemblies as our 8th graders do, there is a lesson or unit in every grade that is preparing the students for this speech. As we mentioned in last week’s blog post, Grades 3 and 4 present to fellow students and parents on a chosen state and historical figure during the State Fair and Wax Museum respectively. By Grade 5, they are writing an in-depth series of essays on the Roman Empire, further enhancing their writing skills.
When they reach Middle School, the students learn to write in detailed and descriptive ways about seemingly small moments in their lives. All the while, they are also reading literature that shows them what good writing looks like.Read More
As we approach the end of the school year, some of our favorite end-of-year events approach. Two of them are Grade 3’s State Fair next week and Grade 4’s Wax Museum in early June. There are many similarities between them. Each student chooses a state (in the case of Grade 3) or a famous person (for our Grade 4 students), and does a deep research dive on their topic. After weeks of work, both events culminate with an event in the Multipurpose Room where each student presents for approximately two hours. All of that time is spent explaining their state or person to a series of students and parents who are invited to tour through. There is no telling what sort of question may arise from an inquisitive attendee, so our students have to be well-versed in their subject.
The students gain confidence when they have a depth of knowledge in what they are presenting. In order to give them the best opportunity to acquire this knowledge, both of these projects are what we call “cross-curricular”. This means that multiple areas of our program work together during this preparation period to help the students deepen their learning about the state or the person.
For instance, in art class, the Grade 3 students have each crafted and painted a model of their chosen state’s bird to display. In both grades, students use social studies and geography to locate either the birthplace of their person or the location of their state and investigate the economy of the location, its major industries, its natural resources, and its connection with neighboring states or countries. Library class time is used to help the students do research and understand the difference between primary and secondary sources. Technology comes into play, too, because all students are expected to use the iPads to create a slide show or iMovie to illustrate key facts about their chosen state or person.
This approach is important to helping deepen the understanding of the subject of their research and allows the children to make connections. “Students gain such pride in their state and begin to identify with it. We often hear, ‘Oh look what I found!’ as the students get very excited when these connections come to light during their State Fair research,” says Anne Craig, Grade 3 co-teacher.
The learning goes beyond what our program normally covers as well. It has become traditional for Grade 3 students to augment their display with a traditional or famous food from their state. This leads to delicious learning by all the State Fair attendees who may enjoy Texas chili, Maine blueberries, or Hawaiian pineapple slices. Our Grade 4 students fashion costumes which mirror the clothing of the era in which their famous person lived, and they use their performing arts skills to assume their subject’s persona in this living Wax Museum.
Reading is the common denominator in all education. In order to learn about other areas, a child must first learn to read — a very complex process. This is why so much education time is spent on phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. More than 80% of Americans 16 and older say they read at least occasionally for pleasure (Pew Internet and American Life Project), and we want to impart that to our students, too. Parents can help strengthen the emotional ties to reading as a fun activity, and the active involvement of parents has been shown to have a positive effect on reading progress.
At Green Hedges School, developing reading skills is a focus from Montessori through Grade 8. Beginning with sandpaper letters traced by a 3-year-old and continuing through the study of classics such as Canterbury Tales and Julius Caesar, our students acquire and hone reading and comprehension skills. All grades have designated library time during which students can select books to take home for recreational reading or to support research necessary to an assignment.
We also introduce analysis skills. In many grades, students use books from their classroom libraries for book circle discussions guided by their teacher. While they share their reactions to the story and explore themes and ideas presented by the author, they are also gaining writer’s tools which they can then employ in their own writing. Our teachers also benefit from having the Great Books series in their classrooms. This series is one of several resources which promotes critical discussion, and was made possible through Raise The Paddle contributions at a recent Gala-Auction.
Parents sometimes worry about how to support their child as they grow and acquire reading skills. Here are a few ideas, but check the links below for additional ideas.
Make reading a part of everyday life – have your kids read signs, menus, grocery lists, etc. to build their skills.
Bring books into your home – either by trips to the bookstore or the library, make sure there are books available to read at your child’s level as it changes.
Carve out time for reading – set aside a little time each day during which your child can read, or can read with you, depending on their age and skills. This can be before bedtime, or after homework is completed.
Read yourself – Children model the behavior they see. If they see you reading, they will likely make time for it themselves.
Stretch their vocabulary – when your child encounters an unfamiliar word, explain its meaning and help them figure out a sentence which uses it in the correct context. You could also ask them to identify three words with similar or opposite meanings.
Summer is a great time to start incorporating these tips into your routine. Each child will receive a green folder at the end of the year which includes summer reading lists. Creating new reading opportunities in the summer could create new habits for the subsequent school year. These steps to build and strengthen your child’s reading skills can pay off in a strong, confident reader at any age.
More tips on developing confident readers can be found here:
We are in the midst of “Screen-Free Week” here at Green Hedges. Although our smart devices in their various forms can be great tools for all of us, many parents worry about the effects that excessive screen time has on our kids. Screen Free Week allows all of us to reset our systems and participate in the activities that we often don’t find time for in our normal busy days.
While your family may not be able to go 100% screen-free, there are some significant advantages to allocating screen-free time on a regular basis, or even just for a few days in this week. Here are just some of the ways you, and your children, may benefit from some screen-free time.
There are lots of activities to consider during screen-free week including:
Play Games: Board games, card games and jigsaw puzzles are all great alternatives to being in front of a screen. Here are some lesser-known board games for younger kids.
Explore the Outdoors: Take a camera, journal, and/or sketch book to record your observations on a nature walk or a neighborhood walk.
Experience History: Visit historical sites, monuments, museums, e.g., the Capitol, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Mount Vernon, Monticello, battlefields, World War II Memorial, Newseum, etc. or read a nonfiction book about an historical topic.
Read a book, magazine, or newspaper article together with your child and discuss or answer questions afterward.
Even if you don’t participate for the whole week, incorporating a day of screen-free time once in a while is a great way to reconnect with those around us.
When parents of preschool-age children tour our school, they invariably explain that they are looking for the best possible start for their child’s academic journey. They share with us what they have read, what they have explored and look to us for validation that we are ‘it’, the best possible start for their child. Their palpable tension over this choice speaks to its immensity: will the ‘wrong preschool’ doom their little person to a life of mediocrity?
In reality, there are many good choices for any one child. Green Hedges School’s preschool program is Montessori-based because it puts the child at the center of the learning process. We believe the Montessori method, where children are free to choose lessons, explore, and repeat with guidance from a teacher, provides the best foundation for lifelong learning. And this is the key to a successful choice: figuring out where your child fits in a given preschool’s philosophy of learning is where you should focus your attention as you evaluate your options.
There is much evidence that a trend toward more teacher-directed instruction is not in the best interest of our youngest learners. The Atlantic offers a thorough assessment of the impact of teacher-led as opposed to student-led learning: The New Preschool is Crushing Kids noting “The same educational policies that are pushing academic goals down to ever earlier levels seem to be contributing to—while at the same time obscuring—the fact that young children are gaining fewer skills, not more.”
So as you go about choosing the best preschool program for your child, observe how learning occurs. Do the children talk with one another, share ideas, use the teacher as a resource? Are there lots of movement as well as children focused on particular projects? If your answers are yes, then relax a bit. You are on the right track.
Our fourth graders returned from Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center and spent two days immersed in learning about a watershed, biodiversity, and energy cycles. They hiked, milked cows and experienced first-hand the concepts they are learning about in fourth grade science.
This trip is the first of the overnight trips in our curriculum, with additional overnight trips in Grade 5, and Middle School. However, we incorporate experiential learning in every grade at Green Hedges. All of our students, beginning with the Montessori students, take field trips through the year to see plays and visit museums.
Other experiential learning happens right on our beautiful campus. Art classes provide students the opportunity to photograph, sketch, or collect natural materials for inclusion in a project. Our Montessorians maintain three gardens, and grow flowers and herbs. Grade 1 observes the development of caterpillars into butterflies and celebrates with a springtime release ceremony. We are soon to begin installation of our science garden which will provide hands-on lessons in soil chemistry, biology, lifecycle of plants, and much more.
Experiential lessons are an invaluable learning tool for the following reasons:
Enhances our curriculum—Through “learning by doing” our students are better able to grasp and retain concepts. By visiting Hard Bargain Farm last week, Grade 4 could see for themselves the local watershed ecosystem and were identifying producers, consumers and decomposers in food chains and food webs first-hand. They returned to their classroom this week ready to reflect on their observations and build upon them.
Increases engagement levels amongst students—Our Middle School students experience an overnight camping excursion every fall, building confidence and teamwork on ropes courses, climbing walls and zip lines at Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center. The majority of the students come back from this trip saying that they were able to connect with their fellow middle schoolers differently than when they are at school. These connections continue for the rest of the school year and often beyond.
Shows that it’s okay to make mistakes—When students perform hands-on tasks, they aren’t always going to get it right the first time. Experiential learning allows students to think differently and try new things and to regroup and try again if it doesn’t go their way the first time.
Prepares students for real life—Life doesn’t happen in a controlled environment. Adapting to a changing atmosphere, working in groups and learning to work with others in sometimes less than ideal circumstances are all factors our students experience during our trips.
Aligns with one of our core values of “Explore Opportunities”—Green Hedges believes that a child’s growth is fostered through a broad range of academic, fine art, athletic and other endeavors and we require all students to engage in these pursuits. Only by trying something, whether it be an instrument you haven’t played before or ziplining for the first time, will you begin to realize your potential. At Green Hedges, we provide those opportunities in a safe space.