Visual Art Teacher, Jenny Urbanek, Writes for School Arts Magazine

DMA’s Visual Art Teacher, Miss Jenny, recently published an article in SchoolArts. SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts.

Jenny’s article is an advocacy piece written directly about a project she worked on with our students that involves the larger Milwaukee community and resulted in our student artwork to be included in the permanent collection at the Milwaukee County Historical Society!

The article can be found on pages 36 and 37.

DMA Craft Fair- Vendors Needed (UPDATED)

DMA will be hosting it’s second craft fair at Hawthorne Coffee on Saturday, October 21st!

At this time we are reviewing applications for vendors. Applications are due August 20th and vendors will be notified if they are accepted by September 1st.

DMA Craft Fair Vendor Application

**Please note- This is an updated link to the application. If you submitted an application prior to Tuesday, July 26, you will need to resubmit using this new form. Thank you for understanding.

The ‘Big Kids’

Once a student at Downtown Montessori reaches 7th grade and begins their final two years in the Montessori Adolescent program they are officially a “big kid”, at least that is the word on the playground. I’ll often see the younger students looking at my students in awe, and some with a hint of intimidation. They are big, they are LOUD, they are fast, they talk a lot, and they are so cool. By the end of the year almost every student will know and be friends with at least one “big kid”.

During the year, our students do variety of in and out of school community service. This year they worked in most classrooms two times a week for an hour each day. Some days they are excited to get out of our environment and go and help in the classrooms, other days I get a grunt and a sigh. But from all of this, I have seen what the power of being a big kid can do. They are chased on the playground with excitement, they are learning how to communicate with students and adults on a different level and they have gained a sense of belonging in our school community.

In the last month, our students completed community service hours at St. Ann’s Center, Urban Ecology Center, COA, and Howard Avenue Montessori. The students took time cards and evaluation cards and were on their way. This was a great experience for the students and all our partners gave glowing reviews to these students. This past week most students completed internships. They got to choose where to go and set up their hours and times. We had kids going local at Hawthorne Coffee and Milwaukee Blacksmith as well as downtown law firms and bakeries. This out of school time is vital at this age and great experience.

Most parents worry about high school by the time their child is in 5th grade. Where will they go? What if they don’t get in? This year I am excited to report that ALL our “big kids” got into their choice high schools, some even got into a few. They worked hard on their essays, with a little coaching, kept up with their work and made sure they had good attendance. It’s not to say this isn’t an anxiety inducing process, but it is not impossible and they proved it this year. We work hard every day making sure that our 7th and 8th graders have the skills they will need to succeed in high school.

Next time you see a big kid say hi. They might be at the park, selling coffee, or in your child’s classroom. They are bigger but they are still kids.

Raising Responsible Children

Would you like your children to put their backpacks away and unpack their lunch boxes at the end of the day without you asking? How about having them put their toys away when they are done without even thinking twice about it? Wouldn’t it just make your heart explode if they handed you paper work they received from school and told you when it needs to be returned? You have probably pleaded with your children to be more responsible at one time or another. But it is important to stop and reflect on how children are being taught the habit of responsibility. It is equally important that children receive plenty of opportunities to practice being responsible at home. Much has been written in recent years about overindulging children. Overindulgence leads children to inherit traits that are the opposite of what it takes to be responsible. Overindulged children may not tolerate frustration well, have a hard time waiting for something they want or expect things to be done for them that they could do for themselves.

According to Jean Illsley Clarke in her book How Much is Enough?, there are three ways parents overindulge children; giving too much, doing too much, and not expecting enough. Many times, these actions are out of misplaced love or sometimes even pure exhaustion. Giving too much might look like making sure a child has the latest toys/video games without waiting for a special occasion. Doing too much means doing things for children that they are able to do or ALMOST able to do for themselves. Children yearn to be recognized for what they are capable of and one way to do this is to make sure they are a contributing member of the family. This holds true for children as young as 2 or 3 years old. Small acts of responsibility when they are young have big pay outs when they are older. One example of this is a three-year old who is responsible for carrying her dishes to the sink (have a small stepping stool available). Another might be a seven- year old who sets the table. When we ask children to be independent and responsible, we must be willing to let them do it imperfectly for this is the only way they will learn. Not expecting enough from children can have negative consequences in the future. It is important to set expectations and then hold children accountable for those expectations. Setting limits and saying no to your child is just as important as comforting them when they are sad and celebrating with them when they are happy. By setting limits, you are showing your child that you care about them and want them to be safe as they explore the world around them. As a parent who sets limits, you become an authority on whom your child can always rely.

Every day in the Montessori classroom, responsibility is something that the child hears about and gets to practice. From setting the table for lunch in Children’s House to recording their work in the elementary to mentoring in the adolescence, Montessori children practice these habits daily. With teachers and parents working together, we can assist the child in becoming an adult who has a deep sense of personal responsibility as well as a responsibility toward their larger community. For a list of age appropriate jobs for children, follow the link below:

-Sara Vondrachek, PEN Newsletter, March 2017

Language in the Upper Elementary

Language is a huge area of study. It includes “learning to read” and then” reading to learn”, grammar & syntax, plus factual and creative writing. Each of these categories is in itself huge.

Montessori’s language curriculum is consistent with her principles of following the child, giving key lessons and independent follow-up work according to the interests of the child. In the Lower Elementary a child has three years of:

  • Grammar and Syntax
    • Word Study
    • Parts of Speech
    • Logical Analysis of Sentences
  • Simple Factual Writing
    • Using question prompts
    • “Who Am I?” riddles
    • Reports about anything that the child is interested in.
  • Reading Instruction

In the Upper Elementary all of these studies continue, but with important differences. There are many ways we approach grammar. For word study, we have a series of packets with action cards for areas like alphabetizing, affixes, synonyms, and many others. We have a series of command cards for each of the parts of speech that the child uses independently. For logical analysis we use the logical analysis boxes, but also get into analysis of complex sentences, clauses, and other advanced structures.

Reading instruction is “reading to learn”. We do book clubs and use the reading materials and activity suggestions from our purchased curriculum. This, however, is a small part of the overall reading in the UE, which is done for the writing we do.

Writing plays a huge role in the UE. Factual writing is much more complex than in LE. As we have the children for three years, we organize the history/geography studies into a rotating curriculum. In Year A we focus on Wisconsin, in Year B we widen the focus to the USA, and in Year C we throw the focus wide open to include the whole world. We expect the children to choose their own topics within these areas, read various sources about it, teach them how to write a proper research paper, cite their sources, and grade the papers using a rubric which scores on content, feel, tone, sentence structure, word choice, grammar/spelling/writing mechanics, length, and use of references. Creative writing takes many forms. We practice writing poetry, story writing, and dialogues to name a few.

Montessori Cosmic Education is intentionally cross-curricular. Reading, writing, history, biology, geography, mathematics, and geometry bleed together on a daily basis. Our students learn WHY they are learning skills and what they will be necessary for in life; because we follow the child’s interest, their years in Montessori, writing about a vast amount of topics that they have chosen, prepare them to pursue a career that follows their heart’s desire.

-Beth Milhans, PEN Newsletter, February 2017