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UE Movers and Shakers

"One of the greatest mistakes of our day is to think of movement by itself, as something apart from the higher functions… Mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it. It is vital that educational theory and practice should become informed by this idea." Dr. Maria Montessori in the Absorbent Mind (pp. 141-42)
In Science Behind the Genius, Angeline Lillard describes a number of physical studies linking movement and cognition.  She writes, “people represent spaces and objects more accurately, make judgements faster and more accurately, remember information better, and show superior social cognition when their movements are aligned with what they are thinking about or learning.” (p. 56-57) In line with this thinking, Montessori classrooms are designed to incorporate movement into learning.  Children are free to move around the room as they choose their work, or bring pre-existing work to a new work environment.  Movement also plays a prominent role in Montessori lessons.  As a prime example, children in Montessori classrooms physically manipulate objects in space while processing new math concepts. 
In the UE class, we are constantly thinking of ways to incorporate movement into our learning.  Some examples from this past week:
  • Students engaged in a riveting game of “Izzi says,” in which they used their bodies as water-molecule replicas and followed commands to move through water's various phase changes and enact water's tendency to bond with other molecules (evaporation, condensation, sublimation, deposition, melting, freezing, cohesion, and adhesion)
  • Fourth years participated in an archaeological dig, as they explored how we learn about our ancient relatives by examining artifacts that have been left behind
  • Students completed several labs – often involving constant physical movement – that explored water's phase changes and molecular behavior (polarity, surface tension, capillary action, and density)
At its core, Maria Montessori's idea is a simple one: children are more engaged and retain more of what they learn if they are physically active during the learning process.  But as teacher I'm constantly amazed by the effectiveness of this simple idea.  Our students inevitably learn more (and laugh a little more too) when they're encouraged to move their bodies while engaging their minds.  Of course, we will continue to look for exciting and innovative ways to engage our students through physical movement as part of their curricular work.  I look forward to keeping you informed of our progress over the coming year. 
Izzi (on behalf of the UE team)
What field trips do the Upper Elementary class take?
Field trips, or as Montessori called them "going outs," are an integral part of movement in elementary classroom. The UE class takes both day and overnight field trips. We begin each year with an overnight field trip for three days and two nights. During this time children get to know each other, build confidence, and learn new skills. The last five years we have gone to Camp Becket in Western Massachusetts.
At the end of the year we have our "Big Trip." This trip takes five days and four nights and is considered a critical part of the curriculum. For weeks leading up to the trip, students become familiar with the site we are visiting. The children gain knowledge on many different topics, such as immigration, when traveling to New York, government, when traveling to Washington DC, and about nature, when traveling to the coast of Maine, as we will this year. In addition to academic subjects, they also refine many practical life skills on this trip and are given countless opportunities to engage in learning through movement.
Throughout the school year, different opportunities arise for children to extend their learning outside the walls of our classroom. Generally if there is an exhibit or program that enhances the curriculum, we organize a trip to the museum. These trips are local, and the children will be gone for a few hours. We will also take several trips into the community to participate in service learning.
You will always be asked to fill out a permission slip - please contact us if you are ever interested in joining us as a chaperone.