Archive for April, 2013

Our Garden is Growing!

Natural playground


Happy Earth Day!

Did you know our Rain Garden and playground were purposefully designed to allow children the chance to play in a natural environment? It is no surprise that our children are drawn to organic materials like stumps, logs, water and boulders. The garden is alive with sand and dirt, bugs and bark, mulberries and mulch. Last week we enhanced the garden with berry bushes, groundscaping and more. Within the next week, we will be sharing more plans to enhance the play space with more hands on materials to compliment the climbers, jungle gym, and monkey bars already installed.

Our garden is growing!


Why Teach Drama? The Laughter is the Best Part.

why teach drama

Mule Deer, Lion and Narrator

The squeals of laughter were the best part.

After a few weeks of diligent practice, our Elementary class performed the African trickster tale, Anansi and the Moss-covered Rock for our Toddler and Primary classes and parents.  The story told the tale of how Mule Deer outwits Anansi the Spider through his wile and cunning.  The hilarious performance elicited squeals and cheers from the audience.

Congratulations to our fine actors and director, Mrs. Hatziyannis and assistant, Mr Evans.

Our Elementary class drama program gives all students the opportunity to practice, perform, memorize and grow in confidence.  Drama is an important element of our Elementary program. It enriches children’s understanding of the world, ability to work as a team and communicate effectively.

According to child psychiatrist Dr. Adam Blatner, drama teaches a child metacognitive skills, i.e., the process of “thinking about thinking.” When children assume the character of another person, they become aware of their internal thinking process. Children who are aware of their own thinking are better able to strategically analyze new information. In addition, our drama program supports vocabulary development, fluency and expression in all children.

Most of all, our program celebrates story telling, community and LAUGHTER.  

Montessori Education: let’s discuss…

April 15, 2013 1 comment
Montessori ConversationLast week, a parent sent me a link to a lively conversation about Montessori education in an online forum.  I was fascinated to read what people had to say about the benefits and drawbacks of Montessori.  In 100 or so comments, I read some keen insights, great misconceptions, wild exaggerations and splitting of hairs.  More than anything, I saw parents engaged in a honest, fretful dialog to help them figure out what kind of education system will best meet the needs of their children.


I weighed in (or is it waded in?) with my two cents: For me, the key aspect of Montessori is the belief that children naturally want to be engaged with interesting topics, materials and challenges. They want to have choice and control in their lives. They want to use their hands and senses to explore the world around them. They want to create art and music and towers and castles. They want to be able to work alone at times and with a partner at times. All in all, we see that the needs and desires of children are a lot like yours and mine.

At our school, habits of character, a sense of self and joy in learning are even more important than the academic foundation that develops in each child. It is so important that we provide a warm, safe environment with caring teachers where children can feel secure and grow in confidence.

You can weigh in, too. The DC Urban Mom forum is here.

Montessori Art… Makes Us

Evergreen School Art MontessoriLook around Evergreen. Art is everywhere.  In our classrooms. In our halls and stairwells, too.  And when you look around your life, you’ll see art all around, too.  From artwork in our homes to masterpieces in Washington Museums, we are immersed in art every day.

Evergreen School Penguins

Evergreen School Penguins

When a child creates a work of art, he establishes a connection as old as civilization itself. She refines her skills and develops mastery over materials.  He develops control over clay, paint, scissors and glue.

Children are creators.  Producing something is an expression of one’s identity.  The act of creating makes our children who they are.  We make art and art makes us.Montessori Art

Art is also problem solving.  When making a work of art, the child is in dialog with the medium.  The child asks questions of the clay. The clay responds.  Throughout the conversation, new ideas and new solutions emerge.

Art at Evergreen is joyful and serious too.  It isn’t child’s play.  When you watch our young artists in the process of creating, their intensity and focus attest to the importance of their undertaking. Their art deserves to be looked at carefully. Look deeply!

Montessori Music… Of Course!

Montessori Music

Montessori Music

There isn’t a civilization in the world that doesn’t have its own musical tradition.  Why?

According to Oliver Sacks, physician, neurology professor at NYU and author of Musicophilia:

Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat. But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does–humans are a musical species.

From birth, our brains our wired to make and appreciate music.  It is natural that Evergreen and our music teacher, Ms. Caitlin Garry take music seriously.  In addition to being a wonderful teacher, Ms. Garry is a performer—and she has music in her genes.  In fact, her grandfather was a self-taught fife player in the US Marine’s Fife and Drum Corps during World War II.

orffOutside of Evergreen, Ms. Garry performs with the 200-member National Philharmonic Chorale.  This season, they will be performing Bach’s Cantata No. 140, Wachet Auf (“Sleepers Awake”), The Melodies of Brahms, and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Ms. Garry is busy.  She recently spent a weekend at the National Association for Music Education Conference.  She also teaches private afternoon piano lessons and serves as Evergreen’s librarian.

Ms. Garry takes a comprehensive view of music education at Evergreen.  She says that every class she teaches has a singing component, and instrumentation component, music theory and movement.  According to her, “all the Evergreen children can understand concepts like pitch, scale, rhythm and melody.” She believes that learning is a process, and says, “it’s important that I introduce my students to all aspects of music.”

Oliver Sacks Montessori MusicThe result? Ms. Garry’s students are ready to pick up any instrument and begin formal lessons.  According to Evergreen mother, Rachel Dickon, Ms. Garry “motivated and prepared my 5 year old extremely well for private music lessons and earned the kudos of the instructor.”  Her daughter’s piano teacher notes her enthusiasm and said she was already “ready to read music [and] able to count rhythms.”

bill-clinton-saxophoneIn addition to the neurologist Howard Sacks, many musicians and philosophers have weighed in on value of music education.  This list includes the well-known saxophone player, Bill Clinton (who also happened to be President) who said, “Music is about communication, creativity, and cooperation, and by studying music in schools, students have the opportunity to build on these skills, enrich their lives, and experience the world from a new perspective.”

Sounds just like Evergreen School, doesn’t it?

The Puppet Giant





Puppet Giant Glen Echo Puppet Co

The Puppet Giant at Glen Echo Park’s Puppet Co.


Here is a wonderful picture taken by Ms. Tobin after her classes field trip to the Puppet Co.’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk at Glen Echo Park.  I love it!

Observations on the Playground

Evergreen School playground
It’s a beautiful spring day… so I’ll write about Cursive.  Just kidding.  But if you are interested, here is a link to an article in last week’s Washington Post.  In a nutshell, at Evergreen we teach cursive because the fluidity of the text helps students who are prone to flip or invert letters.  And cursive can be so artful.  Just as children can be multi-lingual, they can be multi-textual, too.  Here, print, type and cursive all live happily together.




On to a more joyful topic: here is what I saw in our playground today:

  • Singers nestled in the hollow log, chipping at bark.
  • Soaring swingers, competing for height.
  • A boy discussing the latest repairs to his hand-me-down violin.
  • Treasure hunters burrowing with sticks into soft mud.
  • A boisterous mob observing a bumble bee, then…
  • A teacher’s quick, sober lesson on bumble bee bites.
  • Multiple, simultaneous games of fast-moving tag.
  • Emerging pale yellow shoots of this year’s beans.
  • A small crowd of boys rocking on a make-shift log.
  • I saw running, balancing, talking, and laughter.  Pretend play and active imagination.  I saw teamwork, negotiation, compromise, creativity, friendships and more.

Play on, Evergreen!

%d bloggers like this: