“Fasten your seatbelts. This twenty-two hour Quantas Airline flight to
Melbourne, Australia is about to take off!”
Thus began the Elementary class’s multidisciplinary study of Australia. For the past few weeks, our Elementary students have been surfing near Bondi Beach, touring Tasmania, studying Australian cartography and landforms, speaking in Aussie slang, creating Aboriginal-styled artwork, eating Vegemite, pumpkins scones and Brisbane oranges, and avoiding (and studying) large Australian insects. Children have been so busy they haven’t had time to snorkel around the Great Barrier Reef, listen to the didgeridoo or observing the crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove yet. All while developing reading, writing, math and social studies skills.
This amazing unit was designed and implimented by our awesome Elementary teachers, Mrs. Hannon and Mrs. Hatziyannis, whose creativity, enthusiasm and passion for their classroom make their program unrivaled.
Why are children so enthusiastic? This type of multidisciplinary, integrated continent study brings all forms of intelligence—linguistic, emotions, musical, movement and spatial reasoning, and logical mathematic together to create rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning. The ‘virtual’ field trip provides the context for our students to make connections across disciplines in a meaningful way. Students see a purpose to their learning, even though Australian is on the other side of the globe.
So if you see an Elementary student this week, be sure to say, “G’day, Mate! Have a ripper of a trip!”
Bear with my metaphor, but almost all of life’s lessons can be learned from children’s picture books.
In two fitting ways, Evergreen children are the Very Hungry Caterpillars in Eric Carle’s book. First, they are voracious. They are ravenous to learn things, to do things and to figure things out (not just hungry for fruit and junk food). Second, our children have been warmly nestled in cozy classroom cocoons—with caring teachers in a safe, nurturing place to learn.
So what happens when our caterpillars become butterflies? What happens after Evergreen elementary?
In a few months, our third graders will emerge from the Evergreen cocoon as graduates with colorful new wings. After four years or more with us, each is excited and nervous for new schools, new teachers and new friends.
I am proud to share their plans for next year. Our third graders have been accepted at several of the most selective independent schools in the DC region. Among hundreds of applicants, our students stood out for their academic preparation, personal character, intellectual curiosity and maturity. These qualities will serve them well wherever they go.
I am grateful to our Elementary teachers, Mrs. Hatziyannis and Mrs. Hannon, for their hands-on support of each child through the application process. As Evergreen father Joel Klein said at a recent ESPA meeting, the relationship between Elementary teachers and their students is the most powerful part of the Evergreen experience.
Just as our program is individualized to meet the needs of each child, our objective is not to get students into the most selective schools. Therefore, as you will see from the list, Evergreen isn’t a “feeder” for any particular school. Our children will attend a range of schools, each a well-selected match for the personality and learning-style of each child. In addition to these schools, Evergreen graduates have also attended MCPS schools, Sidwell Friends School, Sienna School and Catholic schools in the last two years. We are fortunate to have many excellence independent, religious and public schools in the area for families to choose for fourth grade.
There is tremendous value in staying at Evergreen for the entire Elementary experience. It is a powerful launching pad for newly-winged butterflies!
Avery: Sandy Spring Friends School
Lydia: Barrie School
Alexander: St. Patrick’s Catholic School
Anais: Maret School
Harry: Lowell School
Maddie: Lowell School
Head of School
Why Evergreen School?
The most distinguishing characteristic of Evergreen School is the quality and expertise of our faculty. Our teachers are committed to the Montessori philosophy of education. As such, their strongly held beliefs in the capability and dignity of each child lead to a learning community based on respect. It is an environment characterized by collaboration, kindness and a strong sense of mission and purpose.
The welcoming feeling in the school building comes from the sense of trust shared between children, teachers and families. Our teachers bring joy to their classrooms because they are performing meaningful, fulfilling work each day. They experience a powerful sense of satisfaction from seeing their students learning, growing and making progress. Our teachers are personally invested in the success of each of their students. This commitment is the foundation of our community spirit.
A significant reason why our teachers choose to work at Evergreen is our small class size and the intimate nature of our community. Evergreen is a place that values knowing each child individually. We are unique among Montessori schools for having such small classes and a low student/teacher ratio.
Our teachers are committed to their profession. Lead teachers have all participated in rigorous Montessori training programs. And they eagerly pursue continuing education and life-long learning about child development. In addition to participating in national Montessori conferences, they attend local and regional workshops to stay abreast with current trends in education.
Following the Montessori Method, we believe that each child should have a personalized learning experience in which the level of challenge is appropriately set for each child. No child is overwhelmed, frustrated or bored by lessons presented. Children experience the right level of challenge, in an environment with high expectations so they continue to make progress.
The broad diversity of our community is a major strength; here is a place that all can call home.
Another key attribute of our program is our comprehensive program. At Evergreen, we believe that every child has multi-faceted interests and passions. Our Montessori classroom program is complemented by specials including music, art, physical education, library and Spanish. By participating in specials twice each week, children experience continuity of their learning. Outdoor recess every day in an all-natural Playgarden gives our students the essential opportunity to connect with nature and have the kind of free play and social time that is vital to physical, social and emotional development. Finally, our facility provides the backdrop where all these activities take place. Our full-sized gym, art, music and library spaces are essential for carrying out our comprehensive program.
The quality of the Evergreen experience comes from our philosophy, our size and our structure. Most of all, it comes from our teachers and parent community who work hand-in-hand together to provide our children with the very best opportunities to learn and grow.
The Montessori approach to educating children is based on what we understand about children’s cognitive, neurological, and emotional development as shown to us through years of research. Some of the key aspects of our program include:
- Montessori is focused on teaching for understanding. The Montessori materials give the child concrete sensorial impressions of abstract concepts.
- The approach promotes organization and focus as being just as important as the academics.
- The mentor/mentee is a critical feature. The mixed-age class allows older children to be leaders and teach the younger children.
- In Montessori schools, children from different neighborhoods who share common values have come together to create the school community. Children who grow up in a Montessori environment often speak of close-knit relationships with classmates and their families.
- Montessori supports personalized learning. Children learn at-their-own pace without unhealthy stress or artificial competition. The child can move as slowly or quickly as needed to understand a concept.
- Montessori students study other cultures creating the foundation for global citizenship.
- Children are treated with a deep respect as unique individuals. The school is keenly focused on the child’s intellectual, social, and emotional development.
- Montessori teaches kindness, peacefulness, grace, and courtesy.
- Montessori children learn through their five senses. Materials are hands-on, allowing children to explore, investigate and research. They become actively engaged in their studies rather than being spoon-fed information.
- Montessori addresses different learning styles and helps children learn how to study.
- Montessori challenges children and sets high expectations. Children develop self-discipline and an internal sense of purpose and motivation.
Montessori children are typically engaged, and curious learners who look forward to going to school. They have a high level of self-confidence and independence, a lifelong love of learning, and feel close bonds with friends and teachers.
For music teacher Caitlin Garry, learning doesn’t stop for the summer (or for weekends). In addition to her busy performance schedule with the National Philharmonic Chorale, this summer she spent two weeks at George Mason University studying Orff Schulwerk, an approach to music and movement education based Carl Orff’s idea that music, movement and speech are inseparable in the way the brain processes each. She learned “through singing, rhythmic speech, body percussion and movement, children gain experience and develop instincts for making music in a joyful and accessible way.” The method uses songs, rhymes, movement and games to explore music and musical concepts. What a wonderful way to spend the summer!
One of the basic tenets of the Orff-Schulwerk philosophy of teaching is the idea that in every lesson, there should be at least one opportunity for student voice. As a result, the children will always have the freedom (and be encouraged) to express their thoughts and opinions on the process of music-making. Improvisation, or “trying things out” musically, is a natural outgrowth of this. In the end, according to Ms. Garry, “the musical product is almost entirely student-created.” She continues, “As the teacher, I have a set of goals in mind in terms of the concepts I’m teaching, but the process by which my students reach those goals can, and should, vary based on their interests at the moment. Given its accessibility and its student-centered focus, Orff-Schulwerk aligns beautifully with Montessori education, and I am so excited to see where the teaching and learning process will take all of us in the coming year!”
While most of the holiday commercialism runs counter to many of our families’ principles, it can seem nearly impossible to shield our children from the excesses of the season.
I wish you all the best in the weeks ahead and encourage you to keep in mind the insights we’ve learned from Montessori– chiefly these: children crave authentic, child-scaled activities including hands-on work like puzzles, cooking and crafts; they love creative play and movement; children hunger for books rich with language and images; they live for making music and quiet moments, routine, family and togetherness most of all.
Enjoy this special time with your family!
We are so fortunate to be in a place of gratitude and love. Kindness is contagious. Here is what our Nest class is thankful for this season:
I am thankful for…
- Lucy: flowers
- Nico: My toys
- Iona: Penny the dog
- Patrick: My school
- Vivian: Music
- Alma: Kitties
- Clarke: My mommy
- Evelyn: My pet fish
- Leia: My family
- Margot: Ice cream
- Nathan: My music
- James: Jake, my cousin’s dog
- Maia: planting flowers with Mommy
- Joshua B: My cats
- Joshua C: My brother Connor
- Shanthi: Music
- Avram: My dad
- Noelle: my pet fish
- Chloe: Time with my family
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!