In celebration of the United Nations International Day of Peace, the students at Alcuin Montessori School in Oak Park joined over 100,000 children from schools around the world to sing for peace on Wednesday, September 21st, 2016.
“Peace education is a key component of the Montessori philosophy," explained Gina Gleason, executive director of Alcuin Montessori. "Peace isn't just taught as a one-time lesson; rather, it's integrated into the curriculum throughout the year for all of our students, from birth through middle school. It's just as important as math, language, and music in creating a well-rounded child."
As part of the "Sing Peace Around the World" movement, the song Light a Candle for Peace was sung by schools around the world, starting on the shores of New Zealand and continuing from country to country until it reaches the shores of the Hawaiian Islands 24 hours later. Students at Alcuin Montessori sang their song and performed it in American Sign Language at 10:00 a.m.
In preparation for the event, art teacher Sophia Lyman said, "The children have been busy practicing their performance and creating art relating to the theme of peace around the world in many forms, including the development of peace flags, quotes and inspirational messages, poems, drawing, and dance."
Each year, the United Nations International Day of Peace is observed around the world on September 21st. It is a day dedicated to strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and peoples, a vision that closely aligns with the Montessori philosophy.
Yesterday, we woke up at 4 am, and we didn't know that a hard walking day was waiting for us. First, we got dropped off at the airport; all of us were excited about the trip. At the airport, some people got breakfast, and others just stayed reading. We were really tired! As we arrived in Washington, we got dropped off at the Smithsonian American History Museum. We stayed for an hour at the museum in which we were able to see exhibitions and learn about the American presidents, the First Ladies, and the wars that the US joined (among other things). The First Ladies dresses were gorgeous and elegant!
As our trip finished at the museum, we walked back to the US Department of Agriculture building (and that was just the beginning of our walking day) and had lunch at their amazing cafeteria. After we recharged our batteries, we headed to the Holocaust Museum in which we saw a huge exhibition about the horrible genocide that happened during World War II. We recalled what we learned about World War II, saw heartbreaking photos about what the Jews suffered, learned facts about the Holocaust, and got to know stories from the ones who survived it.
After that, we went to another beautiful but sad place: the Arlington National Cemetery. We marveled at its beauty and learned about its fascinating history, dating all the way back to George Washington and also being tied into Robert E. Lee and his family. We also saw the changing of the guards ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The guards who did it were very good at their jobs. They had very specific motions that they completed at the exact right time, and their uniforms were without a single spot or wrinkle. The other thing about the Arlington National Cemetery – it was a lot of walking uphill! We were exhausted by the end.
Luckily, after a short stop at the Marine Corps memorial, we went to dinner. We went to a mall (not the national mall, just a mall) and got to eat in the food court and explore the stores (Surprise! They were just like the ones in malls everywhere.) We thought we were done after that, but it turned out there was more to see. We began by going to the Vietnam War memorial and the Korean War memorial, which were haunting in both their beauty and how sad they were. Seeing the names and faces of the people lost to those wars reflected in the black, glassy walls that each of them featured was a very sobering experience. However, from there we went to the Lincoln Memorial, and that was a different story. We approached the plaza with the Washington monument and the reflective pool before it on one side and the Lincoln Memorial on the other. As I stared up at the huge structure, I became so excited that when we were free to split up and take pictures, I raced up the steps. Inside it was warmly lit, and the huge stone statue of Lincoln and pillars made it feel sturdy. It was so beautiful, and it made my heart swell with love for this country and its history.
Finally, we got to go to the hotel for the night. We were wiped out! It had been a long, eventful 17 hours.
- Gabriela & Jojo
A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
Roxy Krawczyk, Middle School Teacher.
Parenting a tween can be a daunting task. We often hear parents bemoaning the alien that seems to have taken over their sweet, darling child and left them with a moody, defiant teenager. They worry that this new phase will be permanent, and they worry even more that they are ill-equipped to deal with it.
Never fear! The transition from childhood to adolescence is indeed a marked one, but it is simply another phase of normal human development. Knowing what changes are taking place inside your adolescent’s body and brain can help you understand what to expect, and being aware of their shifting needs and priorities can help you keep your own expectations in check. The tween years can look different for each child, but there are some developmental markers that are universal. Knowing what’s coming will help you maintain your sanity, and theirs.
Models of Psychological Development
Jean Piaget (1896-1980)
One of the first scientists to propose that human development happened in stages, as opposed to a singular, uninterrupted progression, was the Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. Still prominently studied in child development education today, Piaget’s theory suggests that children progress through four distinct stages of development: sensorimotor (0-2 years), preoperational (2-6 years), concrete operational (7-11 years), and formal operational (11 years-adult). In each of these periods, the individual develops a specific set of skills and becomes capable of new levels of thought which were previously inaccessible. The adolescent falls into Piaget’s final stage of formal operational thought. In this stage, Piaget proposed, adolescents begin to reason abstractly and think in hypothetical terms.
Erik Erikson (1902-1994)
Another leading developmental psychologist was the German-born American scientist, Erik Erikson, known for his theory on psychosocial development. According to Erikson, people go through eight stages, confronting (and hopefully mastering) a new personal and/or social challenge in each. Erikson is perhaps most famous for coining the phrase “identity crisis,” and in no other stage is this particular challenge more evident in the adolescent stage. During this period, the adolescent is working on developing his or her personal identity. This is a critical time for individuals to determine who they are, where their values lie, and in what ways they can contribute to the communities around them.
It’s a crisp fall day in October and on Friday we began our morning making cards for Color Give Smile, a non-profit organization that provides artwork to senior citizens. The cards usually accompany a meal that is being delivered. I love these events because it really gets the children asking questions about the world outside of their home, their beloved school and classrooms. I had beautiful and meaningful conversations with the children as we sat together making cards and I know that this event will continue to support the ideas that we work on every day in the classroom.
The Montessori philosophy is based on respect: of self, for others, the environment, and for the world. At Alcuin, everything we do as a school community focuses on these values. From the moment the children come through our doors we welcome them and greet them like a member of our family because they are truly part of the Alcuin family. What does that mean and why is it so special or different? It means that we accept each individual child for who they are and we work together as a team to help them grow and develop into the person they are striving to become. There are a million lovely moments along that journey and there are bumps along the road -- but that’s just it, it is the journey that is most important to us. It’s about the partnership with the families, and sharing in the joys and ah-ha moments that happen for each child. It’s about meeting and talking, problem solving and trusting in the partnership of home and school, and above all knowing that the child will not only get through the challenging moments but will come out on the other side a much stronger, peaceful and independent person.
What makes Alcuin so different is its people. I know you’ve heard me say this many times before, but we truly have an exceptional staff. They love and respect each and every child in this community, and spend their days and nights thinking, planning and preparing for the children. They appreciate the partnership they have with the families and know that together they can support and guide the students in a meaningful way.
As you know we are beginning the writing portion of our self-study with ISACS. We officially kicked off this process with the faculty, staff, and board last week. What this ultimately means for the children and the community is an even stronger set of guiding principles; every aspect of Alcuin will be peeled apart, examined and evaluated. You may be wondering what your role will be in this process or how you can best support our community. Montessori is based on observation, feedback, collaboration, evaluation, and flexibility. My door is always open to the community and I am constantly engaged with teachers and children about ways to improve and how to solve problems. Montessori is about working together for the common good. Shortly you will be receiving a survey from ISACS as part of the accreditation process. Your honest and thoughtful feedback is critical for the self-evaluation of our school. Together we can ensure that our children, parents, faculty and staff are part of a community that believes in the support and development of each individual child, while truly creating a community based on respect for each individual, the environment, and the world. Together we can create the change we dream of. Together we can see the joy in the eyes of our children as they discover the never ending curriculum the world has to offer. And together we can prepare the children of our community to be the adults that we dream they will become.
The school year is off to a wonderful start and the students are settled back into the routines of their classrooms. It is a true joy to welcome them into our building each morning and to receive a warm smile and a firm handshake from so many. With this, I realize the depth of the opportunity we have before us as parents and educators with our young students for no matter the age they are all open to learning, hungry for knowledge and willing to be exposed to new concepts, ideas and opinions.
As I embark on my fifth year leading Alcuin and we enter year two of our accreditation process with the Independent Schools of the Central States and the American Montessori Society, my goal this year is to give back to our greater community. Montessori believed that a peaceful world could be created by children, and part of that peace is brought on by the helping of others. Throughout the school year there will be opportunities for students, parents and staff to learn about different groups in need of our philanthropic efforts. In early September we kicked off our endeavor with a school-wide celebration of the International Day of Peace. We erected our new peace pole and sang a beautiful song about peace. It was a very moving way to start the school year and set the tone for things to come. The children have already had many conversations around the pole discussing what peace means them.
Our first community event of the school year was dedicated to helping the Binky Patrol, an organization which provides comforting blankets to children in hospitals or who are homeless. The community gathered early one Friday morning and made blankets for those children. It was amazing to see our older students teaching the younger ones how to make the blankets, and also to see how easily the community of parents, children and staff could create so many blankets! In the span of 30 minutes, thirteen blankets were made which were later boxed and shipped off to the Binky Patrol’s Illinois branch.
In November our focus was on the children of the Montessori School of Englewood, a public Montessori School that was opened just a few short years ago. Our children at every level in the school are exposed to and research many different cultures. Spanish teacher, Rita Cassiano, and art teacher, Sophia Lyman, organized this event where our families collected gently used cultural books to donate to the Montessori School of Englewood. Our children also spent the morning reading cultural books in Spanish and making cards to send along with the books.
It is with great joy that I lead this school of generous spirits and kind-hearted community members. We are looking forward to celebrating our year of giving back to the greater community and all the possibilities for learning that these opportunities will bring to us all.
Researching and applying to a school shouldn't be a stressful situation. I am here to answer questions, meet you and your children, and make the process relatively simple.
As Alcuin’s Director of Advancement, I love working with prospective families, having them visit us and discover what a quality Montessori program looks like. With programs for children ages birth to 14 years, I welcome you to come see what has made us a Montessori tradition for over 50 years.
The easiest way to get to know more about Alcuin is to join us for an informational Coffee and tour. We will start with some good coffee, a short video on Montessori Education and then take an in-depth look at all of our classrooms. At the end of the tour we hold a question and answer session, and explain our admissions process. Tours are held once a month (9:00 to 10:30 a.m.) in the main Alcuin campus. Our tours will begin in October, but I can also schedule a one-on-one tour during the summer.
Alcuin also offers financial assistance, if you qualify, so we can help make an Alcuin education financially possible for your family. Call (708.366.1882) or email me so I can introduce you to Alcuin Montessori. I’d love to hear from you.
Director of Advancement
The children are enjoying this year’s Alcuin Montessori summer camp. We have many camp themes to choose from. Our weekly sessions let you give your child a great variety throughout the summer. Whether your child is new to Montessori or a pro, this camp is a great way for them to discover, learn and grow in a safe and fun environment.
Become part of the Alcuin Montessori School community this summer and have your children experience “Fun with a Purpose!” The children have work on beautiful art pieces, have made their own theater production, and are learning French. We still have Spanish, Science and more coming our way.
The elementary children have already visited the Sears (Willis) Tower, the Notebaert Nature Museum, and more.
There’s still time to join us for one of these themes:
Art - June 15-19
Theater - June 22-July 1
Nature - July 6-10
French - July 13-17
Spanish - July 20-24
Science - July 27-31
French - August 3-7
Ages 6-12 (1st through 6th grades)
City Explorations - June 15-19
Spanish - July 6-10
Community Giving - July 27-31
Visit our camp page to register!
Wow, what a day! We saw so many things and learned a lot.
Our morning started off at 5:30 am. We got on our bus that was waiting for us just outside the hotel. Our first stop was the coffee plantation for a tour and breakfast. As usual, breakfast was great, and we got to go on a tour of how coffee beans are made. You wouldn't believe how long it takes to make coffee! The tour was really cool and the coffee smelled great.
Our next stop was the volcano. It is one of five active volcanoes on the island. It even had a sign saying, "in case of an eruption... stay calm." When we arrived, we had to walk up to this viewing area. When we got to the top, it was the prettiest thing I have ever seen. There was smoke arising from the volcano, and then when it cleared, you could see the crater. We decided to walk to another crater which had turned into a lake. The walk was pretty steep, and you were encaged by branches and leaves. I nearly passed out! We saw some wildlife along the way. When we got to the top, there was a beautiful lake. The landscape in Costa Rica is much greener than it is back home, and the air is fresh. After taking a couple of photos, we decided to walk back down to our bus to go to our last stop.
Along the ride to our next stop, we stopped for some local strawberries. They were delicious! We also got to try some Costa Rican candy. (I didn't like it.)
When we got to our next stop, it was a really cool rainforest resort with animals, waterfalls, and plants. We walked through and saw all of these really pretty butterflies, birds, and animals. Most of us got to hold a toucan! We got to go into a butterfly enclosure where the butterflies flew freely around. Some of them landed on us, and I got to take some really close-up pictures.
After that, we went on the waterfall tour. It, as well, had a lot of steep walking. The first waterfall was so cool. You could feel the mist hit your face. We kept walking to go see the other five waterfalls. There were a lot of stairs to climb in between waterfalls! At that point, we were all hungry so we got lunch at the resort.
Every day in the rainforest it rains, so we had to run onto the bus. We drove back to the hotel and while on the bus, i think everybody took a snooze. When we got back to our hotel, most of us swam. We got to Facetime with Jojo, and it was really nice to see her. We went to Opa! for dinner and had sandwiches and smoothies.
What another great day -- can't believe we only have two days left! I'm so grateful that I was able to come on this trip, and spend time with my friends.
Today was the rainforest day. We had to get up super early in order to catch the bus to the boat place. The boat ride was amazing! The boat was kind of like a bus. It was small and covered, and it fit about 20 people. We saw monkeys, iguanas, and birds. I was really happy that we got to see the monkeys, because we don't get to see them that often.
After the boat ride, we got back on the bus and went to Monte Verde for lunch and a hike. On the way, we saw two pineapple trucks. It was really cool. I love to eat pineapples! I didn't know how close to the ground they grew.
When we got there, we went on a hike and we saw lots of beautiful nature. We saw a blue jeans frog, which is a little red frog with blue legs. It's about the size of a penny! There were also a lot of pretty flowers. The tour guide taught us a lot about the forest. I'd never been on a rainforest hike before, and this one was really fun.
The next thing we did was go to Rainforest Adventures. We couldn't go zip lining, because there was a lightening storm. Instead, we went on a sky tram and almost saw a sloth! I really wish we had. The tram was cool anyways. It was kind of like a ski lift, but with closed carts. We went up 125 feet in the air!
After that, we came back to the hotel to get freshened up to go out to dinner at CRLA. The dinner was made by a local woman who cooks for a living. She made us barbecue chicken, cheesy mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables with a salad including star fruit and apples. The star fruit was sour but really good.
After dinner, we went to the mall for a little bit of shopping and ice cream. The mall is pretty big and it has tons of stores. Most of them are little stores that sell things like phone cases and shampoo. The mall is different from the Oak Brook mall, because there are a lot of small vendors and it is densely packed.
Today was really fun, even though I wish we could have gone zip lining. I think the highlight was when we were on the tram, because there were tons of cool things to see. There are leaves that look dead, but they are really baby leaves, and when you put water on them and rub them, they turn green! The rainforest was a sight to see, and I really enjoyed seeing all the animals.
For our last day of classes, we had class in the morning and then went to lunch and had a certificate ceremony to "graduate" from CRLA. The teachers said what we did and what we were good at and then gave us our certificates, and the people at CRLA made us cake to have after our lunch. I thought that the classes were very effective for the students at that level, and I had a lot of fun in the classes. It was a very different way of learning than at school. For example, there were only three people per class, so the teacher could focus more on helping certain students learn different things.
After CRLA, we went to a store called "Pequeno Mundo," which means small world. They had anything you could need for very low prices. We went there to buy food and clothing for the orphans that we had seen the day before and were now going to see again. When we were driving to and from the orphanage, we saw many houses that seemed to be leaning on each other without any stability. The people seemed to be very impoverished. Our tour guide told us that many people in those areas were drug dealers, drug addicts, alcoholics, and abusive or neglectful to their children. Many of the children in the orphanage had come from families that neglected them and left them on the street alone or were taken from their parents because their homes were unsafe. Some children in the orphanage were extremely nice, while others were unintentionally aggressive, but all of the kids would smile and laugh no matter what had happened to them in the past. I thought this was a very beautiful thing, because it shows you can change someone's life just by giving them safety and love.
We bought mainly rice and beans (a staple food for Costa Rica), clothing, and school supplies for the children. We also bought three basketballs for them to play with, but that is not what the orphanage mainly needed, because it's very hard to take care of over 90 kids and to have enough funding from the government. They appreciate anyone sending money, clothing, or food, because those are the main things they need. Even though we donated a lot of food and supplies, I felt like it was more important to play with the kids and make them feel loved than to give them a dinner of rice and beans.
When we were playing with the kids, everyone was supposed to take care of one or two children. I ended up taking care of a little girl wearing all blue who was about 3.5 years old. We were playing on the seesaw; she would sit on one end, and I would push the other end up and down. It was amazing to see her have this gigantic, beautiful smile and laugh so much, even though her family couldn't take care of her. Even at the orphanage, she has so much less than I do (or many people in America). I thought that it showed that material wants aren't what we should be made of. For example, most of us feel lost without the internet and technology, but many children in Costa Rica have never even seen a phone or used the internet, and they can have just as much -- if not more -- fun than we have ever had in our entire lives.
When we were playing with the children, all of a sudden it started pouring and I ended up holding the girl I was playing with and had to give her back to her caretakers before saying goodbye. She was in tears when I took her back to her house mother. As we left, I felt sad to not be able to say goodbye to her because I felt like I hadn't done what I was supposed to if she was crying when I left.
In Costa Rica, I would like to be able to help create an organization, or donate to an organization, which will stop poverty in Costa Rica and create solutions to the social problems so those children won't be without a family of their own. I think I'll always remember seeing the impoverished parts of Costa Rica, and also seeing the contrast of seeing how close the richest parts were, and how unfair that must feel. I will also always remember the crying child in the rain.
MIddle School Teacher
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.