Voice of Hershey BlogThoughts, Insights, and Experiences from the Hearts of Hershey
“For the adolescent, it is critical that we make our learning child-directed and that we continue to make student choices a priority.” ~John Buzzard
Hershey’s John Buzzard recently shared with the International Montessori Training Institute how he’s transitioned his Upper School Integrated Humanities projects to a distance, online education learning model. Below is an excerpt of what Buzzard wrote:
Because we value face-to-face, social interaction and hands-on learning in Montessori education, we must strive to keep these as key elements of the learning process, despite our current social distancing situation. This requires some adjustments, but can still be accomplished. As we consider our move towards working with our students in an online education environment, we should pause to consider how to make this approach as true to the Montessori pedagogy as possible. Even using technology and new methodologies, we know that the truths of Montessori remain valid and will want to design our educational program with them in mind.
For the adolescent, it is critical that we make our online education child-directed and that we continue to make student choices a priority. Our choice of strategies in the online environment can be shaped by philosophy, and just as in other environments, we find teacher-centered learning and student-centered learning occurring. Because students are working more independently, there are many ways to structure the learning to be student-centered, and we want to take advantage of the computer and the students’ home environment to emphasize these possibilities.
Creating social elements is also key to making the online learning experience truly meaningful to adolescents. Don’t merely focus on academic interactions – think closely about how to use video, dialogue, discussion, and activities to build connection and social dynamics with the group. Although we accept that this will be a less authentic community experience than actual face-to-face interaction, we must continue to make that element of adolescent development primary.
As always, there is a tension between the need for student-centered learning and the need for a prepared environment. In a Montessori school, guides know that maximizing student choice often begins with carefully constructed environments and experiences. We must shift this thinking to the online world, creating prepared virtual environments and experiences that continue to support student learning without superseding it.
Ultimately it is the three-stage learning cycle that shows us the way to structuring our online education environment. This approach maximizes student choice while providing the prepared environment structure that students need to do their best work. This three-stage cycle is built on three natural stages to the learning process – key lessons, individual research, and meaningful presentation.
This approach maximizes student choice while providing the prepared environment structure that students need to do their best work.
By Cheryl McGovern, Outdoor and Physical Education Coordinator
We’ve heard about the studies that show us that our brain on nature is its best self and now with so many places unavailable to us, so many are heading to natural areas as a safe refuge to walk with their families. It is my hope that they are experiencing what so many have put to pen over the whole of human experience, that of the healing power of nature.
“Nature itself is the best physician.” Hippocrates
“I go to nature to be soothed, healed and have my senses put in order.” John Burroughs
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” John Muir
“Nature has the power to heal because it is where we are from, it is where we belong and it belongs to us as an essential part of our health and our survival.” Nooshin Razani, Director, Center for Nature and Health at University of California
There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature.” Maria Montessori
“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.” Maria Montessori
“It is also necessary for the psychical life to place the soul of the child in contact with creation, in order that he may lay up for himself treasure from the directly educating forces of living nature.” Maria Montessori
My own solace that very first week of school closing was a local park. They were not yet crowded at that point. Having a quiet trail to ourselves, I soon felt such relieve and normalcy. The things of the woods had not changed. The stream was still flowing, a small waterfall rolling, the trees standing, the trails hills and valleys proved good for the legs, the heart and the soul. There is something foundational and solid about being in nature, which I find ironic as by its very nature, nature is in a constant state of change. However, it must be the patterns that follow a path that give me this feeling of stability. You can see the change and the patterns each day just outside your window. As spring has begun, taking a close look at any one plant each day will show you the change in growth, the flower buds open into flowers, the flowers in turn becoming seed. I’ve also noticed the habits of the local wildlife as I sit and work near a window. I observe the pair of house finch that visit the same bush at the same time each day, the robin that sings in the tree closest to the house that wakes me each morning, a Carolina Wren who sits and sings on my back deck rail each afternoon just before dinner. Again, that pattern that nature follows without instruction, without interruption as spring flows to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter, and winter to another year. Perhaps it is this forward motion that brings such ease, a reminder that our present day is just that and it, too, will transform as time progresses. I like to do as William Wordsworth wrote and “come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher.” I, again, have learned so much during one walk in the woods.
Nature is resilient. We are resilient. A tree subjected to storms makes adaptations to survive and within a forest community is both buffered, and a buffer, for the trees around it. I see this as the work of the guides and students has continued so beautifully, taking on a new look yet moving forward. I recognize it in the parents, managing work and home all at once! I see the creativity that has been sparked in the way we communicate and continue in our work. It is far from ideal, but we have adapted like a tree continually pushed by the wind. New, stronger roots and connections and growth – different, and yet again still moving forward – resilient.
Studies have shown that even looking out a window onto a natural area reduces stress hormones, however I think full immersion is the best! Take time to breathe and move outdoors. And while you may be tired of your own home and yard at this point, try looking in a different way. Nature up close is amazing! Use a macro lens on your camera to catch some up close action, peer through a magnifying glass and be amazed. In fact, just look up close through a leaf on a sunny day and tell me that’s not a stunning view. Get down on your hands and knees or lay on a blanket and just study, really study, the small patch of yard in front of you. What about sounds? We often tune out the sounds around us so try sitting quietly, with eyes closed, focusing on sound. I am blessed to have time alone outdoors at the campus going to and from the chicken barn or other errands and often hear, when the ground is wet, the water being drawn into the soil. Who knew! Another idea is to let nature be your inspiration for creative expression, a painting, sketch, story or poem. Perhaps your own nature quote will be added to the expansive list!
About the Author: Cheryl McGovern is in her ninth year at Hershey Montessori School as the Outdoor and Physical Education Coordinator. Her favorite part of her work is sharing her love of nature with the Concord students on their beautiful school campus. She is continually being encouraged and inspired by the natural curiosity of her students. Prior to coming to Hershey, Cheryl worked for more than 20 years at Lake Metroparks. When not on campus, Cheryl is likely to be found wandering trails with her husband and her son, who is a 7th year student at Hershey Montessori School.
By Leslie Minotti, Hershey Montessori School Parent
As I have been perusing articles on how to support my child during these stressful, ever-changing days, I can’t help but notice how often I see the words, “resilience” and “adaptability,” “courage” and “confidence” used to describe the qualities that will carry our children through this unprecedented time. So now as a parent, I ask myself how I can help foster these qualities? Is this something that is in my power to provide for my children? When I observe my children’s reactions to the updates they hear, or the new protocol we now have to follow to protect ourselves, I think about how I can help them adapt.
This daunting, overwhelming task that seems to be a mountain-like obstacle is quickly reduced when I remember the old adage, “It takes a village.” My family’s village, or community as we call it, has gifted us with stability, peace, and overwhelming support. The Hershey Montessori family has been a beacon through these stormy waters. The quick response to the online schooling and the support in maintaining the Montessori values, such as freedom of choice, hands-on learning with homemade materials, and respecting the child’s individuality, has shone through. Is this style of online learning ideal? In my daughter’s words,”I’ve realized that distance learning is not the best, but I can get through it.” All three of my children are handling it beautifully. The presence and commitment of their teachers has been overwhelming. They are there for them with answers to their questions, regular check-ins to help them manage their stress, and quick messages to say “we miss you.” All this while balancing their own families, and their own stress. The teacher’s listening ear that recognizes my children’s frustrations has created a beautiful sounding board.
Like other students and families, we have experienced many disappointments from missing anticipated life events. Some of these moments have already been lost, while others are yet to be. However, my children have been given the freedom to mourn these. They’ve also been challenged to create the best “lemonade” possible.
I see resilience, adaptability, courage and confidence in my children because they have absorbed these qualities from the ones who guide them, the ones who have nurtured this growth. I am inspired by the close relationship I observe between my children and their Hershey Montessori School guides, and I strive to mirror their efforts, both for myself and my children.
The waters may continue to be rocky for some time, but knowing we have a solid team on our side makes the journey possible.
Thank you, Hershey Community!
About the Author: Leslie Minotti was introduced to Hershey Montessori School 18 years ago when she attended a Parent-Infant class with her daughter, Abriella. Abriella, now a senior at Hershey Montessori Upper School, graduates this spring. Leslie’s other two children, Alessandra, a ninth year student at the Middle School, and Aurelio, a first year student at Hershey’s Concord Campus, have happily enjoyed their education journey where their love of learning continues to be fostered, and their growth to their true potential is honored. Leslie has worked as a staff member in Hershey’s Children’s House and Young Child Community for 10 years. She enjoys observing and guiding young children as they create who they are in a loving environment filled with mutual respect.
By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director
Well-being, balance, peace, attitude, emotional health … we have been inundated with messages of how to maintain our well-being during this global crisis. And as we all recognize the significance of prioritizing our physical and mental health at this time, we may often neglect to consider that our adult interpretation of wellbeing may differ from that of our adolescents.
World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental wellbeing as “a state in which every individual realizes his or her own potential and can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” But that definition emphasizes normal stresses of life. How does the adolescent maintain his or her former sense of wellbeing while perhaps enhancing it during these challenging times? As we know, if an adolescent has a high level of mental wellbeing — which is emphasized in a Montessori education — they are more likely to flourish later in life.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) developed a framework that outlines strategies that have a positive effect on mental wellbeing. They are: connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give. I love these strategies as they can appeal to everyone; they are simple, clear, and can provide a whole host of opportunities. So, please, while you have this time at home, take the opportunity to sit with your adolescent, share these tips, explore them together and be well!
Download a copy of NEF Five Ways to Wellbeing.
Adolescents need us to remember that they are fundamentally human beings who want to be respected and treated with the same level of dignity with which we treat other adults.
Montessori education recognizes that we all share the same human tendencies and basic needs throughout our lives—and that as children grow through stages of development, particular needs and characteristics are highlighted and need support to build the potential of adulthood.
In a time of instability, it’s important to remember what’s fundamental for all human beings—and then consider particularly what is important to teens right now.
The need to Orient: We are all experiencing new and changing schedules as well as significantly restricted environments. Adolescents suddenly have limited access to peers and adults other than parents and family members. They will GRIEVE this loss on some level. Not having their peers and their “tribe” close by will be impactful for them on a social/emotional level. Sensitivity to that loss is paramount. They are also going to experience different kinds of expectations from everyone than is usual—from teachers, from parents, from friends. And those expectations are likely to change as everyone follows a learning curve and responds to unpredictable events. Expectations of them might also go unarticulated or ineffectively communicated. They need the people in their lives to help them orient to the changing conditions of their lives right now. Clarity, patience, and kind honesty need to rule the day.
The need for Order: We all need enough order and some level of predictability to stay healthy and functional. Everyday chaos is overwhelming. Routines will be helpful—just as long as the routine considers the adolescent’s needs as well as everyone else’s. Their need for order will be more internal than external, while the adults might cling to external order as an anchor. Give them some space to own their own disorder (like in their rooms) and express where order is helpful to them. Lovingly explain how order helps each person in the family to feel safe and secure—but perhaps in different ways. Offer to help them keep order from time to time—rather than demanding it.
One idea: Have regular family meetings to check-in with everyone (even if there are only 2 of you!) What’s going well? What’s challenging? What are everyone’s current needs? How can we help each other? How can we paint a picture of a hopeful future with each other? How can we share some quality time together to be fun, joyful, playful? What will make us laugh?
The need to Imagine positive outcomes: Adolescents need a certain level of consistency and assurance from adults about the future; we will get through this! Help them imagine what that will look and feel like. Invite them to consider positive changes for the future based on what they are experiencing and perceiving. They need messages of hope and regular assurances that their needs are being considered and attended to as best the family can. But beware—they can tell if you are lying—so this means incorporating hope and faith in the future into your own outlook.
The need for Work: “Work” is what we all do to contribute to the sustaining of our lives and our communities. Humans work to adapt to the environment and improve life. Work gives us purpose and meaning. For an adolescent, work needs to feel relevant and valuable—not just something to keep them “busy” or “out of people’s hair.” Work needs to feel either like a valuable step toward their future or like a contribution to the community’s needs. Their school work should feel like it has a purpose in their lives. The work they do for the family needs to feel like a contribution. Can there be a family rotation of chores, menu-planning, cooking, etc. that includes the adolescent—but also considers that their timeline for getting things done might be a little different than adults? (If they don’t get something done until later in the day or week than you would like—be patient and let the timeline be theirs, if possible.)
Is there community service work they can do in their families or for their community while still maintaining social distancing? Can they write letters to elderly relatives? Can they make babysitting kits for families with young children? Can they record story-telling or reading aloud sessions online for the children of busy working-at-home parents? Can they make board games and mail them to children of family friends? Can they sew protective masks? Can they put together simple building kits for children? Use some of their own Legos to create unique construction kits? (Disinfect and mail or drop off outside the door?) Can they put your family budget on a spreadsheet to track expenses? Organize music playlists for people? Can they work in the yard or take on repair or maintenance projects like painting or building?
The need for Communication: Communication may be humanity’s number one need right now on the planet. Adolescents need LOTS of communication opportunities—lots of opportunities to share what THEY are thinking and feeling
- Communication from parents: regular, short meetings and check-ins that ask them how THEY are doing and feeling (not just TELLING what the adults need and think); honest, clear information about what is happening in the world (but not so much that everyone is swirling around in the worst-case scenarios); lots of “I” statements from adults: “I think this is what is happening;” “I think this is what we need; but what do YOU think?”
- Task and responsibility charts for the family—where everyone gets to choose several tasks from a list and they commit to a time frame for getting them done; a sense that everyone is partnering in the situation and no one is shouldering the labor for everyone else.
- Communication from peers; peers are an adolescent’s primary need—so making sure they have access to friends and classmates is crucial. Seeing their peers face-to-face online regularly would be helpful. Relaxing the phone and tech rules a bit for now makes sense—but not at night when sleep is still the primary mental and physical health requirement for adolescents.
- Examine your own expectations for your adolescents—what are you expecting them to take on (like care of siblings or housework)? Has that been articulated? Have they been diplomatically asked and negotiated with? Do you know how they feel about that? Adolescents are often very willing and able to step up into adult roles as needed—but they need to feel treated with respect, and they need to feel their perspective is considered.
The need for Self-Expression: Adolescence is a time of life focused on identity formation and internal processing. Self-expression happens through open dialogue with others but also through the arts and physical activity. Being restricted from playing sports, going to music or dance lessons is going to be painful. How can they continue to be involved in their chosen forms of self-expression? What space and materials might they need to set up a studio or work-out space at home? Are there online programs that can keep them motivated? (Don’t be surprised if they feel the need to have a digital connection with friends WHILE they engage in self-expression activities.)
One of the insights of a Montessori approach to education is that whatever a child/adolescent might be doing in the moment (that may look questionable to our adult minds), there may be a very important human drive or developmental reason behind it. We try to stop ourselves from reacting, observe and consider what that need might be, and respond by supporting. Knowing that our Human Tendencies are always an active force in our lives—but may look different at different times—helps us to consider our own humanity and the humanity of those around us. We will all be compelled to orient, order, work, explore, communicate, abstract, imagine, self-express in the coming weeks and months—but those tendencies will look different for each of us. Our everyday work will not only be to remain consistent, calm, and flexible, but to work at truly SEEING each other and LISTENING to each other.
By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director
Acceptance and courage are two traits that we all have had to foster in these challenging times. But as we continue to accept our new daily “normal,” our courage, resilience, and community shines through. And WE ARE HERE FOR EACH OTHER! Whether it is for the best Montessori remote learning experience, keeping the connection with the students alive and personal, supporting families (especially those in need), and working together to redefine our own personal strengths — we are here. Please continue to remain patient and accepting — with yourselves as well as your children — while maintaining the courage that we all need to move through this challenge.
While the core of Hershey Montessori School is community, ‘distance learning’ is teaching all of us new ways to think, new ways to connect with each other, and innovative ways to bring Montessori education to our students! Our community is built on those strong connections even during a global pandemic. Following all federal and state guidelines for distance learning and maintaining social distance means we adapted during this global health crisis in ways we never imagined. Classes have resumed for students utilizing technology platforms that are enabling our guides to continue their work in this 4th quarter. Connecting again as a community has been empowering and rewarding.
The global situation changes weekly — if not daily — so we will keep moving forward based on the current status. At this time, we are excited to reconnect with our students, see their faces, and dive into new projects with them.
During these uncertain times, please know that while our campuses are closed, our minds and avenues for continued Montessori education are open. We are resilient, adaptive, and community strong!
By Tierney Dewan-Saperstein
Here we are, together, navigating remote Montessori learning. Let me begin by saying, I am choosing to see this period in life as a gift…the gift of time that many of us seldom have.
Looking ahead, we want to give you a “primer,” of sorts, so that you can assess your spaces, actions and expectations. What are the most important things you can do as parents to help ease some struggles and give some great opportunities to your children?
- Give them time. You aren’t having to rush the morning to get to school, or hurry home for lunch or dinner. Instead, you are free to let your child take as long as possible to focus on the daily life tasks. Your children can work through their frustrations and you can observe patiently as their tenacity comes forth.
- Let them concentrate. If you find that your child is focusing their attention on something (as long as it is not hurting themselves, hurting others or hurting the environment), let them work. This means don’t say anything to them – even if it is to celebrate them or encourage them.
- Assess your spaces. Are there ways in which your child can be involved in family life (towels for drying a spill, putting laundry into the washing machine, a stool or such to reach the kitchen counter)? Are hooks low enough (for coats and brooms)? Can they reach their things (dishes, clothing, work)? Undoubtedly you’ll find opportunities to make changes to your spaces to fit your child’s needs.
- Observe your child. They show us what we need to know! This will be extremely helpful to you when you choose to make changes in the spaces or with your child’s daily life activities. It will also be lovely to share with your child’s guide when you connect next. You can share your observations and can talk through them.
Keep checking back. We’ll be offering more encouragement, support and even a little entertainment.
Please know, we are here for you, and we are wishing you all the very best during these “interesting” times.
Hershey Montessori School’s Upper School students recently welcomed local guest speaker Marvin Montgomery, a motivational speaker and sales trainer with more than 30 years of experience.
Hershey students were enlightened as Montgomery shared insights throughout his presentation, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Montgomery demonstrated how having a positive attitude can change a person’s outlook on life. Students and staff alike enjoyed his inspirational speech as they laughed and participated with Montgomery’s examples and provided stories of their own.
Students were able to see how their outlook impacts their outcome. If they wake up in a bad mood and expect to have a terrible day, that is most likely what will happen. However, if they wake up expecting to have a great day, it is more likely to be a great day.
Montgomery stressed the importance of looking on the bright side and finding the positive in every situation. The students were able to relate to how their outlook on events in their life had impacted the outcome of a situation.
Hershey Montessori School staff and students thank Montgomery for his simple, yet profound, tips. Everyone walked away with food for thought on how to approach each day and the events of their life.
“Change is a great thing,” Montgomery said, “Don’t just go through the motions. If something is bothering you, change it.”
Members of the graduating classes of 2018 and 2019 recently returned home to Hershey Montessori School for its annual Alumni Day.
The graduates hosted a panel discussion with current students where they reflected on their time at Hershey and answered questions about life after high school. The graduates went on to share valuable insights regarding their transition to college, making new friends, and various tips to help students as they continue their own journey in the years to come.
The alumni were also gracious in their time as they participated in a Q&A session with Hershey parents via video conference.
We are grateful to all who were able to join us for this informative, heart-warming, welcome home event.
Many thanks to Mathematics, Business and Microeconomy Guide, Jennifer Snead, for organizing this event, and to all of the alumni for taking the time to share their wisdom with the Hershey community.
A Close Look at Immigration
Immigration has been a central focus of media outlets everywhere. Reporters, commentators, and the general public are expressing views and interpretation of law. Hershey Montessori Guide, John Buzzard, saw the opportunity in seeking greater understanding for his students as they are preparing to enter and contribute to society as young adults.
When law meets humanity
John began by extending an invitation to George Koussa to visit Hershey students at the Adolescent Campus in Huntsburg, Ohio. Mr. Koussa, who is a Syrian immigrant, accepted and openly shared his experience as an immigrant, along with his thoughts around current immigration policies in the United States.
John additionally spoke with Hershey Montessori students about their perspectives and thoughts on having Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) come to speak to them as a group. The students were supportive of the idea, knowing that hearing from different perspectives is beneficial, and that this particular perspective is extremely important given it is representative of the U.S. Government.
John and his students extended an invitation, which then led to an informative visit from Valentina Seeley and Kris Crowley from ICE. In spite of the many controversies currently surrounding ICE, Mr. Seeley and Mr. Crowley were gracious and kind as they presented a wealth of information and documents to help inform and illustrate the challenges and protocols of immigration. The students respectfully asked challenging questions of Mr. Seeley and Mr. Crowley. Hershey Montessori School has nearly two dozen boarding students from countries outside the United States. Students saw value in the opportunity to meet with ICE, and several committed to continue their own research on some of the more controversial topics.
Both guests expressed how impressive Hershey students were and how much they appreciated having a reasoned conversation around their work, which is not always the case in their professional work.
A short time later, Hershey students embarked on a trip to Downtown Cleveland to observe a Naturalization Ceremony. It was an invaluable experience that put faces to names and envisioned real lives over simple stories. It allowed students to experience the immigration process as both a logistical matter and a personal one.
Hearing about life-changing issues is important, but immersing ourselves in the process allows for greater comprehension. As adolescents take their place in the next generation of influencers and decision makers, they must be properly prepared and ready to tackle global concerns like these.