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Voice of Hershey Blog

Thoughts, Insights, and Experiences from the Hearts of Hershey
New Beings Are In Creation

New Beings Are In Creation

By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director

“The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.” ~ Dr. Maria Montessori

Dr. Montessori regarded the period of adolescence as a time of great vulnerability. She compared the years of early adolescence (ages 12-15) to the first three years of life. Just as the infant requires careful attention and diligence, so too does the young adolescent. For both stages of development, and as author Paula Polk-Lilliard writes…”a new being is in creation…”.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic and navigating our societal (and political) climate seems to be metaphorically mirroring the development of the adolescent. Just as the adolescent is seeking to join society, many adults in our current social landscape are also feeling the push and pull of how to navigate a transition. Dr. Montessori stated that adolescence is a period of self-construction and they are seeking to “understand people’s behavior in the world as a whole…”

As adolescents are on their journey of seeking this understanding, it is the job of the guide, the teacher, the mentor and the parent to appropriately respond to the questions. HOW we respond matters. And within the response lies the opportunity to provide space, present possibilities and create safety for these young adults to continue to seek the answers in making sense of the world. And ultimately, this allows them to find the courage and confidence to share their own viewpoints and voice.

Order and Beauty Prevail

Order and Beauty Prevail

By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director

Order…things in their place. It means a knowledge of the arrangement of objects in the child’s surroundings, a recollection of the place where each belongs. And this means that he can orient himself in his environment, possess it in all its details. We mentally possess an environment when we know it so as to find our way with our eyes shut, and find all we want within hands’ reach. Such a place is essentially for the tranquility and happiness of life.” ~ Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

In the past several months, the Coronavirus has certainly turned our sense of order upside down. Covid’s impact — on how we educate our students, the economy, working remotely, juggling our family’s emotional well-being, racial strife and a divisive political landscape — is like nothing we have had to address in our modern society. Dr. Montessori emphasized order and beauty for children of all ages for a variety of reasons. For adolescents, emphasizing external order (the classroom, the adult, the response) allows the adolescent to establish their own internal order, which is an essential aspect in their development. Covid has encouraged (albeit forced) us to re-evaluate our established sense of order, so that we may continue to meet the adolescent’s needs and promote both safe and healthy social development. It has been a joy to see the students re-emerge from this displaced sense of order of the past several months to both re-establish, and continue to develop, their own internal order. As they do so, we will continue to be by their side guiding, encouraging, and fostering new pathways. These adolescents show us every day the resilience that is their foundation, the perseverance of their spirit and the essential pathway of hope.

Farm News –  Holy Pumpkins!

Farm News – Holy Pumpkins!

By Joyce Cole, Hershey Montessori School Farm Manager

 

Happy Summer! With this past week’s deluge of rain, I found myself with a little extra time to collect thoughts and pictures and announcements from the farm. I have been eager to share with you.

I hear stories of how the pandemic has afforded a new hobby, or a lifestyle change… Here on the farm, the pandemic has afforded preparation. Everything from the Animal Barn to the Wood Shop to the Bioshelter is experiencing a thorough going-over. The farm and facilities staff have poured their hearts into maintaining, reorganizing and reinvigorating our farm environments for the betterment of our adolescents. Here are just a few happenings on the farm.

 

The Bioshelter

This school year will mark the beginning of a regrowth and revision of our bioshelter. Now over 15 years old, our bioshelter was designed to be an energy-efficient, thriving greenhouse and classroom. It is an amazing resource for our students to learn about the inter-connectedness of life within an ecosystem. After thriving in this way over many years, the time has come to assess the whole system to determine what’s working, what needs improved, and what can be remembered about our original intentions for the bioshelter. We’ll start with rebuilding and realigning its structures – from the panels to the gutters to the raised beds within the greenhouse – bringing the bioshelter ecosystem back to thriving from its very foundation.

 

The Pastures and Barns

Some would say that our barns are pretty empty these days. In my past year as Farm Manager, we lost Harley the pony, and Bart, Tomas, and Tiger Bite – three of our farm cats. We let Ernest the buck go because it was time to mix in new genetics. We raised and harvested chickens to feed our community and refresh our laying hen population. Now we have one horse and six goats sharing a barn and pasture, and two large pigs in the Goat Barn! Well, as with the bioshelter, sometimes we need to take a step back and think about how to move forward. This summer we replanted and electrified the inner horse pasture. When students return, they will have the opportunity to help with wiring the fences for ease of pasture management and animal movement, extending the horse pasture, and repairing the cow stall. We are also implementing new pasture management plans that include taking regular soil samples, fertilizing, and overseeding when needed.

San Marzano tomatoes and Genovese basil

 

The Farm Garden and Market

Finally, I want to take a moment to tell you about our summer gardens. You may remember the huge success of our online plant sale this year. Students started and grew a variety of vegetable plants to outfit our entire community’s gardens. With the long, cool and rainy spring, getting those plants into the gardens on the farm was painfully slow for me and the plants. Well, they finally got planted and though they took a bit of time to recover from being pot-bound, harassed by white flies, cold, and thoroughly drenched, the gardens are now in their full glory! We have so many tomatoes coming in, and just at the stage that is optimal for our students. These are their plants, and they will return to find them ready to harvest.

Musquee de Provence Pumpkin, friend and foe – honeybee + cucumber beetle, eggplant, okra flower, and watermelon

 

You can shop from the Hershey Microeconomy at Adam McKinney’s family farm stand at 12831 Auburn Road in Chardon, Ohio. The Farm Stand will be open from 4 p.m. till dusk on Friday’s, and 9 a.m. till dusk on Saturday’s. There will be lettuce and greens, eggplant, zucchini, and basil available for sale – with complimentary recipes for pesto and fritters, care of Hershey alumna, Makenna Venaleck. Watch for peppers and a few tomatoes coming soon. Please spread the word! If you have a chance to visit the farm, be sure to check out the two large pumpkin patches already bearing loads of fruit. We timed them to be done by Harvest Festival, so picture a pumpkin patch with happy children picking out their favorite jack-o-lantern.

Our market stand and Makenna’s recipe cards 

 

There are two more important points I’d like to mention. One, we couldn’t do what we do without our dedicated residential staff who keep a constant eye on things and happily pitch in with the work of the farm. Sharyn, Joy, Paul, and Stella have all been rotating evening and weekend feed shifts, but they also muck stalls, help in the gardens, and landscape. I mentioned Makenna working on the farm this summer, but I am also extremely grateful for Daniel Jolly, Stella’s husband. Both of them have done everything from muckimg stalls to harvesting chickens to weeding garden beds. 

I am excited to add students to the mix of daily camaraderie, discussion, and steady practical farm work. Our adolescents bring fresh perspective, enthusiasm, and ideas. As a relatively new employee who is still catching my stride, I have been grateful for this time to learn and ponder. I am ready and excited – we all are – to put our students back at the fulcrum of our farm.

 

About the Author: Joyce Cole serves as Farm Manager at Hershey’s Adolescent Campus in Huntsburg, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Hiram College as well as a post-baccalaureate certification in secondary education from Cleveland State University. For the past 15 years, Joyce has lived with her husband, Tom, and their two children, Ella and Tommy, in rural dwellings outside of Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio. Inspired by a deep curiosity to live sustainably on the land and a long-standing dream to farm, she studied herbalism, worked on farms, and fed her family locally-grown and foraged foods. Joyce is honored to share her passion for farming with Hershey Montessori students and school community.

Are Hershey Graduates Prepared for College?

Are Hershey Graduates Prepared for College?

An Interview with Hershey Montessori School Alumni

Hershey Montessori School delights in welcoming back its graduates and former students. We love to hear how they are tackling life and college after high school. We seek to know how their Montessori education helped shape and prepare them for the paths they chose. We love learning more about where they are today, and how their skills are helping them on life’s journey.

At the last alumni gathering, Hershey graduates shared with us what course of study they are pursuing and what university they are attending. We then asked them to speak to how they felt prepared for where they are on their journey. Below is what they shared.

 

Ilana Rosenheck ’18, Psychology, University of Cincinnati: “I think the farm, or Hershey or Montessori in general, has really prepared us for public speaking. We all did countless presentations and that really developed a confidence in all of us – or most of us. I feel like if we had an issue or a question, we all felt comfortable with going to our professors and talking to them just because we have that close relationship with the staff here. It’s something I feel like traditional schooling won’t teach their students. Hershey taught us about being a functioning adult. I feel like Hershey really prepared us for life.”

 

Cameron Zona ’18, Theater and Entrepreneurship, Lake Erie College: “Yeah, I have to agree. I was here on campus on Monday and I sat in on a class of Middle School students and they were giving presentations, and I was like ‘these presentations are better prepared and they have better public speaking skills than the students that are in some of my college classes.’ I was very impressed. I definitely think that it is something that when students graduate, they have a firm grasp on.”

 

Makenna Venaleck ’18, Chemical Engineering, Ohio University: “I don’t do a lot of presentations or public speaking in my area of study, but I will say that I felt very prepared to talk with my professors and have a little bit of an up because even though a lot of people in STEM are very good at math and science, they can’t really communicate what they are studying or how they are feeling or talk to their professors or to a potential employer. I went to the career fair and I felt very prepared because I could set aside ‘What are my skills? What are things that I am good at?’ and I could have a conversation with someone that maybe would employ me or was a professor. I felt very prepared for interpersonal communication.”

 

Erin Finan ’19, Journalism, Ohio University: “I think Hershey helped me (or Montessori) in a lot of ways, but especially when I went to college and I was trying to find my friend group. The people I connected with like at Hershey really helped me to know the kind of people I wanted to be around and know how to find my tribe. Taking that to college made it a lot easier to find people and know that these were the people that I wanted to spend time with and be around, and that I wanted to form my friend group with. I mean, college has more people so you have to adjust because of that, but you also have to know that there are people like you and for you at college that you’ll be able to connect with in the same way you connect with people here. You might have to look a little bit harder because it’s such a bigger environment, but like I said, Hershey helped me and a lot of us know who we wanted as our friends and the things we value. When we find those [values] in other people, it’s easier to make those connections.”

 

Elise Spintzyk ’18, Psychology, Ohio State University: “I think Hershey prepared us well because we had a lot of leadership opportunities. I think students who are looking to move forward into a graduate program or even to apply for a job are able to step into a leadership role. While you are in college that is something that is really important and important for your resumé. Already having had a leadership role with experience, I can bring that in as a freshman student when applying for a position on an executive board of a club, something in your department, or looking for a research position if that’s something you’re interested in. Those are things that you wouldn’t already be taking with you from most high schools. I think a lot of students haven’t had the opportunity to do so. When you step into those roles when you’re in college, you are very well prepared for them and you’re able to thrive in that position and keep moving forward.”

 

Thank you, alumni, for sharing how your Hershey Montessori School experience and skills have helped aid you in your college education and beyond. We are please that you were able to take leadership, communication, interpersonal skills, public speaking, real-life capabilities, and tools to navigate and find your way in the next steps of your education. We wish you all the best. We truly look forward to seeing you all again very soon!

Hershey Guide Shares Keys to Supporting Montessori Education Online

Hershey Guide Shares Keys to Supporting Montessori Education Online

“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.

Read John Buzzard’s detailed lay out of the three-stage learning cycle here.

The Healing Power of Nature

The Healing Power of Nature

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.

Resilience, Through a Mother’s Eyes

Resilience, Through a Mother’s Eyes

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!

Leslie Minotti

 

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.

Wellbeing and Adolescents

Wellbeing and Adolescents

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.

What Do Adolescents Need Right Now?

What Do Adolescents Need Right Now?

 

 

 

By Laurie Ewert-KrockerDirector, International Montessori Training Institute, former Hershey staff member, Hershey parent and grandparent

 

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.

 

Acceptance and Courage in Changing Times

Acceptance and Courage in Changing Times

 

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!

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About the Voice of Hershey Blog

Imagine a beautiful place filled with activities that are designed around your needs, calling to your curiosity and imagination. Picture a community where children are surrounded by people who understand, encourage and challenge their strengths. Envision a child learning each day, immersed in a culture of respect and a course of study based upon personal interest and engagement.

Serving children from birth through age 18, Hershey offers challenging, highly individualized programs that focus on the uniqueness of each child.

Hershey offers an exceptional experience on two campuses, including the truly unique, world class farm school.