Montessori Matters

April 26, 2019

Preparing the Way for “Making a Difference”

It all starts in our toddler/preschool classrooms when a three-year-old first gets brave enough to stand up at circle time and “share.” Could be a beautiful coin that a beloved grandparent brought back from a recent trip, could be a flower in a pot just planted, could be a baby bird recently discovered on the ground being carefully taken care of by family. Whatever it is, TED-talking ability starts here.

TED Talks is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas. These talks are concise. Because their times are short (generally, 5-18 minutes), TED speakers have generally done the hard work of cutting out any extraneous ideas. Ideally, every word of a TED Talk counts. Most TED Talks involve people trying to make a difference in a world that needs “waking up.”

In today’s world there are lots of people talking. And talking. And talking. So what makes the difference in how many people listen to that talking? The most words are not the answer. The loudest words are not the answer. The best delivery in the world is not the whole answer. The answer lies somewhere down in preschool … when a child discovers a passion and wishes to share that passion with his/her peers and begins to get comfortable in his own skin with his “own voice.”

Passion for a topic and understanding of how to share it concisely, clearly, and confidently enables the listener to step into the speaker’s shoes – for just a minute – and live through his eyes and heart.

So, from the TED Talk of the preschooler sharing his enthusiasm for the arrowhead his family just found through elementary years of shares and speeches to our 8th grade presentations just finished and finally the yearlong research paper, project, and presentations of MSA’s high school seniors, MSA is a practice lab for future TED Talk kind of communicators. Communicators who really have something to say, know how to say it, and are willing to show passion for their “making a difference” idea.

8th Grade Projects and Presentations

The 8th graders have now completed one of their middle school milestones -- their "big project." At the end of February, each 8th grade student chose a topic and then researched their topic to complete a 5-page paper. The final paper was submitted before Spring Break, and they gave their presentations to faculty, staff, peers, and families on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons this week.

The 8th graders did a wonderful job presenting their research topics, and their peers were very considerate audience members. The students asked each other great questions and the presenters handled the question time well. Many chose topics that they were quite passionate about and some may even pursue a career in the topic they presented about.

Below are a few of pictures from the 8th grade presentations; click here for a gallery containing many more!

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Mrs. Holt shared with the 8th graders that after many years of 8th grade presentations, this year's group's were among the best she had seen, and she let them know how proud she was of each of them.
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Click this link to view more photos from the 8th grade presentations.

Dates to Remember

May 6 - Field Day

May 27 - Memorial Day Holiday, all programs closed

May 28 - LE Peace Ceremony

May 29 - UE Piping Up

May 30 - Early dismissal at 11:30 a.m., Promotion, 6:30 p.m.

May 31 - Awards Day, 8:30 a.m.

May 31 - Last Day of School, early dismissal 10:30 (I/T-LE) and 11:00 (UE-HS)

June 1 - HS Graduation, 4:00 p.m.

Nurse's Notes: Safety Alert

Please reduce speed while traveling onto MSA school property and ONLY enter school grounds at the entrance near the Administration building. For everyone's safety, please DO NOT enter at one of the exits. Due to the increased amount of traffic on our campus, we respectfully request that you remain with your children at all times while on the MSA campus. Pedestrians (especially small ones) are difficult to see and we want to address this safety issue to protect the lives of our MSA students. It is essential that all visitors and students use the sidewalks and remain in control of your children at all times. Please refrain from parking in front of classrooms, the flagpole or on sidewalks and use designated parking spaces when picking up and dropping off students outside of carpool times. Too often, drivers are in large vehicles, become distracted and may not see a child who has gotten away from their caregiver.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

With safest regards,

Susanna Merriman, RN

Field Day Rescheduled -- May 6

Field Day has been rescheduled for Monday, May 6th beginning with the torch run at 9:00 am.

The lunch offering will be pizza, which can be ordered through the main office. There are still extra field day shirts available for $8; if your child would like one contact Mrs. Patch - Also, if you are available to help with set-up, running games or clean-up contact Mrs. Patch.

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Student Newspaper

Our 9th-grade students have been planning a school-wide student newspaper and are looking for submissions from students throughout the school. They are asking for articles on current events, opinion pieces, art, photographs, literature, interviews, book summaries and reviews, thank you’s, and looking forward statements (particularly from promotion students). They are also looking for statements from the seniors. Faculty members have received an email containing more information about the requested submissions and will hopefully be relaying that information to students and parents shortly.

We are excited to see how the newspaper turns out! Below is an image of the students during the initial planning meeting.

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Toddler Three

Please enjoy these photos showing Toddler Three students' concentration on various work activities as well as making lunch and enjoying snack. Thank you to Infant One Assistant Skylar teNijenhuis for capturing these and many of our recent Infant through Toddler photographs!
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Biome Books and Diorama

This week, students in Dr. Mahajan's Biology class presented children's books they had created containing information about biomes. One student also made a diorama to present her biome information. Click here or the diorama image below to see the biome diorama in 360 degrees!

Infant Works

Even our smallest students have been hard at work this week!
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High School Easter Whiteboard

The High School students decorated the conference room whiteboard for Easter this week. We have some truly gifted artists at MSA!
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Our first STEAM night was held this Tuesday after the Annual Report, and many families had a great time exploring Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics activities on campus. The night started with Dr. Spencer Jordan, executive director of the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA, our accrediting body), presenting MSA's Middle School with our official STEAM certification. We look forward to achieving certification for the rest of the school in the following month. Thank you to junior Abby Keenan and Beth Dabney for contributing photos from the event!
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After the presentation, there were lots of activities including structural engineering and earthquake simulation, a banana piano and conductor/insulator station using Makey Makey, several augmented reality activities, a green screen, music creation, a collaborative book written one page at a time by different authors, and Lego construction among others. It was a lot of fun, and we look forward to the next STEAM family activity night! See below for a few photos from the event, and click here to see the entire gallery.
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Click here for more photos from STEAM Night. Thank you to all of the families that made time to come to the event! Click this link or the image below to view just the green screen images.
Finally, click this link or the image below to check out the short story written one page at a time by various attendees.


MSA sponsored a tent at Junior League of Anderson's 4th Annual Touch-A-Truck event this Saturday. There were lots of fun and creative activities for little ones to participate in and all kinds of vehicles -- from police, fire, medical, and rescue to library and school buses, Ghost Buster, animal shelter, and agriculture vehicles, and more. The MSA tent was visited by the Montessaurus, and she was a huge hit with all of the little ones at the event! Click this link to watch a video of Montessaurus in action running through an inflatable obstacle course!
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Alumni Catch-Up: Mary Helen Kennerly

I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office at MSA. I can laugh about it now--and I hope Ms. Holt can too—but it wasn’t funny at the time. Where I came by the defiance I showed in 1992, that year I was in 4th grade, I don’t know, but I guess I’m still no great follower of rules. I work now as a community integration specialist in a day program for adults with disabilities, where my untamed exuberance and shameless goofery are an asset and have made me a favorite among many of the disabled folks I work with. (I also still go by my old MSA nickname, May Hay.) I goof, they grin, and then I grin even bigger. It’s the most joyful job I’ve ever done in my life, if not the strangest—and I’ve had a few pretty strange ones. During my time at Smith College (2001-2005) I helped digitize its art department’s slide collections, and after graduation I was a nurse recruiter working mostly with Kenyan nurses for a law firm. My least favorite gig was teaching surly undergraduates from 2009-2012 as I got my Master of Fine Arts in Writing at the University of Iowa. I guess I couldn’t take what I had dished out ten years earlier!

Troublesome though I was, clearly MSA set me on a solid path academically. (Though I also have to credit T.L. Hanna High School—which I attended in 1997 after graduating 8th grade, the last grade then offered by MSA—and the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, where I finished high school.) My defiance and intractable lack of cooperation, reserved usually for the poor music teacher, had bled into my academic performance by the second half of the 4th grade. I just wasn’t doing my work. MSA upper el teacher Ms. Duart—Anna as she would let me call her when we corresponded in high school—took me aside and asked what I planned to do with my life. I answered, “Win Publisher’s Clearinghouse, of course!” This wasn’t all smart-aleckry: the airwaves were teeming with their advertisements in the ‘90s. It seemed easy to win! Or my grandparents would win and I could just live off their money, I explained. They got mail from PC constantly and were no doubt on the verge of a windfall. Ms. Duart talked to me about personal responsibility, my potential, my purpose, my place in the world. I didn’t like that too much. Nor did I like her, Yankee lady with the weird accent.

But pretty soon I came to love her instead. She gave me special assignments to keep me busy and out of the office: a research paper on Vikings, another on the ancient Egyptians. She helped me design a costume for my presentation of the paper: I traced and she cut an ankh from a sheet of copper, then hammered it out with a mallet from among her art supplies. I rolled and painted beads that she helped me string onto a bodice. Finally, I felt like a bride carrying my ankh to the podium, and when Ms. Duart hugged me hard in front of my parents, she joined me for good to the life of the mind.

Of all the wonderful ways of seeing the world that MSA gave me—I’m already teaching my daughter, age 2, to do chores and not to pinch the leaves from plants that are as alive as she and I—what I’d tell parents of current students is to be very mindful and intentional about preparing your child for and witnessing the communal coming of age rituals MSA observes, which can be so lacking in the cult of individuality that informs modern American life. The more close communities we have to remind our children of who they are and who they want to be, the better. And MSA is unique is creating unity among us which has a much deeper spiritual basis than the dopaminergic mob-mentality of pep rallies I encountered at Hanna. From the yearly birthday trip around the sun to being lifted in a chair in a hail of flowers at the end of 8th grade, these are moments of becoming which, when we enter into them with reverence, reflection, and joy, carry us forward into challenges we’ll face as people who are sturdy, confident, and blessed.

To current students, know how privileged you are to be a part of everything MSA offers and stands for. Right now I’m on the verge of starting yet another degree—this time a practical one, in Marriage and Family Therapy—partly because I’m sweating how I could possibly afford to send my daughter to a Montessori school on my current income. And I won’t tell you that because you’ve had this fancy education that I expect great things from you. You’ll have enough people telling you that, and anyway, it’s more important for you to find out what “great” means for you so that you become the most useful and happy adult you can be. No, what I’d tell you is to be aware of the communities you belong to. Do more listening than talking. Before you try to save anyone, see and hear without judgment. Watch closely and see what is needed, then ask if you have a passion for any of the things your community most needs. The great thing is, you don’t have to have figured it out by senior year. And even when you think you have figured it out, you can still change your mind. Just keep an anchor where you have people who know you, love you, and can remind you of your special gifts.

I lost one such anchor when I lost Ms. Duart, first because I got busy—busy, the bane of intention—and then for good, when she died in 2016 of a brain tumor. I wonder what she’d think of the woman I’ve become, the messes I made and cleaned up. That sense I have now that she’d be proud of me, even though I’m not perfect and my life looks nothing like what I might have hoped in the 4th grade (notwithstanding never having won Publisher’s Clearinghouse!)—that’s what community feels like. It feels like being okay when things aren’t always ok. It means finding ways to keep celebrating being together, and in history.

Teddy Bear Clinic

See below for details regarding a free event at the AnMed Health Women's and Children's Hospital on May 18.
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Montessori School of Anderson

Our mission is to nurture the whole child, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, preparing students for academic excellence, lifelong learning and responsible, caring lives.