The Albrook School--Montessori at its best
The Albrook School--The Albrook School--Montessori at its best

Upcoming Events

Thursday, March 7
Family Science & Art Night
5pm to 7pm
Friday, April 5th
Elementary Play
Monday, April 9th
through April 12
School Closed
Spring Break
Friday, April 19
School Closed
Good Friday
Sunday, April 28
Open House
Summer Camp 1-3pm

Albrook News

The Albrook School Spirit Day

by Ms. McNeill

Spread Love and Kindness was the theme of January's Spirit Day and the goal was "See the Difference One Person can Make". Our focus was to assist the Somerset Foodbank in their Backpack program.

In the week prior to Spirt Day, the children's discussions at circle time centered on acts of kindness. The children were asked to spread kindness towards each other and at home. These little acts of kindness were documented on doves and paper globes and hung on a tree in the reception area of our school. At home, the children did chores to earn money to buy food items for the Backpack program. These activities engaged the children and helped them to understand what is like to walk in another person's shoes.

On Monday, January 14, our school community gathered in Albers Hall. Ms. MacNeill opened the celebration with a warm welcome and shared that this was not only a community appreciation and sharing day, but it is also Martin Luther King's birthday. Ms. MacNeill discussed with the children the difference one person can make. Martin Luther King stated, "Life's most urgent question is, What are you doing for others?" Our kindness tree is an example of that belief. We feel privileged to have honored his legacy with a day of service.

Ms. Vazaios then discussed the merits of the Backpack program. She assured the children that their donations will make a significant difference in the lives of many children. The schools the children attend provide food during the week, but it was discovered that many children were still hungry during the weekend. The Backpack program places a kit of food in each child's backpack on Friday, so they have enough meals for an entire weekend. The Somerset Food Bank serves over 700 children each week. After the discussion, the children were invited to bring up their food items. They observed how all the food collectively amounted to so much more when they worked together.

The celebration concluded with songs about peace and unity led by Mrs. Marvi. The children went back to their classrooms with pride in their accomplishment and a good feeling in their heart.

Last year, the elementary students raised an additional $500.00 for the Backpack program by selling their elementary play posters. Additional food items were purchased and added to the Backpack program. The elementary students sorted, counted and packaged the items to assist the Somerset Foodbank with the project under the guidance of Jackie Taylor. We are happy to report that through our collections we were able to make 200 food kits!

We want to thank all the parents who assisted in the effort. The children from Stepping Stones through Elementary were involved in this project. Children at every age need to be taught about the importance and responsibility we all have in making the world we live in a better place.

Pre-K2 Art Night

by Mrs. Dignam and Mrs. Murphy

Pre K2 students and their parents enjoyed a delicious pasta dinner to kick off our Pre K2 Art Night. After the meal, Senora Zarate led the Pre-K2 students in an art project inspired by the works of Henri Matisse. While the students were making collages, their parents attended a presentation on our Kindergarten program.

Kindergarten teachers Mrs. Fritsch, Mrs. Laidlaw, Mrs. Murphy, and Mrs. Dignam discussed the curriculum and benefits of a Montessori Kindergarten program:

  • The kindergarten year is the culmination of the children's social, emotional and cognitive learning experiences over the previous three years.
  • The students become natural leaders in the classroom: mentoring, inspiring and passing along what they have learned to their younger peers.
  • By showing what they know, the children are processing the information at a deeper level.

On display, were examples of the Kindergartener's work as well as the materials used in the classroom. Through multi-disciplinary, collaborative activities, learning is a process of discovery. Our units on nutrition, Colonial America, Endangered Animals, and the Rainforest strengthen and develop math, language, and handwriting skills as well as encourage analytical thinking. The Kindergarten experience concludes with a play performed by all of the Kindergarten students at the end of the year. Ms. Albers started this Albrook tradition and we are always amazed to see the confidence with which they perform.

Following the presentation, parents had an opportunity to ask questions about the program. At the end of the evening, students were reunited with their parents to happily share their art projects.

Soccer, Dance, and Baking, Oh My!

by Lisa Perez

One of the ongoing traditions at Albrook is involving the students in after school activities. Our fall and winter clubs are always something to look forward to. We know because they fill up quickly! Clubs like Tae Kwon Do, So You Sewing, Music, and Chess offer something for children of various ages. All after school clubs run for 8 weeks except for Dance Club which runs for 12 with a "final show" showcasing what the children have learned complete with costumes and music. The students enjoy this extra time at Albrook learning something new; even challenging themselves at times giving them the proud feeling of accomplishment.


Global Stewardship: Three Simple Things You Can Do Now

Stop using plastic straws. In 2017, Americans bought an estimated 390 million plastic straws a day (NY Times). Plastic straws and plastic bags are particularly harmful to marine life because they are often mistaken for food and end up choking and killing an estimated one million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals a year.

Plastic straws cannot be recycled due to their small size, which clogs up the recycling machinery. So consider alternatives such as metal or glass straws made of extra strong lab glass, which often come with their own carrying cases and cleaning brushes or just go without.

Get a reusable water bottle and fill it with tap water. Only 1 in 5 plastic water bottles end up in the recycling bin and with Americans consuming an estimated 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water, there is a lot of waste going on! To produce all those plastic bottles, it takes 17 million barrels of oil! And it turns out that about 1/3 of bottled water brands violated water standards so their water is actually less clean than your kitchen tap!

Remember your own shopping bags. Like straws, those plastic grocery store bags are killing marine life and clogging up the North Pacific. If you must use plastic bags, please make sure that they end up being recycled in the special containers for this type of plastic. These bags cannot be recycled in most curbside recycling programs.

Parent Toddler Class

by Ms. McCusker & Ms. Behar

Hurray! Albrook's 2nd Parent and Toddler class got off to a flying start at 3:00 pm on Tuesday January 29. After a little hesitation and assurance that moms were not going to leave, seven little energetic toddlers settled down to the business of work.

It was amazing to observe children ranging from as young as 16 to 24 months eagerly explore the age-appropriate prepared activities with guidance from their accompanying parent. After a 45 minute work period, we all gathered in a circle for some songs. The session was then completed by the children sitting having a healthy snack.

One of the wonderful aspects of this 8-week program is that we all get to grow together, children, parents and teachers.

Each week we will take one Montessori concept that we practice throughout our school, and parents can reinforce it at home with children of all ages.

In our first session, we focused on 'The Work Cycle' where one activity is taken out, worked with then returned to the shelf before another activity is taken out.

We look forward to our next session to see what our youngest students can teach us.

Towards Becoming Better Global Stewards in the Upper Elementary

by Ms. Vazaios and Mrs. Lipman

"We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity."

- Maria Montessori

Dr. Montessori's vision of recognizing that the individual is part of a greater whole provides a wonderful framework to approach learning opportunities in our classroom. As teachers, we were excited to find out that this year's goal centered on global stewardship. We easily envisioned new lessons and experiences that would both help our students to evolve personally as well as create a more caring classroom. We chose two goals: becoming a better global steward towards the Earth and becoming a more aware, active global citizen.

Our first unit of study this year centered on becoming a better steward toward the earth. Using the Tunza Environmental series of books published by The United Nations Environment Program, students explored how children around the world face environmental challenges. For example, in the book Tessa and the Fishy Mystery, students explored the theme of ocean conservation and overfishing. This book is serving as inspiration for our Spring Event project. Through drawing, painting, and writing, students delved into this topic with enthusiasm and artistry. Each student wrote a heartfelt persuasive essay about a different environmental problem and researched an endangered animal to portray on a beautiful wooden sea chest.

We have defined global stewardship as not only an environmental cause, but also as an opportunity to demonstrate greater awareness of our humanitarian connection globally. With this in mind, many of this year's peace lessons are geared towards the theme of global citizenship with a focus on discrimination and racism. We would like to extend our gratitude to Ms. Jones who is a current Albrook parent. She has partnered with us on multiple occasions to help us design a curriculum that delves into racism in our Montessori classroom. Initial lessons focused on defining key terms associated with prejudice via a fun, technological Quizlet activity. Other lessons included debunking stereotypes through interactive hands-on materials where children had to match children to their bedrooms, a multimedia presentation on children's experiences with racism using our Promethean Board, and a drama experience where students were asked to evaluate subtle and overt racist comments. Each of these experiences prompted deep and thoughtful conversation among our class community. We were touched by the students' openness and willingness to engage with difficult topics and raise interesting questions. Future lessons will include overcoming stereotypes, different forms of discrimination, and exploring the dynamics of privilege and power. Our hope this year is to increase knowledge, personal awareness, tolerance and empathy towards others.

An Albrook Lifer

by Genevieve Strycharz

As an Albrook Lifer, starting in Stepping Stones and "graduating" in 6th grade, I have so many fond memories of my time at Albrook. Countless memories come to mind, but I fondly remember grand times on the playground, class with Ms. Vazaios, musical fun with Ms. Crawford, and our drama productions. Some of my dearest friends started at Albrook- in fact, one of my Maids of Honor, I met in Stepping Stones! Friendships at Albrook last a lifetime.

After Albrook I attended Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset. It was truly the perfect transition for me, and much of the same mantra is shared across both schools. I graduated from Rutgers University, lived in NYC for a few years, and am currently working at Rutgers Prep as the Director of Alumni Relations.

Montessori education has taught me to be observant. In everything I do I try to be observant and aware of what is going on around me. There are so many essential aspects of life that we can miss if we are not attentive. I genuinely feel reading a room, observing a situation and knowing intricacies can advance, assist and aid you a great deal in wherever your journey takes you.

Albrook has an incredibly active community, and that is hard to find. If the value of community was not instilled in me during my time at Albrook, I don't think I would be where I am today. Valuing your peers, faculty, friends, and everyone in between is truly invaluable.

The small class sizes also helped me tremendously. I learned how to work with my teachers and peers on both collaborative projects and individual scenarios, too. Albrook taught me how to interact with everyone around me, and I truly feel that the social skills, in addition to the academic learning, of course, shaped me to who I am today. When you are treated like an adult, even at a young age, you live up to the task.

8 Ways to Support Your Child's Creativity

Adapted from an article by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Kids are natural innovators with powerful imaginations. And creativity offers a bounty of intellectual, emotional and even health benefits. One study found that kids' imaginations helped them cope better with pain. Creativity also helps kids be more confident, develop social skills, and learn better.

Designate a space for creating. This doesn't need to be fancy or large but it should be a space where your child has control over what goes on in the space.

Keep it simple. Art supplies, Legos, simple toys are the best. No need to purchase the latest gadgets.

Allow for "free time." Make sure there is a period of time in each week for your child to have unstructured play time. Let your child control how he/she uses this time.

Help your kids activate their senses. Expose your kids to the world so they can use all of their senses. Take them to the library, museum and outdoors. Ask them to imagine what traveling to faraway places, such as the African safari. What animals would they encounter? What would the safari look like? What would it smell like? What noises would the animals make?

Discuss creativity. Ask your kids when they come up with their best ideas or have their most creative moments. If it's in the car while getting to soccer practice, honor that by keeping a notebook, iPad or even a tape recorder handy.

Cultivate creative critical thinking. As your kids get older, ask them how they approach certain problems and how they might do things differently.

Avoid managing. Children have an amazing innate ability to be creative when they play freely on their own, and unfortunately, the act of over parenting dampens or even wipes out that innate ability.

Help kids pursue their passions. Pay attention to your child's interests and make these materials and activities available to them.

DJ Night

by Kelly Antoniello,

On Friday, January 11, Albrook held its annual Elementary DJ Night in Albers Hall. The Lower and Upper Elementary students have been practicing their hula hooping and dance skills during gym, and they were able to show off their talents during the evening, dancing to classics like "Cha Cha Slide," "The Macarena," and "Cotton Eye Joe." The students enjoyed seeing their friends all dressed up, and, as usual, the hot chocolate was a fan favorite.

It was especially wonderful to see the alumni return for this exciting and memorable event. The night ended with the DJ inviting the parents to dance with their children for the last few songs of the evening. The sense of returning community and family that is central to Albrook really made itself present on this year's DJ Night.

Pizza and Movie Night

by Ms. MacNeill

We are excited to share that our Upper Elementary students will be attending this year's annual Model Montessori UN conference in New York City in March 2019. Under the guidance of Ms. Hicks, our students have been preparing for this opportunity from the beginning of September. Through participation in this long process, the students have learned about four countries: Niger, Zambia, Senegal, and Guinea-Bissau and are exploring some of the global issues affecting them. They have spent time researching and writing position papers on the Food and Agricultural Organization, trade, and decolonization in order to propose solutions to the problems in the abovementioned countries.

In addition to all this work, our students have enrolled in a few fundraisers to help set off the expenses of transportation and food for this endeavor. In the fall, the students and parents decorated beautiful tea towels in time to sell for the holidays. They devised a marketing strategy and sold their products at the school's annual Book Fair.

On the evening of Friday December 14, the students, with the help of some preschool staff, hosted a Pizza and Movie night for preschool and elementary students. It was a big hit!

The Upper Elementary students mindfully and empathically ensured that all of their guests were comfortable in front of the big screen to enjoy the movie Paddington Bear 2. Also, they served pizza, fruit, hot chocolate, and cookies, all while being observant of any assistance these young friends might need.

It was indeed a delight to behold how our older students enrolled and embraced all the responsibilities of hosting this successful evening.

MMUN Thank You

Dear parents,

We, the MMUN students appreciate the support that was given from Movie Night. All the children had fun and we thank you all for spending your time and supporting our trip in March. We made about $900 from the proceeds, and now that we have the supplement funding, we can go on our trip. We are really happy and appreciate your generosity and support. On behalf of all the MMUN students, we thank you.

The MMUN students

Christmas is for
Thank You

Thank you all for your support this year. When we asked you to help us grow this year - you responded! As Christmas is for Children finishes up for 2018 we thought we would share a few numbers with you!

This year we:
Worked with 18 agencies to sponsor 1081children throughout New Jersey and the tri-state area. That translates to over 3500 gifts, purchased wrapped and delivered to the children. The organization also delivered 35 food baskets to local families.

We thank the local businesses and organizations who sponsored giving trees this year at local salons, physician's offices, gyms and Girl Scout troops. We also thank our generous donors who helped fund additional outreach to families in need.

As a volunteer run organization, we are lucky to work with each of you as you express your generosity and brighten the lives of so many children and families. Please pass this along to others who shared in the sponsorship this year. We look forward to working with you again next year!!

All the best and Happy New Year,
Ellen Bond
NJ Director
Christmas is for Children

The Elementary Musical Recital

by Nina Marvi

On the morning of December 19, our Albrook community gathered together in the Albers Hall for a warm cup of coffee and conversation before enjoying the Elementary Musical Recital. This is one of The Albrook School's great traditions. Using a variety of Orff instruments as well as recorders, ukuleles and voices, the Elementary students performed a beautiful program of holiday and other musical selections. With poise and confidence these young individuals showcased the pieces that they had studied under the direction of Ms. Crawford, our Elementary music teacher.

It was a delight to see the enjoyment on the faces of these young musicians as they entertained an audience of parents, grandparents and the assembled preschoolers with their creative ensembles.

The program continued with a singalong of traditional holiday favorites which the preschoolers, and the audience, thoroughly enjoyed participating in. It was the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit and to celebrate the strength of our Music Program at Albrook. We are indeed proud to have such accomplished musicians in the making under the direction of Ms. Crawford.

An Exciting New Digital Tool

by Ms. Vazaios

The Upper Elementary class had been anxiously awaiting the installation of our completed Promethean Board. This interactive whiteboard will enhance the learning experience for all students, as well as be an amazing teaching tool during lessons. The students are also eager to utilize this board for presentations related to class projects, too.

On the first day of having the projector, students were able to expand their cultural lesson experience by viewing a multimedia interactive website that displayed Ancient Incan rope bridges. Our next use of the whiteboard was more interactive. As a teacher, I was excited to share how students could improve their critical thinking skills by constructing their own bridge designs using an interactive PBS website. This was an amazing complement to our recent lessons on types of bridges. The students remarked on the improvement of viewing this lesson on a large, interactive screen rather than crowding around my desktop. It was wonderful to see their smiling, engaged faces. We are grateful for this amazing technological tool and are looking forward to utilizing this interactive whiteboard throughout the year.

Montessori & STEAM

by the Albrook Kindergarten teachers

In the past decade, there has been a dramatic push to enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs in schools across our country. In recent years, STEM has been updated to STEAM with the addition of an 'A' for arts. As a result, STEAM now also integrates liberal arts, fine arts, music, design thinking, and language arts into its curriculum. As the global economy becomes more dependent on innovation, science, and technology, a STEAM education provides students with the skills they will need to be successful in future careers.

A STEAM curriculum uses an interdisciplinary and applied approach to teaching. It is a philosophy or methodology that allows students to engage in real world problems and experiences through project-based, experiential learning activities. Rather than teach each of these subject areas in separate and distinct silos, STEAM focuses on integration, collaboration, and connectedness – just as has Maria Montessori's methodology since its very beginning, now more than a century ago.

Experimentation and discovery are evident at every turn in a Montessori classroom. Focus is on process rather than on gaining just a product or answer. Montessori children advance at their own pace, starting with the manipulation of concrete, tangible materials. From there, they gradually move on to gain the ability to apply abstract ideas to new situations, the ultimate goal of STEAM. A Montessori education provides a systematic approach to learning that continually reinforces the basic tenets of creative and strategic thinking.

Over one hundred years ago, Maria Montessori built her method of teaching on the same fundamental goals of the STEAM curriculum: to foster independence, encourage the development of critical thinking, and to cultivate a natural desire to learn in children. Long before the advent of the internet, iPads, and cell phones, Dr. Montessori recognized the role of the child in the world wide community and the importance of global citizenship.

Like STEAM, the Montessori pedagogy is designed to build upon the innate curiosity of the child. Her 'tried and true' method provides each child with opportunities to investigate, explore, make connections, and to reflect upon the world in which s/he lives. Montessori children learn how to identify and categorize information, as well as to assess and express ideas. Today the Montessori perspective to learning is arguably more important than ever.

Exploring the Montessori Math Curriculum

by Elaine Dignam

We all love twenty-first century technology; our tablets and phones facilitate a world of information and entertainment. However, the young child still needs to experience its world through the senses. We can observe this when we see the spark of understanding in a child's eyes when they are working in the Montessori math curriculum.

In the primary Montessori classroom, the children initially don't realize that they are doing math work. In the Sensorial area of the class the youngest student will begin with the Pink Tower and the Red Rods. These materials teach how to grade and discriminate by size and length respectively. Maria Montessori believed that children possessed a mathematical mind. However, since objects of mathematical precision don't occur in a child's environment, she created a series of materials to encourage exploration, order and the isolation of a concept.

The first material introduced is the number rods. They are the same dimensions as the sensorial Red Rods: ten rods varying in length from ten centimeters to one meter, but they are divided in alternating blue and red painted segments to illustrate a fixed number. The first challenge for the young child to navigate is carrying the rods, which is a great point of interest considering the longest is a meter in length. Next, they grade them from longest to shortest and then they learn to count the red and blue sections on each one. Within the materials resides a "control of error." If the Red and Blue rods are not ordered sequentially, the disorder will be apparent.

"The control of error through the material makes a child use his reason, critical faculty and his ever increasing capacity for drawing distinctions." (The Discovery of the Child, Montessori)

A great rite of passage in the classroom is when the children show readiness for the Golden Bead materials: golden glass beads representing units, tens, hundreds and thousands. By working with these beads, children further solidify their quantitative correspondence while learning place value. It cannot be stated enough how these materials make their sensorial impression on the child. The child has a concrete concept of quantities 1-9999. Additionally, the children associate the quantities to symbols. The beads look attractive to the children and they in turn want to work with them repeatedly. This repetition of the work leads to the children learning the representation of place value. Eventually, children will do operations with the Golden Beads by retrieving the beads from the shelf and adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing the quantities. Importantly, the children move back and forth while doing this work.

Linear counting is facilitated with the Short Bead Stair: bead bars with specific recognizable colors from one to ten. The children use them to count, grasp the concept of quantities and they arrange them precisely in a stair formation. The beads are also strung together to form short and long chains. These give practice in linear counting, skip counting and number recognition; they indirectly prepare children for squaring, cubing and multiplication. Many math materials including the above mentioned continue in the Montessori Elementary classrooms.

Our beautiful math materials invite the children to work repeatedly and independently, thereby establishing an understanding of their work. When the children mature and move from the concrete to more abstract math materials, they gain an innate understanding of quantity, precision and order.

The Use of Technology in the Classroom

By Diane Ferguson

The students in the Renoir classroom and the computer lab have been enjoying the use of new hardware. Through grant funding, The Albrook School has been able to purchase a Promethean ActivBoard Touch and two Hitachi Short throw projectors. The board has multi-user interactivity with simultaneous touch point. It provides the teacher and students with a surface that offers optimal viewing, multi-user interaction along with dry-erase writing. These features create a fun interactive learning tool that is being enjoyed by all.

The children have been able to view lessons given on the Promethean board along with watching videos pertaining to classwork. They are appreciating the visual aspect of learning, as well as the touch/interactive aspect of the board. Lower Elementary students are learning to create slide shows through the use of our new technology and Upper Elementary will soon be using the board to share coding discoveries.

Stepping Stones Plus

by Mrs. Carlo

As the chilly winter weather arrives, the children in the Stepping Stones Plus program continue to exercise peaceful movement throughout the school and in the classroom. The newly fallen snow allows us to have a fresh look at the world around us and creates bountiful learning experiences. On any given day the children can be observed traveling to the kitchen to make delicious creations, mindfully completing winter-themed projects, or using their imaginations in the gym to exercise their body. In order to nurture their musical side, the children listen and sing their favorite songs using movement and instruments to keep rhythm. Our classroom pet, S'mores, adds excitement to the group while also teaching the children how to care for and treat animals with kindness. This winter we created a special package that went home to the parents that included several keepsakes to remember these precious young days. Each day brings along the excitement of learning new things and working peacefully with our friends.



Montessori In The News

The Parent Perspective about Montessori, Introduction to Montessori Method

The Montessori Method is designed to educate the whole child, socially, emotionally, academically and physically. This style of learning creates innovative, creative thinkers from young children to adults.  It's an educational approach that is appreciated by those who have been fortunate enough to receive a Montessori education or who had parents who knew the true benefits and value of a Montessori education.

Forbes, a well known magazine, has an informative article regarding Montessori written by Justin Wasserman who is the Managing Director at Kotter International. Justin Wasserman helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations.
Corporate Kindergarten

Montessori Madness
A video, by Trevor Eissler, informs us about why children enjoy a Montessori education. It is called "Take Five Minutes To Watch This Video," and we hope you will find it interesting.

The Montessori Mafia
By Peter Simms, reprinted from The Wall Street Journal

Google Founders Talk About Montessori

All I got out of Montessori..