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

Upcoming Events

Sunday, November 4
Open House 1-3PM
Thursday, November 8
School Closed
Parent Conferences
and Book Fair
(Childcare provided by
registration only)
Expanded Calendar in Session
Friday, November 9
School Closed
Parent Conferences
and Book Fair
(Childcare provided by
registration only)
Expanded Calendar in Session
Wednesday, November 21
Early Dismissal
Thanksgiving Holiday
Thursday, November 22
School Closed
Thanksgiving Holiday
Friday, November 23
School Closed
Thanksgiving Holiday

Albrook News

The Albrook Students Celebrate World Peace Day

by Ms. MacNeill

On the morning of Friday, September 21, our school community of friends old and new, gathered in Albers Hall to celebrate World Peace Day. International Day of Peace was established by the United Nation's resolution in 1981, which stated, "Peace day should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideas of Peace both within and among all nations and peoples." Albrook students have gathered annually since 2009 to take part in Sing Peace to honor this special day.

This year, I had the privilege to welcome everyone to the first school community gathering of our new school year.

Josh followed by reading the Albrook's Peace Pledge, "We learn to love the world by being peaceful, loving, caring and kind."

As Hailey lit the Community Peace Candle, the students sang in harmony "Light a Candle for Peace," followed by a minute of silence for Peace.

Darya read the story, "Who Ever You Are" by Mem Fox. As this beautiful story weaves in and out of different countries and cultures around our world, it points out all the similarities that connect us.

Under the guidance of Mrs. Marvi, the students continued singing songs which tied in beautifully with the peace theme. Our hall was filled with sweet voices sharing songs like "This Little Light of Mine,"and "We are Flowers in one Garden" to mention a few. It was a privilege not only to observe our students embrace this wonderful event, but heartwarming to know that we have been fostering Peace Education as a school community for forty years!

Back to School Night

by Nancy Ponzio

On September 27, the Albrook parents came together as a community and there was much to discuss and celebrate. It was a beautiful night and the energy was positive. For the first half hour we all ate, talked and socialized. It was evident that many parents were greeting each other for the first time in their new surrounding and others were thrilled to be catching up. Ms. MacNeill began the welcome address by introducing our staff. We have added a few additions to the Albrook roster, Mrs. Perez is our new Administrative Assistant in the reception area and Ms. Ponzio has joined our Expanded Calendar staff.

After the staff introduction, Ms. MacNeill spoke of celebrating our 40th year as a school. A brief synopsis of the school's history was highlighted by denoting its origin as a "dream in a young girl's heart." The spirit of Albrook has blossomed and transcended through different locations, building projects, and special events; however, what has remained the same is Albrook's commitment to the Montessori philosophy and the love for all the children we are blessed to serve. Ms. MacNeill concluded her talk by identifying this year's goal of Global Stewardship and discussing how our peace curriculum has always been a part of Albrook culture. She also defined additional activities which will be added to this year's curriculum to prepare the children to be citizens of the world and to cherish our planet.

Ms. Albers was introduced as one of the founders of our school. A tribute to her passion and vision was recognized after 40 years of devotion to the staff and children of Albrook. Ms. Albers had the opportunity to speak, and she did so emotionally, as she addressed the difficult times and the dedicated staff that stood by her side and believed in her mission. At the conclusion of her talk, parents stood in applause of her achievements.

Hicks was also introduced and honored as a devoted and dedicated leader to Albrook for over 35 years of its 40 year existence. She was cited for the positive impact she has had, the way she guided the Albrook ship, and the order in which she left the school.

Following Ms. Hicks, Mrs. Ponzio discussed the importance of school security, the guidance the Bernards Township Police has provided, and the new sign-in procedure for visitors to the school. Mrs. Ponzio then introduced Ms. Kim, President of the Albrook Parents' Association. Ms. Kim welcomed everyone and discussed the importance of involvement. She encouraged everyone to offer their time and talents in any way, small or large to Albrook. We are an active community and the APA needs your support.

The parents were directed to the classrooms for an introduction to the curriculum, and to participate in a discussion with their child's teachers. At the conclusion of the evening the Pre-K 1 and Pre-K 2 parents were invited to attend a meeting with the afternoon teachers.

All in all, the evening ended on a high note with a clear vision and plan for the year ahead!

Global Stewardship in the Classroom

by Elaine Dignam & Wendy Murphy

How are we encouraging our students to become Global Stewards? The Montessori classroom teaches children freedom with responsibility and fosters a sense of appreciation and awareness of one's environment. Global stewardship begins on the local level. Within the classroom, our students have the opportunity to choose a lesson with the responsibility of treating the work respectfully.

We remind our children that the classroom is theirs and to be mindful of their impact on their surroundings. All students participate in keeping the classroom neat, clean and peaceful by washing tables, pushing in chairs, and sweeping. Our expectation is that this translates to an understanding that they have the power to positively affect the world in which they live and to preserve and care for it.

We asked our Kindergarten students how they contributed to the harmony of our classroom.
"I organized the closet," Sarah excitedly replied.
"I did too," said Anvith.
"Bella and I cleaned the paint from the tables," Abigail said.
"We helped put away work so we could get ready for lunch," said Kieran and Corlyn.

When the children can look outside of their own needs to see the needs of the greater environment, they become stewards of their environment.

In our increasingly connected and interdependent world, it is more important than ever that our children develop geographic knowledge, experience diverse cultural perspectives and live respectfully and responsibly in a global environment. Our classroom incorporates materials that reflect our world's diversity and our commitment to preserving and protecting our environment.

For example, our study of Africa includes native artwork and sculptures. We discuss African biomes and animals. In our morning circle, we say "good morning' in languages from around the world. We sing about peace and love. We utilize the peace rose to resolve conflicts. To help the environment, we cut our paper towels, recycle, and compost.

Maria Montessori wrote, "The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth." It is our hope that as our students grow, they will extend their experiences to the world around them.

Three Tips for Fostering Environmental Stewardship at Home

Children learn to care about what we as adults care about. When we take steps in our lives to practice global stewardship, we become models for the children in our lives.

Replace Disposables: Wherever possible, replace disposable products with reusable ones (i.e., razors, food storage, batteries, ink cartridges (buy refill ink), coffee filters, furnace or air conditioner filters, etc.).

Limit Your Use of Trees: Replace paper napkins with cloth napkins, leave messages for family members/roommates on a reusable message board, reuse envelopes, wrapping paper, the front of gift cards (as postcards) and other paper materials you receive wherever possible, read books, magazines, and newspapers from your local library or online .

Skip the Plastic: Skip plastic bags for small purchases and make sure you bring your own bags to stores.

Children Enjoy Learning About Mushrooms —
Because They Are "Fungi"!

by Ms. Yamawaki

In early October, the Degas class went on a boot day outing with upper elementary friends to the woods by Harry Dunham Park and were greeted by all sorts of mushrooms popping up everywhere! The upper elementary friends promptly guessed that the recent warm and humid weather as a cause of this phenomenon. The ground was dotted with toadstools, which are just the right size for a small amphibian to take a rest on, and some tree branches were covered with flat, bracket mushrooms. We even spotted tiny, dainty ones that sparkle as if they were made of silver. Ms. Vazaios pointed out that only mycologists, who study mushrooms professionally, can distinguish ones that are safe to touch and eat, so we were careful to observe only with our eyes. Thank you, upper elementary friends, for guiding the preschoolers through this adventure!

Parent Toddler Class 2019

By Maria McCusker

We are excited to announce that we will be offering our second Parent/Toddler class beginning Tuesday, January 15, 2019.

This is an eight week, one hour class for children 16 - 30 months of age. The class serves as a parent introduction to the Montessori classroom.

Each Tuesday from 3–4 PM, the children and parents will have an opportunity to explore and learn together in a modified, age-appropriate Montessori toddler classroom; activities will include individual work time, circle time, snack, and weather permitting a short playtime outside. There will also be some specific educational tools for parents on navigating infant and toddler behaviors, e.g. bedtime routines.

Registration for this class will open on Tuesday, November 6 on School Speak and our website at If you are interested, or know of someone who may be interested, we invite you to sign up quickly. Space is limited and the program may fill quickly. Note the photographs of a few of last year's graduates!

Allowing Opportunities For Movement

by Maren Schmidt, March 8, 2015

A kid's got to move. Observing a few minutes at a playground will attest to that. You don't see children sitting around if they have the chance to run, jump, climb, or skip. Children are in a sensitive period of development for movement from birth to about age five-and-a-half.

Around age four-and-a-half, children have a growth spurt where their legs may grow over an inch per month. During this time, it is difficult for children to sit comfortably. They will squirm or refuse to sit in their chairs at the dinner table. They will appear to wander aimlessly about in their preschool classes. At this time, it is important to allow lots of opportunities for movement such as long walks and other outdoor activities.

Because of this leg growth, children need additional calcium. Many children suffer from leg cramps at night, don't sleep well and end up being very cranky. Be on the lookout during this growth spurt. Children can't tell you about their legs cramps because they don't have the language experience in most cases. Additional calcium supplements, stretching and massage will help children (and parents!) get a good night's sleep, and restore pleasant dispositions.

Children love to walk on stonewalls, balance beams or lines drawn on the floor. At a playground observe all the different activities children do. Every movement is fulfilling a basic developmental need. Give your child opportunities to move and learn at the same time.

The need for movement, though, should not be a license to run wild in the house, stores, or restaurants. Purposeful activity needs to direct children's movements.

We need to give activities that engage all the senses of the child and therefore help him or her direct energy for a positive outcome. For example, folding laundry is a purposeful activity. Children can fold laundry and make many trips to put the laundry away. Send them off with one towel to put away and have them come back and get the next one. It may take twenty trips, but they'll love it, especially when a big pile has disappeared.

You can also incorporate movement while sitting and waiting. The preposition game is a quiet game for a restaurant or doctor's appointment. It's simple to play with two objects. In a restaurant I'll use a napkin and spoon. Ask the child to do things such as:

  • Put the spoon under the napkin.
  • Put the spoon next to the napkin.
  • Put the napkin under the spoon.
  • Put the spoon near the napkin.
  • Put the napkin around the spoon.
Switch roles and let the child give you directions.

Change the prepositions using words such as over, above, near, through, far, around, between and for the more adventuresome, adjacent, tangent, perpendicular, horizontal, vertical, intersecting. Dig out that old geometry book!

This game helps the child learn that certain words (prepositions) show the relationship between two or more objects.

Have a good time and laugh at all the funny relationships you can describe for the objects. Each request is a walk across the room and directs movement in a purposeful manner.

A key to a happy child, and thus a happy parent, is using purposeful activities to allow movement that aids development. Household chores and word games give children purposeful movement. Your children will have chances for movement along with learning responsibility for a cheerful home life.

Elementary Ice Skating

by Jean Hicks

What a wonderful way to return to the Bridgewater Sports Arena! Eighteen years ago, Kimberly Cagnassola was a student in our lower elementary class and an excellent ice skater. Her mother suggested that Albrook students might enjoy skating too, and put me in touch with Jackie Kulik at Bridgewater Sports Arena. When Jackie moved from Bridgewater to Mennen Arena, we followed her. Under her leadership and excellent, well-organized instruction, the elementary students have been progressing with their skating.

This summer, when Jackie wrote that she was returning to Bridgewater after their twelve million dollar renovation, we decided to return to our original ice rink. What a surprise to be greeted by both Kimberly and Jackie! Kimberly is teaching part-time at the ice rink while she continues to train. The children were also thrilled to learn that two of their teachers have performed with the Rockettes each Christmas season for the past twenty years as the ice skating duo.

Some of the youngest elementary students approached the rink with awe while some have been skating on teams or for fun with their families. Returning students were excited to have another chance to improve their skills on a rink just for Albrook students. Many thanks to the Cagnassola family for initiating this tradition and for Jackie's great leadership through the years.

Parents' Day

Parents' Day offered a wonderful opportunity for the Albrook students to share their class environment and introduce new friends to mom or dad. Each visitor explored the classroom for approximately 45 minutes and the students' demonstrated with pride all the work they enjoy. Parents' Day provides a birds-eye glimpse into the life of a Montessori student. With this broader understanding of the classroom, parents are able to generate conversations after each school day and the students are able to share their experiences with a clearer understanding from their parents. Captured on the next pages are the beautiful highlights of the morning.

Fall Décor

The Albrook Parents' Association brightened our grounds and hallways with beautiful fall décor. Thank you to all who gave their time and talent to add a bit of color and festivity to our school. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

Albrook Summer Camp

By: Ms. MacNeill

On June 18, our summer camp doors opened to a summer of record-breaking temperatures, humidity, and an abundance of rain showers. However, the weather did not deter our young campers! They embraced all the opportunities camp offered from participating in the exciting programs to making new friends, to taking swim lessons and enjoying afternoon free swim.

Below are some of the exciting programs the happy campers were involved in, and remember, that camp registration for the 2019 season is only a few months away!

Explore the World
Campers in this program traveled down south, virtually, to the continent of South America. The children learned about the landscapes, biomes, and animals of the different regions of the continent including Bolivia, Uruguay, Peru, and Argentina. In addition to creating biome maps and completing research on the iPads, the students explored the music, food, and crafts of the continent.

Creative Writing
This program might just have inspired the next Mo Willems or Kate DiCamillo! Campers in this program engaged their imaginations and honed their writing skills. The students wrote stories, which they then illustrated, and created the cover art. It was an absolute pleasure to witness the pure joy and pride in the young campers face as they shared their work with their appreciative audiences.

Fun with Soccer
Young campers honed their shooting, dribbling, and passing during the Fun with Soccer camp session. They enjoyed their time moving the ball up and down the field while also learning the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship. The highlight of the meeting was the "Glow in the Dark" soccer games.

Cooking Around the World
In this program, campers explored cultures and holiday traditions through the foods of several different countries. As the children chopped, mixed, and kneaded, the hallways filled with delicious aromas, tempting many of us to try to sneak a taste! The children also made flags of the different countries and assembled their own recipe books to share at home.

Nature Classes for Young Campers
Guided by a number of seasoned teachers, the young campers and toddlers spent their time in Nature class making their own discoveries while studying weekly themes such as, exploring the amphibians of the world and finding hidden animals and plants in ponds and streams. We also enjoyed seeing these students grow in confidence during their daily swim lessons.

Nature Discovery
The Nature Discovery program turned our campers into young naturalists who headed out and discovered the wonders of insects in their own backyards. Guided by a naturalist, the students learned about the life cycle of insects, explored biomimicry, and developed a better understanding of how nature can inspire us to create and design a better world. They studied time-tested patterns and strategies and made projects and crafts to enhance their findings.

Fun with Mathematics
Math is fun, and the campers who attended this program thought so too! The campers spent the session exploring and working with all the great math materials to learn new concepts. At one point, the students were using their newly acquired math skills to estimate how many Skittles were in a jar. It was a real joy to observe the children's excitement about their work.

The Drama program was a great success! The campers worked together, embracing their roles and growing in confidence with each day. It was truly amazing to see the growth and confidence each child showed at the end of session performance.

The Engineering program invited the young campers to put their imagination to work while exploring different types of engineering. First, these future engineers studied force and motion and then researched, designed, built, and launched their own rockets. Then, they used the principles of simple machines to design and develop their own suspension bridges and work in small groups to solve different challenges. Some campers also studied chemistry by experimenting with chemical reactions between common household materials. After the session was over, the students brought home a book of science experiments to share with their families.

Even with the challenges, Mother Nature threw our way, summer camp was full of fun and friendship. We believe that the experiences our campers gained from the new challenging and age-appropriate programs and topics built confidence, self-esteem, and a stronger understanding and respect for the world around them.

Albrook Family Picnic

By Anne-Marie Kim

An estimated 200 people showed up at Harry Dunham Park on Friday, September 14 for the Albrook Parents' Association Family Picnic!

The soggy weather failed to deter the dozens of children who ran freely in the park, played on the playground and in the sandbox, and munched on the vast assortment of goodies brought by each of the families. The parents enjoyed hanging out under the covered pavilion and on the grass, having a relaxed and casual dinner. The fun started at 5:00 and only reluctantly ended around 7:00.

Thank you to everyone who came and brought delicious treats for all of us to enjoy! The sense of community we enjoyed was heartwarming and beautiful. Our Albrook teachers came and enjoyed the festivities as well, and the constant buzz of conversation showed how much fun everyone was having.

In the spirit of Global Stewardship, the leftover food (and there was quite a bit) was gratefully received at the nearby VA Hospital. We were so pleased to share the Albrook families' generosity with the broader community.

The next APA event will be the Fall Harvest on Thursday, October 25. This event provides families a chance to carve a pumpkin, enjoy pizza and cider, and have fun! Space is limited, so please make sure to sign up as soon as you receive the flyer in your children's backpack.

Thank you again for all of your support! We are excited to see everyone again soon!

Some Thoughts on global Stewardship

by Nina Marvi

One of the earliest geography lessons what we give in the Montessori classroom is the land and water lesson. For this, we use the sandpaper globe which shows the continents in sandpaper and the water as a smooth blue surface. The child can experience the concept of land and water in a very tactile way. We also explore the concept of land, water, and air through touching soil and water and then breathing in the air. In this way, we move on to sorting and identifying animals that belong in each arena. Simple but effective. It is a little bit of Montessori magic which allows for accurate manipulation of objects such as birds, fish, and other animals to develop an understanding of a concept and encourage further investigation. And what's this got to do with global stewardship you might well ask? Well, everything, I would contend.

Across the Montessori curriculum, we see opportunities such as the aforementioned lessons for the development of a deep appreciation for the natural world. We present a wealth of experiences in zoology and botany as well as physical science, which foster a sense of wonder. Crucial to this approach is the idea that living things of the earth and resources at our own fingertips, such as land, water, and air, need our care. We depend on them. Plants and animals depend upon them. Not only that, water, land, and air are shared with others globally. All children, in every corner of the globe, need this land, water, and air and this is the point.

We take pride in seizing these teachable moments as they present themselves. As an extension of the water, land, and air lesson, the Miro children were invited to enjoy a glass of water. The problem was that the water was kind of dirty with large floating particles that had been placed there in advance as part of the lesson. Our classroom family looked on in dismay as they were invited to drink. (We knew they wouldn't!) Would any child living anywhere on the earth want to drink that? We had made an impression. Just a start to scratch the surface. What about those animals that live in the water? What if their water is dirty? How about animals that live on the land? Do they like garbage? What about the ones in the air? Could the air get dirty? What is pollution? You get the idea.

As a school, Albrook has long been committed to being environmentally responsible. We reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost, taking care to use environmentally friendly cleaning solutions. This year, with the renewed focus, we shall strive to emphasize ideas of global stewardship. We will explore how taking care of the "water, land, and air" in our own towns can have broader implications. Global stewardship will be introduced in the smallest of ways, but we hope, with considerable impact.

In the words of Maria Montessori,

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

Watch out for news on how each classroom is approaching ideas of global stewardship each month in The Albrook Almanac.

The Monarch Butterfly

By Elaine Dignam

Can butterflies encourage mindfulness? Peacefulness? We think so. For many years, the Albrook classrooms have raised Monarch butterflies in the fall. The Monarch caterpillars are gathered from their natural habitat, which is the milkweed plant. Finding a caterpillar in nature is exciting. We have our own milkweed growing at various areas of the Albrook campus, and we can watch as the children discover the caterpillars themselves.

The beauty of raising a caterpillar found in nature is that we must rely on the natural resources to ensure its survival. This brings awareness to our community and our environment. When we deplete our surroundings of milkweed, our beloved Monarchs cannot survive. When the milkweed is plentiful, our caterpillars thrive.

This year, we are striving to educate even our youngest students about Global Stewardship. Raising a tiny caterpillar and watching it grow will heighten a child's empathy for the fragility of the smallest creatures. It gives us great joy to watch our children observe the "hungry" caterpillars. It is not uncommon for children to gather around a feasting caterpillar to watch it eat and move. They are excited to witness the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. When we release the butterflies, the children will often wave, cheer, and call them by their given names.

A fascinating fact about the fall Monarch is that they all migrate to Mexico and overwinter there. Many of the butterflies, which originate from east of the Rocky Mountains, miraculously travel thousands of miles to their destiny. The children love the idea that a monarch raised in our classroom can travel across much of the United States and Mexico. Monarch butterflies contribute to the health of our planet by pollinating many types of wildflowers. Additionally, they are a food source for some birds, small animals, and other insects.

If you would like to encourage this awareness at home, plant milkweed in one area of your garden. The Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge gives away milkweed in the spring. When the milkweed plant grows, check the underside of the leaves for caterpillars. Raising the caterpillars indoors dramatically increases their likelihood of survival. Another option is to plant wildflowers or even parsley and dill. Parsley attracts the swallowtail caterpillar. We raised a swallowtail butterfly in our summer camp classrooms thanks to finding a caterpillar in the cut parsley from a neighbor's garden.

Life is Long

By Etta Marshall

We often hear the old adage, "life is short." I would argue that life is actually long. Adults and children are fortunate to have the opportunities to try different things, experience different stages, grow and learn and change their minds during a lifetime that is quite long.

As I proudly enter my fifth year as a member of the Albrook family, I cannot imagine living through my children's formative years without this amazing community of wonderful parents, teachers, children, and administration who we consider to be family. I am struck by this feeling of comfort every time I enter the building and am proud that "Albrook parent" has been a huge part of my identity for the past four years.

But throughout those years, as a stay-at-home-mom, I struggled with my identity. Before my first son was born, I had worked every day since turning fifteen. It was a major part of who I was. One of the many things Albrook does well is prepare our children with the tools they need to achieve success as they move on. I believe that my years at Albrook alongside the wonderful parents and teachers actually did the same for me as for my kids. Albrook has given me the strength and confidence to take my own next step in my long life journey. In fact, it is through conversations with fellow parents that I identified a great need that exists for children, and my idea was born.

My son, Cole, loved working with the digital music app GarageBand. He wanted so badly to create music and learn. His kindergarten drawing of what he wanted to be when he grew up was a deejay. As a former teacher, I recognized that value and benefit of nurturing my son's interests and amplifying his enthusiasm, but it was very hard to find an expert to help him. I heard similar frustrations from fellow parents about how their child wanted to launch rockets or learn to cook global cuisine. There were many barriers beyond just finding the right teacher or class, such as, transportation or child frustration in a group setting waiting their turn if they got stuck. So I thought, why not line up experts in unique and fun areas and bring them right to our homes!

I worried it was too soon to go back to work, but there was always this desire inside me to create something. Ms. MacNeill actually gave me the final push of confidence by sharing with me the many benefits to a household with a working parent pursuing his/her passion. Those Albrook teachers; they always know how to help everyone be their best! And so, it was after great soul-searching that I launched Blue Sky Kids ( We match up children with experts to provide one-on-one sessions in your home. These experts specialize in areas such as robotics, blogging, coding, cooking, yoga & mindfulness, book publishing, rocketry, app development, and more! Sessions are completely individualized, designed for each child's interest and level. This is a business that allows me to help the community I have grown to love so much.

I have spoken with so many moms and dads through the years who have put careers on hold to stay home and raise children, and I've observed that some, like me, feel a loss of identity. It is a strange feeling to encourage your children daily to be their best while feeling a bit lost. I would encourage anyone who might feel similarly to remember that life is long. It is also nice to know that doors of Albrook will always be open to me, as they are to you, in whatever capacity you can participate. There are amazing opportunities at our school to be involved at various times. So, there will always be the opportunity for me to go back "home" to Albrook during this long life journey.

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..