From Cindy's Desk

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."      
- Aristotle

More than a Speech Contest 

A few weeks ago, our oldest elementary students participated in the city of Alameda's speech contest, which is the culmination of the Season of Nonviolence. The purpose of the Season of Nonviolence is to focus attention on the philosophy of attaining peace through nonviolent action as demonstrated by legendary leaders as Gandhi, King, Jr., Chavez, Mandela, and the Dalai Lama. You would have to understand the magnitude of this endeavor, as we take care in the concept of 'competition' in Montessori education, emphasizing the need to look at one's own progress and goals, without peer comparative analysis. Our students have not competed in any face-to-face events, and yet it is important that in our preparation for 'real world' experiences, we expose them to the outer community. This speech contest was one such event, and our two middle school students were entering the contest along with students from the other Middle schools in Alameda. I absolutely love 'things local' (especially theater and book readings), and I have supported the Alameda speech contest for years. But this one was close to my heart, because of our connection.

Stephanie Eisenberg Todd, a parent at the Taylor campus, is a debate coach, on faculty at Chabot College in the Communications Department. She offered time to our students, reading their speeches as they evolved, giving tips and coaching them through the process until the day of the speech. I gave tips on the sidelines through the process, including how they needed to limit their information to 1-2 pages to place on the podium. I sat with bated breath as names were placed in a box and pulled out to determine who was to go up first.

It was Rafael Sifuentes, one of our students, who is a personality dichotomy - shy and yet opinionated, daring and yet mindful. I looked to see if Rafa had limited his notes to 1-2 sheets, as I waited for him to place them on the podium. He walked up - nothing in his hands, turned around in front of the podium and faced the audience. My jaw dropped, and I could tell that my breathing had changed. Oh my god - he is going to speak without his notes! You'd have to appreciate that when I approached Rafa about this idea, he looked at me as though I had asked him if he wanted to walk the plank. And yet, here was Rafa (looking shy and nervous), but speaking out from his mind and heart - and it was amazing. Other students spoke, and the information was wonderful for all of them. If I am correct, they all spoke from the podium. Next up, was Gabriel Enyinwa, our second student. Gabriel had note cards in his hands. When Gabriel practiced with me, I recall that when the note cards fell to the floor in the staff room, and Gabriel said, "I lost my order!", I suggested to him that he, too, use a single sheet of paper to place on the podium. When we arrived, his mother said he chose to keep his note cards anyway and had them numbered. However, true to adolescent personality, Gabriel walked up, looked at Rafa, and then put his note cards on the podium, turned around in front of the podium and just spoke. There are those moments with children, especially older children, when you have to 'give it up' (they have decided that intrinsically, they know more than the adult), step back and allow them to do what they feel they should do. So when student #2 donned his notes, I thought, 'ok - they have decided they can do this - put your heart back into its place, sit back and enjoy the ride'. Gabriel spoke with confidence and certainty, commensurate with who he is as a person. The judges went back to deliberate the four possible winners, and I could see that the outcome was not the critical piece for either of them. They were thrilled that they had accomplished something. It was a rite of passage. I knew that they were prepared to move forward, whenever they chose - to be out in a larger world.

The wonderful thing, was that Gabriel and Rafa placed 2nd and 4th place, respectively - students from our tiny Elementary/Middle School program amid students from the other middle schools citywide. We do amazing work in our elementary program, so I was surprised, but not shocked. Ana Bagtas, who hosted the Season of Nonviolence Speech Contest, sent me an email which said: "Thank you so much for ... sending Montessori students to compete for the event.  I was blown away by the caliber, wisdom, and poise of the students, which is testimony to your teaching and how well you prepared them for this challenge."

However, what amazed me most, was two things: Gabriel and Rafa were thrilled that they 'placed' and I saw no evidence of sadness over how they placed - they spoke of their success in participation. Moreover, when the event was over, unprompted - Gabriel and Rafael went over to each of the other students. They introduced themselves, congratulated them on their speeches, and exchanged information to meet with them at some future date. That made me proud. It spoke to the building of character, which is what we hope for in Montessori education. We know the value of the academic rigor in a Montessori environment. We appreciate the critical thinking 'push back' that occurs in students, as they think about what they think about. We know that Aristotle was correct, when he said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." But underpinning all of that, is the critical need to set moral values and strong character develop as complements to scholarship.
My great thanks to their teachers: Fatma, Kwang, Laurie, Steve and Johanny. Great thanks to Stephanie Todd (you rock!), and to the families of Gabriel and Rafael for being their village and extending that village to the MESA community.

With love,
Taylor Campus

Toddler 2

Dear Toddler 2 Parents, 

We went to the land down under and learned about Australia. During circle we discussed and viewed pictures of the following land and water animals: koala, dingo, tree kangaroo, platypus, wombat, lyrebird, kangaroo, black swan and wallie. We also learned about the following popular places in Australia: Lake Hiller, The Great Barrier Reef, Balls Pyramid, The Opera House and White Haven Beach. A song I found years ago, that I always play for the children during this cultural unit is "Highway Number One." The children will name places in Australia, along with varies movements that are instructed in the song.  

In relation to our study in Australia this month we discussed Australian currency and the names of the people on them and what they did for a living. $5 bill: Queen Elizabeth the ll, $10 bill Dame Mary Gilmore(writer), $20 bill Mary Reibey(philanthropist), $50 bill David Unaipon(preacher, inventor), and $100 bill Dame Nellie Melba(engineer). In our classroom, we did a science experiment together using vinegar, chalk, baking soda and milk, to see what will happen when all ingredients are mixed together. Some predictions and comments made by the children during the process of mixing all ingredients together included: it will disappear, float, make snow and rain, and change to the color blue. 

In mathematics, the children are continuing lessons in tracing and writing numbers, recognizing symbols and learning the quantity and measuring. Our sensorial shelf has been full of new works, including a stereognostic box and baric tablets. We also introduced two new scents, bamboo and blackberry sage. 

We have been focusing on new sounds for the month, which include j, z, u and v. However, all previous sounds are reviewed in individual and group lessons. The children continue to learn how to build their names with the movable alphabets, along with tracing their name and numbers. Popular books in our classroom this month are: Mouse First Spring by Lauren Thompson and Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox. 

On the art shelf the children worked with paint, crayons, and glue to create their own art pieces. The chalkboard is used to draw pictures and to practice name tracing. In practical life children continued lessons in dusting, grace and courtesy, opening and closing varies containers, and put and take works and cleaning the environments. New work introduced shredding lemon and orange peels, grinding coffee beans. 

We reached the end of 64 days for non-violence season, as these are the words introduced and discussed with the children: ecology, honor, choice, advocacy, equality, action, giving, responsibility, self-sufficiency, service, citizenship, intervention, witnessing, peace, commitment, release, and celebration. What a week the children had dressing up and showing school spirit for Spirit Week. On crazy hair some children had crazy while other sported their regular hairstyle. Photo of pervious crazy hair days were shown. For animal day the children made animal mask. We discussed how and why rainbows are formed for rainbow day. The children looked at a short one-minute video of the evolution of rock and roll. Earth day was full of varies lesson on recycling, compost, and trash. We took a walk to pick up trash or items to compost but the area around our school that day was clean. Last the children made an earth day sign with cardboard. 

We would like to thank all the families who took our linens home to wash. Also, to the Hu Family, who provided empanadas for the teacher's to enjoy!

Thank you, 
Porshia, Johanny, Carolina and Jazmin

Pre-Primary 2

Dear Pre-Primary 2 Parents,

We can't believe it is already May and almost the end of the school year. The children have grown in every way imaginable and it has been an honor to be on this journey with them. 

The month of April went by quick and we had a wonderful time with many activities. Spirit week was so fun. Our favorite was Wacky Hair Day and Rainbow Day. There was so much creativity and imagination.  It was a sight to see. Our field trip to the zoo was exciting. We would like to thank the chaperones and drivers. We would also like to give an extra thanks to Doug and Jason Biggs for treating the kids for a ride on the Merry Go Round. 

Our Australia Cultural Celebration was a good time. We made fairy bread, played Down, Down, Down, made boomerangs and got to investigate our man made Great Barrier Reef. We would like to also thank Sal and David for their presentation of their country of Australia. At the zoo we even saw Australian animals while we were on the train, the wallaby and the emu.

For the month of May, we are looking forward to the Grandparents Tea, a Reptile Show and still continuing our study of botany. If any parents would like to come in and do any presentation before the school year commences, please let us know. 

Tiffani & Danilo

Primary 3
Dear Primary 3 Families,

Spring has sprung and brought with it glorious weather; we have been ecstatically defrosting! We hope to be doing more outside activities with the warming of the weather. Speaking of outside activities this past Friday, April 20th, we celebrated Earth day at school and many friends were sporting blue and green all day. We walked to crab cove and spent the morning discovering the beach, after beach discovery we all planted flower seeds, marigolds and zinnias. Each child has their own pot and it is up to them to take care of their own seedling. They must remember to water it, and possibly move it depending on the sun. Please use this as a conversation starter at home. We will also learn more about botany, like different kinds of flowers and parts of it. 

Last week our word of the week was 'Hypothesis'; the word was introduced during the vinegar and egg experiment. Each child was asked to make a hypothesis about each egg, if you would like to see these please check out the folder by the door. This has all the experiment details, drawings, and hypotheses.  Ask your child what happens when you put an egg in vinegar! We currently have an experiment going on, we are seeing if we will be able to dye flowers and celery with colored water. The children have already made hypothesis, these will be going up above the experiment. Don't forget to check them out!

We continue to work on letter sounds, as well as reading from Bob books.  We are also tracing said Bob books, keep an eye out for them coming home. Children have been spelling words both with and without a guide card. Our Word of the week last week was 'Hypothesis', which all the children made. Our word for this week is Ecstatic; let's see how many times it will be used this week (we are so ecstatic for the zoo trip on Thursday!!) 

We are starting to learn the different kinds of coins for our lesson about money and also the purpose of it. We will put up a pretend grocery store where the children can experience buying and start to know the costs of each grocery item. You can also practice this when you go to the grocery with your child.
We would like to thank all the parent drivers and chaperones that volunteered and helped on our Oakland Zoo field trip. Thank you Emma Silcox, Karly Kaufman, Shawnee Keck, Kurt del Rosario, Mari Mascorro, Sebastian Krawczuk and Kaycee Sink.

We are looking forward to see you and your c hild's guest/s on the upcoming Tea Party.

Thank you,
Nina, Nicole and Dawn
Elementary - MESA

Dear MESA Parents,

We had an amazing chance at the end of March to go for a historical walk around Alameda. With our guide Rasheed's great and wide knowledge the students got to visit some houses and parks in Alameda and they heard the historical backgrounds about them. They also had a great chance to ask many questions and hear the answers. 

The culture work continues with our Australia celebration few days ago. The students were exposed to some traditional food and practiced some aboriginal art forms from Australia.  The country reports is part of our culture curriculum in class, students will have their presentations at the end of the month.  Older students are researching the history of Australia and working on detailed physical map that includes deserts, mountains and plains as well as working on the political map.

Yoga classes continue on Monday, and it's a great start for the week. Thank you Zafira. Our new PE teacher Ms. Rosie is doing an incredible work with the students, and they enjoy their time with the activities. 

Students had a chance to work on natural dying project with Laurie, and that included cutting beets, rinsing and squeezing the t-shirts.

MESA students have had the opportunity this month to help the primary students more than once. They started with accompanying a primary child to the hardware store to help get his guitar fixed. They also had a chance during Spirit Week to help another child make sort of an animal costume, and that helped save the child's day. Recently they take turns mentoring a child who's in the process of visiting our elementary class as a preparation for joining us next year. It's a heartwarming thing to watch the amount of love, respect, acceptance and support our elementary students have for others and for life.

Creative writing lessons led to more of punctuation lessons and a serious research by David around the punctuation story. David will be sharing his story with everyone next week.

Visiting the Oakland Art Museum for the Respect: Hip- Hop Style & Wisdom will take place early May and will have a lot of work tailored around that.

Special Thanks:
  • Esmeralda Chirino for the effort arranging the fundraising for MESA.
  • All Elementary students for their hard work and perseverance.
  • Ms. Kwang for ordering the costumes from Thailand and for teaching the students.
  • Ms. Laurie for her enthusiasm and her willingness to adventure new ideas with the students.
Classroom Needs:

We will need your support to get our Montessori material. The students have recently worked on figuring out the prices of the needed items and we'll be sharing them with all MESA parents soon.
Please connect with Esmeralda, Marian or me to coordinate and get those essential materials.

Thank you,
Fatma, Kwang and Laurie

Pacific Campus

Toddler 1
Dear Toddler 1 Parents,

We have officially begun circle time using our new calendar and the kids are really doing well.
The children enjoy Practical Life with pouring activities, which is helping to develop their fine motor skills and concentration. We will continue to do more pouring with both large and small containers as the weather permits.
Our class has recently been introduced to the (O-3) blue counting cards. During calendar in the morning we count how many days have passed as a group to help with our mathematical understanding.

We are excited to be learning about the various animals in Australia. We will be looking at pictures displayed within our classroom and creating artwork containing Kangaroos , Koalas and Crocodiles.

The children are really enjoying the books which have been going home weekly. In order to support both there speech and language, I continue to model words to help each child communicate clearly. It is wonderful to hear them dialogue with each other and gain the ability to express themselves.

The pink Sensorial cubes and the various sizes of knobbed cylinders have been of large interest among the students. As I continue to do presentations for the class about how to use them, the excitement about the materials continues to grow.

"My Potty and I"  and "All About Faces" are two books my kids are really enjoying. As some of the children are potty training they like the images and they like making the connection to their own potty experience. Facial expressions that show emotions helps to support some of my students with their own feelings throughout the day.

I would like to give a very special "Thank you!" to my room parent, Mrs.Bailey. She has stepped up and volunteered to be my room parent and was also very helpful over the Spring Break. We definitely appreciate you!!

We are looking forward to the upcoming Spirit Week!

Thank you,
Annette, Hajar and Lindsey

Pre-Primary 1

Dear Pre-Primary 1 Parents,

Spirit Week was super fun! We did lots of art, sang songs for each day's theme (posted on the sign-in sheet clipboard), and took group photos. 

This month in our Cultural studies, we are exploring the continent of Oceania (Australia). The children are learning about wombats, echidnas and kangaroos, and have been singing and dancing to the songs "I'm a Kangaroo", by Gracie Lou and "Highway Number One", by The Shenanigans.  

As our school year rapidly comes to a close, the children are continually encouraged to work on academics appropriate for their age and maturity. This can range from grace and courtesy to three-finger-grasp activities, to letter sounds and numerical identification and quantity, to extensions of lessons they have already mastered. If you have any question on what your child is working on in class, please let me know! You are also always welcome to schedule a classroom observation. 

We would like to give special thanks to the following parents: Helen and Carl Wang - for packs of planting seeds, Dragon Fruit and Longan snack! Stacy and Ami - for a hopscotch rug Gisele and Steve - for potting soil and seeds for planting And a special thank you to all the parents who were able to attend Parent/Teacher Conferences! 

Pre-Primary Classroom Needs: Plain wooden building blocks Indoor large motor activities, such as carpeted or felt color discs to play "color hop". More ideas are listed on our Wish List, across from the sign-in sheet.

Steph & Cherefah
Encinal Campus

Primary 1

Dear Primary 1 Families,

This month, children have been learning about Australia. We have new language and practical life works out related to Australian animals and culture and the children love them. 

We also got a new calendar for the classroom that we use every day during circle time. We have been discussing weather and seasons in addition to our French routine of months of the year and days of the week.

We introduced a new work called the Snake Game and children have started getting lessons on it. They really enjoy transforming a colorful snake made out of beads into a beautiful golden snake. When practicing this work, children are developing the internalization of different combinations of numbers that make 10.

On Friday, April 20th, our class helped the environment by taking a walk to Jackson park to pick up garbage along the way. The children had such a fun time, we collected a lot of garbage.

Thank you to everyone who helped our class and the children enjoy Spirit Week. Every day was a different excitement and joy to come to school for every one!

Thank you,
Mari and Emma

Primary 2

Dear Primary 2 Parents,

Grandparents Tea is almost here. We will be writing our invitations and mailing them soon to the respective addresses.

We are now learning about the Australian cultural unit. What's interesting about Australia is that it's a country as well as a continent. It's also called the "Land down under".

In Practical Life, we are learning how to make boomerangs and do the Aboriginal dot painting using our creative skills. We also did string the card, wet pouring and color mixing.

In Sensorial, we are now introducing how to create different designs using the colo red cubes.
Our enrichment of vocabulary continues with exploring different objects in the environment and with the use of classified cards. 

We are now reading vowel sound word list with children who recently demonstrated readiness in reading. On the other hand, continued practicing our skills on the green boards and the 4 lined writing paper.

Exploring the clock and are learning how to tell the time on the clock has been a classroom favorite. Some children like to make their time booklet, where they draw the clock displaying a time and then writing the time in the digit's form on the bottom. We also are learning about fractions and how to label fractions concretely using the wooden labels and then writing and reading them on the paper.

We reviewed the map of Australia, learning the names of city located in Australia, along with the animals found in the continent of Australia. We also studied about the attractive places situated in Australia.

In circle time, we continue reviewing the calendar, read books regarding how to implement grace and courtesy in our environment. During our Japanese circle we are learning how to say the parts of our face.

Volunteering Opportunities:
We are looking for parent volunteers to help us make portfolios for all the children containing their works to be given away at the closing ceremony.

It would also be greatly appreciated if someone can help wash our classroom rugs on a weekly basis.

Thank you so much for your support.
Best Regards
Hurma & Katsuko

Laurie's Encinal Art Corner

This month in art we have done an array of projects including an outdoor sculptural project in the style of Andy Goldsworthy, natural dyeing, a collaborative project reproducing Van Gogh's painting Sunflowers, invitations for the grand parents tea, and a Frida Kahlo study by using embroidery. The natural dyeing project was done in recognition of earth day and students used beets and turmeric to dye their t-shirts and tote bags. Our Andy Goldsworthy project was done at the beach and students used natural found materials to create their own works about ephemerality and the natural cycles of life. Students were introduced to embroidery as we studied Frida Kahlo and read the book, Who Was Frida. It has been a productive and enriching month here in art!

Thank you,

With Steve Slater

The MESA music class is working on building new skills for the rest of the year. Learning to switch smoothly between difficult chords smoothly on the Ukuleles.  New strumming patterns and chord progressions. And hopefully a new song to practice over the summer. 

In the preschool, we introduced two new songs for the kids this week. Balloons and I Really Love to Dance, both by Laurie Berkner. As well I Get Up by The Dilly Dallies, a song about getting out of bed after your parts put you to sleep. 

Thank you,


Thank you! 
Thank you to all the parents who are working on the Committees and doing amazing jobs! Thank you to anyone who we may not have mentioned but who put their time and effort and support into making our school the very best!

Committee News:

Haven't heard from your Committee Chair? Let the office know.


We are excited to announce that our school will be transitioning to a new school management software program and parent connectivity tool called Kangarootime.  We have researched a number of software systems and with office feedback, this seems to be the closest to fit our needs.   Kangerootime promises to provide many benefits that will streamline our processes, improve security for the children, and provide an enhanced experience for families.
Some of the new features you may enjoy with Kangarootime:
  • Secure Child Check In and Out
  • Ability to view photos or notes of your child's day
  • Secure messaging with the school
  • View the calendar of events
  • Update your child's allergies, emergency contacts, and upload documents
This system is securely located in a "cloud" so it works with all computers, tablets, and smartphones, both iPhones and Android.   We will begin using Kangarootime in a limited manner beginning Wednesday, April 4th. If you are a family enrolled for summer or fall, one member of your family will have  received an invitation via e-mail today to register your family in the Kangarootime platform. Please review the following information and register your Kangarootime account as soon as you receive the email invitation.

1)    One person per family registers as the primary account holder, who will then invite others (indicated as guardians
2)    Update allergies and other information
3)    Upload recent photos of you and anyone who can pick up your child (faces)

Please be aware that soon, you will not be able to check in/out your child without a Kangarootime account.

Once you register, you will be able to download the Kangarootime App and enjoy mobile use.
Please be patient with us as we move ahead with this system. We will ask parents to give us feedback, so that we can attempt to make any corrections or consider any suggestions before fall.