Volume 2 | October 1, 2021
A Message from the Head of School
Dear Woodland Hill Community,

Today marks the end of our fourth week of school at Woodland Hill. Our campus is alive and well! There is a palpable sense of joy and gratitude as even our youngest students seem to understand that this is a special place to be.  

Through the challenges we faced over the past year and a half, we have not only persevered, but we have also grown. We have grown in size; our current enrollment of 344 students is our largest student body ever. We have grown into our space, making full use of our enhanced classrooms, library, makerspace, amphitheater, and grounds including our new rope climbing tower. Above all, we have grown in our appreciation of this school community.  

The pandemic has given us a new lens through which to look at education. At Woodland Hill, we have chosen to focus on preserving and elevating the Montessori philosophy and pedagogy. As we opened the school year, our professional conversations have centered around diving deep into our practice as Montessorians. Careful preparation of the environment and ourselves to be ready to receive the beautiful souls we are entrusted with each day was the first task at hand. As the students settle into their classrooms, we are now observing their comfort with the daily routines, their engagement with the work, and the developing relationships with peers. We are seeing what makes them light up and what they are hesitant to try. We are taking the time to be fully present and allow each student to reveal themselves to us, making space for each one to thrive.

I look forward to all that is ahead this year!

In partnership,
Michelle Edwards, Head of School
Mobile Art Gallery “FLOCKart” Grand Opening

FLOCKart is the creation and passion project of WHMS parent and Capital Region fine artist Susan Thomas.

Her goal is to bring real-life burgeoning artists and creative art experiences to children and teens, especially to students who may otherwise have limited access to the fine arts. She also hopes to bring attention to a diverse group of up-and-coming artists, by featuring their work in FLOCKart exhibitions.

“FLOCKart’s mission is to bring art to the people,” Thomas said. “There will be a give and take on both sides, as both the artists and the community will benefit from this creative relationship.”

“Bringing art directly to school children will help the community see how art can nurture the soul,” Thomas said. “And giving students an up-close view of art every day — and the opportunity to take deep dives into what the artists have to offer from making robots to painting to illustrating books — I hope will inspire them.”

“FLOCKart is also bringing local artists to the forefront, so people on a wider scale can see their talent,” Thomas said.

The FLOCKart gallery at WHMS is the first of a flock of “bird” units. Each shipping container gallery will be sent out into rural, urban, or suburban communities with a different bird name.
By Kristi Berner

FLOCKart, a new mobile art gallery and creative space designed to bring a diverse group of artists directly to schoolchildren to enhance arts education with immersive experiences, is hosting a grand opening event on Thursday, October 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Woodland Hill Montessori School, 100 Montessori Place, North Greenbush, NY. All members of the WHMS community are invited to attend.

The award-winning digital artist for the gallery’s debut exhibition, Fernando Orellana (pictured), will be speaking at the event and presenting his work, including three pieces created specifically for FLOCKart. Orellana designed and painted a colorful mural for the exterior of the gallery built from a shipping container. A curated selection of Orellana’s acrylic paintings is on display inside the gallery through October 7. Public viewing hours are Wednesdays and Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m.

Students at WHMS, from pre-school to 8th grade, have been observing and interacting with Orellana while he painted the mural over the past several weeks.

“My focus with the kids is to talk to them about where the images come from and how to draw from imagination,“ Orellana said. “I encourage them to look inward and find those worlds they can create on their own.”

Three other artists, whose work will be featured by FLOCKart later in the school year, will also attend the grand opening. Those artists are ObaroEne Otitigbe, a fine artist who is also a world record holder in hula hooping; Ritvik Sharma, an Albany-based watercolor artist; and Liz Zunon, a children’s book illustrator who was born in Albany but grew up in West Africa.

La Capital Tacos of Troy will serve burritos and churros for the Latin-themed event.

Fernando Orellana (acrylic paintings) — Sept. 10 - Oct. 7, 2021
Obaro Ene Otitigbe “Mr. O” — Oct. 15 - Nov. 15, 2021
Ritvik Sharma — Nov. 29 - Dec. 17, 2021
Fenando Orellana (Lego robotics) — Jan. 5 - Feb. 19, 2022
WHMS Curator Club Gallery Shows — March and April 2022
Liz Zunon, May 2 — June 10, 2022
New climbing structure unveiled on the playground
After listening to Head of School Michelle Edwards review the ground rules for the climber, Lower El - Middle School students were allowed to climb the new spider net climber. Wainschaf Associates began installation right before school and completed it this week.

The rope climber was purchased with proceeds from the 2021 eGala: Slippers & Sequins. The Raise-the-Paddle for the climber at the eGala brought in over $26,000 for the structure. We thank all of the parents who donated to the Gala for the climber.
International Day of Peace
On Friday, September 24, the WHMS community gathered in the amphitheater to celebrate International Day of Peace.

This year, the students learned how to “sign” instead of “sing” our Light a Candle for Peace song (Sing Peace Around the World). Sign Peace instead of Sing Peace allowed us to maintain our safety protocols and also taught students another way of being inclusive global citizens.

Daniel L. began the ceremony by blowing the Shofar.
Five Facts from our Faculty
We will profile WHMS faculty each Messenger with five facts about them. This week features Evan Kelly, our newest faculty member. Evan joined the Middle School as a science teacher this year.
Five Facts about Evan Kelly

1) My first name is a combination of my two grandfathers’ names (Edwin and Everett). My middle name is my mom’s maiden name and my last name is my father’s family name!

2) In the summer of 2013 I hiked from Mexico to Canada for five months on the Pacific Crest Trail.

3) I am trying to keep my number of countries visited above my age… at the moment I’m tied at 38 countries visited and 38 years old!

4) I was a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine from 2010 to 2012, where I taught ESL at the town school in Zalishchyky, Ukraine.

5) For seven summers I was a Class IV whitewater raft guide on the Royal Gorge section of the Arkansas River in Colorado.
WHMS Happenings
The Middle School visited FLOCKart and met with artist-in-residence Fernando Orellana.
The Middle School's first day in the Makerspace featured an engineering challenge.
Shania and Vinita's Upper El class participated in team-building exercises on a beautiful fall day.
Primary students enjoying the Peace ceremony at the amphitheater.
Map work in Olga's Lower El class.
Diverse Book Recommendations
Hello, WHMS community. We are excited to share our very first Diverse Book Recommendations for the school year. These book recommendations will be a weekly part of the Montessori Messenger, courtesy of the Middle School's Student-Led Anti-Racism Workgroup. Our group strives to elevate the understanding of race, and diversity within our student community. We hope these book recommendations encourage you to head to our wonderful school library, where you can find all of them. We look forward to a school year filled with lots of reading! 

Book Recommendations: 

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali

The Proudest Blue tells the story of Faizah and her sister, Asiya, who has just started wearing a hijab. Faizah loves her sister’s bright blue hijab and thinks it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. However, not everyone sees Asiya’s hijab as beautiful. This story teaches the importance of being proud of who you are and being strong in difficult circumstances. 

Ages 3-8
The House On Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street follows Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl living in Chicago. Through a series of vignettes, Esperanza grows, and she finds new ways to be herself in this sorrowing, yet deeply joyous book. The acclaimed story is still beloved by readers of all ages around the world.

Ages 9-13
WHMS Library News
Librarian Sarah Colwill has created a display for National Hispanic Heritage Month. The books include Soldier for Equality, Dreamers, Turning Pages, and more.
After a year away from the library, students are happy to return.
Paper sculptures created by Primary students are currently on display.
Alumni News
WHMS alumnus leads the way at Harvard
Connor Chung, WHMS Class of 2015, led the way for Harvard University to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

As reported in the Harvard Crimson, "Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard, which has been pushing the University to pull its investments in the fossil fuel industry since it was founded in 2012, declared victory..."

Connor was also quoted in the Financial Times, “This is probably the highest-profile win of the divestment movement to date,” said Connor Chung, press co-ordinator for Divest Harvard, a student activist group. The school’s decision is part of the “growing recognition that the fossil fuel industry is on the wrong side of history,” Chung said. 

Connor is majoring in the Classics and History of Science at Harvard.
Thank you!
Thanks to the DeLeonardis Family for donating (and picking and delivering) 230 apples from their apple trees to Woodland Hill for pizza lunch each week this fall.