Quarterly Newsletter 1

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Empowering the whole child for life. Quarterly Newsletter No. 1 Fall 2014

Leelanau Montessori’s


Explore our student

inspired Cornerstones of

Community Growth:

This edition’s featured



Leelanau Montessori’s Cornerstones

The teacher must derive not only

the capacity, but the desire, to

observe natural phenomena. The

teacher must understand and

feel her position of observer: the

activity must lie in the


Dr. Maria Montessori

At our beginning of the school year meeting, the Leelanau

Montessori faculty and staff adopted 5 Cornerstones by which

to guide our classroom communities;






These cornerstones were originally presented to our

community by longtime Montessorian and friend Gail

Robinson. Gail founded our elementary program in 1991 and

introduced the ideas to us while acting as a long-term

substitute teacher in our current school program. As we

continue to walk through our journey as a school, we find

ourselves referring back to these cornerstones over and over

again. Today, we embrace them as a foundation for the culture

and climate of our school.

In this first issue of our quarterly newsletter, we are focusing

on the cornerstone of Mindfulness. We hope to share with you

what it means to the adults and children in our school

community and ways in which we have adopted mindfulness

practices in our day.

On the cover: In early spring,

2014 Elementary students

visited Leelanau Outdoor

Center for a trip to Sleeping

Bear National Lakeshore.

This school year, our elementary classrooms adopted a twicedaily

ritual of mindfulness practice. You might wonder why

we would introduce this practice to our students? Current

brain research suggests that our instant access, fast-paced

digital world is changing the ability of children’s brains to


With practice, neuropsychologists say, children can

actually rewire their brains to build on their ability to

focus on the present moment. The recent Time Magazine

article, The Mindful Revolution, states:

Finding peace in a stressed-out, digitally dependent culture may

just be a matter of thinking differently. Educators are turning to

mindfulness with increasing frequency–perhaps a good thing,

considering how digital technology is splitting kids’ attention

spans… A…powerful factor…is what science is learning about our

brains’ ability to adapt and rewire. This phenomenon, known as

neuroplasticity, suggests there are concrete and provable benefits to

exercising the brain.

Our practice at school focuses on three types of

mindfulness: brain gym, guided visualization, and yoga.

Each day, before the morning and afternoon work cycle,

elementary students practice mindfulness in one of these

three ways. This practice gives them the opportunity to

focus on the present moment, get grounded and

centered in their bodies, and build the brain chemistry to

pay attention for longer periods of time. It is our belief

that each of these qualities greatly enhances student

learning by developing concentration and reducing


We hope you enjoy learning more about the practice of

Mindfulness here at school, as well as many other

highlights from this newsletter. There are wonderful

things happening at Leelanau Montessori and we are

excited to share them with our extended school


In Asian languages, the word for 'mind' and the word for

'heart' are the same. So if you're not hearing mindfulness in

some deep way as heartfulness, you're not really

understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself

are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness

as wise and affectionate attention.

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

With warmest regards,

Connie Laufersky

Head of School


The Leelanau Montessori Community Table is a program

created to inspire mindfulness about our food sources.

Community Table brings together our school community

in a celebration of local, healthy foods. This program

focuses on our gardens, food education, and food

preparation. Students are immersed in the joyful

experience of growing food, preparing it for one another,

and nourishing our bodies.

Inland Seas and Leelanau Outdoor Center

Leelanau Montessori Elementary-aged children are given

the unique experience of place based education. Leelanau

county’s beauty and resources are highlighted by

educational collaboration with the Inland Seas Educational

Association and the Leelanau Outdoor Center.


The key to mindfulness is the deep involvement in the work

itself, and the way in which each task is performed.

Mindfulness puts us in a constant present, releasing us from

the clatter of distracting thoughts so that our energy,

creativity, and productivity are undiluted. You become your

most effective. Attention is power, and those who work in a

state of mindful awareness bring an almost supernatural

power to what they do.

-Marsha Sinetar

Taking a Moment

Written by: Arden Wilson of the Sugar Maples

When thinking about mindfulness as part of our

school culture, I wonder...what does mindfulness

look like in a child under 6? The Primary child

passes between the conscious and unconscious

mind, so is mindfulness even possible? Is it the

helpful nature of a child or their new awareness of

being able to articulate their needs or feelings? The

children in my classroom are learning to be masters

of themselves and to act on their own impulses,

interests, and innate drives. How is being mindful

connected to the process of building selfdiscipline?

Is their gradual awareness of

procedures, processes, and norms the seed for

mindfulness or an antidote to it? Is mindfulness

when a child stops to notice a tree frog, a spider, or

a worm? Is it a child exclaiming, “There are

pumpkin seeds in the pumpkin! I will go plant

one!” Is it the spontaneous, imaginative, magical

process that is childhood? Thankfully, I get to

spend my days with humans that are constantly

living in the moment, perfect little models of

mindfulness for me!

Mindfulness for me means, ‘paying attention to

how I feel on purpose and being in the present

moment.’ The close attention I pay to what is

happening in the present moment helps me to

make decisions with more clarity of

mind. Webster’s Dictionary defines mindfulness

as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one's

awareness on the present moment, while calmly

acknowledging and accepting one's feelings,

thoughts, and bodily sensations...” Sometimes, this

means to do nothing! In a world racing by, children

bustling about in a busy classroom, and a long list

of tasks to be accomplished each day, the voice of

my own values and beliefs sometimes shout at me

to ACT!

Instead, I am called to just sit with my feelings, sensations, and in the (sometimes

uncomfortable) place in which I find myself. Thankfully, I am noticing a mindful

approach almost always leads to new discoveries, changing patterns of behaviors, a

greater capacity to love, a deeper quality of interactions, and stronger relationships

with all of my community.

In any interaction, if I am mindful, I can better know myself and how I am feeling so

that a constructive outcome to the problem can be more possible. In a seemingly

harmless interaction I can be aware of my own values, beliefs, and judgments that seep

in so that I can gently push them aside and be present with that person or event. I

actively experience a myriad of moments, interactions, and events in my daily

classroom life. Sometimes, so frequently and at such a pace that I can lose sight of my

role, my clear responses and awareness of my own place in our classroom community

guide me to a peaceful outcome. Luckily, I have a tool to help remind me to slow down

and take a moment to remember what I authentically feel, see, hear, and sense in my

interactions, moments, and the events of the day. The tool I utilize in practicing

mindfulness is reflective practice.

Laying the lofty ideas aside, I will tell you about the pragmatic outcome in my teaching

that reflective practice has encouraged. Practicing mindfulness in this way helps me

decide to sit down and observe the children every day. As a result, I spot an older child

stopping to help another child and smiling afterwards. I see a boy blow a kiss to his

new friend as he walks away after they have had a snack together. I see love and

friendship developing. I witness a child intently focusing on counting and using

problem solving strategies in two different ways. I notice a child joyfully skipping by to

get work set up over and over again. I see cognitive processes and initiative. I watch

healthy interactions between adults and children. I notice a child experiencing

struggle. I hear children having lively and detailed conversations over an open book. I

see two children come together and get excited about what they are planning. I pay

attention to expressions on the children’s faces and their attitudes about learning and

friends and interests. I look at developing small motor skills. These insights help me to

make decisions about what lesson I will give next or how to best support a child. I

choose to slow down and notice. I can really know the children in my class so I can

serve their needs and help them flourish and grow.

Reflective practice takes commitment and courage. In choosing to slow down and

notice, I can be a better teacher, parent, and friend. It helps me prepare an environment

that serves children. When children feel safe, secure, and celebrated they shine and

succeed. So, I wonder what it would feel like for all of us to take a moment to be

mindful. Will it change us, help us make discoveries, or bring a deeper quality to our

relationships and interactions? Will it help us become a more peaceful version of

ourselves? Utilizing mindfulness and reflection on our days may help us along our


The Practice of


Sprouts Room

In the Toddler room you may

notice mindfulness is a very

unique, undercurrent wave. We

adults like to become almost

invisible, talking in a soft voice,

staying close to the ground and

interrupting only as needed. To us

the children control the wind to

how the day will sail. We provide

materials of interest and the

toddler investigates and narrates

how we adults play a part. We will

be the beacon or lighthouse to be

found only when they need our

touch of loving guidance.

Cedar Room

The practice of mindfulness in the

primary environment of the Cedar

room takes shape on a daily basis.

The Cedar children and guides

often discuss mindfulness in a

group setting. Some of the ways

the Cedar room children have

chosen to practice mindfulness in

their unique way are:

Stop when someone says stop.

Care for plants and trees.

Watch where you are going

and don’t run into your friends.

Use safety.

Care for all living things.

Make someone a card.

Ask “how are you?”

Stop at a stop sign.

Hickory Room

The Hickory room is our Upper Elementary

environment. The Cornerstones are something

they revisit on a daily basis through their

individual interactions and groups facilitated

by guides. Together they came up with several

ways to be mindful and strategies to bring

calm into their day.

Listen to each other.

Be respectful of each others bodies.

Be a good sport.

Help each other.

Find ways to refocus, regroup, and to bring


- With your breath.

- In nature.

- Talking with a friend or adult.

- Finding a quiet space.

Birch Room

Mindfulness in the Birch room is visited daily in

the Elementary mindfulness techniques. In a

group setting they discuss what mindfulness looks


Be aware of your body.

Calm your body.

Be peaceful.

Be silent.

Be kind.

Be ready for working.

Be a good listener.

Apple Room

Apple Room children each share

their favorite part of their

mindfulness practice.

“I like to do yoga poses

because it can calm me down.”

“I like guided visualization

because you get to lay down

and relax.”

“I like yoga because it gives me

a challenge”

Leelanau Montessori Family Tree

My journey at Leelanau Montessori began 23 years ago as a child in Cathy

Wurm’s Toddler classroom. I am grateful for the years I spent in the toddler

and primary rooms and attribute my independence, care of others, and

creativity to their nurturing environments. Some of my dearest and most

profound memories from that age were in those beautiful, bustling

classrooms. I remember the child-sized sink we washed our dishes in, the

Maypole dance held in the spring, the bead cabinet that I admired so

frequently with awe, the school cat, my helper, the hours spent outside on the

playground, and hikes near the creek. Life has come full circle for me as I am

now in the process of completing my Early Childhood training at Seton

Montessori Institute. After graduating from Albion College four years ago I

was given the opportunity to work as an assistant in Cathy’s room which

opened my eyes to the power of a peaceful educational experience on the

spirit of the child. I believe in supporting the development of the whole child

Paige at the Maypole

Dance in 1994

through hands-on, joyful learning and I am thankful to be apart of such a wonderful community!

-Paige Bassett-

What is your “Why” for Choosing Leelanau Montessori?

“Leelanau Montessori is a place that I can feel

good about leaving my son, knowing he will be

taught and led by example to be the best human

being he can be.”

- Parent of a Primary-aged child

“I have chosen to send my children to Leelanau

Montessori because of the public charter aspect

of it. Leelanau Montessori gives ALL children an

amazing educational opportunity, provided by


Head of School.”

- Parent of two Upper Elementary


“We send our children to Leelanau Montessori to

help them develop autonomy and provide them

the opportunity to learn in a caring and

compassionate environment.”

-Parent of a Lower Elementary and

Primary-aged children

“Coming from an educational background,

with many choices available to my children, we

opted for Leelanau Montessori for reasons such

as focusing on individual children and their

potentials, educating without external rewards,

instilling a love for learning and exploring, and

straightforward (yet profound) educating

techniques like teaching from concrete to


- Parent of a Primary-aged child

“We chose Leelanau Montessori for our

children because we support the Montessori

philosophy. We believe in supporting and

educating the child as a whole, providing

freedom with responsibility, honoring each

child as an individual, and promoting

environmental awareness and responsibility, as

well as world peace.“

-Parent of a Lower Elementary, a Upper

Elementary, and Primary-aged children

How You Can Help Our Tree Grow

“Real generosity

toward the future

lies in giving all

to the present.”

-Albert Camus

This issue of Cornerstones reflects

on Leelanau Montessori's daily

practice of mindfulness. As a

community we strive to be present

physically, intellectually, and

emotionally throughout the day.

In addition, we never stop looking

to the future. At Leelanau

Montessori we continue to deepen

and enrich our learning

opportunities. Our work today

will impact society tomorrow.

Please help us in our endeavor to

guide all children in reaching their

fullest potential.

Ways that you can help:

Contribute financially to our

Annual Campaign and


Volunteer your time.

Share your resources.

To participate in this endeavor

contact us at 231-271-8609 or visit

our website at


“The greatest gifts we can give our

children are the

roots of Responsibility

and the wings of Independence.”

- Dr. Maria Montessori

We could study a child from every angle and know

everything about him from the cells of his body to the countless details of his

every operation and we would still not perceive his ultimate goal, that is,

the adult he is to become.

-Dr. Maria Montessori-

Leelanau Montessori Public School Academy nurtures the whole child in a

prepared environment based on respect, individuality, a love of learning,

and freedom with responsibility.

Physical Address: 310 Elm St. Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 838 Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Phone: (231) 271-8609

Fax: (231) 271-8689


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