Empowering the whole child for life. Quarterly Newsletter No. 1 Fall 2014
Explore our student
inspired Cornerstones of
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,
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.
CORNERSTONES OF COMMUNITY GROWTH
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Care for all living things.
Make someone a card.
Ask “how are you?”
Stop at a stop sign.
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.
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 ready for working.
Be a good listener.
Apple Room children each share
their favorite part of their
“I like to do yoga poses
because it can calm me down.”
“I like guided visualization
because you get to lay down
“I like yoga because it gives me
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!
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
EXCEPTIONAL guides and an OUTSTANDING
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
-Parent of a Lower Elementary and
“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
toward the future
lies in giving all
to the present.”
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
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