From the Adolescent Program:
Our Friday Markets are starting up again! Our first market day will be Friday, April 26, and we will be selling Spinach mix, Asian mix, and lettuce mix. All of our produce is grown in our hoophouse in Prairie Crossing. This spring we will also be selling “Bluehouse Cinnarolz”, homemade cinnamon bread made with the winter wheat we harvested. The farm students bake the bread in our kitchen. We will sell wheat grass as well. Later on this spring, we will have tomatoes.
You can keep up with our market and other Blue House news by visiting our blog, http://mslfap.blogspot.com
Text by Jenna Schubert
Photography by Jim Prisching
This article first appeared in the February 2013 issue of Forest & Bluff
It only takes a few minutes of conversation with Ann Jordahl to understand her deep devotion to the students, teachers, and families she works with on a daily basis.
As the recently appointed Interim Executive Director for the Montessori School of Lake Forest (MSLF), Ann’s sense of dedication and direction is hard to find elsewhere. Aside from her evident passion for the school and its goals, Ann also brings a wealth of experience to her new position. “I came to the school 18 years ago, as a mother,” she says. She joined the school’s board, but, inspired by her children’s Montessori education, she decided to train as a Montessori teacher, and began teaching at the toddler level 16 years ago. The school then asked if she would be interested in helping build the MSLF Adolescent Program, and Ann agreed, working in that program for several years before becoming the Adolescent Program Director. Early in the summer of 2012, she stepped into the role of Acting Executive Director for the school, which led to her current role as Interim Executive Director. The announcement of Ann’s new role has been met with enthusiasm from MSLF faculty, administrators, and families, who have come to know her well.
As Interim Executive Director, Ann hopes to continue the Montessori tradition of creating a safe environment where children can develop independence, learn respect for self and others, and cultivate a lifelong love of learning. MSLF offers students and their families the opportunity to become part of a community within a community. “Many people are looking for community in their lives. I think that community is a chance to work and think together,” Ann explains. “We may not always see eyeto- eye, but if we can be authentic, with the ultimate goal of hearing and respecting one another, then we are creating a living community which has room for all kinds of people, educates children well, and provides children with models of how to live responsibly.”
In an effort to foster community, Ann, along with the MSLF faculty and administrators, is working to build the school’s parent education program, which gives parents the opportunity to deeply understand their child’s dayto- day classroom experiences. “Parents want to understand what their children are experiencing, how to support that at home, and how to be part of their child’s school life,” Ann explains. Parent education includes parent-child work days (when parents visit the classrooms) and parent meetings on topics like standardized testing, transitioning into and out of the Elementary Program, and seasonal topics, such as a “Family Celebrations” meeting before the holidays.
The parent education program seeks to inform and empower a parent to foster their child’s learning experience. One of the works—or lessons—for young children is to follow lengthy, step-by-step instructions for shoe polishing.
Ann remembers one mother, in particular, who was confused as to why the teacher would give a young child such a task. “When she did the many steps of the lesson herself, it hit her; she finally understood what her son was learning. She saw that he was learning a great deal about eye-hand coordination, concentration, logic, and memory,” Ann explains. “Then she began to understand, in a new way, when the teacher said that a work like this prepares a child for reading or math.”
In order to make MSLF a secure and fulfilling community for the children, Ann is also working to uphold Montessori standards in the areas of homework and bullying. MSLF does not assign homework to the younger children; in the Adolescent Program, students are assigned a lot of academic work that they have time to work on during the school day and must sometimes finish at home. This creates a sense of accountability for the older students and prepares them for high school. When it comes to bullying, MSLF has a holistic and preventative approach. “Bullying can exist anywhere, and people need a combination of grace, courtesy, and personal power to prevent bullying,” Ann says. “Those are taught from the very beginning of a Montessori education. I think it’s effective because the teachers and parents work on it, and it’s modeled and enacted in every single area.”
As the MSLF staff continues to uphold the school’s standards for excellence in education, they are excited about this new chapter for MSLF, in which Ann’s leadership is greatly valued. With her multifaceted background of Montessori parent, board member, teacher, and program director, she brings a thorough knowledge to her position. That knowledge, coupled with her love for MSLF’s work, will shape a bright future for the school’s families and students.
This article first appeared in The North Shore Weekend. By Angelika Labno. Photo by J. Geil.
“The concept is a school without walls,” says Brian Abrams, shown with his wife Patty, about the new Montessori high school scheduled to open in 2014.
Brian Abram’s daughter was interested in dissection. She conducted research, wrote a paper and presented it to the teacher. Her school, Montessori School of Lake Forest (MSLF), then ordered in a pig for her to dissect.
Spending an entire day, she took pictures of the process in order to put together a manual on how to dissect for future students. She ended her project with a presentation to her class.
“There’s this interdisciplinary nature of the class,” said Abrams, Lake Bluff resident and former president of the board, at MSLF about Montessori teaching. “You may not have a separate reading, math and science class; instead, you may be doing all three simultaneously.”
If this is what a sixth-grade Montessori student is capable of doing, North Shore educators wondered, what could be possible at the high-school level? That thought essentially led to the creation of Beacon Academy, a Montessori International Baccalaureate high school, set to open in Evanston in the fall of 2014.
The genesis of it was a “flippant comment” made by Abram’s wife, Patty, which led to the gathering of the heads of six Montessori grade schools from Chicago to the North Shore.
Two years ago, they conducted a survey to gauge the interest of the community. Out of 1,300 families, over 900 responded, and 750 were interested or very interested.
Montessori at the high school level is not a totally new concept. The first was Montessori High School at University circle in Cleveland, and Beacon will be the third high school in the world to use its principles as a starting point. David Kahn, Executive Director of NAMTA (North American Montessori Teachers Association), who started the Cleveland school, is also the consultant for Beacon – which will be the first Montessori high school in the Chicago area. It will be private and charge tuition.
Montessori teaching will be fused with International Baccalaureate, which is moralistic in approach and has s significant service component. Class schedule will be more collegiate: instead of several 50-minute class periods, a student may only have three 90-minute classes a day. Teachers will be “high caliber and experts in their field,” according to Beacon headmaster Jeff Bell. There will be a lot of flexibility in offerings, classes will be project based, and students can expect to get off the campus often.
“The concept is a school without walls,” said Abrams. “The city would be the campus, not just the physical structure itself.”
The campus is not yet determined, and will be in a leased space for the first few years, but the location will be in Evanston. As that is just a short train ride into the city, students will have museums, cultural institutions, medical facilities and business at their fingertips. Bell explained that he wants the students to learn “street smarts” in the sense that they will be able to masterfully navigate the city and utilize its offerings.
“High school-age students are capable of so much more than what is currently offered within the confines of high school schedules and buildings,” said Lynn Jessen, co-founder of Forest Bluff School and mother of a MHS-University Circle graduate.
Some of today’s best inventors were Montessori students. The duo who started Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, credit Montessori learning as a factor to their success. Other famous Montessori students are Will Wright, creator of “The Sims,” Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, and Prince William and Harry in England.
Although the school may be initially popular with those coming from a Montessori background, Bell thinks public school students can have an easy transition into the system, as long as they are curious to learn and eager to explore.
“If you’re sending your kids to Montessori schools, you’re doing a good thing,” said Bell. “They are always prepared, successful, interested in learning for the sake of learning, and always bring talent to the table that you’d never expect.”
The admissions process is set to start in fall of 2013 and will only be open to ninth and tenth graders until further notice. Updated information can be found at www.beaconacademyhs.org. Start-up costs for the campus are about $2.1 million, and they will be funded through individual philanthropy.
“I hope this becomes a springboard for many other Montessori high schools,” said Abrams.
MSLF is proud to announce its recent recognition by the National Wildlife Federation® (NWF) as an official Certified Wildlife Habitat™. We’ve always appreciated the opportunities afforded to our students, their families, and our staff by our beautiful 4.5-acre outdoor environment. Yet, to have gained this special recognition from NWF is both exciting and rewarding. Our property attracts a variety of birds, butterflies and other local animals by providing a wildlife-friendly landscape.
In order to become certified, a property must provide the four basic elements that all wildlife need: food, water, cover and places to raise young. In addition to providing for wildlife, certified habitats conserve our natural resources by reducing or eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and/or irrigation water, which ultimately protects the air, soil and water throughout our communities.
David Mizejewski, NWF Naturalist commented, “It’s easy to feel that there is no hope for wildlife in our modern world of smog, traffic and asphalt. But there is hope. Each of us can make our own piece of the Earth a healthy, green space that helps restore the ecological balance.” MSLF is happy to provide wildlife with greater incentive to call our piece of the Earth home!
The planning and hard work of many individuals over many years has resulted in MSLF’s beautiful and special “backyard.” Too many people have contributed their minds, time and labor to mention them all here. However, a special call-out to Lissa Hektor (former MSLF Executive Director) is appropriate. Her long-term vision for this space and her tireless work towards its development will not be forgotten. Thanks, too, to Katherine Ritter (alumnae parent and board member), for her time and expertise, and for managing the process of this certification.
Beacon Academy, a private Montessori high school, will open its doors in Fall 2014. Several Chicago-area Montessori schools, including MSLF, are lending support to this effort in many different ways. The presence of a local Montessori high school means wonderful opportunities for graduates of MSLF’s Adolescent Program. Please take a moment to learn more by visiting Beacon Academy’s web site at beaconacademy.tumblr.com
We hope you enjoy what you discover about Beacon Academy, which will be a high school where all the students love to learn and want to go to school every day, just as the younger children and adolescents do now. Beacon has recently hired Jeff Bell as Principal, and we will keep you informed of the school’s ongoing progress. If you have immediate questions, please feel free to call MSLF’s office.
Each week, our marvelous catering partner identifies a “fruit of the week.” This week they featured Dragon Fruit and Miniature Pink Lady apples. Last week we had fresh persimmons. OMC Catering strives to bring fun and interesting fruits to the school, exposing the children (and even the teachers) to fruits that they may have never seen before. It’s been very exciting to see the reaction to some of the new and unusual fruits!
MSLF’s Board of Directors gathers in its entirety most months of the year. Parents are always welcome to attend, which is why we announce the meeting schedule each school year. It was decided last year that the Board would not meet in December 2012 or March 2013. However, this wasn’t accurately reflected within a couple of instances of the school calendar. The group will convene again on January 17, 2013.
We are grateful for the myriad resources available to us here at MSLF. Related to that gratitude is a respect for these resources and the benefits they bring to students, faculty and staff. It is important to us to use to use them prudently and to eliminate waste where possible.
We kindly ask for your assistance in reducing food waste related to our lunch program. Each day we report to our caterer how many children will be eating. This number then determines how much food comes our way each day. Due to food-safety processes and regulations, we are not able to save leftovers. This means that uneaten food is thrown away and goes to waste.
So, we need your help in please reporting your child’s absence by 9am. Please call Lynn at the front desk or communicate with your child’s teacher as soon as you know he or she will not be at school. This will help us greatly, as we let our lunch service know how much food to provide on any given day. Thank you for your support!