Category Archives: experiential learning

New Paths to Learning

dsc_0016Hidden beyond the shoulders of Sunflower Hill is another world, one that Inly’s children have only caught glimpses of from the trail that skirts the edge and winds down to the bottom of the driveway. From tree-plank benches, they are able to peer down into the secrets and hypothesize on what happens in the forests and wetlands, sketching in their minds or on paper what they see and imagine. There are even animal homes and tunnels that dot the trail’s landscapes, including a fox den recently taken over by a groundhog. Deer and turkeys have also been spotted along the trail, now covered in oranges and reds from autumn leaves, eventually slipping into to their secret habitats.

But something is changing. A new path has opened. One that will bring the child’s eye—and all other senses—closer to the hidden mysteries. Thanks to the time and resources of various families, the final stage of the quarter-mile trail development is nearing completion. Beginning with a serpentine wooden boardwalk that stretches across the stream and wetlands on both ends, children will be instantly greeted with a symphony of bird calls and songs repeating from hickory tree to spice bush to scattered stone walls. Recent rains foretell the seasonal changes as the stream becomes a sliver again and a more present gurgle following the melting snows of the winter and spring to come. Winding past these sights and off the boardwalk, the child will be greeted with maples (containing sweet sap to be harvested in February) and the scent of pine woods. They will pass ferns and rotten logs, home to many smaller creatures, as well as other half-buried markers of a human past. There are so many places to pause and explore, to hold a magnifying glass close and see the recently unseen, to imagine through drawings and words, or simply to be aware of the universal connection of all things.

These trails are full of potential for each child and teacher to unlock. Not only is there the wide scope of scientific concepts, but also bridges to literature, language, and writing; representations of symmetry and geometry; touch points of geography and cultural; musical melodies and rhythms; the grace of movement; the beauty of color and shadow; and so much more. The trails are wild extensions of the domesticity of Sunflower Hill, where students find structure and patterns to guide and help them better understand the outdoors, themselves and the world, which in turn is a both a reflection and extension of Inly’s Montessori classrooms, the da Vinci Studio, and the smaller outdoor spaces on campus.

As Richard Louv says, “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

By Bruce Frost, Upper Elementary Teacher

Bruce is a veteran elementary school teacher with almost 20 years experience in the classroom. He holds a B.A. from Northeastern University, a M.Ed. from Lesley College, and an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Prior to teaching, he worked within the publishing field for many years—an experience he brings to the classroom through his love of literature and writing. Among Bruce’s accomplishments during his tenure at South River School in Marshfield are integrated curriculum development and the creation of a 3,600-square-foot organic garden and outdoor learning center. In addition to his role as upper elementary teacher at Inly, he has trained in constructing and managing the World Peace Game and is the coordinator of the Outdoor Classroom and organic garden, where he shares his joy of exploring the creative possibilities and responsibilities within our world. Outside of the classroom, Bruce not only continues to garden and write but is also an active runner and outdoors enthusiast.

The Importance of Creativity and Innovation in Schools

by Donna Milani Luther

8th Grade students tinkering at NuVu

8th Grade students tinkering at NuVu Studio

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build the youth for our future.” This is the imperative for schools in this century.

There is a great deal of buzz in the world of education right now about creativity and innovation and why these skills should be incorporated more into K–8 school curricula to build for the future. We are preparing students of today for the jobs of tomorrow—jobs that don’t exist yet, in fields that will be created to meet the demands of an ever-changing world. And yet many schools are still using what Sir Ken Robinson describes as the “industrial age factory model” for education, which doesn’t meet the growing demand for creativity and innovation.

Interestingly, a number of schools are adopting a more Montessori-inspired classroom model to help meet this demand. The AltSchool in California, for example, founded by a former Google engineer, is described as “Montessori 2.0” with a strong focus on technology. Closer to home, a former MIT graduate, Saeed Arida, created NuVu “The Innovation School,” a full-time magnet innovation school in Cambridge. At NuVu, students learn in a hands-on environment with coaches who help guide the creative process, from inception to completion. NuVu’s pedagogy is based on the architectural studio model and geared around multi-disciplinary, collaborative design projects. Within each multidisciplinary Studio, students explore problems rigorously by focusing on one project for two weeks. A Studio Coach mentors students to develop their project through an iterative process over the course of the Studio. Students confront the small and large contexts within problems as they are exposed to complex, ‘messy’ situations. The NuVu Team continuously evaluates students through deskcrits and final reviews.

I am proud to say that our 8th grade students, for the second year in a row, have spent two weeks at NuVu. This spring, our students were assigned a project called  “Wheelchair Hacks” and asked to come up with creative modifications to wheelchairs. To see their clever creations, you can click here. Final projects included everything from a wheel-cleaning device to a height adjusting chair. It was exciting to see our students come up with clever modifications and explain how their process worked from beginning to end. They all hit road blocks but, like in real-life, figured out ways around them to get to their end goal.

AltSchool and Nuvu are just two examples of how education is coming around to the century old forward-thinking of Dr. Maria Montessori who took what had been in education and imagined what could be. Today at Inly, in the tradition of Montessori, we are imagining what can be in the world of education because we fundamentally believe in the power and potential of children. This is why we want to ensure our school environment fosters their capabilities, creativity, and innate desire to learn and explore.

As many of you already know, Inly is currently planning to build an innovation lab, reimagined library, and six new classroom spaces next year. The innovation lab will be known as the “DaVinci Studio” and will be a central location for our robotics, 3D printing, digital video creation, and tinkering projects. Along with these offerings, the DaVinci Studio will have an idea space, which will have whiteboards on the walls and surfaces for students to imagine, draw, and plan. I believe this space will allow our students to expand and grow in new and exciting ways.

Creativity and innovation should be at the core of a curriculum and instrumental to the way children learn. Paramount to the continued success of schools is ensuring that learning spaces mirror the collaborative work spaces of the real world and enable students to problem-solve, think differently, and challenge the status quo. The authors of The Third Teacher put it succinctly when they said we should “design learning environments and use design thinking to strategize cultural, pedagogical, and organizational change.”

At Inly, our new building project will enable us to accomplish both things that Roosevelt charged educators to do: ‘‘build a future for our youth and build youth for our future.”

Experiential Learning at Inly: Learning By Doing

By Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School

Education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” —Maria Montessori

As I walked through campus this week and felt the energy of our students and their drive to be outdoors in what has suddenly become summer, I am reminded anew of how fortunate we – and they – are to be in a school that values experiential learning.

Experiential learning (“learning by doing” or “hands-on learning”) permeates every part of the Inly curriculum at all levels. It is an approach to education that actively engages students in relevant, authentic experiences that reinforce academic lessons or teach life skills. These hands-on experiences deepen a student’s understanding and have a lasting impact. Through experiential learning, students make discoveries and experiment with knowledge on their own instead of relying solely on the experiences of others.

EllynAt Inly, we refer to experiential learning that happens outside of the classroom as “field studies,” and this is exactly how we approach and think about them. Our field studies are integrated thoughtfully into what our students are learning in the classrooms, and naturally extends their learning out into the world. And because we thoughtfully plan our year to move with and productively harness our students’ energies and passions, you will see our students outside as much as possible at this time in the year. You might see them gardening, conducting science experiments or treasure hunts, exploring the new trails on Sunflower Hill, or engaged in group initiatives on the low ropes course. You might also see the volunteer parent drivers and buses in the parking lot, prepared to take our students off campus for service learning or rowing, or to explore Boston, a museum, or an ethnic market.  At this time of year, you might also see a group of 8th grade students at the Greenbush train coming home from the MIT technology studio, NuVu, in Cambridge or some 7th grade students dressed in business casual outfits, about to set off for a day at their internship site. And soon, you’ll see our 3rd through 8th graders carrying duffel bags as they set off for their end of year excursions.

There is a natural and carefully considered progression to these experiences as our students mature. But each experience, from the very beginning, requires a sense of responsibility and independence. In this stretching of themselves, they become more independent, more self-reliant, more confident and more capable. This learning carries back into the classroom and into their lives.

Montessori Model United Nations: In Their Own Words

by Paran Quigley and Jen McGonagle, Inly Middle School Teachers and MMUN Advisors

In this series of articles, the Inly Middle School Model UN Team describes various facets of their experience at Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN) in New York City.

IMG_1804When we pitched this assignment to the team, we were expecting some groans. After all, the students had already done a lot of writing—from the fully researched and formally written and cited action plans they wrote before going to the conference, to the daily reflections they completed while we were in New York City, to the official conference evaluations they filled out after the event—the team had already done a lot of work.

Much to our (pleasant) surprise, rather than groaning, the students embraced this article project, excited to articulate and publish their MMUN thoughts. They eagerly commenced brainstorming and dividing up the topics to write about, including:

  • How the conference works
  • Their reflections on leadership and group dynamics
  • The value of having experts as mentors
  • How they kept track of their spending
  • What they did in their “down” time in New York City
  • Why teenagers might be able to better solve the world’s problems than all the adults who are working as paid ambassadors, delegates, and entrepreneurs
  • What it was like to be part of a huge gathering of Montessori Middle School students from around the world

IMG_1602Even with all these great articles, there’s plenty that the team didn’t write about, including:

  • The major commitment of joining the team (two hour meetings after school every week for three months, plus plenty of work to complete in between meetings)
  • Rigorous academic demands (keeping up with all their regular school work and managing the workload of an additional writing- and reading-intensive elective)
  • Navigating around the city (every time we needed to get somewhere outside of the hotel, one student was given a paper map and tasked with the challenge of getting us to our destination)
  • Being away from home and mixed into so many new social dynamics
  • The four-day moratorium on social media (a big challenge for some of our more electronically connected teens)

IMG_1803While we’re impressed with the work our students do in the classroom, seeing them at work out in the world is always particularly powerful. Whether they’re interning in a discipline they may wind up pursuing as a career, pushing themselves to new physical limits while on Ocean Classroom or at Heifer International’s Overlook Farm, or working with their peers to solve major world issues, we’re always impressed with our students’ field studies work. This year’s Montessori Model UN team was no exception. We hope you enjoy hearing about it in the students’ own voices.

 

 

 

For more in this series, check out these links:

“Montessori Model United Nations: In Their Own Words” by Paran Quigley and Jen McGonagle, Inly Middle School Teachers and MMUN Advisors

“Montessori Model United Nations: Work Worth Doing” by Benjamin Bison ’16

“One Delegate, Two Model UN Experiences” by Jonah Lee ’15

“Developing a Global Perspective” by Alec Perez ’15

“Follow the Leader” by Emma Kahn ’15

“Are You My Mentor?” by Alexander deMurias ’15

MMUN Reflection Excerpts by Mia Bilezikian ’15

“When I Grow Up…” by Gaby Munn ’16

“Global Group Dynamics” by Marty Morris ’15

“How It All Stacks Up: MMUN Compared to Other Field Studies” by Justin Cokinos ’16

“New York, Model UN, and Middle Schoolers — What Could Go Wrong?
(Spoiler Alert: Nothing)” by Kathryn Goebel ’15

 

Montessori Model United Nations: Work Worth Doing

by Benjamin Bison ’16

[This is part one in a series of 10 pieces of student writing about the Inly Middle School’s experience at Montessori Model United Nations in New York City.]

IMG_1580This year, 10 Inly Middle School students traveled to New York City to attend Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN) as part of the NGO Forum. MMUN is a conference where kids from all over the world can go and participate in a simulation of the actual United Nations. Groups either go representing the perspective and interests of a specific country or having created an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) about a particular issue (this year that issue was climate change). Our whole Inly team separated into groups of two to create a total of five different NGOs. Our NGOs covered a wide variety of topics ranging from wind farms to seawalls.

IMG_1626Once at the conference, we began working and collaborating with kids from all over the world. We shared our NGOs and worked on perfecting them. We also had the option to team up with other kids with similar NGOs to create one big organization. At the end of the conference, we presented our NGOs to everyone in the NGO Forum part of Model UN. In addition, we watched the country delegates have their final voting ceremony in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations building.

The conference is held in New York City, so the MMUN team had the opportunity to do fun, non-conference related things while on the trip. This year, we explored Times Square and its shops, along with the Rockefeller Center and the Guggenheim Museum. We also went to various restaurants and watched the award winning Broadway show Matilda. In addition, we honored those affected by past tragedies by visiting memorials to both the trans-Atlantic slave trade and September 11th.

A major transferrable skill from this trip was money management and budgeting. Each team member had to bring around $300 cash to pay for food, transportation, and other things during the trip. We had to decide what to spend our money on and when to spend it, and we had to make those decision ourselves without the help of our teachers. Some people spent very little on the trip and came back home with large amounts of money. On the other hand, some participants spent a lot and only came home with a few dollars. To help us stay conscious of what we were spending, we all completed a reflection at the end of each day where we looked at exactly how much we spent and what we spent it on.

MMUN was a fun trip. Although there was a lot of preparation work and joining the team was a big commitment, all the hard work pays off in the end. I encourage any student who is interested in current events to partake in MMUN if the opportunity ever presents itself, as it is a fun, memorable, unique, and worthwhile experience. I am looking forward to going again next year as an 8th grader.

 

For more in this series, check out these links:

“Montessori Model United Nations: In Their Own Words” by Paran Quigley and Jen McGonagle, Inly Middle School Teachers and MMUN Advisors

“Montessori Model United Nations: Work Worth Doing” by Benjamin Bison ’16

“One Delegate, Two Model UN Experiences” by Jonah Lee ’15

“Developing a Global Perspective” by Alec Perez ’15

“Follow the Leader” by Emma Kahn ’15

“Are You My Mentor?” by Alexander deMurias ’15

MMUN Reflection Excerpts by Mia Bilezikian ’15

“When I Grow Up…” by Gaby Munn ’16

“Global Group Dynamics” by Marty Morris ’15

“How It All Stacks Up: MMUN Compared to Other Field Studies” by Justin Cokinos ’16

“New York, Model UN, and Middle Schoolers — What Could Go Wrong?
(Spoiler Alert: Nothing)” by Kathryn Goebel ’15

One Delegate, Two Model UN Experiences

by Jonah Lee ’15

[This is part two in a series of 10 pieces of student writing about the Inly Middle School’s experience at Montessori Model United Nations in New York City.]

IMG_1710Having attended Montessori Model United Nations now twice, I’ve observed several differences between the NGO Forum and other parts of MMUN. Last year, I represented The Republic of Guatemala in the MMUN Security Council, with a goal of solving two problems. The first problem was nuclear proliferation, or the increase in the presence of nuclear arms in the world. The other problem involved disputes between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. This year, I participated in the MMUN NGO Forum, with a goal of developing a non-profit organization that would address the global issue of climate change.

Obviously, the problems I addressed in these two years are different, but in a lot of ways the processes that the NGO Forum and Security Council go through are similar. For example, in preparation for MMUN 2015, I wrote an action plan, a statement of my goals and ideas for solving climate change. For MMUN 2014, I created a position paper, which presented my country’s (Guatemala’s) goal and ideals when speaking about the presented problems. During the conferences themselves, in both 2014 and 2015, I worked with large groups to address our problems.

IMG_1618For the Security Council, I worked closely with other non-nuclear capable countries to create a system of taxes for countries that did possess nuclear weapons. That system of taxation was outlined in our Resolution 1.1, On Nuclear Non-Proliferation. There have been disputes between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine for a very long time. The countries are different in many ways, yet they both want control over several areas of their regions. Honestly, I don’t remember how we solved that problem.

All in all, the preparation for, the process of, and the product that came out of these two experiences were quite similar. Some pros of the country study are that in Security Council, delegates are really able to participate in an authentic UN experience, whereas in the NGO Forum, that might not necessarily be the case. In the NGO Forum, however, your work is a lot more free-form, while in Security Council that might not be the case.

There’s one last point I’d like to introduce: time. In a four-day conference, time is limited. In MMUN 2014, when I represented The Republic of Guatemala, four days was plenty of time to create well-written, effective solutions for our problems. On the other hand, it felt like we could have used more time while we were participating in the NGO Forum this year.

Overall, both of these experiences were interesting and exciting. I’m sure I’ll keep drawing from my MMUN experiences as I continue into high school, and I’m confident that they’ll keep making the conference better and become better over time.

 

For more in this series, check out these links:

“Montessori Model United Nations: In Their Own Words” by Paran Quigley and Jen McGonagle, Inly Middle School Teachers and MMUN Advisors

“Montessori Model United Nations: Work Worth Doing” by Benjamin Bison ’16

“One Delegate, Two Model UN Experiences” by Jonah Lee ’15

“Developing a Global Perspective” by Alec Perez ’15

“Follow the Leader” by Emma Kahn ’15

“Are You My Mentor?” by Alexander deMurias ’15

MMUN Reflection Excerpts by Mia Bilezikian ’15

“When I Grow Up…” by Gaby Munn ’16

“Global Group Dynamics” by Marty Morris ’15

“How It All Stacks Up: MMUN Compared to Other Field Studies” by Justin Cokinos ’16

“New York, Model UN, and Middle Schoolers — What Could Go Wrong?
(Spoiler Alert: Nothing)” by Kathryn Goebel ’15

Developing a Global Perspective

by Alec Perez ’15

[This is part three in a series of 10 pieces of student writing about the Inly Middle School’s experience at Montessori Model United Nations in New York City.]

IMG_1736I guess you could say I’m your typical teenage boy. I like video games, I love sports, and all I want in life right now is to have fun. But despite this, there is one thing that may push me out from the crowd of most teenage boys. I enjoy global politics. I like to get immersed in the world, figure out how specific countries or governments are behaving, learn about how the economy is holding up, and examine what specific problems we are facing as a species. I love analyzing these things that make us human, that make us truly us. Above all, I love seeing how human nature plays into life all around us.

“But why?” one might ask, “Why would a boy as young as you even remotely care about something that the adults in your life seem to be taking care of?”

Well, it’s simple really. The adults in my life aren’t taking care of it. I don’t mean that as a blow to adults. I’m not trying to make a statement, and no, that’s not me being a teenager and being “emotionally unstable at this time in my life,” or anything like that. It’s simply a fact. Sure, some adults in my life are doing their part, but for the world to grow into the way we want it, it’s going to take more people than we have working on it right now.

IMG_1720So, I intend to be one of those people. I refuse to have the world handed down to my generation in its current condition. At the rate we are going, especially when it comes down to the issue of climate change, by the time the world is handed down to me, I will be left with something two or three times worse than what we started with. And that is not acceptable. You want to know why I am so interested in global politics, why I find it so intriguing? Because I don’t want to hand the world down to my grandchildren in even worse condition that it’s in now.

Of course, there are other reasons I enjoy keeping up with the news. I like observing humans and watching how they behave under different situations, like how a president acts when he is faced with the question of war or peace, and how the public reacts to his decisions. While observing human behavior is enough to keep me interested in the news, it seems easier to get others to rally around the idea of saving humanity.

Some people reading this might have made the connection to the United Nations already (after all, the UN is full of people working hard to make the world a better place). And for me, working to get ready for the Montessori Model United Nations conference was the real reason I first got into these types of global politics. When she was in the eighth grade, my older sister Katie went on this amazing trip to New York City and met with kids from all around the world to solve global issues. Honestly, I was inspired by her stories of the conference. So this year, I decided to join the Inly Model UN team and go on the same trip. It was a lot of hard work, but I got even more tools and information out of the whole experience then I thought.

So now that I’m back, I am faced with two choices. I can either sit back and wait for someone else to come along and save the planet for me and run the risk of watching the tragedy of the commons unfold in front of me. Or, I can step up. I can be the guy who actually lives Gandhi’s advice to “be the change you want to see in the world.” I know I will face hardships and have to climb over my fair share of obstacles on my way to saving the world. But to be honest, I really do think that it’s better than watching the world burn and looking back to see myself do nothing about it.

To sum it all up: I find global politics and world events interesting because I care about what humans as a race are doing, how we are acting, and how we are responding to certain things. I love it because someday I will get to be a major part of it.

 

For more in this series, check out these links:

“Montessori Model United Nations: In Their Own Words” by Paran Quigley and Jen McGonagle, Inly Middle School Teachers and MMUN Advisors

“Montessori Model United Nations: Work Worth Doing” by Benjamin Bison ’16

“One Delegate, Two Model UN Experiences” by Jonah Lee ’15

“Developing a Global Perspective” by Alec Perez ’15

“Follow the Leader” by Emma Kahn ’15

“Are You My Mentor?” by Alexander deMurias ’15

MMUN Reflection Excerpts by Mia Bilezikian ’15

“When I Grow Up…” by Gaby Munn ’16

“Global Group Dynamics” by Marty Morris ’15

“How It All Stacks Up: MMUN Compared to Other Field Studies” by Justin Cokinos ’16

“New York, Model UN, and Middle Schoolers — What Could Go Wrong?
(Spoiler Alert: Nothing)” by Kathryn Goebel ’15