Category Archives: Sue Omran Speaker Series

Thoughts on Sports, Teamwork and Montessori Education

What does a former NFL football player have to do with Montessori education? Head of School Donna Milani Luther recently shared her thoughts and explained why national sports educator Joe Ehrmann was selected to kick off the 2013–14 Nelson ♦ Omran Speaker Series on October 23rd.

How does Joe’s message fit with the Inly ethos and philosophy?
He’s actually very Inly-esque in his approach to coaching, and I think it aligns perfectly with who we are as a school. We share the understanding that students learn well when there’s a sense of happiness and friendship and teamwork and love. As someone who extends that onto the coaching field, Joe presents a really interesting view.

Joe talks a lot about teamwork and collaboration and the importance of helping each other succeed… and I see a lot of similarities in our approach at Inly. Because our classrooms are multi-age, the older students are taught how to be role models and to help the younger ones. And because we’re a preK–8 school, this happens at all levels — from middle school down to preschool — as older students model kindness and leadership, teach skills and inspire younger students. The whole educational model at Inly is set up to help us all become the best we can be.

What about the role of competition in sports? Is this at odds with the Montessori-based approach at Inly?
I’ve always been one to think that you compete with yourself. If I’m doing math, I want to do math myself better the next time; I don’t need to beat the person beside me. At Inly we teach children to make personal goals and then to work hard within that framework to achieve them. Our approach is “we’re all in this together” rather than competing against one another — which leads to cooperative learning and to the kind of teamwork that I think kids need in this century.

Joe’s philosophy is that teamwork, not competition, is what it takes to succeed — both on the sports field and in life. That’s our philosophy at Inly as well.

Joe talks a lot about gender issues and the sports culture in our country. What is this all about?
He touches on this a lot — particularly in his “Be a Man” TEDx talk. It all has to do with healthy child and adolescent development, and knowing one’s true self. Joe comes from a traditional macho place and knows that the mentality is set from a young age. The “here’s what guys do in sports” message is all around us — they drink a bit too much, they act a certain way, and there’s that kind of bravado. It applies to boys in particular but all kids when they don’t have another way to identify themselves and fit in. Sometimes when kids don’t have another angle in they use sports as a shell around themselves as opposed to finding their authentic selves.

Joe’s message is about the need to transform the culture of sports, and it starts with parents and teachers and coaches sending the right message—the earlier, the better.

What do you hope parents take from this talk?
Joe presents a much more holistic approach to sports. It’s not about winning this particular game, it’s about winning your long-term personal race in life. It’s about ‘how am I going to be the best person I can be?’ and viewing sports as one vehicle to get there. I hope parents see that this kind of approach can lead to happier, healthier humans and that they help their own children get there.

What about teachers and coaches? What do you hope they take away?
We’re actually doing a pre-talk workshop for Inly teachers and coaches as well as YMCA coaches. Each teacher and coach will write a personal mission statement on how they pledge to help boys grow to men and girls grow to women and to help each child be the best they can be. Their individual statements will detail how they plan to help facilitate this back in their classrooms, gyms or out on the sports fields.

Is this a brand new collaboration with the YMCA?
Yes and no. The Joe Ehrmann talk is co-sponsored by the South Shore YMCA. But since the Y now owns the South Shore Natural Science Center, last year’s talk with Richard Louv could technically be considered our first collaboration.

As for sports programs, we’ve been lucky to be involved with the South Shore YMCA for several years. Our Upper Elementary students regularly travel to the YMCA in Hanover to do a physical fitness and life skills program; Upper Elementary and Middle School students also play in the Y’s flag football league as part of Inly’s After-School Program. It all makes for a healthy, well-rounded and developmentally-appropriate physical education and sports curriculum—both during and after school.

Read more:

Transforming the Culture of Sports: Former NFL player, named the “Greatest Coach in America,” speaks at Inly School

Inly Celebrates 40 Years in Style

Inly School celebrated its 40th Anniversary in style on Saturday, May 11, 2013 with a Gala and Silent Auction held on the campus. The Meehan Family Artsbarn was transformed for the evening with sweeping sheets of gossamer and an elegant, pinterest-inspired chandelier crafted from colorful coffee filters. Inly’s logo was brightly projected onto the floor of the entrance for all to see while Inly alum, Bob Sommer (’09), played jazz with his trio on the stage. Over 250 guests strolled through the space and placed bids on the nearly 100 enticing auction items. The 40th Anniversary Co-Chairs, Muffy Antico and Maureen Sheehan, both agreed, “This year is a very special year for Inly and we wanted this celebration to reflect that.” Inly’s Auction Chair, Sarah Adamson, said, “The money we raise tonight will support Inly by helping to fund the academic, enrichment, and experiential programs that make our school such a special place.”

Charles Terranova and Donna Milani Luther

Overall, the evening was a huge success. The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was local on-air broadcasting veteran, Scott Wahle. During dinner, Wahle welcomed Inly’s Head of School, Donna Milani Luther, to the stage to speak about the growth of the school over the past 40 years. Milani Luther noted how Inly has remained true to its core. “Over the years, while other educational philosophies have come and gone, Montessori continues to be relevant and amazingly effective,” she said, “Inly remains committed to combining the philosophies and methods of Dr. Maria Montessori with other compatible and innovative practices that help to inspire and nurture our children and prepare them for global citizenship.” Milani Luther invited Charles Terranova, founder of the Inly School (then called The Montessori Community School), to the stage to share stories of the school’s history. Terranova applauded Milani Luther for her work over the past 17 years and the entire audience echoed this sentiment with a standing ovation.

Donna Milani Luther announced that the school will continue the very successful speaker series launched in 2012 with a slight name-change to commemorate two former Inly teachers who passed away from cancer, Sue Omran and Brien Nelson. Going forward, the series will be known as the “Omran • Nelson Speaker Series.” This past year, the series welcomed well-known speakers including Deepak Chopra and Richard Louv to the South Shore. Thanks to a generous $10,000 donation from the Nelson family, the series will continue to bring speakers to Inly who will explore a range of parent education topics and philosophies.

Additionally, the school announced the launch of an Endowment Fund, which it hopes will help the school continue to grow and thrive over the next 40 years and beyond. In a video that aired on large screens during dinner, parents, students, teachers and alumni shared the many reasons they love Inly and their collective hope for it to continue to thrive in the future. “More people’s kids will go here someday,” one Inly lower elementary student remarked, “I know mine will.” Another middle school student noted, “Someday, I want people all over the world to know Inly and know it like it’s Harvard.”

Montessori Education and Nature: What’s the connection?


“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”
– Dr. Maria Montessori

We hope that you will all able to join us for our April 3 Omran Speaker Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. This presentation has led us all at Inly to reflect on the close match between Richard Louv’s message and our mission at Inly as Montessori educators.

Montessori Philosophy: Combining indoor and outdoor classrooms

The Outdoor Classroom, nearly one year old, is already an integral part of the Inly curriculum at all levels—from Toddler through Middle School. It’s easy to think of this addition to our campus as a progressive new idea, but it’s actually rooted in a 100-year-old philosophy. Dr. Montessori was an early proponent of experiential learning and considered the outdoor environment a natural extension of the classroom. The Montessori connection makes sense: Contact with nature affords opportunities for rich sensorial experiences, a vital element of Montessori learning. It also supports the whole child—body, mind and soul—and promotes respect for all living things.

Dr. Montessori’s vision for schools was always a combination of indoor and outdoor classrooms. This was a way to study the interconnectedness of all things, a way for children to be able to study math and science, nature and the universe.

Montessori had deep reverence for the natural world, and her cosmic education curriculum, which runs from Toddler through Middle School at Inly, stresses the importance of grounding children in an understanding of themselves as a part of the greater universe.  She believed that we best develop an understanding of self when we understand the interconnectedness of all things— that true respect for self grows together with deep respect for others and for nature.

The Outdoor Classroom at Inly School: Integrating science, language arts, music and more

Our Outdoor Classroom is used extensively at all levels for many subjects—for science, language arts, music, art, practical life. We have a low ropes course for our upper grades to engage in leadership and trust activities, and outdoor music elements to enhance listening and creativity. Students are currently constructing a “secret garden” of their own as they read The Secret Garden with our school librarian and literature teacher. Each level at Inly now has its own garden. Even the toddlers have a garden of their own.

Students in Kindergarten and Lower Elementary (grades 1—3) have classes with Ellyn, an experienced and inspired naturalist, and our Upper Elementary and Middle School programs each have a trained natural scientist to weave scientific exploration and habits of mind into the all aspects of the curriculum for grades 4–8.

Outdoor Service Learning

In addition, in Upper Elementary, students begin participating in a service learning curriculum that includes partnerships with The North and South Rivers Watershed Association and Holly Hill Farm, and Middle School students leave campus for immersion experiences with the Hull Lifesaving Museum, Ocean Classroom and Heifer International’s Overlook Farm.

Integrating nature into the Inly curriculum

“Sit spots” are a good specific example of how we integrate nature into the curriculum. In Upper Elementary (grades 4, 5 and 6) students choose a spot on campus to visit each week throughout the school year.  From this vantage point they repeatedly observe their surroundings and watch how things change with the seasons. They sit with a journal and have been taught how to observe and then how to record those observations through writing, sketching, poetry. In this way, they are developing an essential scientific habit of mind – observation, but they are also being invited to do something even more rare in this age—to be still and to be present.

In Middle School (grades 7 and 8), this training continues with formal labs and lab reports;  with involvement in The Green Committee, dedicated to student initiated and implemented activities on campus to enhance Inly’s authentic commitment to green initiatives; and with “solo time,” a common component of Montessori middle school programs that deepens the practice of stillness—which is so essential, but so difficult for teens, and for us all.

To learn more…

Watch a video of outdoor experiential learning and Montessori “sit spots” here:  A Typical Day in an Upper Elementary Science Class Means Going Outside to Learn

Read an excerpt from Richard Louv’s bestseller Last Child in the Woods here:

Parting thoughts

“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

“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.” – Richard Louv

Inly and South Shore Natural Science Center Advocate for Outdoor Learning

While Inly marks its 40th anniversary this year, its Norwell neighbor, the South Shore Natural Science Center, is celebrating its 50th! The parent education talk with Richard Louv is just one highlight of the center’s celebration, but a very meaningful one.

Outdoor education speaker at Inly School

Best-selling author Richard Louv to speak in parent education series at Inly School

Folks from Inly and the Science Center came together to sponsor this talk, connected by a shared mission and similar core values. Read more about that in our news story in the Inly Mashup:

“Last Child in the Woods” Author to Discuss Nature Deficit Disorder, Child Development and the Role of Technology at Inly School on April 3

Both educational institutions believe that active, hands-on exploration outdoors fosters children’s natural curiosity and helps them gain a meaningful understanding of the world around them.

Conversation about Outdoor Play, Nature-Based Experiential Education and our Common Mission

We spoke with Tracey Merrill, executive director of the Science Center, about her goals for the upcoming talk on April 3rd.

Q: What do you hope people take away from this talk?

A: My hope for our members and visitors, students and families, anyone attending the talk, is that we all move to get kids outside—the earlier the better…exploring and discovering everything that nature has to offer.

I’d like us all to hear Richard’s message about how easily we are all distracted by technology…. and that there are tangible effects on kids. He makes a very compelling case about the rise in obesity, distractibility, social detachment… He wakes us up to the fact that we raise our children indoors…. to the fact that kids don’t know how to build tree houses or to use tools anymore.

There’s so much confidence and independence that comes with unstructured outdoor play. And learning as well. Skills like sequencing and numeracy and very connected to nature-based education.

South Shore Natural Science Center Norwell MAAbout the South Shore Natural Science Center

The South Shore Natural Science Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about the natural and cultural environments of the South Shore. Their mission is to provide natural science experiences that educate, excite, and commit every generation to preserve the environment and to encourage responsible use, stewardship and enjoyment of our natural resources. For more information, visit

Parent Education: Deborah Roffman Kicks off Sue Omran Speaker Series October 4

Deborah Roffman, best-selling author, educator and consultant on sexuality education, will speak at Inly School on Thursday night, October 4 at 7:00 p.m. In addition to discussing her latest book, Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person about Sex, Roffman will lead a Q & A session and sign books (available for purchase at the event). Open to the public, this talk is ideal for parents of children and teens, as well as educators interested in professional development. This event is free to Inly families and $10 for community members, payable at the door. Please RSVP by Wednesday, October 3 to

The Sue Omran Speaker Series: Innovative Parent Education for All

Roffman’s talk kicks off the new Sue Omran Speaker Series at Inly School. Open to the public, this series features highly acclaimed authors and speakers (including Deepak Chopra, Rudy Tanzi and Richard Louv) and explores a range of innovative topics and philosophies. It seeks to provide opportunities for parents, educators and the community at large to practice life-long learning.

Thanks to the outpouring of generosity from donors, the Sue Omran Speaker Series has been established in memory of Sue, an Inly teacher and dedicated parent and educator, who passed away after a battle with breast cancer in 2011. For more information, please see the “Speaker Series” web page.

With financial support from this fund, we intend to bring outstanding thought leaders to the South Shore, who—in the tradition of Maria Montessori and Sue Omran—challenge, inspire and guide us to become the best educators and parents we can be.

More About Roffman and “Talk to Me First”

Deborah Roffman has been interviewed on national television and radio shows, including the CBS Early Show, Nightline, 20/20 and NPR. Her work has been featured in the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Washington Times.

What drives her is a single vision: “that one day it will be families and schools―not media, merchandisers, entertainers, peers, and popular culture―who become the primary, as in first and most important, resources for young people about a topic so essential to life, health, and happiness.”

Like her earlier best-seller Sex and Sensibility, Roffman’s latest book is highly relevant to today’s youth. Having taught sexuality education in grades 4-12 for over 30 years, she knows what children need to know and has a wealth of useful advice for parents.

“We live in a time when kids of all ages are bombarded with age-sensitive material wherever they turn,” states the Philadelphia Tribune. “‘Sexting’ and bullying are on the rise at an increasingly younger age, and teen moms are ‘celebrified.’ What is a concerned — and embarrassed — parent to do?

“With wit, wisdom, and savvy, Deborah Roffman translates her experiences gleaned from decades of teaching kids and parents, and as a mom, into strategies to help parents navigate this tricky terrain. “Talk to Me First” is for any parent who wants to become and remain the most credible and influential resource about sexuality in their children’s lives.”

Next Speakers: Deepak Chopra, Dr. Rudy Tanzi (Dec. 4) and Richard Louv (Apr. 3)

On December 4 at 7:00 p.m., Deepak Chopra and Dr. Rudy Tanzi will speak at Inly School about their highly anticipated book Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being (publish date: Nov 6, 2012). Chopra, an internationally popular author of 65 books, and Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard University and co-discoverer of the first Alzheimer’s disease gene, will discuss the latest findings in brain research and how everyone from toddlers to parents to seniors can maximize their potential brain power.

On April 3, 2013 at 7:00 p.m., well known author and naturalist Richard Louv will speak about his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv, who has written for The New York Times, The WashingtonPost, The Times of London and other major publications, coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder™ which has become the defining phrase of this important issue.

Online ticketing for upcoming talks will be available November 1st. See the Speaker Series web page for more information.