Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cultivating Creative Thinking at School and at Home

Peter and Paul Reynolds of FablevisionGoing Places: How to inspire the next generation of innovators and inventors

A conversation with Paul Reynolds and Peter H. Reynolds, authors, makers and visionary leaders of FableVision.

The twin brothers were keynote speakers at the Fall 2016 opening of Inly School’s new innovation hub, then hung around campus for a tour of the da Vinci Studio and its maker spaces, a book signing of their bestselling children’s books Going Places, and a chat about creativity, innovation and what makes kids tick.

What’s the key to creative thinking? Can it be cultivated?

Paul: I’d say, ‘Be curious.’ That’s where it starts, right there. Often if you tell people to be creative they freeze up. They say they’re not creative. But if you encourage them to be curious about the world around them, then they open up and creativity follows from there.

Peter: Make schools inviting, hands-on learning environments and then go home and make your home an extension of that learning.  Going Places book signing Inly School

When we were young our dad turned our garage into a maker space and workshop where we could build things out of wood. And our mom brought home an old Savin office copier from work. They were throwing it away so she brought it home and put it in the dining room and put a table cloth over it and a vase of flowers. When we wanted to use it we just took off the table cloth.

How cool is that?

Peter: I would make copies of things and it was so old that the copies were really light so I’d have to draw over the outlines with black marker and then I’d walk down to the five and dime in town and make new copies of the redrawn ones with the store copier.

So you were learning about printing and publishing from an early age…

Peter: Exactly. Without realizing it. I was just doing it.

And completely self-directed. Although your mom was clever to provide a tool. What can parents do to foster creativity at home?

Paul: It’s important for kids to see you drawing and singing. If you say you can’t draw, that sends a powerful message. Be brave. Show them that trying new things is fun. Make your home an extension of the school learning environment and let kids know you are also part of that learning team. Ask yourself, Do we have opportunities for creation in our house?

In the early days of video games we said to our three boys, ‘I know you really love playing video games — but it’s just as much fun to make them yourselves.’ So they did, using MIT’s Scratch programming language for kids. It’s no accident then that our middle son Ben graduated this year from MIT with a degree in computer science and game design, and is now set to graduate this June with a master’s while working at the MIT Media Lab. He experienced the joy and agency of making — and we expect it will pay dividends for years to come.

Sally Sisson

 The Reynolds brothers tour the new da Vinci Studio, an innovation lab comprising the Digital Lab and Design Studio, Robotics Space and Maker Space; and the Think Tank, an environment specifically designed for students to imagine and invent.digital_design_technology_inly_reynolds

Top: Paul and Peter Reynolds make some noise in the Digital Lab and Design Studio.

Middle: Illustrator Peter H. Reynolds makes his mark on the wall-to-wall whiteboard in Inly’s new Think Tank. 

Bottom: Imagination in action! Children dive into the creative peter_reynolds_going_places_inlyprocess, experimenting in their own maker space in the da Vinci Studio.

maker_space_inly_schoolFurther news and inspiration
For more in this series on creativity, innovation, and the new learning labs and spaces at Inly, see:

Celebrating Imagination and a Library for the Future

Print and Digital Find the Perfect Home

Books on imagination and innovation

Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds

“A celebration of creative spirit and thinking outside the box.” Watch the book trailer below.

Celebrating Imagination and a Library for the Future

A look inside the Grealish Family Pavilion (Part Two)

Inly School Library Stained Glass

Book-themed door panel by the creative hands at Coastal Art Glass in Norwell MA

We’re all still in awe of this amazing new space, and it’s hard to chronicle all of the magical moments happening here every day. Books are discovered and rediscovered, read silently and read aloud; ideas and imagination are sparked and stirred; thoughtful research is conducted in an environment that’s at once stimulating and serene.

Students and teachers tend to linger here, finding their favorite spot on a couch or at a table where they can look out the windows at the changing view. Trust me, it’s hard to leave!

Here are more photos from the official building opening this fall, including those from the Going Places book signing with authors and keynote speakers Peter and Paul Reynolds. Stay tuned for more photos and moments as each chapter unfolds…

Inly School Library Scituate MA

Author Peter H. Reynolds and Donna Milani Luther greet Inly Library visitors

Montessori School Library Scituate MA

Rooted in the Imagination Station one floor below, the Library Tree is graced with glass leaves that sparkle in the sunlight

For more on the Inly Library and Going Places book signing, check out these two posts by Shelley Sommer on Sommer Reading: A Book About Blogs:

A Photo Tour of the New Inly Library 


More Pictures and Authors Peter & Paul Reynolds

Also see Part One: Print and Digital Find the Perfect Home

Print and Digital Find the Perfect Home

A look inside the Grealish Family Pavilion (Part One)

Step inside Inly’s wondrous new addition and you’ll be captivated by the quiet buzz of creative energy that radiates from the studios, classrooms, learning spaces… and from within. Here the worlds of print and digital, words and pictures, information and imagination work in harmony to inspire innovative thinking on many different levels.

First you’ll see the da Vinci Studio, an innovation lab made up of maker spaces dedicated to robotics, digital design and tinkering of all kinds. Inside the Imagination Station at the center of it all, students can stare up to the twinkling ceiling of the new library on the second floor.


It’s no coincidence that the two main spaces are linked in such a direct way. The worlds of print and technology have always worked together in thoughtful, meaningful ways at Inly.

“I have to say I feel really good about the prominence of the library in the new building,” says Head Librarian Shelley Sommer. “I feel that it really honors the role of reading. And the fact that we give equal space to both books and technology makes an important statement.”

Kelley Huxtable, Technology Integrationist, puts it this way: “These new spaces are all about ideas. They’re about making and sharing things and ideas and experiences. When you get to make something yourself, you’re completely engaged and you really own it. And that’s what really drives learning.”

Read more about the new building here:

New Innovation Hub Officially Unveiled at Inly School



From Oliver to Alice—A Journey of Directing Inly Players Productions

By Martha Sawyer, Director

Martha Sawyer looks on during an Inly Players dress rehearsal.

Martha Sawyer looks on during an Inly Players dress rehearsal.

A remarkable journey, where nothing is as it seems, filled with fanciful characters and a curious adventure at every turn. While that could describe our heroine’s story, it also tells the tale of my wonderful association with The Inly Players. In the fall of 2008, I was asked to step in and direct The Inly Players third production, OLIVER! Since then, I have been fortunate to return and guide this unique and talented troupe through a wonderland of musical stories.

Each year, production begins with choosing the show. As simple as that may seem, it can prove a difficult and tricky negotiation. It is a delicate balancing act to find a show with the right appeal of story and music that will match our pool of actors and resources. Since I began directing for Inly, a production of ALICE in WONDERLAND has come under consideration almost every year. But our creative team was always a little wary of the available scripts and scores. This year, the timing seemed right to create our ALICE. And so we did.

A scene from this year's production of Alice in Wonderland.

A scene from this year’s production of Alice in Wonderland.

The process of creating and telling Alice’s story of self discovery has been a joy. As always with The Inly Players, the blended cast of students, parents, staff, friends and theater professionals forms a unique and inspiring dynamic. Like Alice, our cast and artistic team have been curious and fearless as they looked through the looking glass and jumped down the rabbit hole to find our answer to the Caterpillar’s query, “whoooo are youuuu?”

Our production is being presented in the year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the original publication of this children’s classic. When directing a production based on an iconic story, I am always conscious of what expectations the audience may have about the characters and their journey. I am sure many of you have a clear recollection of your first reading of this magical story—or perhaps you best remember the characters from a film adaptation or animated version.

As I re-read the book and entered the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland, I found Lewis Carroll’s words and wit to be as fresh and as new as ever. What I found most of all was the joy of the unexpected. As I turned each page, and tumbled from adventure to adventure, I felt the story compelling me to keep searching and discovering a new point of view. It is my hope that we have captured that magic from the book and that you will follow Alice’s lead and join us as we take a fresh look at this timeless magical and beloved masterpiece.

John Hunter and His Montessori Message

A chat with Inly’s head of school about student-centered learning, global awareness and the power of experiential education

John Hunter at Inly School in Scituate MA

John Hunter presents his film “World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements” at Inly School on April 9th

When Donna Milani Luther heard John Hunter speak at the Creative Education Foundation’s annual Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) Conference last summer, she was blown away. “His approach aligned so perfectly with ours, and his message was so compelling, that I immediately knew I wanted to bring him to Inly to meet with our school community. And I wanted other teachers and administrators and parents to share in the experience, too.”

John Hunter will speak at Inly on Wednesday, April 9 as part of the Omran ♦ Nelson Speaker Series. For a full description of the event, see the Inly News story:  John Hunter to Present “World Peace Game” Film and Talk on Hands-On, Experiential Learning.

To purchase online tickets visit the Inly Speaker Series page.

Q: Hunter’s talk is called, “The Schools and Teachers our Students Need Us To
Be.” What does this mean, exactly?

It’s about allowing students to guide their own learning, based on their interests. It’s about teachers and schools allowing students to really take ownership. John’s message is that we all need to focus on how students learn best and then thoughtfully prepare the best type of environment for this success. He asks us to ask ourselves: What are our roles as guides for children in this century?

Q: Hands-on, experiential learning is the focal point of his film, “World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements.” Is this a focal point of his talk as well?

World_Peace_Foundation_Inly_SchoolYes. He firmly believes that experiential education is the most effective way for students to learn, and that’s really the premise of this talk. It’s the best proven way to capture students’ attention and extend their learning and their capacity to stay on a task. As educators we want to see students building skills around interest and content, and we want the learning to be rigorous and challenging and fun.

Q: And can it be rigorous enough, this type of experiential learning?

Oh, absolutely. It’s about teaching from the inside out.

I think that people generally will challenge themselves if they feel like they’re learning and growing. Otherwise they just look to the least common denominator. We see that alive in our school every day and you see that in great schools and in great teachers.

Kids will often keep going if inspired. But when they’re led in a direction that’s rote … that’s ‘sorry, you can’t spend any more time on that because our curriculum maps say you have to do this tomorrow,’ and the child isn’t really interested in going there, they’re really not going to learn nearly as much.

So, yes, I believe it can be rigorous and I believe it’s our job as teachers to stay ten steps ahead to be true guides to help students develop.

Can you speak to the Montessori like aspects of his message? Peace studies and global awareness are two themes that come to mind.

Yes, this is very much the type of cosmic education that Maria Montessori cared about. Understanding our place in the world, figuring out that there are pieces that make up the whole, that we’re all part of that in some way and that our job is to find out how it all fits together… It’s all part of the continuum in a Montessori school.

His approach is very much what we do in Montessori—not only in the content delivery but in the content itself.

The entire World Peace Game is also very Montessori in that it is very hands-on and the teacher really steps back and guides the students to solve the problem on their own. Yes, it is a challenge and it’s a big challenge! World peace is not something you can solve in a day. But he has designed something that’s appropriately long enough for 4th, 5th and 6th graders and designed it to capture their attention and to extend their attention—and extend their thinking and learning and processing and their capacity to stay on a task.

These students are the future designers and inventors and entrepreneurs, the ones who are figuring all this out. I think it’s ingenious and it gives me hope.



What Are the Benefits of a Montessori Preschool?

“There are many who hold, as I do, that the most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed.
– Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Montessori Preschool Absorbent Mind The Absorbent Mind: The Toddler and Preschool Years

Dr. Maria Montessori coined the phrase “Absorbent Mind” to describe the child’s most crucial developmental stage: the first six years. During decades of scientific observation, she noted the remarkable sponge-like ability of the child to take in new information.

During two stages of the Absorbent Mind period—from birth to age 3, and from age 3–6 —children soak up information from their environment, learning at a rapid rate. Because the unique capacity to learn in this way—and at this rate—lasts for the first six years of life, Dr. Montessori urged educators to take advantage of this critical stage. During this time, she argued, the impressions made on a child’s mind through lessons and the classroom environment are highly formative and can have a lasting impact on their future development.

Many of Dr. Montessori’s scientific theories are now supported by brain research being done today, more than 100 years later.  Based on our own experience over the past 40 years as an innovative Montessori school, we see many of the same benefits every day as children discover the joy and wonder of learning all around them.

5 Benefits of a Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten Program

1. Developmental Approach

The Montessori philosophy behind the Children’s House (preschool and kindergarten) program is based on scientific research into the stages of early childhood development. Designed to meet the developing needs of the three- to six-year-old, the Montessori program makes the most of this period of intense mental activity.

2. Comprehensive Curriculum

The Montessori preschool and kindergarten curriculum is remarkably broad and deep. The curriculum includes Language, Math, Science, Spanish Language, Cultural Studies (history, geography, physical sciences, botany, and zoology), Practical Life, Visual Arts, Music and Movement.  It is designed to help the child build skills and absorb knowledge at an individual pace and provides a solid foundation for elementary school and lifelong learning.

3. Focus and Independence

Making choices and using coordinated movements to accomplish tasks leads the preschool and kindergarten child toward self-regulation and self-control. The Montessori classroom environment and the Montessori method encourage focus, concentration and internal self-discipline.

4. Observation and Problem-Solving Skills

Through their Montessori work, children develop strong observation and problem-solving skills. Encouraged to make decisions from an early age, children in Montessori programs are nurtured to become creative problem-solvers who can make appropriate choices and manage their time well.

5. First Grade Readiness

Students who master the Children’s House Preschool and Kindergarten curriculum are extremely well prepared for the academic, physical, and social work of first grade in Montessori Lower Elementary or traditional elementary schools.

More on the Benefits of Montessori Early Education

Exploring the Benefits of Montessori Early Education (Inly Insights)

Montessori Education and Brain Development: New research validates 100-year-old method (Inly Insights)

The Benefits of Montessori at Inly School

The Benefits of a Montessori Education at Inly School

Montessori Philosophy and Mission at Inly School

Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten at Inly School

To learn more about the Children’s House program at Inly, visit the Preschool and Kindergarten portal on the Inly website:

Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten at Inly

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

Giving Thanks to Grandfriends

Grandfriends’ Day is a special annual tradition at Inly School when children can share their classroom experience with members of their families or other special friends.

Donna Milani Luther, Inly’s Head of School, addressed a crowd of Inly community members on Grandfriends’ Day (November 21, 2012), and shared the following:

When I was a little girl, whenever asked the question “what are you going to be when you grow up?”, I said “a teacher.”  I’ve been lucky, and also probably typical of someone my age. I have been teaching for 39 years and have had the great pleasure of working in 4 different schools, landing here at Inly 17 years ago.

In a 2010 Wall Street Journal article, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the next generation of young people will spend an average of 3.8 years in a job and have 7 different careers in their lifetime. Quite different from my experience, and I dare say different than yours.

In his recent book: Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World, Harvard professor Tony Wagner says that we must  “graduate all students to be innovation ready.”  According to Wagner, they will need the following Survival Skills:

–critical thinking/problem solving
–collaboration/leading by influence
–agility and adaptability
–initiative and entrepreneurialism
–effective oral and written communication
–accessing and analyzing information
–curiosity and imagination

Montessori education is proving to be at the head of the class in educating innovators. Famous Montessori graduates who were innovation ready include Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, Will Wright the creator of the SIMS video game, and the founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. In fact, Brin and Page credit much of their success to their Montessori education. In a Barbara Walters interview, they said they learned to be self-directed and self-starters as pre-schoolers. Brin and Page said that Montessori allowed them to learn to think for themselves and gave them freedom to pursue their own interests.

We’re proud to be educating the next generation of innovators, your grandfriends, here at Inly. We know you are, too!

Grandfriends’ Day continues to be a wonderful way to share the Inly experience with friends and grandfriends near and far. Thank you again to everyone who participated and we hope to see you all again next year!

Curriculum Corner – Math

Each year at Inly School, the faculty takes a close look at one area of the curriculum.  Last year, for example, we spent the year focusing on Inly’s math curriculum. During level meetings throughout the year, teachers met with colleagues from their level to share materials, to review and discuss applied best practices, and to ensure consistency throughout the level.  At faculty meetings, teachers met across levels to discuss the curriculum continuum, to review and revise level standards and exit competencies, and to ensure that we all share a common pedagogy and vocabulary with regard to the teaching of math at Inly.

Derek Stolp, Inly’s Middle School math teacher, helped to guide this process bringing to the task his 30 plus years of practical experience, extensive research, and authorship on the subject. The goals that Derek defined as we considered our approach to math were that Inly students:

  • Find that learning is an enjoyable experience, even learning mathematics; (Suffering is said to be good for the soul but it doesn’t do much to promote intellectual curiosity.),
  • Have confidence in their ability to persevere in the face of challenges;
  • Discover that mathematics is much more than a set of procedures to be memorized, that it provides a language and a set of tools that help us to understand the world;
  • Be fluent in the kinds of skills necessary to enjoy success in secondary school.

Specifically, faculty members consider the following as we look at mathematics learning and teaching at Inly:

  • As we assign children to groups, we accommodate the different levels even within these small groups making sure to employ a differentiated approach that stimulates all the children while not overwhelming those who are less confident, skillful, or insightful.
  • We make it a goal to integrate math concepts and skills with other disciplines, such as science.
  • We are observant and responsive when a child is ready to move beyond a material or skill.
  • We make sure that, once a concept or skill is developed, the student continues to use it/ apply it, and we help them develop sufficient fluency through practice. Along those lines, we are continually reevaluating what kinds of homework assignments are appropriate.
  • And finally, we continue to evaluate the proper balance between computational skills and thinking/analytical skills.

The conversation continues, but our “take aways” have been many. As a faculty, we have a renewed respect for the genius of the Montessori math program and materials. We have shared lessons and purchased new materials. We have identified and adopted a school-wide Montessori scope and sequence created by the Montessori Foundation. We are piloting a new computerized record keeping system “Montessori Compass” that allows teachers to record the lessons a student has received and track individual student progress along that curriculum sequence. This will allow us to assess grade level placement in math and communicate that clearly to parents. We have created classroom materials that target the development of applied math and problem-solving skills, and we have committed to increased use of word problems and games in our teaching of math.

To read more about one area of our extensive discussion concerning the relationship between knowing math facts and the mathematical mind, we invite you to read Derek’s thoughts on the subject in the following passage from his book, Mathematics Miseducation: The Case Against A Tired Tradition.

This year, the curricular area that is under critical review is our literacy/literature curriculum. This work began over the summer with dedicated faculty members conducting a literature search on the common core standards (adopted in Massachusetts in 2011), and the currently accepted best practices approach to teaching pre-literacy and literature appreciation and analysis skills. You will hear more about this work in future “curriculum corner” updates.