March Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok Families,

The Kapok class has recently welcomed two new students, Venice and Dean. It’s a treasured moment to see the Kapok community welcome new friends with kindness and respect. They take the responsibility with pride.

A few of us, myself included, have been in and out with bouts of sickness. Please take care to monitor your child’s health. We are all still learning to wash our hands after we touch our mouth and nose and how to properly blow our noses and cough into our elbows. It’s always best to stay home and rest if you suspect your child isn’t feeling well. It’s important to practice these skills at home too. Coughing into our elbow and washing our hands after we blow our nose prevents our germs from spreading from our hands to the materials we touch.

Starting this month we will begin our unit study on the continent of Asia in preparation for the Cultural Immersion Art Show in May. A unit study in the montessori classroom is integrated throughout the entire curriculum.
In Practical Life you might find clothing from an Asian country for the children to try on or transferring materials using chopsticks or an Asian soup spoon.

In Sensorial, the children will touch different fabrics from Asian countries, smell Asian spices, or grade Russian nesting dolls from largest to smallest.

In Math, the children will learn how to write numerals in Chinese and Arabic or learn about the different currencies in different countries.

In Science we will see different biomes of the Asian continent and the different flora and fauna one might find within each biome.

In Language we will learn different vocabulary relevant to Asian cultures. For example, what is a sari, a kimono or a non la? We will learn what some of the Chinese symbols mean and how one symbol can mean a whole word! We’ll discuss how many Asian cultures read from right to left instead of left to right.

In Geography, we will study the map of Asia and the various regions and countries within. We will learn the flags of the different Asian countries and the surrounding oceans and seas. At circle we will try different Asian foods and learn some Asian songs.

These cultural experiences are one of the many gifts of having a Montessori education. It offers an opportunity for your child to “travel the world” from within their classroom. Using movement, their senses, and intellect, children explore the geography and cultures of this amazing planet. As Montessori educators, we want to equip our children with a wealth of knowledge that enables them to understand and delight in both the wondrous world around them and their personal identity within.

When Maria Montessori returned to Europe from India after World War II, she was asked her nationality. She replied, “I live in Heaven, my country is a star which turns around the Sun and is called the Earth.” Maria Montessori passionately believed that, “we are a single organism, one nation…” and that “contemporary man has citizenship in the great nation of humanity.” (Education and Peace).

If your family happens to have any clothing, art, photographs, or artifacts from an Asian country, we would absolutely LOVE to present them at circle. If your family originates from an Asian country and you would like to come talk to the children, we would LOVE to have you!

And please visit the following two links for items we’d love to add to our classroom:
“Amazon Wish List”

“Second Hand Donation List”

Peace + Plants,
Ms. Casey

February Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok Families,

Although spring has not officially “sprung,” the temperatures in Key West are ideal for planting before the heat of summer is upon us. The Kapoks will begin to dive deeper into our botany studies. Botany studies in the Primary Classroom start with a look at the life cycle of plants and presentations that explore the importance of plants for human life. Botany studies continue with presentations of plant parts, beginning with the seed. Children will then study roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Scientific nomenclature is simultaneously introduced while discussing the functions of the various parts.

All Botany studies are rooted (pun intended!) in hands-on scientific experiments, and are further supported by exploration in the outside environment. Outdoors we observe how the plant meets its needs, how plant systems function, and the important role of plants in the ecosystem. Children are actively involved in growing, caring for, and observing plants in the environment. Botany work also parallels studies in geography, history, and zoology.

Maria Montessori emphasized the importance for children to understand the interdependence of all life forms and the role humans play in protecting and preserving life on Earth.

Below is a list of ideas for your family to extend our Botany study into the home:

Dissect weeds and identify the roots, stem, leaves, flowers, and seeds (if present).
Press flowers and leaves.
Grow a garden at home.
Take a trip to the West Martello Tower.
Visit the Butterfly Conservatory and discuss the role and importance of pollinators.
Make a salad together (fruit salad counts).
Go on a plant scavenger hunt.
Check a plant identification book out from the library and see if you can find some in your neighborhood.

Important Dates
Wednesday, February 5: Parent Education Series
Saturday, February 9: Love and Play Primary Event
Tuesday, February 11: Filip’s 5th Birthday Walk
Thursday, February 13: Wyatt’s 4th Birthday Walk
Friday, February 15: Friendship Day Exchange (between primary classes)

Peace + Plants,
Ms. Casey & Ms. Iveta

January Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok Families,

A New Year is upon us — that time of year when everyone feels a fresh beginning and we all resolve to be/do better. In 2020 (and beyond), I’d like to refocus my intentions in the Kapok classroom on creating more opportunities to connect our children with nature.
Nature has always been an integral part of the Montessori curriculum, particularly in the Sensorial area. The Sensorial curriculum aims to develop a child’s senses and create a sense of self and sense of wonder. Nature provides one of the greatest driving forces of curiosity and exploration, while offering rich, sensorial experiences.

What do you hear outside when you still your body and close your eyes? How does the bark of different trees feel? How many colors can you see inside of a single flower? How does the earth smell after rainfall? Montessori education draws a deep connection between nature and the developing child.

According to Maria Montessori’s philosophy, the natural world provides endless opportunities for experiential learning. Montessori guides and parents can promote a child’s development as a young naturalist by increasing their interactions with the natural world. Spending more time in nature will influence children to lead environmentally responsible lifestyles into adulthood.
Dr. Montessori stressed the interconnectedness between humanity and nature. In her discussions on cosmic education, she emphasized that the child should understand that they are part of a greater universe. By going outside and learning from nature firsthand, this profound understanding can be achieved.

“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.”

Below is a list of ideas for your family to incorporate the natural world into your daily routine:
Take nature walks
Make a nature collection box (beautiful or fascinating finds from nature)
Garden together
Visit the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden (Stock Island) and The Key West Garden Club at Fort West Martello
Keep a nature journal
Photograph nature
Craft with objects from nature

With our intentions set on creating more connections in nature, the Kapok class has chosen to create an eco/environmentally friendly-themed gift basket to auction off at our annual fundraiser. All funds raised go toward our scholarship program, which helps students offset the cost of tuition. Please use the link below to sign up for an item to donate. Items are due by January 27:
“Sign-Up Auction Basket”

And please visit the following two links for items we’d love to add to our classroom:
“Amazon Wish List”

“Second Hand Donation List”

Peace + Plants,
Ms. Casey

December Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok Families,

We are quickly approaching the holiday season and although it doesn’t feel like it on our little island, winter solstice is just around the corner! On our shelves this month, Kapoks will find materials exposing them to the different winter holidays celebrated around the world.

This month we expect to hear a lot of conversation around the excitement of opening and receiving gifts. When giving a gift to your child, think about your child’s interests. Can this gift help my child grow (i.e. is it interactive?) and does it help make quality use of my child’s time? For younger children, consider gifts that make living in our grown-up world easier, such as, smaller drinking cups, small flatware, a small watering can, or child-sized pitchers and kitchen appliances. To foster creativity and help develop new skills, you may look for quality scissors, brushes and art paper. Books and CD’s make wonderful gifts, too. Young children love their names on items – a cooking apron, pencils, a place-mat, or a washcloth. Play-Doh, rhythm instruments, plants, and jump ropes all make wonderful gifts for the young child.

You can always find fun items at Montessori Services and Etsy Shops:

Montessori Services
MirusToys on Etsy
Courtesy & Grace on Etsy
Geodessee on Etsy

Beginning December 9, the Kapok class will open up our space to three rising toddlers and welcome back a Kapok who spends half of her year in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and half of her year here in Key West. The Kapoks are excited to role model how we work together in our classroom to our new friends. The rising toddlers will be joining us for about an hour or so daily over a two-week period before joining our classroom full time when we return from Winter Recess in January. At home, you might engage in conversation and ask your child what they think is important to model to our incoming friends who are learning our space.

Examples include how we:
Take off and return work to the shelf
Push in chairs when we finish at our work space
Use a work rug for anything we take from the shelf
Protect and respect someone’s focus and work space

Classroom Events:
Wednesday, December 18: Emma’s Birthday Walk

Amazon Wishlist
Donation List

Peace + Plants,
Ms. Casey

November Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok Families,

October nearly flew by! In addition to discussing different types of families, roles in our families and community, we dissected pumpkins and learned about the different parts and their life cycle. The Kapok class are all very interested in plants and gardening. We attempted to roast the seeds we worked so hard to clean, but the temperature was set too high and the seeds burnt. We will attempt again this week, in addition to making applesauce for our pumpkin patch celebration at school this Friday, November 1.

As we experienced Fantasy Fest and are nearing Halloween, it’s an important time to root your child in reality. During our community meetings at circle, we discussed how people dress up for fun, even adults, and the difference between fictional characters and real people. For example, Spider Man and Elsa are fictional characters that we can dress up as, but are not examples of something we could be when we grow up.

During the month of November, our class will continue our seasonal studies and begin to read some stories on Native American cultures. We’ll discuss cultural and spiritual relationships with the Earth and practices of gratitude across indiginous tribes of the U.S.

Socially and emotionally, our class is working on feeling empowered to speak up when we see something that we know isn’t right. Children at this age have a strong sense of order, and when others aren’t following the ground rules, it can truly cause an emotional reaction in some children. We’re finding that some friends come to an adult before they’ve spoken up for themselves (this is a new skill). Ms. Iveta and I are both supplying the children with ways to communicate for themselves when they feel something isn’t right. It’s the sense of empowerment we are fostering. Below is a list of books that reinforce these ideas if you’re interested in discussing it at home:

Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect
No Means No!
I Can Handle It!

Starting this month, Kindergarten students will participate in “reading buddies” with the Lower Elementary students. The first week will be an introductory phase where the Kindergarten students will be read to by the Lower Elementary students and welcomed into the Lower Elementary environment. Over time, our Kindergarten students will even work on some language lessons with their reading buddies. We will also introduce reading logs to our Ks, as it is something they will utilize in the Lower Elementary classroom. To say they are very eager to start is an understatement!

Classroom Events:
November 2 @ 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 a.m.: Follow the Child
November 8 @ 10:30 a.m.: Tornado Drill
November 8 @ 2:30 p.m.: Conference Forms Sent Home for Review
November 11 @ various times: Parent-Teacher Conferences

Amazon Wishlist
Donation List

Peace + Plants,
Ms. Casey

October Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok Families,

This is our first newsletter of the year! These letters are a great way to learn about the happenings in the classroom as we progress through the year together.            Here you will find our classroom and primary-program-specific events and pertinent details for each month.

School wide events are addressed in Amy’s introductory school newsletter.

With the first few weeks behind us, we have been busy welcoming new friends, getting to know one another, learning how we can harmoniously operate together, and becoming accustomed to our daily rhythm. Topics we have discussed and continue to practice within our community have been primarily grace and courtesy lessons, which
Using our walking feet in the classroom,
Asking for permission to observe someone’s lesson,
Waiting for others to speak before we speak,
Asking for permission to show affection to a friend (hugs),
Returning our work to the shelf the way we took it off the shelf,
Respecting work and personal space,
And much more.

Our Kindergarten Kapoks have begun some of the more challenging and “big work” of their Kindergarten year. It is a beautiful thing to see their interest in big work create a culture of curiosity and focus from some of our younger friends. As our Kindergarten friends are building words and forming foundations for reading, the younger friends are eager to catch up. I find myself giving many letter sound lessons (per request). The Montessori approach of mixed-age classrooms is a joy to watch unfold.

Our class had the pleasure of hosting the school’s first bake sale of the year, and I am in such gratitude of how everyone came together to produce such a lovely event. Many of the goodies created looked like they belonged in a shop window-—they were gorgeous and delicious! Thank you to all who donated treats and/or their time to the event.

As October unfolds, we are introducing the concept of seasons, and the classroom has had an Autumn “makeover.” We have discussed that in many places on planet Earth there are trees that lose their leaves during the year. Autumn is the time of year when leaves start to die and turn brilliant shades of orange, red, and yellow. Although, we don’t see this here in Key West, we have observed the seasonal effects in pictures and some sample pressed leaves.

Additionally we’ll be discussing human needs and our place in the universe. We will talk about roles in the family and how our basic human needs are satisfied. We will discuss our place in the universe developing a sense of wonder and oneness with the universe in which we live.

Classroom Events:
October 7th @ 8:30 a.m.: Kapok Class and Individual Photos
October 25th @ 8:45 a.m.: Sandra’s Birthday Walk
October 30th @ 8:45 a.m.: Mia’s Birthday Walk

The Kapoks are looking for a room parent. This role is to help organize a few events during the year with other Kapok Families. Please let us know if you’re interested. Additionally, please check out our Kapok Amazon wish list, which is always being updated with books and supplemental materials. Thank you to the families who have purchased from the wish list already—our new tables, books, and supplemental materials are such a lovely addition to the classroom. We also have a lightly used donation list that is regularly updated.

Amazon Wishlist
Donation List

Peace + Plants,
Ms. Casey

May Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok families,

I can’t believe we’re marching into our last month of this school year! May arrived sooner than we realized.

This school year was very exciting and full of challenges, some difficult, but most of all joyful and very satisfying for me. No matter how hard the day is, all those hugs that I get from my little Kapok’s before I go home make me love my job even more and remind me of the most important thing – the teacher is to teach with the heart. I am so grateful that I had a chance to share my first year of teaching experience along with all of you and thank you for trusting me.

The month of April was busy for us. We enjoyed exploring Australia, its beautiful coral reef, Aborigines, Sydney Opera and other significant features. The Kapoks loved all the books about it. The most favorite lesson was the one with Australian animals: kangaroo, koala, platypus, Tasmanian devil, dingo, frilled lizard, taipan snake… They are going to love their projects – making habitats for those animals!

We also learned about seeds and how plants grow. Gardening in our classroom was very joyful – we planted some grass, put it by the window to make sure it has enough sunlight and watered it every day so it can grow. We are patiently waiting to see what it looks like in the end!

Our science experiments were also fun. We learned about how sound travels through air and makes vibrations. Some of our experiments involved using a spoon on the rope and a hose.

During the month of April, we had our Parent – Teacher Conferences and Follow the Child. Thanks to all of you who came! The children were so excited about those events and they worked hard on practicing lessons for ‘Follow the Child’ and finishing their maps to take them home and show them to their family.

It is my pleasure to let you know that Kapok class has a new friend – Welcome, Noah!

The month of May will be very busy. We are looking forward to working on our individual art projects and our group cultural art project.

Please mark your calendar:
May 1st     Wednesday Primary Parent Education Night 5.30 pm
May 24th    Friday Cultural Immersion 5.30 pm
May 27th    Monday Memorial Day – No school
May 31st    Friday Last day of school


Ms. Ivana and Ms. Iveta

April Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok families,

We are coming closer to the end of this wonderful school year. Our little friends have grown so much. It’s amazing how even our 3-year-olds help new students in our class. They have a great sense of our little community – every morning when we fill out the attendance list, they still mention students who have been in Kapok class earlier this year, but are not here anymore.

The month of March was very short and exciting. We learned a lot about spring – about different kinds and parts of flowers, seeds, insects (here we talked about some other invertebrates as well), what is happening with nature…

We continued studying about Australia as well – different cities, biomes, animals, and culture. Some kids worked hard on their Australia maps, but other continents also. Kapoks are excited about the cultural projects that we will start working on soon.

We had our First – grade students visiting us and helping Kapoks with their work. It was very nice seeing them working together in the classroom again. First graders were very excited to be the role models for their younger friends and teach them, and Kapoks were very welcoming and happy to have them in our classroom.

Art classes with Ms. Jayci were great this month and were inspired by spring. Also, science experiments were fun – certainly the most exciting one was our volcano experiment. Kapoks made a volcano together, painted it and after reading a book about volcanoes, we did this experiment: poured baking soda and vinegar into the bottle to see the chemical reaction. It looked like lava coming out of the volcano. I enjoyed waching Kapoks and their excited faces!

I am looking forward to our third Parent education night this year that is going to be on May 1st. We will talk about the Kindergarten year in Montessori environment – how it looks like, what you should expect, how will your child be exposed to new opportunities for challenge and growth, how will your child take a vital and empowering leadership role in the classroom… I hope to see you there.

We have an exciting month coming – in April we will focus on learning more about Australia and start working on our individual and group art projects.

Ms. Ivana and Ms. Iveta

March Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok families,

What an exciting month we had! February was full of wonderful moments, filled with love, care for each other, lots of hugs and nice words exchanged.

We did beautiful projects: friendship cards for people we love (parents, siblings, friends, grandparents…) and friendship posters for Gumbo Limbo and Banyan class (we had a beautiful event on the Primary playground, where we exchanged the little gifts we have made for each other). We also had a friendship day in the Kapok classroom. During our circle in the morning, we got a string and each friend
threw it to another friend, saying something nice about him/her. A friend could throw and receive the string only once and we made sure everyone got a turn. This was a beautiful activity to strengthen relationships between Kapoks.

A few days later we made medals for our own accomplishments. Most of the students emphasized being a good friend as their greatest accomplishment. How beautiful it was!

Our unit studies were focused on learning about different types of biomes, animals and Solar system. We also started learning about the continent of Australia, as that is the theme of our cultural studies. We had an Open house on February 23rd and Primary parent education night on February 27th. Thanks to the families who came!

Sadly, I have to let you know that two of our friends are not in our class anymore – Alisa, who went to a different school and Summer, who is moving to Colorado. I was truly happy to have them in my class and it’s been wonderful watching them grow every day. Kapoks will miss them a lot! I am excited about their new journey and hope it will be great for them. Good luck, Summer and Alisa!

Kapok class got a new student – Welcome, Cosmin! We are all excited to have you in our class. Our unit studies in March will be focused on learning more about Australia, as well as individual and group art projects. We will do our best to decorate our classroom in the spring theme.

Please, mark your calendar:
March 4th – March 8th: Book exchange – Literacy week
March 18th – March 22nd: Spring break
March 25th: Monday Professional day 4 – No school

Ms. Ivana and Ms Ivet

February Kapok Newsletter

Dear Kapok families,

 It feels great continuing this school year after winter break. I have to share my impression with you – it’s unbelievable how Kapoks have grown in just two weeks! I was amazed when we came back to school. It’s impressive how mature they are and I couldn’t believe it had been only two weeks since we haven’t seen each other.

The month of January was filled with lots of exciting things. We learned about what our planet Earth is made up of – land, water, and air. 

We did some great experiments to learn how water in its original state is liquid, but it can turn into solid as ice and gas as vapor. Also, one of the funniest experiments definitely was a sink/float activity. We learned about the ocean and marine animals. At the end of this month, we started talking about Australia, as it’s our continent unit study.

We talked about commitments – what are they and about our own. Then we did activities where everyone shared their commitment for a certain day. The most common commitments were: “I will be nice to my friends,” “I will use my quiet voice,” and “I will be respectful to the materials.” … At the end of the day, we would put our picture under the smiley face if we respected that commitment or under the sad face if we didn’t. It was up to children to decide if they respected or they didn’t. I found this activity great for developing their critical thinking and sense of self-evaluation. Also, some children were very honest – that is a great lesson to teach them to be honest with themselves and others.

It is my pleasure to share with you that our class got another friend – welcome to the Kapok class, Bibi! All the Kapoks are excited to have you as a part of our community.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our Bake sale! It was a great event. I really enjoyed all those chocolate chip cookies and muffins! I am grateful how we can all work together to make our school a better place for our children. Again, thank you, Kapoks!

I hope you all enjoyed the Comedy show and the silent auction at the San Carlos Institute.

The month of February will be focused on types of biomes, animals and Solar system. We are looking forward to it!

Please mark your calendar:

February 9th      Saturday     9-11am    Love and play

February 18th    Monday     No school – President’s day

February 23rd    Saturday    9-11am     Open house

February 27th    Wednesday   5:30pm   Primary parent education night


 Ms. Ivana and Ms. Iveta