Local School Teaches Unconventionally

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy (SNHMA) was founded in 2009 by Debra Hogan to provide an alternative to parents who, like Hogan, wanted to break away from the standard day cares and schooling methods for their children. After having her youngest child, Hogan researched the Montessori philosophy and, after discovering there were no local programs, developed a business plan and opened her school in Londonderry.

Debra Hogan began Southern NH Montessori Academy in 2009.

An international teaching method, Montessori education dates back to 1907 when Maria Montessori opened Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, in a low-income district of Rome. Her unique philosophy sparked interest of the world’s educators and, in the following decades, Montessori schools opened throughout Europe and North and South America. There are now Montessori schools on every habitable continent.

Philosophies of SNHMA include unique classroom structures, “grade” levels, schoolwork, and responsibilities. The school is broken into segments, explained Hogan. Lower elementary grades 1 through 3, ages 6 to 9, are taught in the same classroom environment. Early childhood, which includes prekindergarten to Kindergarten, and upper elementary, which includes grades 4 through 6, are also taught within the same classrooms. In 2015, Hogan plans to add an adolescent segment which will include grades 7 through 9.

“The children are separated into these different age groups because they are all in a similar place of the developmental plan,” said Hogan. This, combined with the different ages of the children within the classroom, works to an advantage because younger children can look up to the older children and are mentored through their learning, explained Hogan.

“With this age interaction, when an older student teaches the younger student, it cements their learning. Plus this builds a relationship and the younger child feels more comfortable learning the material,” Hogan said. She added that this structure also builds the child’s social interaction with other children and that the students will have the same teacher for three years.

Classrooms are arranged in centers, each featuring appropriate-sized furniture depending on the center's purpose.

Classrooms at SNHMA are not set up with a teacher at the front of the room instructing the children, but rather interacting with them throughout the classroom. Small group and one-on-one instruction are an important part of the Montessori philosophy. Hogan describes the classroom as a “beehive” where everyone is working on their projects productively. Classrooms are set up so that students can have as much hands on experience as possible while learning.

“The classrooms are created to react with your natural state to help the child feel comfortable so that they are not overwhelmed,” said Hogan. “The body is attracted to natural resources such as wood, glass and metal. The furniture is made of unstained wood, which is attractive to the body, thus having a calming and appealing effect on the children.”

Classwork at SNHMA is also unique. “Choice with instruction” is how Hogan describes the program. “It is like a menu,” she said. “The teacher creates a work plan that is for each individual student. During the week, the student must complete the work and can choose how to accomplish that goal.” Students are encouraged to work at their own pace, which takes away both anxiety or frustrations for the student..

Food as a subject is taught throughout the school.

SNHMA offers no homework, grades or tests to their students. The children do their work under the tutoring of the teachers and, when the teacher is sure the child understands the material, they move onto the next level. Independence, confidence, and self-esteem are critical lessons learned through these methods.

In addition to the core academic programs, the school offers five enrichment programs. These include music, dance and drama, visual art, introduction to Latin and Spanish, and technology. Food as a subject is also explored, providing a social and cultural experience and allowing connections throughout all the different curricula. Physical education is held everyday with students having over an hour of physical activity each day.

Part of this physical activity includes daily outside play time. Hogan said the school has a play yard, rather than a playground. They have a natural yard, which encourages children to become creative and use their resources around them. The play yard abuts Woodmont Orchards and a wetland area, providing an ecco-mecca for outdoor studies.

Eco-friendly at SNHMA, each child is supplied with a wash rag, which then must be laundered by the children at the end of each week.

Along with their schoolwork, students at SNHMA are expected to participate in every day living tasks. These include laundry, serving food, and cleaning up. “By having the children involved in all aspects, they begin to understand interdependency and learn about community and responsibility,” said Hogan.

All teachers at SNHMA are certified in Montessori instruction. The teacher to student ratio of each classroom aligns with the childcare standards. Early childhood classrooms have one teacher per eight students, lower elementary classrooms have one teacher per twelve to fifteen students, upper elementary classrooms have one teacher per fifteen to eighteen students, and adolescent classrooms have one teacher for every eighteen students.

SNHMA’s school days and calendar year are also different than those of public schools. School hours are from 8:15 AM to 3:15 PM, allowing an additional 45 minutes of classroom time than traditional school. SNHMA also does not have February or April vacations, but rather one winter break in December and one spring break in March. The school must abide by New Hampshire’s 180 day calendar but typically has more classroom days. Summer programs are also available at SNHMA for ages 3 through 12 and offer creative, fun and informative experiences.

Currently, Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy is finishing the first phase of construction for their most recent facility expansion, creating a 21st century learning elementary classroom. The architecture has followed guidelines to create effective learning areas for independent, group, as well as collaborative learning. The second phase will create a commercial kitchen, a cooking classroom, and a dining hall. When the entire facility is completed, the school can accommodate 150 students throughout their programs.

Hogan discusses the new additions to the Montessori academy.

SNHMA is located at 1E Commons Drive in Londonderry. To learn more about the facility, visit Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy’s website.

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Montessori Academy Hosts Free Workshop for Parents and Educators

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy, an independent pre-K to 6th Grade Montessori school, will be hosting “How to Guide Your Child Through a Media Mad World”, a free workshop targeted at parents and educators on Wednesday May 30th from 7 to 8:30 PM.  The workshop will address the influence of media on children’s health and behaviors and will be led by Rona Zlokower, Executive Director of Media Power Youth, a NH nonprofit organization that empowers youth to lead healthy safe lives through smart use of media.

“Kids today have access to the most powerful technology we’ve ever known and their technological abilities can quickly surpass their maturity and judgment, “If we as parents can manage media in our family lives, it will make parenting easier, our children healthier and more likely to succeed socially and academically,” says Rona Zlokower.

Zlokower will offer information and tips on raising media-smart children and lead parents in discussion of how we can create healthy media environments at home, in schools and in our communities.

“You will get ideas on how to make children smart about media and more capable of making healthy, safe choices; you’ll find out how much is too much and what to do to make screen time fun, healthy and safe at every age; you will get ideas of what can be done in the home, schools and communities to create healthy media environments, to ultimately make parenting easier, and children stronger, safer and healthier,” Rona Zlokower explains.

“We are delighted to be able to offer this free workshop to our families and local community, said Debra Hogan, Founder of SNHMA.  Research clearly demonstrates that children are more likely to succeed in school and make healthy decisions when they are empowered to use media smartly. As a fast growing school whose mission is to educate the ‘whole child’, we are keen play an active and helpful role in our community by offering support and guidance about important educational issues, such as the influence of media on children’s health and behaviors.”

The workshop, which is sponsored by SNHMA, is free to attend and open to the general public. Registration is required as places are limited. To register, please phone (603) 818-8613 or via email director(at)snhma.org. The event will take place on Wednesday May 30th from 7:00 to 8:30 PM at Southern NH Montessori Academy, 1E Commons Drive #28, Londonderry, NH 03053.  Please click here for directions.

Rona Zlokower, MCM, has participated in and led public/private partnerships in the healthcare, corporate and nonprofit sectors for over 35 years. In 2000, Rona created MediaSmart with Selma Deitch, MD, founder of Child Health Services, Manchester, to address the increasing influence of media on children’s health and behaviors. In 2007, under Rona’s leadership, the program became Media Power Youth, a New Hampshire nonprofit that guides parents and professionals to empower youth to succeed in school and make healthy choices through smart use of media.

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy offers an academically focused education to children through an integrated curriculum. Concentration is given to educating the “whole child” (all facets of the child’s being, including: intellectual, physical, emotional, social and creative aspects) with a strong emphasis of hands-on and experiential learning where children develop their passion in technology, science, visual and performing arts, foreign language and physical education. Complementing a strong academic core, the school offers an enrichment program that includes elementary Latin, creative arts (visual and performing), daily physical education, technology and Spanish.  For further information, please click here.

Media Power Youth empowers youth to lead healthy, safe lives through smart use of media. Based in Manchester, NH, Media Power Youth is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) working locally and throughout the Northeast in collaboration with health and prevention programs, school districts, communities, research institutions, businesses and foundations to provide a continuum of evidence based, health-focused media literacy education for youth, parents, and professionals.  For further information, please click here.

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Londonderry School Uses Therapy Dog in Classroom

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy (SNHMA) has become one of the first schools in New England to bring in a therapy dog as a full time member of its community.  Guardian, a Portuguese water dog, was chosen for his temperament, his silky soft hypoallergenic coat and teddy bear looks.  While he’s in the process of completing his year-long training, Guardian is already having a positive impact in the classroom, where he is charged with being a calm, emphatic and steadfast best friend for little boys and girls.

“While school therapy dogs are still currently regarded as a cutting-edge educational tool, research is showing that dogs in the classroom can play a huge role in boosting students’ happiness, calmness, overall emotional well-being, and ability to learn,” explains Debra Hogan SNHMA’s Founder and Head of School.

Guardian, who is always here to greet student with a wag and a lick in the mornings, has helped the younger pre-K students with separation anxiety as their parents drop them off in the morning.  “He is happy to see the children come in in the mornings and offers a welcome huggable friend to little ones who are finding it hard to see Mom and Dad go,” says Hogan.

Guardian is also helping first graders hone in their reading skills, as Ms. Hogan explains: “Dogs are perfect listeners. They are not judgmental; they don’t care if you don’t get the words exactly right, and for most children, practicing reading aloud is all they need to become fluent readers.”

“Therapy dogs can have a positive impact on every aspect of the classroom from lessons planning, to teaching social skills and responsibility, to comforting students in a time of grief or personal crisis. They teach, they listen, they are unconditional friends.  I have seen children who had attention deficit disorder become calmer. I have seen children with emotional difficulties lie down beside the dog and whisper things in his ear, things they’d never tell an adult, and then rise up ready to learn. Their self esteem really soared,” says Terri Hamilton, an Elementary Guidance Consultant and Parent-Child Connection Advocate.

Images courtesy of Tanya Swann Photography.

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy offers an academically focused education to children through an integrated curriculum. Concentration is given to educating the “whole child” (all facets of the child’s being, including: intellectual, physical, emotional, social and creative aspects) with a strong emphasis of hands-on and experiential learning where children develop their passion in technology, science, visual and performing arts, foreign language and physical education. Complementing a strong academic core, the school offers an enrichment program that includes elementary Latin, creative arts (visual and performing), daily physical education, technology and Spanish.  For further information, please visit their website.

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Robotics Team Work with Jr LEGO Teams at Montessori Academy

Londonderry High School’s FIRST Robotics team, the PVC Pirates, and the Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy (SNHMA) presented a technology exhibition on December 21st at the Academy’s facilities on Commons Drive in Londonderry. The event showcased the projects of the three Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) teams coached by PVC Pirates team members as part of the SNHMA’s “Afternoons at the Academy” after-school initiative.

PVC Pirates TJ Evarts, Heather Bartlett, and Lindsay O'Donnell (left to right in back), SNHMA Director Debra Hogan (on right in back) pose with SNHMA's three Jr. FIRST LEGO League teams.

Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) is a hands-on program designed to capitalize on and nurture young students’ curiosity about science. This is the third year SNHMA has hosted Jr. FLL teams and this is the second year that Tristan “TJ” Evarts, PVC Pirates’ captain, has headed up SNHMA’s program.

Evarts, coaching lead, along with PVC Pirates members and Jr. FLL coaches Lindsay O’Donnell and Heather Bartlett, began by teaching the students about simple and motorized machines using LEGO components. This fifteen week program focused not only on mechanical building, but also taught teamwork skills and included research on the topics of snack food and nutrition.

TJ Evarts, PVC Pirates' captain and lead coach (2nd from left) with Montessori Jr. FIRST LEGO League team.

The final challenge was to build a LEGO model, containing at least one simple machine, which represented how snacks foods are grown, transported, sold, and eaten. Also, the teams had to create a “Show-Me” display that described their journey and the scope of their discoveries over the course of the program.

SNHMA hosted the “Snack Attack” Jr. FLL Exhibition for parents to see the results of their child’s fifteen week science journey. Students were able to present their ideas to judges Lisa Evarts, coach of the World Champion FLL team, the Inventioneers, and Laura Atherton, SNHMA’s staff. The Inventioneers, Londonderry’s own award winning FLL team and inventors, were on hand to demonstrate their intricate, autonomous LEGO robots to the eager group of young engineers.

Inventioneers Jaiden and Bryeton Evarts (in yellow shirts from left to right) with Montessori Jr. FIRST LEGO League teams and their parents.

To learn about SNHMA please visit their website. For more information about the PVC Pirates please email tj(at)team1058.com.  For more information about the Inventioneers, visit their website.

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Children Cook Own Meals in Classroom

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy (SNHMA) has become a pioneer in the school lunch revolution with its “Edible Classroom” program.  Under the direction of Ellen Dyjak, a classically trained chef and mother of two, SNHMA students aged 3 to 9 prepare, cook and serve their own school lunches, using fresh, local ingredients.

These children from the Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy work together in class to create meals.

“The kitchen-as-classroom concept immerses the students in the entire life cycle of food — from planting and harvesting, to prepping, cooking and eating. Our goal is to give students a life-long appreciation for a wide variety of healthy, nutritious food and the skills they need to prepare and enjoy it,” comments Debra Hogan, SNHMA’s Founder and Director.

The children learn how to properly set a table during their cooking class.

Every week, the students rotate through one of several roles: maître d’, sous chef, and room manager. The entire school sits down to the meal, which is served by the children, family style at properly set tables, with tablecloths, napkins, glassware, and silverware.

“Sitting together at a nicely laid out table, sharing a meal that they helped prepare helps foster children’s respect for food, encourages table manners, and creates a wonderful sense of community.  The children are engaged, curious, adventurous and there is a palpable sense of excitement around trying new foods,” says Debra Hogan.

Some of the dishes recently concocted by Miss Ellen and the children have included whole wheat quesadillas with home made salsa, cashew nut pesto, beet greens salad, roasted broccoli, lemon thyme chicken, home made pita bread, soba noodle salad with sesame dressing, shrimp skewers, and roasted edamame, to name a few.

“Since starting the program at the beginning of the school year, every one of our students has tried something new.  The children experiment together, and encourage each other to try new foods.  It’s amazing to listen to them discuss smells, colors, tastes and textures and describe their thoughts as they discuss the saltiness of feta cheese, the briny taste of an olive, or the juicy sweetness of a ripe pear,” comment Ellen Dyjak, SNHMA’s ‘Edible Classroom’ teacher.

During the cooking class, the children deliver the food themselves to the tables.

“Our ‘Edible Classroom’ initiative is based on fundamental Montessori values: we create an environment which fosters children’s natural curiosity, where hands-on learning is central to the curriculum in all programs, where independence is nurtured so that children become purposeful, motivated, and confident in their own abilities, as opposed to assisted, passive learners,” adds Hogan.

A Pediatric Dietician’s point of view on SNHMA’s program

Children learn how to prepare a variety of foods during the cooking class.

Frances Van Geyte, a board-certified pediatric dietitian with over 20 years’ experience in the field of nutrition comments on the program:

“Having been in the field of pediatric nutrition for over 20 years, every so often a great nutrition book or idea grabs hold of my attention.  The Edible Classroom program at SNHMA is one of those types of programs. It opens up a world of experiences for children and takes down the multiple barriers for children’s access to wholesome, nutritious and tasty foods.  This program is ground-breaking, pairing of culinary creativity with locally and organically grown food; although its immediate benefit is to the children it serves, it also extends to the community at large. By choosing locally and organically grown foods, it supports the health of our children and our environment.  The program serves as a role model to other schools looking to establish healthy eating habits in our youngest citizens.  One of the arguments against providing this level of nutritious tasty foods to children is affordability. I believe we cannot afford not to make that investment, when you consider the dire consequences of poor eating habits.  Eating habits are established early on and have longstanding consequences on our children’s health.  We can no longer afford to be a passive wall between children and their daily access to whole, unprocessed foods. SNHMA is taking its role as an educator seriously by feeding both our children’s minds and their bodies, as one does not work well without the other.”

Teachers assist the children in the hands-on food making process.

SNHMA kids use new culinary skills to support local food bank

 

To put their culinary skills into practice, SNHMA students will be baking quick breads and making a batch “Community Soup” available for sale at the school’s upcoming “Stories for a Cause” book sale event taking place at SNHMA on Saturday November 5th.  Now in its 3rd year, “Stories for a Cause” will feature nationally acclaimed storyteller, Angela Klingler, known for her animated retellings of traditional world folktales, fables, myths and legends.  All profits from the sale of books and children-prepared foods will go the support the efforts of the Upper Room family resource center and food bank in Derry.

About SNHMA

Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy offers an academically focused education to children through an integrated curriculum. Concentration is given to educating the “whole child” (all facets of the child’s being, including: intellectual, physical, emotional, social and creative aspects) with a strong emphasis of hands-on and experiential learning where children develop their passion in technology, science, visual and performing arts, foreign language and physical education. Complementing a strong academic core, the school offers an enrichment program that includes elementary Latin, creative arts (visual and performing), daily physical education, technology and Spanish.  For further information, click here.

Photos in this story by Tanya Swann.

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Inventioneers Work with Local Youth Academy

The Inventioneers, Londonderry’s own FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Champions, joined forces this summer with the Southern NH Montessori Academy (SNHMA) to help students ages six to nine develop their pre-engineering skills. The Inventioneers, FLL World Championship winners, taught three summer camp sessions, all with a LEGO theme as part of SNHMA’s Londonderry-based Camp DaVinci program.

In June, the week-long camp was called Intro to LEGO Robotics and focused on robot building techniques and mechanics.  Week two, held in July, honed in on LEGO simple machines and vehicles.  Week three, Young Inventors, held in August, taught campers how to bring their own inventions from concepts on paper to working LEGO models.

The SNHMA offers a wide range of programs and joined with the Inventioneers for the camps after team members led a successful Jr. FLL season at the Academy last fall.  Tristan Evarts, 15 is the program leader and is joined by Jaiden Evarts, 13 and Paige Balcom, 17, as counselors.  Nearly 70 area students participated in the program.

Jaiden Evarts, 13, Tristan "TJ" Evarts, 15, and Paige Balcom, 17, back row, left to right, pose with students from the camps at the Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy.

For more information about the Inventioneers, visit their website. For more about the Academy, visit their website.

Southern NH Montessori Academy offers an academically focused education to children through an integrated curriculum. Concentration is given to educating the “whole child” (all facets of the child’s being, including: intellectual, physical, emotional, social and creative aspects) with a strong emphasis of hands-on and experiential learning where children develop their passion in technology, science, visual and performing arts, foreign language and physical education. Complementing a strong academic core, the school offers an enrichment program that includes elementary Latin, creative arts (visual and performing), daily physical education, technology and Spanish.

Each year, the SNHMA early childhood and lower elementary students select a service project. Consist with their recent studies of the rain forest biome, the students are raising funds for Mokugift and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). For every dollar donated to Mokugift, a tree is planted in rainforests throughout the world. Contributions made to WWF help protect the future of nature. Through WWF, children have the ability to adopt endangered species helping to support global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats.

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