Greensboro Montessori School partners with the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) to use Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) Growth assessments. MAP Growth is a computer-adaptive test for measuring individual student achievement and growth in math, reading, and language usage.

We've chosen MAP Growth because it is a student-centric approach to standardized testing. Unlike paper and pencil tests, where all students are asked the same questions and spend a fixed amount of time taking the test, MAP Growth is an adaptive test. That means every student gets a unique set of test questions based on responses to previous questions. At the end of each test, teachers are able to determine what individual students know and are ready to learn next.

Unlike traditional standardized tests, MAP Growth testing is administered twice a year, enabling us to measure our students' individual growth over time. Teachers may also use test results to further inform instruction, personalize learning, and monitor student growth.

While we are not a test-driven school, we know test taking is a practical life skill students need in preparation for high school and college. MAP Growth tests are one form of assessment we use, in conjunction with other methodologies of formative and summative assessment given throughout the school year.


About MAP Growth

MAP Growth is a computer-adaptive test. That means every student gets a unique set of test questions based on responses to previous questions. As the student answers correctly, questions get harder. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions get easier. By the end of the test, most students will have answered about half the questions correctly, as is common on adaptive tests. Therefore, students may complete the test thinking they did not do well. The purpose of MAP Growth is to determine what the student knows and is ready to learn next. It is also designed to track students’ individual growth over time, wherever they are starting from and regardless of the grade they are in. For instance, if a third grader is actually reading like a fifth grader, MAP Growth will be able to identify that. Or, if a fifth grader is doing math like a third grader, MAP Growth will identify that, too. Both things are incredibly important for a teacher to know so that they can plan instruction efficiently.
Students in third grade and older take MAP Growth assessments twice a year, once in the fall and spring. This year, students will take MAP Growth assessments only once. The goal of this testing is to help them transition to the content, format, and style of the MAP Growth assessments in preparation for next year.
No. Your child’s performance will have no bearing on their academic status. In particular, this first assessment should be seen as a baseline from which to move forward. Like a work-plan or checklist, the score and subsequent reports can assist in guiding your child's academic growth.

No. As a computer-adaptive assessment, MAP Growth will provide questions to test the upper limits of your child's skills. Every student will miss questions. The MAP Growth guides suggest that students should expect to miss 40-60% of their questions.

There is no particular score for which students should aim. Instead, your child's individual MAP Growth Report will contain a RIT score. This score represents their achievement level at the time they took the test. As a partner in your child's education, we are less concerned one-time scores and will focus more attention on students' growth measures between assessments.

“RIT” is an abbreviation for “Rausch Unit” and is measured on an equal interval, stable scale, like feet and inches (i.e., one inch is always one inch, and one RIT is always one RIT). The RIT scale accurately measures student performance, regardless of age, grades, or grade level. Like marking height on a growth chart and being able to see how tall a child is at various points in time, you can also see how much they have grown between tests. More specifically, a RIT score comes from a non-linear formula. It is not out of 100%. What is more important is the growth of the RIT score between any two MAP assessments, not the one-time score that a student receives from any one assessment.
Unlike standardized tests, MAP Growth is administered periodically during the school year, and it adjusts to each student’s performance, rather than asking all students the same questions. When we talk about high-stakes tests, we are usually talking about a test designed to measure what students already know, based on what is expected at their grade level. High stakes tests are also often used as a way to measure grade-level proficiency. MAP Growth is designed to measure student achievement in the moment and growth over time, regardless of grade level, so it is quite different. By the end of the test, most students will have answered about half the questions correctly, as is common on adaptive tests. The purpose of MAP Growth is to determine what the student knows and is ready to learn next. Another difference is the timeliness of the results. While states often return information in the fall after the test is taken, MAP Growth gives quick feedback to teachers, administrators, students, and families. Teachers receive immediate results with MAP Growth that show what students know and what they are ready to learn, which can be used to help personalize lessons at the appropriate level for students. One similarity is that MAP Growth aligns to the same standards in a given state as the state test, so both measure similar content.
Greensboro Montessori School administers MAP Growth tests in math, reading, and language usage twice a year.
Most students take less than an hour to complete a MAP Growth test. However, MAP Growth is not timed, and students may take as much time as they need to complete it.
MAP Growth also offers a science test, which is a more content-based test. At this time, we are focused on the skills-based tests of math, reading, and language usage assessments, which are also standard areas of assessment for all schools. Your child is welcome to work through the science questions provided in the MAP Growth practice tests.
We will provide a child’s Student Progress Report. This report contains information and scores from a student’s most recent and past MAP Growth assessments. Our team is also available to discuss results with families for a full understanding of what the information means and how families can use their child’s reading and math scores to identify resources that can support home learning.
NWEA provides many different reports to help us use MAP Growth information. Teachers can see the progress of individual students and of their classes as a whole. Students with similar MAP Growth scores are generally ready for instruction in similar skills and topics. MAP Growth also provides data around the typical growth for students who are in the same grade, are testing in the same subject, and have the same starting achievement level. This data is often used to help students set goals and understand what they need to learn to achieve their goals. As a School, we can also use the scores to see the performance and progress of a grade, classroom, or entire division.
Just as a doctor has a chart indicating the most common heights and weights of people at certain ages, NWEA has put together charts showing the median RIT scores for students at various grade levels. NWEA researchers examined the scores of millions of students to find the average scores for students in various grades.
As the MAP Growth assessments are primarily skill-based, students do not need to study specifically for any MAP Growth test. If they would like (and it will make them feel less anxious, not more), Students may work through practice problems and review concepts they haven’t touched on recently. Click here to access MAP Growth practice tests. The word "grow" is both the username and password to access all tests.

During MAP Growth

The time to take a MAP Growth assessment varies for each student. Some students will take more time, others will finish quickly. There is not a set number of questions or time expectation. Generally, an individual test will last up to an hour. We will provide as much time as is needed for a student to finish the assessment.
We know our students will put forth their best effort, and MAP Growth has built in accountability measures to support student success. MAP Growth will automatically pause the test if it senses that a student is just clicking through answers or not actively engaged.
No. MAP Growth will provide calculators on the screen when allowed and appropriate. Students will not be allowed to bring in calculators or use phones, smart watches or other devices to assist them.
Yes. Students will be able to write on scratch paper during their MAP Growth assessments.
No. It is not content-driven, so students are not expected to have read any particular text beforehand. Instead, the test provides its own reading passages.
Yes. As your child does everyday, they will need to bring headphones to school for their MAP Growth assessments.
No. Your child will not receive immediate feedback after each question. There will not be any sounds or visual cues to let your child know whether their answer is right or wrong. Instead, MAP Growth will continue to give questions of varying difficulty to determine exactly what a student knows and is ready to learn next. As with most adaptive tests, it's expected for your child to answer 40-60% of the questions inaccurately.
No. You and your child will receive an individual MAP Growth Report, which will contain a RIT score for each assessment. We will share MAP Growth Reports with families one month after testing.
The School's director of information technology will be available to support any technical needs. If your child experiences a technical issue, we will pause the assessment to investigate the issue. Potential solutions include refreshing the application, providing a new device, or rescheduling the specific MAP Growth test. If your child is taking the test remotely, they will be able to notify their virtual proctor of their need for support.
If your child misses a day of testing, we will reschedule at notify you of the time.

After MAP Growth

You will receive your child's MAP Growth Report one month after your child takes their assessments. This gives your child's teachers and the school time to review, process, and share reports with all families.
We view this spring’s MAP Growth assessment as a baseline score. We will review the information and use this score and information as one of the many tools to follow the child and assist them to unleash their full potential.


Preparing for MAP Growth Assessments

There is nothing families need "to do" in preparation for a MAP Growth test. We encourage families to follow the child – provide the level of support they need to feel successful. This could vary between treating an assessment day like any normal school day to practicing questions on a sample to get comfortable with the format, to talking with your child about the practical life skill of testing (i.e., tests are part of education and you should do your best, and you should not worry or stress over tests).

If you'd like to provide a strong framework for your child before and during a test, we have these tips:

The Night Before
The Morning of the Test
During the Test

After a long day away from our children, we parents are eager to hear all the details about how they have spent their time. However, so often our queries of “What did you do today?” are met with the same predictable response: “Nothing.” For children, distilling the many details and experiences of a full day at school into an anecdote or two is a tall order. What tools can we use to get them talking about their learning?

Vidigami

Through the Vidigami private photo sharing platform, you get to see moments of your child’s day at school. Viewing photos of your child engaged with Montessori materials can inspire great conversations. Children, especially those younger than five, are not yet able to summarize and describe the many things they experience over the course of a full and stimulating school day. However, photos offer visual cues that trigger a child’s memories and invite them to comment on specific materials and activities. There are many different ways to talk about these photos with your child, and we've provided some suggestions, which focus on your child's intrinsic motivation. Enjoy these special conversations as you allow them to teach you what they are learning at school.

Intrinsic Motivation

Listening to your child talk about the photos and speaking without judgement encourages your child's intrinsic motivation – it allows them to continue to work for their own sake, rather than for any praise from adults. As Montessori teachers, we get to witness this intrinsic motivation every day. It looks different at each age grouping and is a critical element to Montessori education. Many elements of the method foster intrinsic motivation without reward and judgement, such as control of error in the materials, allowing for repetition, assessment through observation, and relying on peers as sources of feedback and inspiration. Teachers try never to interrupt a concentrating child or judge their work. Instead, they seek opportunities for meaningful conversations before or after a student's work cycle.

As Montessori observed children, she saw time and time again the intrinsic motivation in the child to work through repetition for long, uninterrupted periods of time. In a book that examines Montessori’s relevance to today’s educational practices, "The Science Behind the Genius," Angeline Lillard refers to several current research studies confirming that rewards and punishments not only negatively impact intrinsic motivation, but also how a student performs on the task. Traditional reward methods used in most schools may actually hinder a child’s performance. Given the opportunity, children are capable of learning to take personal responsibility for their actions.

“Like others I had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child by means of some exterior reward that would flatter his baser sentiments … in order to foster in him a spirit of work and of peace. And I was astonished when I learned that a child who is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower instincts.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

As a Montessori school, we believe deeply in educating the whole child: their academic, psychological, critical-thinking, moral, and social-emotional selves. In addition to the academic lessons and works your children are engaged in daily, our teachers and staff are also guiding your child through other very important lessons to help them with their moral and social-emotional development. For example, teachers give explicit lessons related to grace and courtesy, facilitate discussions at the peace table, and encourage collaborative work and play daily.

And, it turns out, research from our School confirms that we are doing this pretty well …

The Gratitude Project

We recently worked with Professor Jonathan Tudge and his team from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro ("UNCG") to study the development of gratitude as a virtue. As a virtue, gratitude goes beyond a positive feeling when something good happens. Virtuous gratitude is a disposition to act gratefully when someone else does something nice for you. Dr. Tudge explained it to me this way: “Saying 'thank you' is polite, but hardly a virtue. What makes gratitude a virtue is when beneficiaries of good deeds or significant help want to do something back for their benefactor if they have the chance to do so. That first act of generosity, followed by grateful reciprocity, leads to building or strengthening connections among people.”

In previous cross-cultural research, Dr. Tudge and his team found that most children develop this type of gratitude between the ages of 9 and 13, although the age differed depending on the cultural context. In their study, children in the United States developed virtuous gratitude at later ages than other cultures. Keeping this in mind, Dr. Tudge decided to target a new intervention designed to encourage the development of gratitude within adolescents.

Dr. Tudge and his team came to our School to explore this intervention. After working with our Upper School students, they stumbled upon a ‘good’ problem with their research: far more Greensboro Montessori School students exhibited virtuous gratitude than they expected. Our Upper Elementary and Junior High students expressed gratitude at much higher rates (67%) than did children in non-Montessori settings in the United States (46%). In addition, our students were almost twice as likely to express autonomous moral obligation (79%) than were children in non-Montessori schools (44%). Defined originally by Jean Piaget, autonomous moral obligation is a decision-making framework whereby moral decisions are made based on intrinsic motivations to do the right thing.

Dr. Tudge and his team were puzzled by these anomalous findings. Why did our students score higher than other American children, even when compared to other well-regarded private schools in the Greensboro area? And how are these findings related to Montessori pedagogy and culture?

Gratitude in the Montessori Classroom

In our discussions with Dr. Tudge, we discussed the way Montessori teachers prepare the environment to communicate honor, respect, and gratitude to the child. We also described the ways in which our teachers model gratitude and respect when they speak and interact with their students. In time, this becomes our students' definition of "how it's supposed to be.”  In addition, we delineated how our grace and courtesy curriculum creates both a framework for community interactions and a schoolwide culture of character.

In collaboration with Dr. Tudge and his team, I presented the results from our Upper School students’ involvement with Dr. Tudge's gratitude study at the Association for Moral Education’s annual conference in Seattle, Washington.

In the presentation, we hypothesized that our students' high rates of gratitude could be due to several specific tenets of Montessori philosophy:

Dr. Tudge and his team also did some work with our Lower Elementary students. Tudge’s team again noted that so many of even these younger children (aged 6 to 9) expressed virtuous gratitude. Dr. Tudge reflected: “We think that this must say something about the character-based focus of the general Montessori curriculum, because a far greater proportion of Greensboro Montessori School children expressed gratitude than elsewhere.”

gratitude study

Dr. Jonathan Tudge and his team from UNCG discuss gratitude with Lower Elementary students from Greensboro Montessori School Students.

Character Education at Greensboro Montessori School

Overall, the results suggest that a Montessori environment is conducive to developing virtuous gratitude and autonomous moral obligation. These results – while surprising and interesting to the UNCG team and other researchers and educators at the Association for Moral Education conference – are not really that surprising to us. Focusing on strong character education is a key tenet of Greensboro Montessori School. A deep respect towards classmates and other people is so integral to our culture that it's not that surprising our Elementary and Junior High students authentically take their sense of gratitude to a level beyond just saying “thank you.”

“Layer it and layer it and layer and layer it, and layer it, and layer it, Compost Cake!”
“Turn it, and turn it, and turn it, and turn it, and turn it, and turn it, Compost Cake!”
“Pile it high, pile it high, pile it high, Compost Cake!”
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If you’ve heard this song about compost all around campus this fall and winter, it’s because we got new compost bins in the Primary and Lower Elementary gardens! Why did we get new bins, you might ask? Two reasons:

  1. We needed more space for the volume of organic waste we produce (a combination of garden waste and food scraps from the students' lunches and snack preparation)
  2. We wanted to try a more interactive, faster, and developmentally appropriate compost model for our younger students.

So what did we get? If you visit the Primary and Lower Elementary gardens, you’ll see some giant green cylinders sitting on a rotating axis. These compost bins are called tumblers. Tumbler compost models allow students of all ages to spin the compost (working those gross motor skills), in addition to speeding up the composting process. In our old bins, it took at least a year for our food waste and garden scraps to decompose fully, we'll make finished compost in as little as two weeks. Cheers to that!

What is Compost?

Compost is the product that’s left after organic matter has fully decomposed. It’s also called humus. Human-made compost comes from carefully mixing food and garden waste materials — ingredients high in either nitrogen or carbon — and placing them in an environment where they can decay. When the decaying process has gone well, we put the finished compost, or humus, back into the garden soil and grow healthier plants by improving soil fertility.

Why do we compost at Greensboro Montessori School?

For starters, compost has a longer ground-life than other fertilizers. It lasts longer in soil than crop residues or animal manures that degrade rapidly here in the humid Southeast. This longevity makes for healthier plants and food crops. Composting also reduces our waste throughout campus. By diverting organic matter from the landfill and into a closed-loop cycle, we transform our “waste” into a fertilizer for our gardens and food for the microorganisms that live in the soil beneath us. We also save money by eliminating the need and associated cost of additional soil fertility inputs. And let's not forget, composting is just plain fun!

Can you think of any other reasons to compost? Maybe, that by doing it, we are feeding the worms our Toddlers so adore? That it’s a responsible use of resources? That it's a project-based way to teach science? Share your thoughts with us! And, if you want to learn more, please join us at our next Community Garden Workday for more composting tips and tricks with our environmental education faculty. We’d love to have you.

If you're interested in learning more about the science of composting, read this article from Live Science.


Eliza HudsonAbout the Author

Eliza Hudson is Greensboro Montessori School's lead environmental educator. Eliza holds her bachelor's degree in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. She has built and tended school gardens, taught hands-on cooking lessons and connected local farms to school programs working for FoodCorps. Prior to joining Greensboro Montessori School in 2014, Eliza was a classroom and after-school assistant at the Richmond Friends School, a farm intern at a family-owned farm in Ohio, and served as assistant director at a summer day camp in an urban community garden in Durham.

Greensboro Montessori School has taught environmental education since 1995 and has been permaculture gardening on its campus since 1997.

Within the three-year cycle of Lower Elementary (first through third grades), students and teachers spend one year studying the fundamental needs of humans. This theme is woven throughout their curriculum and students embark on relevant research projects providing purpose and context for their learning. Over the year, the students learn why food, water, shelter, clothing, art, and community are necessary for humanity and how these needs have remained consistent throughout our time on Earth.

One of the ways our students share their growing knowledge of human civilization, and our most basic needs, is through their Festival of Light presentation. Students read the book “Celebrations Of Light : A Year of Holidays Around the World” by Nancy Luenn. The book is a springboard to research projects centered on 12 countries and the light-themed cultural celebrations that both define and unite them. It provides exposure to the diversity of our world while simultaneously highlighting how light brings people together.

Students form teams, each taking one of the 12 countries and its respective celebration. From there, they delve into the history of the country, its culture, and the celebration. They study some of their nation’s accomplishments, art, food, geography, religion, storytelling, traditions, and writings. All of this research prepares them to participate in Greensboro Montessori School’s triennial Festival of Light.

The Festival of Light features all of our Lower Elementary students in an evening presentation for their families, faculty, and members of the greater school community. Each of the 12 teams prepares a narrative on their country’s celebration of light. The celebrations include:

The presentation itself anchors our students’ research in purpose and provides these first, second, and third graders with a nurturing and challenging academic experience. Surrounded by their families, friends, and teachers, students share their knowledge in a safe space where they will be celebrated for their work. The Festival of Light also challenges our students by pushing them to develop and expand their public speaking and presentation skills in new ways.

When the last celebration has been presented, the audience chairs have been put away, and the families have left for home, there’s no doubt our students have been part of an educational experience. One that has taught them about the fundamental needs of humans, community, teamwork, and so much more.

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School

Lower Elementary students rehearse for Greensboro Montessori School's triennial Festival of Light.

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School.

Students reenact the Candlemas tradition of going door to door singing for a candy treat.

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School

Students present the Chinese New Year, which is celebrated in China and Taiwan.

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School

Pictured to the left is a student-made float for the Lantern Parade celebrating Eid al-Fitr in Sierra Leone. The celebration of Buddha's birthday in Korea is pictured to the right.

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School

Here are the faculty, off to the side, letting the students take the lead in presenting their student research.

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School.

Students present the menorah and the lighting of the candles for Hanukkah in Israel.

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School

Luciadagen, or Lucia's Day, in Sweden, involves children dressing in all white and leading a procession while also handing out saffron buns.

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School.

Las Posadas is a Christmas tradition from Mexico and is a reenactment of Mary and Joseph's search for the inn ("la posada") on Christmas Eve.

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School

A third-grade student leads her peers in the final presentation of the night, a secular version of the song "This Little Light of Mine."

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School

Students close their presentation by singing a secular version of "This Little Light of Mine."

first grade, second grade, and third grade at Greensboro Montessori School.

The Festival of Light comes to an end, and the students enjoy tremendous applause from the audience.

Dr. Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950, and again in 1951.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, becoming the youngest man to receive the honor at the time. They were both influenced in their work for peace by Mahatma Gandhi. In the 1930’s Maria Montessori met Mahatma Gandhi while she was living in India, and Gandhi gave a speech to Montessori teachers in training in London in 1931. There he said of her work, “You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children.” While Dr. King did not meet Gandhi in person, he referred to him as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

These three peacemakers have been great influencers across cultures.  Dr. Montessori established educational training programs that have led to thousands of schools all around the world.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. organized peaceful protests that changed civil rights laws in the United States and inspired future peaceful protest around the world.  They all changed the world through peaceful efforts.

At Greensboro Montessori School, we implement the peace curriculum at every age level - from guiding toddlers to self calm to teaching peaceful conflict resolution in our preschool and elementary classrooms, to visiting the United Nations in Junior High. We seek to provide experiences for children to understand and access the peace within themselves, to relate with other people, cultures, and the environment, and to embrace the complexity of humankind. When children are given opportunities to practice peace within themselves, they will be able to share it with others and seek it out in the world.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” These peacemakers have influenced generations. And inspired by their work, Greensboro Montessori School is educating the next generation of peacemakers and innovators.

Sara Stratton leads Primary students in making dressing for their strawberry spinach salads.

Springtime is always joyful in Greensboro Montessori School's organic gardens. Winter buds swell and burst, capturing the eyes and hearts of community members, no matter their age! Flowers of all kinds call to us and to our pollinator friends, and sooner than we realize, we reach the height of the season.

This year brought a colder and wetter forecast than in the past. We’ve still yet to harvest our first sugar snap peas, but the strawberries and spinach are out with a vengeance! We continue to enjoy the lushness all the early rain and cool weather brought, even as temperatures rise. Here’s a brief update from our spring adventures!

Primary and Lower Elementary have enjoyed plenty of weeding, watering, planting, and tasting. We just finished a week full of strawberry spinach salads, with a bit of fennel and spring onions thrown in for fun! (Check out the recipe below if you’re interested in trying this at home.) In Upper Elementary, we celebrated the conclusion of our Student Climate Change Summit art exhibition with a persimmon-ginger-honey ice-cream party! Everyone agreed it was fun to make and even better to taste!

Thanks to everyone who attended our Spring Community Garden Workday in the Primary Garden. Together, with roughly 20 volunteers from our school community (ranging in age from 18 months to 70 years old!), we had a blast and accomplished a swath of projects:

What else have we been up to in the organic gardens this spring? We have been incredibly blessed with the generosity of The Fund for GMS. You may have noticed several new Adirondack chairs, benches, swinging benches, outdoor sinks, and chalkboards in all three of our organic gardens. We also have a new Lower Elementary toolshed coming soon. The students have relished in these new additions to their outdoor classrooms, and we couldn’t be more grateful to have such gifts shared with us from within our school community. Thank you, for your continued support of environmental education at Greensboro Montessori School. From all of us on your environmental education teaching team, Happy Spring!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

For the salad:

For the dressing:


Eliza HudsonAbout the Author

Eliza Hudson is Greensboro Montessori School's lead environmental educator. Eliza holds her bachelor's degree in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. She has built and tended school gardens, taught hands-on cooking lessons and connected local farms to school programs working for FoodCorps. Prior to joining Greensboro Montessori School in 2014, Eliza was a classroom and after-school assistant at the Richmond Friends School, a farm intern at a family-owned farm in Ohio, and served as assistant director at a summer day camp in an urban community garden in Durham.

Greensboro Montessori School has taught environmental education since 1995 and has been permaculture gardening on its campus since 1997.

Dr. Maria Montessori was a big fan of field trips. In her words, it was important for students to take “outings” or to “go out.” In 1948, Dr. Montessori wrote: “The outing whose aim is neither purely that of personal hygiene nor that of a practical order, but which makes an experience live, will make the child conscious of realities … 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.” Hence, the Montessori phrase of “going out” was born.

At Greensboro Montessori School, we take the Montessori tradition of “going out” to heart, as our students take academically aligned, overnight field trips beginning in Lower Elementary. Where lessons in the classroom are a springboard to learning, Montessori outings provide the experiences necessary to move concepts from the abstract to the concrete – to let students apply and expand their knowledge in the world around them.

As our students progress from Toddler to Junior High, they learn the rites of passage, including the field trips, which will greet them along the way. Read about all our adventures, or jump to the grade which interests you most!

Lower Elementary

Second and Third Grade: Students enjoy their first overnight outing in second grade. Together, with their third-grade peers, these students rotate annual trips between Earthshine Discovery Center in the Nantahala National Forest in western North Carolina and the Sound to Sea program along the North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. Students spend two days and three nights building upon their lessons in biology, botany, environmental studies, geography, and physical science.

Upper Elementary

Fourth and Fifth Grade: Fourth and fifth graders rotate between annual field trips to  North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Colonial Williamsburg every spring. When at the North Carolina coast, our students experience the region’s rich marine biology and storied history. Students visit national landmarks like Roanoke Island, the first settlement of English colonists, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk. In the words of the National Parks Service, Kitty Hawk is the site where Wilbur and Orville Wright “experimented with flight in the early 1900s, and finally succeed[ed] on a cold winter day with the world's first controlled, sustained, powered, heavier-than-air flight.”

When visiting Williamsburg, students immerse themselves in the history of the American Revolution and explore, as Colonial Williamsburg puts it, “the political, cultural, and educational center of what was then the largest, most populous, and most influential of the American colonies. It was here that the fundamental concepts of our republic — responsible leadership, a sense of public service, self-government, and individual liberty — were nurtured under the leadership of patriots such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and Peyton Randolph.”

Sixth Grade: Sixth-grade students head to our nation’s capital, where they visit multiple Smithsonian museums, (including the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Air and Space Museum), the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery, and the National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden. Students expand upon their knowledge of national government and civics, while practicing grace and courtesy in a metropolitan city center. Dr. Montessori writes: “A child enclosed within limits however vast remains incapable of realizing his full value and will not succeed in adapting himself to the outer world. For him to progress rapidly, his practical and social lives must be intimately blended with his cultural environment.”

Junior High

Seventh Grade: Greensboro Montessori School’s seventh graders head west to Tuscon, Arizona, where their years of environmental science studies take center stage in this week-long trip. In addition to hiking Kitt Peak, students spend time at the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, a state-of-the-art scientific facility. The mission of Biosphere 2 “is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching and life-long learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe; to catalyze interdisciplinary thinking and understanding about Earth and its future; to be an adaptive tool for Earth education and outreach to industry, government, and the public; and to distill issues related to Earth systems planning and management for use by policymakers, students and the public.”

Eighth Grade: Greensboro Montessori School’s eighth graders enjoy an authentic immersion experience in Costa Rica. Our students stay with the Costa Rican families of students from The Summit School, our sister school in Coronado, Costa Rica which is very close to the capital city of San José. Together, our students and the Ticos (a colloquial term for natives of Costa Rica) go everywhere together. They visit volcanoes, complete high ropes courses, and sail through the rainforest canopy on zip lines. They travel to the Caribbean Coast where they walk the beach at night looking for turtle eggs to bury in a nearby protected hatchery. Then, they travel to the Pacific side to snorkel and explore rain forests and animal sanctuaries. They also spend a day in downtown San José learning about Costa Rican history, art, and government. With every visit to Costa Rica, our students return with their eyes a little wider and their lives a little richer as they have their first experience actually living in another culture.

Ninth Grade: An important element of our ninth-grade curriculum is the completion of a year-long capstone project that challenges each student to apply their skills to an area of personal interest that will improve and enhance their world. Similar to a thesis or senior project, the capstone project provides a framework for demonstrating leadership and advanced application of critical thinking skills. To further extend their learning, the students are challenged to design a custom end-of-year outing to include research opportunities for each of their individual capstone projects. In collaboration with a faculty advisor, a past ninth grade class settled on an itinerary traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest. Their route took them to explore tidal pools, tour museums in Seattle, visit a military base in Tacoma, and interview refugees in Vancouver.

Greensboro Montessori School's Junior High student council members usually plan three dance parties a year, one each in the fall, winter, and spring.  Whether an upcoming dance is your child's first or they have attended these kinds of functions before, we have some details to help you plan ahead.

When: Greensboro Montessori School dances are on a Friday night from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Dances are hosted in Greensboro Montessori School's Gymnasium

Who: Attendance is limited to currently enrolled students in grades six through nine. In general, students may not bring guests from other schools. In some instances, Greensboro Montessori School has invited other independent schools in the Independent School League to attend dances, but this is the exception to the rule.

Attire: Students may choose to dress up or wear regular clothing. Attire must follow Greensboro Montessori School's dress code. We ask all attendees to wear soft-soled shoes that will not scuff or leave marks on the gym floor.

Chaperones: All dances are chaperoned by faculty and staff from Greensboro Montessori School. On the night of the dance, parents may drop-off their child at the Gymnasium entrance at 7 p.m. and return at 9:30 p.m. when the dance is over.  The School always provides the name and cell phone number of at least one chaperone in a personal email to parents.

Cell phones: Students are permitted to bring cell phones to dances.

Entrance Fee: Students pay $5 cash at the door to attend dances.

Music: All Greensboro Montessori School dances have a DJ who is a current student. They develop a playlist based on student requests and submit this playlist for review by their faculty advisor. The faculty advisor reviews the list for content and language and approves only those songs which are age appropriate.

Montessori preschool students cooking seed to table buscuits

Primary sweet potato biscuits keep students warm on a cold morning.

At Greensboro Montessori School, Environmental Education Curriculum is based on seasonal cycles, the outdoor environment at the School, and the age of the students. We invite spontaneity and often pause to watch and identify insects, marvel at life in the garden, and discuss questions or insights as a community. In all levels we teach about soil, decomposition and compost, pollination, and biodiversity. But what is it we do in winter when the gardens are resting? The short answer is, we teach seasonality and ecology in organic gardens.

Primary students study birds, concentrating on basic identification by sight and sound. They love making binoculars (out of recycled toilet paper rolls) and using them on our bird walks around campus. Along the way, they learn to empathize with birds and their needs, to stop and slow down as not to miss a moment of wonder, and to make an ecological connection between our gardens and the needs of birds: shelter, food, water, and spaces to nest. As the weather warms up, we explore our winter stores of food from the fall gardens - sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger, and honey - in cooking classes, and venture outdoors to observe and relish in the signs of spring!

Elementary bird watching environmental education

Lower Elementary students' binoculars are treasured tools in class this month.

Lower Elementary students delve even deeper into their bird study, concentrating not only on the basic identification of birds, but also on prolonged observation of bird behavior, habitat, and appreciation for their ecological significance in our organic, permaculture gardens. They love learning how to use and read field guides like ornithologists! I find bird study with this age is a wonderful way to remind children how to sit and soak in the surrounding environment, something we often don’t take time to do when the garden gets growing in spring. Bird watching in winter offers students opportunities to experience peace, critical thought, and insight that they so desperately need after the holiday rush and just before the end of year crunch! As spring break draws near, we share our bird findings with area scientists, cook with our winter food stores, and begin preparing ourselves for spring planting in the garden.

Elementary bee keeping environmental education Montessori

Upper Elementary students save bees wax from a hive that died over the winter. Honey bees and other native bees are a focal point for these students' climate change project.

Upper Elementary winter studies range from native tree and animal projects to redesigning of our Upper School outdoor classroom. This year, we're up to something BIG ... we’re tackling the subject of climate change and how it affects each of us and our experience at Greensboro Montessori School. We're thrilled the culmination of this project will include an art installation we collectively create and participation at the Student Climate Change Summit at UNCG on March 29. The event will be from 5 to 8 p.m. at Weatherspoon Art Museum. Open to the public, the Student Climate Change Summit will feature a wide-array of student participants representing several generations. In addition to our Upper Elementary students presenting their artwork, undergraduate students from UNCG will present research posters around a variety of climate change topics. A student from NC State will describe the work of The Climate Reality Project Campus Corps on their campus. Last but not least, students from the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at Grimsley High School will present posters highlighting their IB papers on climate change. We hope you will join us at Weatherspoon Art Museum on March 29!


Eliza HudsonAbout the Author

Eliza Hudson is Greensboro Montessori School's lead environmental educator. Eliza holds her bachelor's degree in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. She has built and tended school gardens, taught hands-on cooking lessons and connected local farms to school programs working for FoodCorps. Prior to joining Greensboro Montessori School in 2014, Eliza was a classroom and after-school assistant at the Richmond Friends School, a farm intern at a family-owned farm in Ohio, and served as assistant director at a summer day camp in an urban community garden in Durham.

Greensboro Montessori School has taught environmental education since 1995 and has been permaculture gardening on its campus since 1997.