News

Sign Up for Storytime at Willow!

Bring your 1-4 year-old to FREE story hours at The Willow School’s library! Each week will feature a fun, engaging story, followed by play time outside in the Willow woods. Come with your child for a new story each week, and stay to play! Moms, dads, and caregivers are welcome!

Storytime is free, but space is limited! Register today for any or all of the following dates: February 21, February 28, and March 7. Storytime goes from 10-11am.

The Willow School is located at 1150 Pottersville Rd, Gladstone, NJ.

Honor a Teacher: Donation Challenge

Honor a Willow teacher with a generous gift to the Willow Fund, and your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar by an anonymous donor this February!

Is there a Willow teacher who has made a difference in the life of your child? Visit Willow’s online donation page to recognize that teacher with a special gift. Simply choose to honor someone with your donation in the online form and add the name of the staff member you’d like to recognize there.

Thank you for supporting our amazing staff!

Register for Summer Camp

Spend your summer at Willow! Day and enrichment camps for ages 2-15.

What’s Next? From Montessori to Willow

By Carol Fontaine, Willow fifth grade teacher and certified Montessori teacher

How do you continue to nurture your child’s love of learning after they complete their Montessori program?

The Montessori Primary program gives children the foundation for a lifetime of passionate learning, one in which they are nurtured and guided as they begin their educational journey. But many local Montessori schools only offer programs for children until they reach age six. As your child grows up, it can be hard to find a good next educational step.

The Willow School provides a wonderful opportunity to seamlessly transition from a Montessori school while continuing to nurture your child’s love of learning. A Willow education, like that of Montessori, fosters experiential learning and self-discovery.  

Mixed age learning opportunities

While Montessori classrooms are mixed ages, we at Willow take advantage of opportunities to work with both older and younger buddy classes. This year, for instance, Pre-K and K have joined for enrichment activities, as have K and 1st. These relationships continue throughout the grades, including multi-grade advisory groups in middle school.      

Teachers as facilitators

In both Montessori programs and at Willow, students are encouraged to discover their own paths to learning. Children are encouraged to work independently and transition from one activity to another of their choice. Willow teachers are facilitators who guide and support children as they pursue learning. Our experienced teachers design opportunities that encourage children to learn, providing guidance only as needed. Willow teachers respect a child’s innate desire to learn, and we are committed to creating opportunities for them to do so in a way that fits their strengths and learning style.

Montessori materials in Willow classrooms

Some of Willow’s teachers are certified Montessori teachers, and they have introduced Montessori materials that have been incorporated by all teachers in the Lower Elementary program. The grammar symbols, moveable alphabet, phonics boxes, and word study can be found in all of our classrooms. Math materials, including the golden beads, bead bars, and stamp games, are used. Understanding the fundamental needs of humans is explored in Willow’s kindergarten and first grade and continues throughout Lower Elementary. As students progress through the grades, understanding cultures other than their own becomes an important part of our curriculum.  

Emphasis on responsibility and respect

Maria Montessori has said that freedom requires responsibility. Like Montessori teachers, Willow teachers create an environment that emphasizes responsibility and self-discipline.

Children at Willow understand, through our virtues program, that respect and responsibility are at the core of virtuous living. They understand that they are part of a greater community, that their actions have an effect on others, and that they are responsible for what they say and do. Willow is a community of students and teachers that support each other while they learn together. Throughout the day, Willow students learn about responsibility and respect as they work together, care for each other, maintain the classroom environment, practice being stewards of the natural world, and use their time purposefully.

Encouraging gratitude and connectivity

What initially attracted me to Montessori education was Maria Montessori’s concept of cosmic education. Montessori said, “All things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” She believed that there were two things necessary for raising peaceful human beings: an awareness of interdependence and the sense of gratitude that comes from that awareness. This is so important, for it is those feelings of gratitude that motivate us to protect our planet and all life on it.

The Willow School is committed to Education for Sustainability (EfS), at the heart of which is the belief that a healthy and sustainable future is possible. A few key points embedded in EfS are the understanding that everything is part of a system and interconnected, that we are all in this together, and that we need to live by the natural laws. At Willow, we educate children to have a clearer understanding of the natural world, and thus themselves. We seek to empower children to believe that they can make positive changes for a better future.

We believe Willow is a great next step for your Montessori child. In the many ways outlined above, the educational environment and philosophy is similar, making for a smooth transition. Willow is a place where your child will be encouraged, challenged, and welcomed. It’s where your child will love to learn.

 

A Day in the Life: Willow Middle School

At Willow’s recent Middle School Open House, students and teachers led guests through A Day in the Life of a Willow middle schooler, with fun panels and workshops taking place throughout the evening. So, what does a day in Willow’s middle school look like?

Morning Gathering and Advisory Groups

 

The day begins with a school-wide Morning Gathering on Monday and Friday. At Morning Gathering, the school gathers together as a community to learn about one another, model the values we share, and reflect on what is important. Morning Gathering sets the tone for respectful learning and establishes a climate of reflection and trust. It is a wonderful way to start the school day!

Tuesday through Thursday, middle school students start their days with either a middle school meeting, time with their advisory groups, or chorus. During time with their advisory groups, middle school students meet with their advisor and peers from different middle school grades to work on skills such as time management, peer relations, study skills, goal setting, team building, and other valuable organizational and interpersonal skills. Then, it’s off to class!

 
Core Subjects

 

Class periods are 45 minutes long. There are four class periods in the morning, and three in the afternoon. Core classes consist of Math, Social Studies, English, Science, and Language. Students choose to study either French or Spanish, and all middle school students study Latin. During the Middle School Open House, workshops and recent sample projects were presented by teachers and students in each of these core subjects.

In “Latin Maxims and Roman Virtues,” middle school students presented shields they made out of the ancient sayings that meant the most to them, explaining how this classroom activity connected to the 8th grade year’s overall theme, “Who am I?” The self-discovery theme of eighth grade connects back to the kindergarten program at Willow, where students explore the same question. For graduating students, it’s an important time to reflect on how they have grown and how they will continue to grow beyond Willow.

During the Social Studies workshop, students led guests in a cultural exchange simulation. The group of guests split into two imaginary cultures with very different ways of communicating. As the two cultures tried to interact with each other, guests learned how difficult cultural exchanges can be, how easy it is to misinterpret each other, and began to compromise to better communicate. In the student-led Math workshop, guests were taught how to measure two- and three-dimensional objects. In English, students introduced guests to the concept of a land ethic, a term coined by Aldo Leopold. Guests were then asked to write about their relationship to the earth and create a visual representation of their own land ethic, learning about intent versus interpretation.

Finally, during the Science workshop, guests built structures out of spaghetti and marshmallows on handmade shake tables, using what they learned about seismology and architecture to make a structure that could withstand an earthquake.

 

 

 
 
 
Lunch and Recess

 

After two morning classes, middle school students have a ten minute break to have a snack and chat with their friends. Then two more classes, and it’s time for lunch and recess. Lunch is natural, nutritious, and delicious! Willow’s chef prepares a seasonal menu that encourages students to try new foods, while catering to student allergies and dietary restrictions. Students eat with a mixed group of middle schoolers in different grades that changes monthly. Students have jobs to complete each day, including clearing plates, collecting compost or garbage, and wiping the table. During recess, students have free time to explore and socialize outside or spend time on the arts.

Then it’s back to class! In the afternoon, students have additional core classes as well as music, art, and wellness in a rotating schedule.

 
 
 
Academic Support and Electives

 

At the end of the day, middle schoolers have time to meet with teachers, work on group projects, or do their homework during Academic Support, a 40-minute period that ends the school day three days a week. On the other days, middle schoolers enjoy an elective of their choice, for example the Cities of the Future architectural design course, Mallets & Gongs music elective, debate, and yearbook.

School ends at 3pm, but many students stay for Math Nation, sports, or after school enrichment activities that include Coding Club, acting, non-competitive athletic clubs, and many other options.

Want to learn more about Willow’s Middle School?

Contact Sally Zeiner, Willow’s Admissions Director, at szeiner@willowschool.org or by calling (908) 470-9500.

Winter Willow Sprouts Starts in January

Willow Sprouts, our free Mommy & Me-style program for toddlers and their parents or caregivers, starts this Friday, January 12! Sprouts will join our preschool class to learn about animals in winter through stories, games, and projects. Sprouts is on Friday mornings, from 10-11am, from January 12 to February 2. You can sign up for the full session, or just visit choose a day or two. The program includes circle time, art projects, and fun outdoor activities!

Registration is currently closed. Sprouts filled up quickly for our winter session! If you are interested in a future session, or want to be added to the waitlist for this program, please email Willow’s Admissions Director, Sally Zeiner, at szeiner@willowschool.org.

New Working Writers Speaker Series at Willow

Writing Professionals Share Their Craft with Willow Middle School Students

 

Willow is excited to introduce a new speaker series for Middle School students. The series, which began on January 8, features five enriching lectures and workshops presented by six talented literary professionals. Each speaker relies upon creativity and mastery of the English language to excel in his or her field, from publishing and editing to poetry, comedy, and music.

Each session is designed to educate students about professional literary opportunities and to expose students to different writing methodologies. Students will learn useful tips and strategies to improve their own reading and writing. These working writers will inspire our students to expand their own literary acumen and appreciate the transformative role that writing and communication play in our society.

 

“We want to bring literacy to life for our students and to provide them with as many authentic reading and writing experiences as possible,” 6th grade English teacher Meagan Coy said. “The speaker series is just one more way to achieve this goal.”

On January 8, the series began with Steve Kandell, writer and editor at BuzzFeed. Kandell founded the features department at BuzzFeed and has worked at a number of media outlets, including Maxim, SPIN, and Esquire. On Monday, he spoke to students about the importance of pursuing their passions to stay inspired as a writer.

“It’s about finding out what you’re interested in and exploring why you’re interested in it,” Kandell told students. “It may sound cheesy, but in that way, writing helps you figure out who you are. If you have something to write about that you are really excited or curious about, you’re going to keep pen to paper.”

He explained that this passion is what drives most writers. Kandell described the working world of writers as a field of people driven to communicate. “Most writers who do this as a job, they don’t have a choice,” he said. “They’re trapped, in the best way. They feel like they need to write.”

 

The next speaker in the Working Writers series will be poet Jacob Winterstein. He will host three sessions for 6th grade students, starting on January 24.

Register for Willow’s Middle School Open House

 
Join The Willow School community to learn about the Willow middle school experience directly from students and teachers. This year, we are inviting prospective students, as well as parents from Willow’s elementary school, to experience A Day in the Life in Willow’s Middle School. 

(more…)

Historian Jim Basker Teaches at Willow

James Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, taught social studies classes at The Willow School on December 1. Professor Basker spoke to seventh and eighth grade social studies students about the importance of primary documents and how to interpret them. He shared a number of unique pieces from the Gilder Lehrman collection with Willow students. (more…)

Visiting Artist Joan Brady at Willow

On November 28 and 29, eighth grade students at The Willow School studied watercolor with an accomplished local artist, Joan Brady. Brady taught the students to paint a still life of flowers using a number of watercolor techniques. Students learned about the importance of working from light to dark, leaving white space, and not overworking a piece–stop before you think it’s finished, she advised.

Brady also emphasized observing before creating. “You want to really look at what you are painting. Paint what you see,” Brady advised. “Nothing can improve nature.”

Joan Brady resides in Far Hills and has been painting for over fifty years. She has shown in a number of prominent galleries, including Tatistcheff & Co. in New York City, as well as local spaces, such as Riverside Studio in Pottersville, NJ. For more on Brady, visit her website.