Harborlight’s First Experience Weeks

What do microscopic marine organisms, mathematic theorems, and sorting myth from fact about the intriguing Queen Victoria have in common?   They were all studied and explored in depth during Harborlight Montessori’s February Experience Weeks.

Harborlight’s  inaugural  Experience Weeks included Natural World Observation: Seeing Earth as a Living Organism, Form, Functions & Fibonacci: A Study of Art and Geometry, and Queen Victoria: Learning to Sort Fact from Fiction.

As each Experience Week went in its very own direction, the three came back together on Friday to showcase all that they had learned.  Families were invited in to enjoy the culminating projects, ask questions, and learn more about what their children had been experiences all week long.

Please read more about what unfolded in each course as shared by the instructors below.

Natural World Observation: Seeing Earth as a Living Organism

Elyse Kotakis, Visual Arts Educator 

During our Experience Week, Natural World Observations at Maritime Gloucester, our students truly engaged their world!  Each day we traveled from our Harborlight campus to Maritime Gloucester where we met up with Amanda Madeira, Director of Education.  Each day focused on a different maritime theme in order to allow students a full day to immerse themselves in each topic.  Monday we visited the incredible creatures in Maritime Gloucester’s aquarium space.  Aquarist, Rebecca Visnick educated students on marine animal behavior and care, while Elyse led students in observational drawings.  We even had the opportunity to bring these creatures into the classroom space in order to observe them more closely.  Students created incredible observational drawings and watercolors inspired by the work of Ernst Haeckel, and his use of symmetry, movement and texture.  Tuesday we spent time in Maritime Gloucester’s beautiful gallery space where Amanda educated students on the parts and functions of a boat as well as the history of boatbuilding in Gloucester.  Students were enamored by the the intricately detailed models in this gallery and each drew several from observation.  Students then took their new knowledge to the studio space where they designed  their own boat [drawn from three sides] then created a three dimensional clay model of their boat.  Wednesday, Kelsey Bradford introduced students to the “Skimmy Gibbler” an incredible invention that picks up ocean trash!  Students investigated the effects of plastics on our oceans, and brainstormed ways of reducing their own footprint, and creating change in their own small way.  Students used this inspiration to create their own posters featuring slogans, font design, and many other drawing and painting techniques.  Thursday we learned about Sailors Valentines, and how artists have used shells as their palette in creating these designs.  Students used their Visual Thinking Strategies to study some stunning examples of this art form, created by Amanda’s own mother, Grace Madeira, then used their knowledge of radial symmetry, color and texture to create their own!  Finally, on Friday, we created fish print T-shirts and prepared all artwork of our “Gallery Opening”!  Students mounted, labeled and hung their art show at Maritime Gloucester to share with family, friends and staff members on Friday afternoon, then Elyse reinstalled the exhibition at Harborlight that evening, for all to enjoy!  Thank you to all those that participated in our Experience Week- it was a busy and exciting time full of observing, learning, creating and engaging!

Form, Functions & Fibonacci: A Study of Art and Geometry

Diana Norma Shafer, Upper Elementary Lead Teacher

The “Form-Function Fibonacci” Experience Week was an enriching week filled with exploring connections between geometry and art. We started off and ended each day with reflecting on guiding questions in our journals. What do I hope to learn? What inspired me at the museum? What makes triangles different? What elements of geometry do you see in this artwork? What artists inspire me? What was more important to you—process or product? How can I apply the golden ratio to the way I look at art? What makes art, art? What are you wondering about when you look at this painting? What did you used to think about art before this experience, and what do you think now? What skills have you gained? These were just some of the questions that we asked the students to ponder, reflect upon and share with the group.

Each morning started with a meeting, where we shared expectations and questions about the day. On alternating mornings, we visited the Addison Gallery of Art at Phillips Academy Andover, or had lessons and work time with key geometric concepts in the classroom. Each afternoon, we spent in the art studio making art informed by what we learned. At the end of the week, each student worked with a teacher to select a group of pieces they were proud of to exhibit for a culminating art exhibit in the school lobby.

We studied patterns in nature and wondered at fractals. We ruminated on Pythagoras and his followers and re-enacted the work that the Egyptian rope stretchers did, measuring farmland with rope stretched to make perfect 3-4-5 triangles. We time travelled back to the time when the Alhambra Palace was presided over by the Nasrid princes and marveled at the tessellations and mosaics that paid homage to the divine. We examined what makes triangles different and became curious about how bees make perfect hexagonal honeycombs. We wondered at M.C. Escher’s impossible figures and the golden ratio in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces. We admired the abstract art of Kadinsky and Calder. At the museum, we made our own golden ratio spirals on acetate, using the Fibonacci sequence. We also studied the Rule of Thirds in photography and then explored seeing art through the lenses of the Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds. We also participated in artist Sol LeWitt’s conceptual art challenge to draw 20 irregular pentagons before viewing his own work, composed of 20 irregular pentagons. One student took the exploration of pentagons to the next level and discovered how to make a pattern of stars through layering pentagonal stencils in a precise manner.

Perhaps the most rewarding moments of the week were when the students’ faces lit up with an “aha” moment of discovery. For example, students would share questions with each other that they were pondering as they explored the art and geometry concepts. A group of students noticed, for example, that as polygons added more and more sides, the closer the shape got to looking like a circle. One student posed a question, “Does a circle have infinite sides or just one?” This prompted two other students to become inspired to draw figures that approached a circle out of other polygons. One student used triangles, while the other used hexagons and trapezoids to create an intricate design. Two of those art pieces ended up in the exhibit. A pair of students decided to explore constructing lizards entirely of triangles. Engaging in critical explorations with the geometry materials and with pieces of art, students took notes on their discoveries in their journals and truly took ownership of their learning.

At the end of the week, the students had some beautiful closing reflections. One student said, “I used to think art was just a hobby, but now I think it can be a job.” Another student made an artist statement, declaring that “Anyone can be an artist, with or without practice.” Yet another said “I was inspired by shapes, patterns, and the artists in my class.” Now, those are some hopeful messages from wise young people!

Queen Victoria: Learning to Sort Fact from Fiction

Karen Goodno-McGuire, Middle School Teacher 

The Queen Victoria: Fact v. Fiction Experience Week was a great success! Over the course of the week the students watched three films: “The Young Victoria,” “Mrs. Brown,” and “Victoria & Abdul.” They were given an overview of Victoria’s life through a PowerPoint, secondary sources, and primary sources (including Queen Victoria’s personal journals which the school was permitted to access online.) The students engaged in a lot of discussion, debate, and research in order to generate a film idea of their own. The week culminated in this final project: a film storyboard. The students decided to plan a movie about Queen Victoria and her youngest daughter Beatrice. The week also included discussions about royal lineage, the royal family today, and the relationship between the British government and the British monarchy—today v. in the past. To top it all off, the students made (and ate) Victoria sandwiches (historically had a 5 o’clock tea).



For more information about Harborlight Montessori and our infant/toddler, preschool, elementary, or middle school programs, please make an appointment to visit our Beverly, MA campus. You can contact us here 

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