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Making an impact Instilling compassion, today and everyday

Empathy and Compassion. Both are characteristics of leadership described in the Vision and Values of Oak Farm Montessori School, but what does that look like in action? Dr. Maria Montesorri saw education as a means for peace; empowering children to see themselves as someone that can change the world. “Learning how to work and play together with others in a peaceful and caring community is perhaps the most critical life skill Oak Farm Montessori School can teach your child” (Vision and Values, 7). This characteristic development takes empathy and compassion; which takes time to grow and manifest consistently. Having empathy means sensing the emotions around you. It takes discipline to look at the world with a different perspective than your own. Our students come to understand and accept that we all have responsibilities to other people. They develop a clear sense of values and social conscience through their interactions with classmates and teachers. Enjoy this month’s edition of the newsletter as you learn how empathy and compassion is cultivated, even among our youngest students, to a self-actualized version of maturity and responsibility in our young adults at the secondary level. As we wrap up 2019, what a great time to reflect with your own family and see how empathy and compassion can be interwoven into the impact your family has on your community and world. Candice

“Let us treat them [children], therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.” Maria Montessori

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.� – Aristotle

Connecting with the world around us Candy Slabaugh, Toddler Teacher

Compassion is displayed in many different ways in the Infant and Toddler classrooms. Children learn how to be compassionate by watching and observing others; both other children and adults. Children have a real connection with the world around them. If one Infant/Toddler cries, then another Infant/Toddler may begin to cry; not in dismay, but rather in a shared experience with their peers. In the same way, when a person smiles at them they may also smile back. Consequently, in the Toddler environments, the opportunities for learning empathy and compassion are endless. Children learn how to connect with one another as well as other living and nonliving things. Children may see insects and bugs on the ground; as they learn to walk around them, they learn that all living creatures on Earth have a purpose. You may also see children offering a tissue to one another when they are sad or have a cold. Children will give each other hugs, pour water and serve food for one another. When an activity requires picking up a large amount of materials, you will see children coming to assist in the clean-up and work together to complete the task. They do not hesitate to jump in and help one another at any point in time. Compassion is something that we see occur naturally here at school. We, as the adults in the environment, have the opportunity to foster it and encourage it to grow. Infants and toddlers may be seen as the students, but in reality, they are the ones educating the adults.

Foundations of Compassion Lisa Collins, Primary 3 Teacher


“One word can change someone’s day.”


Children in the Primary classroom are learning how to be a part of a community and how to show kindness and love towards one another. Compassion is taught in the Montessori environment through grace and courtesy lessons and modeled behaviors from teachers and older students. At a young age, children begin identifying emotions and how to appropriately respond to their own emotions or towards others. They also practice conflict resolution on a daily basis in the Primary environment. As the adults in the classroom, we guide the children to respectful conversations to help mend relationships. You will see compassion in the students through giving a gentle hug when someone is hurt, zipping a younger friend’s coat, giving a friend a push on the swing or helping to complete a large work. This is the beauty of the 3 year cycle! There is always an older, more experienced, student to guide or help when needed. Students show compassion for all living things inside and outside the classroom. If we find a bug in the classroom, instead of squeals or stomping, you will witness a student taking it outside to a safe place. We learn that by watering the plants, we give them what they need to live and grow. By teaching compassion and empathy for all living things, we can aid in their social development that will be a part of who they are for the rest of their lives.

Finding the right word...

Ines Oldenburg, ower Elementary 2 Teacher

One of the important tasks we have as human beings is to form healthy relationships with each other. This ability will help us survive, learn, love and work collaboratively with others throughout our lives. At the Lower Elementary age, the children are introduced to big concepts, through the Great Lessons and timeline of life, as their ability for abstract thinking is developing. One of the concepts they work with throughout their time at this level is Fundamental Human Needs. They will study how their ancestors fulfilled basic needs and how we today fulfill basic needs. Some examples include: shelter, food, leisure time and friends, but also spiritual and emotional needs. Through this work, they become aware that people everywhere have the same basic needs. This leads them to discover that it is possible to understand what motivates people, even when life-styles, languages, and beliefs are different, or if we disagree with their actions. Empathy is trying to identify what someone else is feeling and or needing, but before we can accomplish this, we must find a connection to ourselves and learn about our own feelings and needs. One way to accomplish this is a place to reflect and connect. In the Montessori environment, we call this a peace corner. In addition to a place to sit peacefully, many times there will be books or literature on feelings or calming activities that the child may do independently. Learning vocabulary associated with feelings is important to gain a greater understanding of ourselves and those around us. Once they have a greater understanding of their own feelings, they are more likely to be capable of self-regulation and expressing themselves more convincingly to others. How many feelings and emotion words do you have in your vocabulary?

Connections are key Liz Danielson, Upper Elementary 3 Teaher

During their time at Oak Farm, we want our students to understand the potential they have to make an impact on our world. Dr. Maria Montessori believed that we all have a duty to serve others and contribute to humanity. Montessori said, “So in the child, besides the vital impulse to create himself, and to become perfect, there must yet another purpose, a duty to fulfill in harmony, something he has to do in the service of a united whole.� Helping our students understand the important role they play in our community of Oak Farm and our world, helps them build empathy and compassion towards others. In Upper Elementary, we give them opportunities that will help them become empathetic and compassionate students and citizens of the world. Taking time to establish friendships and connect with others is an important part of our daily work in Upper Elementary. Students have multiple opportunities during the day to work collaboratively with other students. This collaborative time builds connections and trust; which, in turn, allows for students to see learning through someone else’s lens. If you would walk into an Upper Elementary classroom, you would likely see students working together on a task or even giving each other lessons. Students also work together on daily chores that keep our environment clean and safe. Students quickly see how teamwork makes our classroom a peaceful place to learn and grow together. Practical life curriculum helps students understand their purpose in our community and world. We also build time into our schedule for family meetings and community time. During this time, we all come together and students have an opportunity to share about themselves and learn about others. We share celebrations, important events in our lives and take the time to acknowledge others for helping us throughout the week. Family meetings can also include problem solving issues or conflicts that may arise in our classroom. If a student shares a problem, it is paired with a solution or we come up with one together. It is important that we create an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their feelings and thoughts. Getting to know each other on a deeper level creates bonds and makes it easier for the students to empathize with each other. We must also remember that as adults, children are always observing our actions and absorbing them into their own behavior. We can encourage children to become more compassionate and empathetic, by simply modeling it through our own daily actions.

Bayley Siewek

Practice what you teach

“If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” Dolly Parton

Empathy and compassion are two crucial components of the day to day practices of Oak Farm Montessori School. Starting the days with warm hellos and handshakes, all the way to long hugs goodbye at the end of the school day; empathy at Oak Farm is the shared joy of being somewhere safe that feels like a home away from home. Students as young as infants are learning and observing empathetic behaviors such as the feeling of being happy and/or sad, learning please and thank you, and respecting others’ space. These practices strongly carry through in the Toddler environments, where children are learning how to cope with their feelings and not to always act out on them. Along with this big work, Toddlers are taking part of a bigger community by observing their surrounding peers and environment. Many times, I see our tiny humans on the farm care for their friends by helping them when they are hurt. This speaks a thousand words to me because empathy is not a natural instinct we are born with, but it is taught and absorbed into our brains through close observation. The best way to teach the young minds around us is by modeling empathy, along with compassion, and guide them in developing this important characteristic so that they can carry it with them throughout their life.

A time for thanksgiving pat cole, erdkinder farm manager & teacher

With Thanksgiving just recently celebrated, the Oak Farm middle school students might have a new take on ‘thankfulness’? We all tend to take the “normal-ness” of our lives for granted, but this one particular day gave several middle school students the opportunity to think about how the chicken ends up in their sandwich, as their nuggets or wings or as their Sunday fried chicken. We have one day in the late fall that we set aside for willing middle school student volunteers to help process a small flock of meat birds (this year it was the Cornish Cross breed) that we’ve raised to adulthood from chicks; beginning back when school began in early September. Within the Oak Farm Montessori Middle School Erdkinder program, there are several foundational principles that are taught, such as: respect, responsibility, perseverance, problem solving and the like. These principles usually center around the care and maintenance of the farm animals, farm buildings and the land. All students serve as care-givers in some capacity, which happens every morning for the first half hour of the day, and then on a rotational basis as students are occasionally pulled out of their academic classes. All activities are framed as an attempt to give the students opportunities to develop more empathetic and compassionate responses to situations involving the animals on our farm. These empathy and compassion ‘seeds’ will hopefully be applied to fellow human beings in their communities, nation or world . A secondary goal is to expose the students to food production and some of the basics of how food gets to our plates. By processing our own animals, I believe they get a very real look at how a lot of their protein is a living creature one minute, and in the next… it is being prepared for our consumption. The ideas of interdependence and symbiotic relationships take on very real meanings and the hope is to translate that into ‘thankfulness’ for some of the things they might take for granted….such as the chicken in their sandwich or on their plate. As we begin the day, students who have an interest in this activity help set up the equipment and supplies and are given the option of participating in one or all of the necessary steps to complete the procedure. All the volunteers are briefed on how the day will go and the expected attitudes they should have regarding every step of the process. The first bird is selected and a short explanation is given on how the bird will be put down. In this introduction, the students

are challenged with questions of: What is this creature giving up for our benefit? What have we given up for its humane and comfortable care? Is this an equal trade off? How do we show respect to the animal for its contribution? Are there things we can change to make this better for the chicken, in its death and in its life? How do we benefit from doing our best effort in its care? Will you think differently the next time you choose to eat chicken? Will you choose to NOT eat chicken in the future? Think about the person who has to do this every day for a living so we can have chicken at a relatively cheap price in our local grocery store. The goal is to keep the kill as quick, painless and thorough as possible to avoid a n y anxiety or suffering for the birds. As the demonstration continues on the first bird, everyone is challenged to pause for a moment for its to thank this particular chicken contribution, and in a way; celebrate the completion of a life well lived. The process then moves indoors where birds are de-skinned, gutted and portioned, all done by students with care, caution and concentration as the students are using very sharp knives. The meat is quickly chilled and then vacuum sealed ready for consumption or sale. The day seems to pass quickly as cooperation is high, roles and/or stations get defined and the students’ knife skill and dexterity increases with each bird as the collective goal is to finish all 15 birds in one day to avoid the hassle of preparing and cleaning up on a second day. All through the day multitudes of questions are posed such as, ‘What is that organ and why is it that color?’ ‘Why does this smell so bad?’ ‘How do I cut through this?’ ‘How do I re-sharpen my knife?’ ‘Some people really eat that part!?’ Can I cut open this to see what’s inside?’…you can only imagine the conversations?! It’s a very eye opening day for the middle school students and one of the things that makes Oak Farm Middle School so unique. Hopefully they’ll look at chicken with a new reverence and appreciation. This is what a few of the students had to say about the activity: “We should be appreciative for their sacrifice of their lives” –Hannah, 8th yr.

“I learned to be empathetic because we help the chicken and the chicken helps us.” –Derek, 7th yr.

“We have been treating the chickens with care so they give back by feeding us” – Cameron, 8th yr.

“Empathy and respect is necessary in the killing process” –Ryan, 8th yr

“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler

Making a difference, today and tomorrow Rikki Colon, High School Teacher and Guidance Counselor

As facilitators, we have an amazing opportunity to help guide developing minds for life beyond the high school years. The individuals that move on from Oak Farm Montessori High School are poised to become contributing members of society, offering both empathy and compassion to the world around them. Maria Montessori’s revolutionary notion to “follow the child” empowers us to support students in the pursuit of their passions. These passions can turn into careers that have a greater impact than we can currently imagine. The Senior Capstone project here at Oak Farm focuses on the student’s long-term commitment to their personal passion. Students must move outside the walls of school and engage with the community to go deeper into their area of focus. Allow me to introduce you to a student who is in the midst of this journey of discovery.

Meet Abby Murphy: Q: Could you describe your Capstone project? A: “My Capstone project is focused on the access to mental health care for teens in Northeast Indiana. The teen years can be very turbulent and I have noticed that many of my peers do not understand the process of obtaining counseling to help them deal with their problems. I hope my project will help clarify: who they should contact to start the process, what the initial first steps are, what options are available to them, and what they might expect during treatment.” Q: How has Oak Farm empowered you to pursue this passion project? A: “From the very beginning Oak Farm has encouraged me to pursue topics of interest. This has allowed me to delve into areas that bring significance and meaning to my work. The teachers have also helped me to network with professionals in the mental-health field that are able to assist me in the process.” Q: How will you use the knowledge you acquire to help you impact the world around you? A: “ I see this as a first step towards a career in the area of mental-health. My project will culminate with a video that will be made available to teens. My hope is to help others in the same way I have been helped.” Q: What are your plans for the future? A: “I plan on pursuing a degree in psychology and devoting my life to helping others overcome obstacles in their lives.”

Abby Murphy is just one example of how students at Oak Farm are filled with compassion and empathy. It is a privilege, as a facilitator, to play a small part in the life of an individual who will go on to make a lasting impact on the world.

Alumni Connects Spotlight: Bailee Hagar, Class of 2013

Kim Davidson, Director of Strategic Partnerships When reading the Portrait of a Graduate, in the context of Oak Farm Montessori School, there are many different stories about our Alumni who exemplify these qualities. Our Alumni Connects Spotlight this month features Bailee Hagar (’13), who is no different. As you talk with Bailee, it is easy to see that these characteristics are woven into who she is as a person. We took some time to visit with Bailee and learn more about life after Oak Farm and, in particular, her volunteer role with Riley Children’s Hospital’s Dance Marathon. Bailee was in the first Toddler class in August of 2000 and, with the exception of one semester, continued at the school until the 8th grade and graduated with the class of 2013. Bailee continued her secondary education at East Noble High School and is currently a junior at Indiana University, Bloomington where she is majoring in Marketing and Professional Sales with a minor in Psychology. Despite leaving Oak Farm over 7 years ago, the school is still important to Bailee, “Oak Farm was my family and home for 14 years. Oak Farm not only prepared me to be independent, but equally important to be a caring person. We were taught to love people and to care for all human beings.” Within a few minutes of talking with Bailee you know that her kind spirit and caring for others is genuine and is not only evident in how she lives, but in her voice and the way she speaks about life in general. As we continued our conversation and reflection, Bailee opened up about everything from learning to do laundry at Oak Farm, amazing field trips and the positive impact of spending time at the Middle School with Pat Cole. “Oak Farm prepared me more for college than high school did,” she explains. “In my first year at IU, I realized how much more independent and prepared I was with practical life skills. Many of the students did not know how to clean or do laundry.” Bailee did not let the practices that helped mold her independence go to waste as she realized the practical life skill of doing laundry was something college peers were willing to pay her $50 per week to complete for them.

“The Oak Farm teacher who had the greatest influence on me was Pat Cole. Pat is fully himself at all times. He always encouraged us to be ourselves and he pushed us to be our best through his unique outlook. For instance, he used to count the times I said, ‘like’ in a sentence. His influence has been beneficial as I speak in front of others while volunteering and, with my future marketing career. While Pat taught us to be ourselves, we also learned an important lesson: to value and accept our differences. ‘There were different personalities and we were all so incredibly different in a good way. It enhanced our ability to get along with all people and accept them. It was diversity. Our community service work of having food drives and working at food banks taught us this as well.’” Bailee explains. What Bailee learned at Oak Farm has carried over into her time at IU. Since her freshman year, she has been involved with the Riley Dance Marathon and is currently Dance Marathon Chair on the Riley Development Committee. As part of the Riley team, she also has the privilege to be paired with a “buddy” from Riley that she mentors and develops a relationship that resembles that of an older sibling. They do fun things such as getting ready for prom or homecoming. Bailee is a member of the Beta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. Next semester she will study abroad in Budapest, Hungary. When Bailee is not immersed in academic classes, she looks forward to spending her time traveling with the other students in the program. What words of wisdom would Bailee share with other Oak Farm Montessori students? “Don’t wish your time away. Take advantage of this opportunity given to you. Gain the most from trips and the farm. These are opportunities that other schools don’t offer.” Thank you Bailee for sharing your story with us. We appreciate you, and all Oak Farm Montessori Alumni and graduates, who are making a positive impact on the world around us.

Profile for Oak Farm Montessori School

December 2019 Newsletter