Cedar Room Blog

March 6, 2020: March is upon us and early signs of spring have begun to appear. In our outdoor classroom extension, the crocuses are popping up, the rosemary is in bloom, hummingbirds and songbirds have been visiting, and the children are eager to spend time working outdoors. We have also been busy with plans to work in the garden.

We have divided our garden area into six plots, each having a group of four or five children responsible for tending it. Using guidelines around companion planting, when to plant and harvest, and how much space different plants will need, each group has created a design and plan for their plot. It’s been fun to watch the children deliberate over what to plant, using geometry and mathematical reasoning to determine what they have space for.

In the next phase of the garden project, parent volunteers will be helping the groups buy seeds and plant starts and we will begin preparing the soil by weeding, and adding compost and amendments. The children are looking forward to getting their hands dirty!

In February, the Cedar class had the pleasure of hosting Nina Lopez, a teacher-in-training from Montessori Northwest, our local Montessori training center. The children loved receiving lessons in Math, Language, Botany, Zoology, Geography and Geometry while Nina was here.


February 4, 2020: This week we enjoyed a fascinating class field trip to the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals to supplement the lessons the children have had throughout the year about the composition of the earth. On the tour the children explored the rock cycle, rock and mineral identification, geologic history and mineralogy through stories and hands-on activities provided by the museum guides. The experience culminated with a chance to choose a rock from the museum’s rock pile to identify and take home.

Upon returning to the classroom, the children were eager to explore further: searching through our books and materials, drawing and writing about what they had experienced, and beginning to identify rocks and minerals on their own. In all, it was a successful and inspiring trip. Many thanks to the parent volunteers that assisted with driving and acting as chaperones on the tour!


January 16, 2020: Happy New Year! As we enter the new calendar year, it has been lovely to return from our winter break to a classroom of children who are eager to dive into work. The Cedar Room children have come back rested and ready to get back into the rhythms of school.

The class has recently been in discussion about putting together a service project. After reading a book called “Change Makers” by Libby Martinez, about youth who have sought to bring positive change to their communities, several children asked if they could do follow up work related to the book. Before the break, as a class we read about and considered working with several different Portland Area service organizations.

At our last class meeting, the children voted to do work with Friends of Trees, an organization known for planting trees and helping restore natural areas in our region. Our next step is to research and make a plan for how we can volunteer our time as a class. It has been very uplifting, though in no way surprising, to see how eager the children are to contribute to their community and act as stewards of the environment.


December 18, 2019: The year seems to be flying by, and it is hard to believe that winter break is almost upon us! The Cedar children have been working diligently to finish up old projects and work in preparation for new lessons in the new year. 

We recently took a trip to the Portland Art Museum, where docents led us through the museum in small groups. In each group, we looked at several art pieces and explored the theme, “materials and process.” The children had the opportunity to sketch, look closely, and ask and answer questions about the art. They were encouraged to think about the materials each artist used and heard details about the artists’ background and how they came to create their artwork. 

The children were particularly excited to learn about one of the pieces, an enormous feast dish made by Charlie James from the Kwakwaka’wakw nation, as it was carved from cedar, our classroom’s namesake tree. The docent passed around a block of cedar wood for the children to handle, and invited them to imagine a large gathering of people being served food from the dish. The piece was so large, many of us mistook it for a boat at first.

It was a fun and successful trip, many thanks to the parents who drove and assisted our class during the tour!


December 1, 2019: At the end of November, the Cedar Room had our annual potluck feast in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. The children prepared for the feast by choosing and bringing in a dish to share and writing a gratitude reflection, where they listed things in their lives for which they are grateful. On the day of the feast, the third years helped prepare the room, placing tablecloths and flower arrangements on the tables and setting out the dishes. 

After enjoying our first round of delicious food, the children each shared an excerpt from their gratitude reflection. It was deeply moving to hear their words, expressing thankfulness for everything from family, to safe homes, to oxygen. Felix and I, in turn, feel blessed to spend our days with the Cedar children.


November 11, 2019: At the beginning of every month the children choose new jobs and are responsible for doing that job throughout the month. These responsibilities, from sweeping the floors at clean up to preparing a morning snack, give the children a sense of ownership over the classroom and an important role in the community. Having the job for a full month helps the children connect more deeply with a certain aspect of maintaining the classroom.

This year, we have started a new job in the Cedar Room: keeping a classroom journal. I introduced this work by writing the first several entries, and now the children are off and running with writing their own at the end of each day. This work has been a lovely way to get a sense of the events in the classroom that the children find interesting or important. Here are a few recent entries:

Friday, November 1, 2019 Yesterday it was Halloween. It was great! We also started writing about the Jane Goodall play.

Monday, November 4, 2019 Today the third years got to count the UNICEF money. And we had a lesson on early humans.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019 Today some of the first years got a lesson on adjectives. Then a lot of people practiced their open house lesson.

Thursday, November 7, 2019 Today some people were showing Dana and Felix their open house lesson. Then we also got a new recess area.


November 1, 2019: Each day after lunch the Cedar children have a quiet, individual reading time and then listen to a read-aloud book at circle. We have recently finished our first read-aloud chapter book, Younguncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh. It was a humorous and delightful tale set in India about a young man’s adventures with his nieces and nephew. Whenever we finish a chapter book in Cedar Room, the children write about the story and draw a picture. 

It has been a pleasure to hear the children discuss their impressions and to read their reflections about the parts of the story they most enjoyed. One child even chose to write their response in the form of a letter to the main character, Younguncle. The characters and various episodes from the book have been coming to life through the children’s drawings. Many have chosen to share their artwork on the classroom walls


October 16, 2019: Autumn is in this air and we have just begun our study of the leaf and its very important work of making food for the plant through the process of photosynthesis. As the colors change we will be collecting leaf specimens and beginning to categorize the leaves that we find. 

With the changes in weather, we have been bundling up to go outside at recess. Each day, the children whose job it is to give the weather report go out before recess to check the rain gauge, the temperature and record observations in our classroom weather journal. When they announce their report to the class, they share notes about what attire is needed. A reminder about wearing a coat is always more convincing when it comes from a peer.        

The second and third years have been presenting timelines they have worked on in groups since the start of the year. From their presentations we have enjoyed learning facts about astronomy, clocks, animal domestication, sanitation and money as they have changed throughout history.


October 1, 2019: It’s hard to believe September is over and we are heading into our second month at school! 

We had a successful trip with our class to the library last week. Thank you parent volunteers who drove and attended the field trip! We received a tour to help orient the children in preparation for library trips they will be taking throughout the school year. 
Each week, students from the Upper and Lower Elementary classrooms will go in small groups to collect books for their respective classrooms. We are excited to have these regular trips be available for the children in the elementary program this year, as they give the children opportunities to move beyond the classroom, gain confidence and develop skills in navigating real world situations. Our new elementary support staff member, Natasha Louie, will accompany the children on the outings.


September 17, 2019:  It has been a lively and enjoyable start to the 2019-2020 school year here in the Cedar Room! The children have returned to school eager to get started with new lessons and engage in their work. 

Prior to the arrival of our new group of first year students, we had many discussions about expectations for how we will work and take care of our classroom throughout the year. The older children prepared skits about the practical life aspects of the classroom, from how to clean up at the end of a work cycle to how to include others in games at recess. They will be performing these skits for the new students, helping orient them to how we do things in the Cedar Room. It is deeply encouraging to witness the older children’s willingness to help new children and welcome them into our community. 


May 31, 2019: As the school year comes to a close, the Cedar students are busy finishing up work and projects so they can come back ready for many new lessons in the fall. The third year students have been visiting Upper Elementary for lessons and planning their annual Fun Day, where they lead activities for the whole class. We have also enjoyed welcoming incoming primary students for lessons and a sing-along with our class.

With the warm, beautiful weather, the children have been taking advantage of our outdoor space, bringing work to outdoor tables and gardening. We’d like to say a huge “thank you” to Remy, who has been helping the children plant and weed in the garden, and to all the parents who have volunteered their time with projects and trips throughout the year. 
This has been a great year in the Cedar Room, and we wish everyone a very happy and restful summer break!


May 17, 2019: This week the Lower Elementary children have enjoyed playing marimbas with Mary Donohoe, a returning and beloved musical guest. They will continue practicing with her intensively next week, and give a performance next Thursday. During recess, it has been fun to hear them try out the rhythms they are learning on our outdoor instruments.

As we prepare for the end of this school year, the primary students who are moving up have begun to visit and have lessons. The Cedar children have been very eager and excited to meet and help these younger students as they enter a new environment. These visits are a wonderful opportunity for the new students to get a preview of life in the Lower Elementary, and for the older children to reflect on what it was like for them to move up–not so long ago. It’s heart-warming to witness Cedar students make small, compassionate gestures toward our visitors: from helping them return a material to showing them how to use the lock on the bathroom door. 
Soon our third years will be making their visits to Upper Elementary and receive some of the same welcoming energy from the students in Willow. These encounters are a testament to how much the three year cycle supports classroom transition for the children at MSB.


May 2, 2019: Our camp trip to the coast was a great success! The children learned about marine mammals, coastal birds and dissected squid in their interest groups with a camp instructor. We also had the opportunity to go on a tide pooling excursion, led by Oregon State Park Rangers. The children saw many fascinating organisms, from invertebrates like sea urchins, sea stars and anemones to a mother harbor seal and her newborn pup. 

While being outdoors and getting a hands-on learning experience play a major role in the camp experience, one of the main goals of the trip is to give the children an opportunity to build their independence. By the end of the three days, the children come back with a greater sense of confidence in taking care of their needs while away from home. By Friday pick up, parents were greeted with the smiling faces of children eager to share all they had seen and accomplished.
This week we are working on writing thank you letters and reflections of our camp experience. We are so grateful to the parents who volunteered their time to make camp happen! Chaperones can look forward to hearing from the children in their groups soon.


April 18, 2019: We are eagerly awaiting and preparing for our upcoming camping trip to the Oregon coast. The Cedar children have been researching and writing about coastal and marine life and environments, becoming more familiar with the habitat we will explore at camp. The excitement is tangible – children are drawing chalk messages like, “Camp is awesome!” at recess, sharing stories about camp from previous years, and chatting about what this year’s trip might be like.


March 19, 2019: More field trips to report! We recently had the pleasure of visiting the Portland Art Museum as a class. In small groups, the children viewed a number of pieces in the museum and explored what each piece might reveal about the artist. The tour guides invited thoughtful dialogue among the children about mood, color, story, movement and other elements, and encouraged the children to look carefully and sometimes even move or pose like the figures in a piece. There were also moments to observe or sketch in silent reflection.

The third year students from both lower elementary classrooms also went to see a performance by the Portland Youth Philharmonic. We would like to extend our gratitude as a class to all the Cedar parents who volunteered to help make these excursions happen! 


March 5, 2019: The end of February has been full of delights for the Cedar room. We were glad to welcome a student teacher from Montessori Northwest, Kristin Kintanar, who observed and gave many lessons. Originally from the Philippines, she shared some of her rich cultural heritage, including a folktale of why bamboo bends in the wind and a traditional Philippine folk song.

We also had the pleasure of viewing excerpts of Oregon Ballet Theater’s Cinderella, at Keller Auditorium. After discussing how dance can be used to tell stories, the children created vivid drawings of the sets as well dancers leaping and being lifted across the stage. 
And, of course, the snow. There’s nothing quite like the joy of a child watching snowflakes begin to fall. On the playground, any remaining snow found its use as part of a snow person or structure, iced over puddles became miniature skating rinks, while ice chunks were gathered and reimagined as pieces of glass or magical elements in make-believe stories. Despite some disorientation from delays and closures, the snow became fodder for the powerful imaginations of the Cedar children.


February 15, 2019: Amidst daily work and lessons, there’s been a lot to talk about in the Cedar room this month. We started off with a story about how a Roman ruler gave February its name, from the Latin word februa, which means, “to make clean.” The ruler chose this name as it was a time of year when purification ceremonies were often held, and people reflected on “making clean” past wrongs they had done.

On the 14th, the children each made a valentine after hearing a story about St. Valentine. Int he story, a king of old forbade soldiers to wed because he thought they would be more willing to fight for his kingdom. Saint Valentine was known for performing marriage ceremonies in secret for these soldiers.

We have also been discussing and celebrating Black History Month. During our read aloud time, we have been hearing about the lives and work of black poets, leaders, musicians, and scientists, among others, who have made important contributions throughout US history.


January 30, 2019: Lately, the Cedar room has been buzzing with talk of “going out.” Third year students in the class have begun planning outings they’ll take in a group of two to three students. The older students are in charge of planning the trip, and include younger peers in tasks like making phone calls and writing directions. Some are thinking of going to museums, like the Oregon Historical Society, others are interested in learning more about zoology and pet care by visiting the Animal Humane Society or the Oregon Zoo, while others are hoping to learn more about a specific topic and finding ways to connect with experts on subjects like heart health or electricity. 

With so much eagerness among the children to explore beyond the walls of the classroom, parents on our volunteer driver and cooking project list might receive calls two or three times in a week, if not a day. We’d love to have more parents volunteer to help with these outings! If you are available, check in at the office to see how you can get involved and support our students in having enriching and empowering experiences beyond the classroom.


January 15, 2019: We are glad to be back in the Cedar Room at the start of a new year! The children have been diving right back into work and lessons, and the classroom has been bustling.

We recently finished reading Mary Poppins aloud to the class, after seeing the play in December. The children have been writing and drawing their impressions of the story, and also choosing between writing about their winter break or writing their hopes and resolutions for the coming year.

December 14, 2018: We have enjoyed watching the salmon as they transition from the alevin to the fry stage. They are swimming about the aquarium and will be ready for release soon. We will be taking a class trip to Rood Bridge Park for their sendoff into the Tualatin River next week. 

Last week, we had the opportunity to see Northwest Children’s Theater’s production of Mary Poppins. The children loved the show and we have begun to read the book in class. Our class quilt project is almost complete. The children are making vibrant mandala designs that you can look forward to seeing at the auction.


December 2, 2018:  This week, a former MSB student came to visit our class as part of a service project for her school, with the mission of encouraging children to learn how to play a musical instrument. She and her classmate performed familiar tunes on their violins and spoke about the importance of playing music in their lives. The children asked thoughtful questions about reading music and how often to practice, and many were excited to share which instruments they were already learning to play.

We are excited to announce that the salmon have all hatched! The Cedar children have enjoyed observing the alevins darting across the gravelly bottom of the aquarium as they learn to swim. We have scheduled our field trip to release the salmon in the Tualatin River at Rood Bridge Park for Thursday, December 20th.


November 16, 2018: The Cedar room students have been busy preparing lessons to give to their parents for the lower elementary open house. It has been fun to see them taking on the role of the teacher and sharing a chosen lesson with peers during work time. As a class, we have also been doing a great deal of writing, from fiction and non-fiction narratives to various forms of poetry. The children continue to watch the progress of the salmon eggs: each week a small group has a chance to monitor water quality and conditions that are needed to keep the salmon healthy. The eggs have begun to wiggle, and we are eagerly awaiting the moment that they reach the alevin stage: where they emerge from their eggs as tiny fish with a yolk sack attached to their bellies.


October 30, 2018: In the Cedar room, we recently received about 250 chinook salmon eggs from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. We have been learning about salmon biology, and will be observing the eggs as they develop in the classroom. Once the eggs have hatched and reach the fry stage, we will release them as a class. We have also enjoyed opportunities to do square dancing, felting, and weaving with visiting experts.


October 10, 2018: As we begin our school year, the children are working on creating a time capsule that we will open at the end of the year. Each child is contributing a decorated outline of their hand (to see how much it grows over the year), a drawing, and five sentences about what they hope to achieve or would like to have happen by the end of the year.


Dana Ten Broeck

Salutations! I am Dana Ten Broeck, the teacher in the Cedar Room. Having begun my Montessori journey as a child in New Mexico, I am thrilled to have come full circle and be teaching in a Lower Elementary Montessori classroom. Before joining the wonderful MSB community in 2017, I was a Lower Elementary assistant at two Portland-area Montessori schools and led a 1st through 5th-grade classroom in Corvallis, Oregon. I completed my Montessori Elementary training here in Portland, at Montessori Northwest in 2015 and received an M.Ed in Montessori Education through Loyola University of Maryland in 2016. I am a lover of nature and the arts. In my spare time, I enjoy playing music, hiking, gardening and birdwatching with my husband, Andrew.


Felix Christian

My name is Felix and I am excited to be joining the Cedar Room this year. I received my AMI Elementary diploma from Montessori Northwest in 2018 and attended Loyola University in Maryland to finish my Master’s degree in Education in 2019.  I was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska, where I attended a public Montessori school for eight years. My hobbies include singing in an a cappella group, playing guitar and ukulele, creative writing, and cooking.