Tree Frog Room Blog

March 3, 2020: In the Tree Frog Room, the children have been enjoying the signs of spring! Our backyard has exploded with the bulbs that Tristan planted in late fall, and the children have been watching the crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and other flowers as they each take their turn in the wave of color that announces the start of spring. We have taken a few turns in the Discovery Garden, watching how the seasons change the plants and animals. In another connection to nature, the children discovered a dead bird in the backyard, which had hit our window. This gave us a chance to tenderly observe these beautiful creatures up close, as well as to note the signs of death: eyes open but not blinking, chest not rising and falling, not waking up. It’s important to gently observe these signs with young children. They already have experiences of observing death: dead bugs, dead plants… we formally note these signs to introduce the facts of death in a sensitive way, confirming their own experiences. It’s also important to clarify that the bird is not “sleeping”, and this is why we do not use these euphemisms in the classroom, but speak clearly, empathetically, and honestly about the birds’s death. The children responded with sympathy and curiosity, and expressed their sadness that the bird had died. It was a lovely teaching moment in our classroom.


December 18, 2019: In the Tree Frog Room, we’ve been enjoying the arrival of the holiday season and all that it brings. We’ve decorated the classroom with holly, bows, and festive decor, and the children have been doing holiday crafts. For the extended day (older) children, this has included sewing beautiful hand outline embroideries for family gifts. For other children, it has included ornament coloring and singing songs like Jingle Bells at the top of our lungs! This is a fun time of year, and we balance the excitement of the holidays with continuing to focus on learning and growing.


November 18, 2019: With the excitement of Halloween behind us, we are settling into a steady work flow in the Tree Frog Room. As our new children learn the rhythms of the classroom, and the older ones sink their teeth into big work, we’re seeing more and more of those “classic” Montessori moments when everyone in the classroom is engaged in an activity of their choice. During these times, the classroom hums with energy and purpose, and Tristan and I often sit on the sidelines and watch. These are wonderful moments for a teacher and are very satisfying when they occur.

We have also been welcoming some wonderful parent volunteers into our classroom to guide the children through crafting our Auction project. This year, the children will be doing a four seasons mural and beautiful leaf designs. It’s lovely to see how the children react to new people in the classroom and how they work to be on their “best behavior” when working with parents of other children.


November 1, 2019: In the Tree Frog Room, we’ve been working with many children’s interest in Halloween and all that entails. Writing lists of things we see at Halloween, singing Halloween songs, and finding creative ways to channel excitement about Halloween. While we do not invite Halloween into our classrooms deliberately, it is so much a part of the children’s lives that it’s impossible to ignore. Rather than expect the children to avoid talking about something they love so much, we engage with them to find productive outlets for their energies.

In the past few weeks, we’ve hosted many observers: some from the Montessori training center in Portland who are taking their AMI Primary Montessori training, some who are parent or grandparent observers, and some trained teachers from other schools who are observing to diversify their experience and get some new ideas. It’s always enjoyable to host observers. The children will often offer the guest book for observers to sign, and they regularly report enjoying their experience. It is also helpful for the children to see that guests come and go in the classroom, but nothing changes and everything is safe.


October 16, 2019: The children are enjoying the changes in the seasons and all the fun opportunities that offers. We have been noting the changes in our forest, in the trees, the insects, and the weather. This is an exciting time as the turning of the seasons is so apparent and so beautiful in fall.

We welcomed a new child to our classroom last week, and it was lovely to see the older children step into their roles as loving mentors and guides. They truly understand that three-year-olds are different from them, and bring their most patient and caring selves to all interactions with our new children. There’s nothing like the warm hand of a loving older friend and the offer of reading a book together to help a new child feel welcomed and settled. It’s a beautiful reminder that benevolence and care are innate to humans and that together we can bring out the best in each other.


September 26, 2018: The arrival of new children in the fall is the most exciting and fascinating time of the year. The older Tree Frog Room children have been incredibly kind and welcoming to our new friends: helping button coats, put on shoes, tie aprons, and show younger ones our procedures. I often call on older children to present easy lessons, and this gives them a strong sense of their leadership and responsibility in our classroom. It also lets them show love and patience towards the new children. This opportunity to be the relied-upon person is a beautiful way for the older children to establish themselves as leaders in the classroom.

The younger ones are learning the ropes as well! How to wait for your turn, how to ask for help, how to choose an activity you’ve had a lesson on, how to get snack, how to wait in line… there is so much to learn! It’s easy to make assumptions about what children know, or what we think they should know. In our classrooms, we observe first to see what the child knows. Maybe they really don’t know how to use a dustpan and brush. Maybe they don’t know how to open a door, or use tongs, or hang up a coat on a hook. Slowing down our motions, being calm and precise, limiting our verbal instructions and instead showing… these are the tools we use to help young children learn what to do at school.

Many of our young children are fascinated by the work of the older children, so much of their time is spent observing. This is incredibly valuable, as the lessons they are observing will one day be theirs. So much information and so many processes are learned by watching other children. Our older children are the models for the younger ones, as we sometimes remind them.

This is a beautiful time of year as the new children’s worlds expand to encompass this new environment, these new procedures, and these new people.


September 12, 2019: How lovely it is to once again spend our days with the children in the Tree Frog Room! Tristan and I are glad to be back in the swing of things, and the children also seem to be enjoying the balance of structure and exploration that the classroom environment provides.

Our first week was very calm and peaceful. The returning children had a few days to explore the changes to the classroom. On Thursday, we welcomed Airlie to our classroom, a fellow Australian with whom I can sometimes slip into an Australian accent! The children welcomed Airlie with their usual loving openness, offering lessons, advice, and fun moments of togetherness.

We’ve likely seen the last of the very hot weather, although a few warm days are still expected. For those children who sunburn easily, a new shade structure in our backyard offers a way to enjoy the backyard without needing personal sun protection. The backyard has changed in interesting ways since the children were last here. We have a new fence, and much of the soil around the edge beds is new. This means that many new creepy crawlies are visible, and several of the children have been very interested in the little creatures of the garden. Several new activities in our backyard (including sawing cardboard!) have provided long hours of enjoyment and renewed interest.

In the coming weeks, we’ll begin to welcome 2-3 new children per week until all 26 children are in the classroom. As these children arrive, we’ll play many fun games and lessons on classroom procedures, expectations, and social courtesies. This helps all the children learn how to balance their needs with those of the other children in their community.



April 30, 2019: Last Friday, we said goodbye to Hayley Cooper, a teacher-in-training from Montessori Northwest (the AMI Training Center here in Portland) who undertook her one-month practice teaching stint in our classroom. Hayley’s warm and calm manner was much beloved by the children and they loved the lessons she gave them. MSB has been a long-time supporter of Montessori teacher training, and this invaluable part of a new teacher’s preparation also elevates our classroom with additional lessons, new songs and games, and a new presence in the classroom for the children to enjoy. The children made Hayley a card which they all signed, and she gifted our classroom with a lovely painting, custom-created by her sister who is an artist.

We’ve really been making use of our beautiful forest trails now that the weather has improved. The extended day children have also enjoyed spreading out our “Story Quilt” under the tree in the courtyard and listening to a story. Insects returning to our backyard and playground have also given us the opportunity to talk about insect life cycles, anatomy, and safety (for us and for them!). It’s a beautiful time of year to be at MSB!


April 18, 2019: The big energy of spring has officially arrived in the Tree Frog Room! And not a moment too soon, the Geo Dome has also arrived on our playground, giving a new outlet for climbing and moving. It’s been fascinating to watch the children work out how to make space for each other, both literally and figuratively, with this new and exciting material. Alan and Dan thoughtfully put extra bark chips under the Geo Dome to make a more padded landing area. So far, we’ve seen very few challenging moments, and the children each interact with the Dome according to their ability: the long-limbed older children move confidently all over the Dome, and the youngest children may only be able to swing from the lower bars. That’s as it should be; if a child cannot reach a bar without a boost, then that bar is too high for them at this time in their growth.

It’s also been lovely to watch the children welcome our new friend, Declan. They love to show their expertise and experience in the classroom to this friendly and cheerful new arrival in the Tree Frog Room. The there-year age span in Montessori offers children the experience of being both the novice and the master. This is a very useful lesson to learn: sometimes we know what to do and can do it ourselves, and sometimes we don’t and we need a helper. It’s heartening to watch the care and affection that children bring to their role as “helper”.


April 2, 2019: Here in the Tree Frog Room, the children have been feeling the energy and warmth of spring, and continue to enjoy and observe the changes that we see at this time of year. The changeable weather gives us the chance to experience more complex weather beyond “rainy” and “sunny”. We’ve seen a wintry mix, spring weather patterns (sun-rain-sun-rain all day long), sun showers, hail, and most delightfully, the steam that rises from our backyard after the sun comes out following a light shower. This led to an interesting discussion of the difference between steam and smoke, which often look very similar.  Our backyard has begun the long bloom of spring, beginning with crocuses and snowdrops, and now continuing into daffodils and tulips. Our gardens are planned to offer as many opportunities as possible to observe and learn the names and patterns of plants and flowers, and the children love to keep the backyard beautiful with their many labors.

Spring also gives many children the chance to help and be helped with getting dressed to go outside. The variable weather often means lots of putting on and taking off of layers, and those children who love to help others are giving their functional independence skills a workout! Watching a three-year old determinedly buttoning the jacket of another three year old is one of the loveliest things we get to see.

This month, the children will also have the opportunity to show off their best “hosting and welcoming” skills as we welcome a new child, Declan, to our classroom. Watching the seriousness and care the the children give to new arrivals really does warm the heart, and helps new children become comfortable quickly at school. I hope you’ll join me in making Declan and his family feel welcome to the Tree Frog Room and to MSB.


March 19, 2019: It’s been so much fun to watch the Tree Frog backyard slowly change as spring approaches! The children are looking at the garden in a new way, recognizing that there is movement and life under the soil that they cannot see, until a little green shoot emerges. They’ve been taking our Flowers of Our Backyard cards and matching them to the flowers that emerge each week. We are also seeing the return of birds and insects, and budding of trees and shrubs. This burgeoning life is affecting the children, and their renewed energy requires creative solutions from teachers! The simplest way to meet this need is to go on a forest walk on our beautiful MSB forest trails. Tristan has a background in forestry and so we can take advantage of his knowledge of plant and animal species to deepen the children’s experience as we wander the forest together and see how the seasons change it.


February 21, 2019: In the Tree Frog Room, we are enjoying many of the half-birthday celebrations for the children whose birthdays fall in the summertime. It’s so important to acknowledge everyone’s birthday so that they also have a chance to celebrate their achievements and growth!

The children enjoyed seeing the Tree Frog “Under the Sea” auction quilt and finding their fish on it! How fun to see their choices realized in this fun and vibrant quilt. We have had lots of opportunities to explore and enjoy quilts, as the Extended Day children are becoming very adept at laying out our “story quilts” in the classroom to listen to a chapter book after playtime. They are so fastidious about laying out the quilt, taking off their shoes, and finding a place to lay down on the quilt and listen to a story. And of course, several older children are underway on making their own quilts!

Our newest children continue to adjust to the new rhythms of the classroom. Their little injection of inexperience into our classroom gives our older children many chances to be kind helpers and patient guides. As our new friends learn, we also learn from them: how to give space, how to offer minimal but useful help, and how to respect that their learning process sometimes yields unexpected results!


January 29, 2019: What a busy month it’s been in the Tree Frog Room! Our two new children, Evie and Lisa, continue to settle in well, receiving lots of patient help and love from older friends, and even from children who are just a few months older than they are. It’s amazing to watch how quickly non-native speakers of English pick up words and phrases from the other children and from the adults. We have been working hard to purposefully use words in context to help build vocabulary (and this also supports our other young children, even those who are native speakers of English). The power of the three-year mixed-age environment is never more evident than when new children are adjusting to the classroom. We see a lot of polite observation from these new children, modeled beautifully by their older peers, as they learn the rhythms and routines of the classroom. Children learn so readily from each other, and this is why the mixed-age group is such a powerful and valuable tool for learning.

The strong winds of January kept us inside a lot as we closed the backyard for safety, and the children looked for ways to use their energy productively when the backyard was not available. We have done many movement games on the Line, as well as the old standby of Walking on the Line. Thank goodness for the Line, which allows all children to move safely, at any time, in many ways in the classroom, while other children work peacefully just a few feet away!

We’ve had many birthdays this month, including one special day in January when both our youngest and oldest child celebrated their birthdays on the same day, with a four-year gap between them! It’s wonderful to see the birthday pictures come in so that the other children can see how the birthday child has grown. In February, we’re looking forward to celebrating many of the half-birthdays for the children whose birthdays happen in the summer when school is not in session.


January 17, 2019: Here in the Tree Frog Room, we’ve had a busy and wonderful week welcoming two children, Evie and Lisa, who are both three years old. Our older children have been lovely, offering gentle help and careful reminders, and being sure to give these new children space and patience so they don’t feel crowded. It’s a big adjustment for new children to learn the rhythms and expectations of the classroom, but with the help of our other children (including our capable three year olds!), this process has been easier.

The children had a little “cabin fever” this week as we had to close the backyard for safety due to the high wind. This meant lots more movement on the line to help the children meet the need for big-body movement. The children have also been fascinated with the return of more and more birds to our backyard. The closure of the backyard enticed some of the birds back, and we spent lots of time looking at our “Birds of our Backyard” cards and seeing which ones we could identify: mourning doves, flickers, dark-eyed juncos, and house sparrows are common visitors and were frequently spotted.


November 30, 2018: The children arrived back after their long Thanksgiving break with a spring in their step and an appetite for work! Our classroom was very busy all morning on Monday. We overheard many conversations about travel, family, food and fun. Our youngest children returned with an apparent sense of familiarity, and went directly to their favorite activities. Our older children looked for activities they could do that would allow them to reconnect socially with their friends. There was an immediate interest in work that benefits the whole class: bread baking, apple slicing, carrot slicing, dusting, sweeping, watering plants, washing tables. The children continue to be interested in the changes that the seasons bring to our backyard and playground, and they are increasingly concerned for the well-being of the birds that visit our backyard as winter approaches and food becomes more scarce. The older children are becoming more adept at helping the younger children put on their coats, hats and gloves on their way out to the playground. This helps the children in so many ways: the older ones learn how to be caring and patient helpers, and the younger children learn how to ask for help when they need it. As the rain and cold weather becomes more frequent, the children are enjoying moving on the line more to spend their energies throughout the morning. We’re seeing careful and controlled skipping, marching, walking, and galloping on the line. This lets the children resolve any restless energy that might distract them from concentrated work, and helps them develop their gross-motor coordination, social awareness, and self-control.


October, 30, 2018: The weather is changing and the children are digging into their work! We’re seeing a strong interest in the transition of the seasons and how this affects our garden, our clothes, the weather, and even the light. Halloween is in the air and we are meeting the children’s interest by singing Halloween songs and doing finger plays, exploring animals and themes associated with Halloween (parts of a bat!), and creating fun Halloween art and designs (Halloween-themed calendars in extended day). An enormous 14-inch wide sunflower head found its way into our classroom, and many of the children enjoyed pulling out sunflower seeds with tweezers. 

Our youngest children continue to adjust to the new rhythms and expectations of the classroom. We’re seeing longer and longer work cycles, with one new three year old spooning beans for a good 35 minutes without interruption! This kind of concentration creates a love of work and the growing ability to delve deeply into concentrated work in other areas of the classroom. 

We’re seeing a lot of spontaneous kindness: helping pick up spilled beans, assisting another child with putting on their socks and shoes after walking on the line, or bringing a sad friend a tissue and a cup of water. The older children have also started undertaking our lunch set-up without any instruction from the adults. This is something they have decided to do all by themselves, including setting out drinks and cups, filling the sink with warm soapy water, opening the hutch, bringing the placemats, and setting up groups of tables and chairs. They set to this task with great gusto and get it done fast, well, and without guidance from any adult. 

We have begun to welcome our first observers of the year, including teachers-in-training from Montessori Northwest, the AMI training center in Portland. At this time, these teacher trainees are simply observing, indulging in the rare luxury of being around a large group of children and not having to do anything at all. They use focus questions to direct their observations on certain themes, such as independence, use of the hands, concentration, and so on. Opening our classrooms to observers from Montessori training courses lets us pass on the gift of the children to future teachers. And our children are enjoying offering our new guest book to observers to sign and make comments!


October 10, 2018: The Tree Frog Room is buzzing with energy as Fall begins and the last of our new three-year-olds arrive. It’s been lovely to see the growing confidence of our new children, including our four new five-year-olds, as they adapt to the rhythms and expectations of this new environment. For some of them, this is their first childcare experience outside the home. We must all keep in mind what a massive, uncertain, and overwhelming time this can be for young children. However, the pleasures of the classroom soon call to the children and they begin to find joy in purposeful activity (which we call “work”).

Among the youngest children, we are seeing a love of easel painting, oil pastels, repetitive hand work like tonging and sponging, and some simple practical life skills. We have many small group gatherings throughout the morning in which we enjoy fingerplay games, sing songs, listen to stories, and talk about what’s going on around us, the changing seasons, the happenings of life. The three-year-old children often choose to spend time observing their older peers, unconsciously absorbing patterns, relationships, and behaviors from those older friends. This is where the three year age group is so critical to the success of our work with children.

Our older children are finding satisfaction in seniority and responsibility. They each love to be given leadership roles and to prove that they can be trusted. Many of the older children love to give simple lessons to the little ones, and willingly help them put on their coats and check their cubbies before they head out to the playground before lunch.

The classroom has been busy with lots of work on paper, mostly stories, booklets, calendars, and handwriting activities like Rainbow Writing (where the teacher writes a letter and then the child traces over it again and again in different colored pencils). The children are enjoying the changes in the backyard that come with Fall, including the arrival of stink bugs (they don’t sting or bite), gorgeous big praying mantises, and spiders galore. The mornings are crisp but the afternoons are often sunny. It’s a beautiful time of year!


Sally Coulter

I’m Australian by birth and a joint US citizen by marriage. In 2000, I moved from Australia to Japan where I lived for two years. Japan taught me that although there are infinite ways to be a culture, a family, a community and a person, we are all bound by our fundamental similarities as humans. During my time in Japan I heard about Montessori education and pursued it when I moved to the United States, where I undertook my primary (3-6) training at the Montessori Northwest training center in Portland, graduating in 2007. I stayed at MNW as the primary course assistant, helping to administer the primary course for seven years.

In 2013, I began to feel a strong call to work more directly with children, and that this would complete my Montessori training. I was lucky enough to embark on my Montessori teaching journey at MSB, first as Robin Myer’s assistant, then with Nora Mix (helping to cover her maternity leave) and finally with Eileen McMillan, picking up skills and insights from these gifted teachers to elevate my work. I’m thrilled to now be the primary guide in the Tree Frog Room. Working with children using the Montessori method is the biggest joy and challenge of my life. I strive to create an environment in which the children feel safe and loved, above all else.

I love spending time at home, where I work in my garden, sew, paint (watercolors, mostly), attempt in vain to tidy my craft room, and relax in a pile on the sofa with my husband Brent and our two excellent cats and a blanket.

I feel fortunate to be here at MSB, where each child and each family are valued as individuals with their own gifts to bring to our supportive community.


Tristan Takaro

I love the outdoors and doing activities that allow me to enjoy nature. I have a B.Sc. in Forest Sciences from UBC in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a M.Ed. focusing on early childhood and elementary education from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. I appreciate the opportunities to discuss the local flora and fauna during the occasional forest walk with the children during the afternoon on our beautiful campus as we look for signs of fall or spring.