Camp Von Wedel is something many of our students look forward to all year long. It is a rewarding, unforgettable experience for many and one where our camp counselors provide experiential education that leads to self-respect and appreciation for life. All of Camp Von Wedel’s outcomes—friendships, overcoming challenges, staying healthy, and building character— prepare children for bigger, brighter lives down the road.
Although we offer students a small dose of “lesson” time during the week, our daily focus shifts to a more physical, play-oriented lifestyle. Camp Von Wedel turns our attention away from the rigors of our academic program to themed sessions filled with arts & crafts, cooking, gardening, judo, “movie” days (and nights!), soccer, swimming, treasure hunts, and weekly field trips.
During the summer our goal is to make sure children have the time of their lives. We value our eight weeks of “camp” as a much-needed break from the academic year where creativity, adventure, thrills, smiles, and plain old GOOD TIMES are the priority.
What is STEM Education?
STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.
What separates STEM from more traditional approaches to science and mathematics education is the blended learning environment and the emphasis on showing students how the scientific method can be applied to everyday life. It teaches students computational thinking and focuses on the real-world applications of problem solving.
“[Science] is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world…”
— Barack Obama, March 23, 2015
1. STEM lessons focus on real-world issues and problems.
In STEM lessons, students address real social, economic, and environmental problems and seek solutions.
2. STEM lessons are guided by the engineering design process.
The engineering design process (EDP) is a flexible path that takes students from identifying a problem—or a design challenge—to creating and developing a solution (or multiple solutions). Students define problems; conduct background research; develop multiple ideas for solutions; develop and create prototypes; and then test, evaluate, and redesign them. This sounds a little like the scientific method—but during the EDP, teams of students try their own research-based ideas, take different approaches, make mistakes, accept and learn from them, and try again. Their focus is on developing solutions.
3. STEM lessons immerse students in hands-on inquiry and open-ended exploration.
In STEM lessons, the path to learning is open ended, within constraints. (Constraints generally involve things like available materials.) The students’ work is hands-on and collaborative, and decisions about solutions are student-generated. Students communicate to share ideas and redesign their prototypes as needed. They control their own ideas and design their own investigations.
4. STEM lessons involve students in productive teamwork.
Students approach problems (and solutions) in learning teams that each take on their own distinct identities based on the children who comprise them. Different teams may take different approaches to solving a shared problem, or – alternatively – may attempt to replicate one another’s work to provide further support of common findings.
5. STEM lessons allow for multiple right answers and reframe failure as a necessary part of learning.
STEM work, by design, provides opportunity for multiple right answers and approaches. The STEM environment encourages and offers rich possibilities for creative solutions. When designing and testing prototypes, teams may flounder and fail to solve the problem. That’s okay. They are expected to learn from what went wrong, and try again. Failure is considered a positive step on the way to discovering and designing solutions.
STEM at Von Wedel
At Von Wedel, STEM Education starts at a young age and becomes much more than just presentation and dissemination of information and cultivation of techniques. It is a process for teaching and learning that offers students opportunities to make sense of the world and take charge of their learning. Instead of learning isolated bits and pieces of content, students draw content together. Teachers place less emphasis on activities that simply demonstrate scientific principles and instead place a greater focus on those activities that allow students to engage real world problems and experiences through project-based, experiential learning activities that lead to higher level thinking. STEM education at Von Wedel compels students to understand issues, distill problems, and comprehend processes that lead to innovative solutions.
STEM education is a natural complement to Montessori’s integrated learning philosophy and is something that has found a comfortable home here at school. Our Montessori students talk and engage in discourse; shape arguments; and solve problems as part of a continuous process of asking questions, experimenting, designing, creating, and gathering compelling supporting evidence.
Montessori classrooms have enrichment work built into the program by design and often anchor “enrichment” activities in the Science and Culture (or “Cosmic”) area. We value our students’ enrichment time and place extra emphasis on Visual and Performing Arts (Art and Music), Health and Wellness (Creative Movement, Yoga, Swimming, and Gardening), and Cultural Studies (Guests, Volunteers, and Parent Involvement). This extra attention usually takes the form of an outside teacher (or adult) coming to support the classroom environment with specialized, targeted activities for small groups of children at a time.
At Von Wedel, our enrichment programming:
- SUPPORTS SCHOOL-WIDE PRIORITIES, building cohesion between core academics and other subjects to enhance learning and the cultivation of the whole child;
- INCREASES EXPOSURE to content beyond core academic subjects, deepening skills and interests;
- BUILDS A POSITIVE SCHOOL CLIMATE by providing opportunity for students to engage in creative and engaging pursuits outside of the core academic subjects; and
- IS DYNAMIC and allows the school to assess, monitor, and continuously improve offerings based on student interest and success at the school site.
Although some programs may consider enrichment work unnecessary to academic success, Von Wedel believes that enrichment activities provide our students with positive academic and social-emotional benefits that go well beyond the basic ABCs.
Depending on the environment and the age, students are offered opportunities that include but are not limited to:
The importance of exposing kids to art early in life is often undervalued. But, studies show that giving young children an appreciation for art encourages exploration, self-expression, logical thinking, self-esteem, imagination, and creativity. Early art experiences also teach kids to think openly, create new meaning, be more tolerant of others’ differences, and give them the courage to take risks.
At Von Wedel, we believe that art can be just as important in our curriculum as reading, writing, mathematics, science, and all the other areas of learning. Teaching the elements of art to allows young children to explore creativity while strengthening fine motor skills and hand-eye development.
For even the youngest child, art helps to connect much of what we are learning in the rest of the Montessori classroom:
- Art is lines.
- Art is shapes.
- Art is color.
- Art is texture.
- Art is space.
- Art is feelings.
Creative movement activities allow young children to have fun, enjoy the freedom of physical activity, and use their creativity in ways that build self-esteem. Creative movement also has a more practical use since carefully selected activities that target specific learning goals help children to develop motor skills, reach educational milestones, and learn about communication and problem-solving. Creative movement activities appeal to the whole child by connecting movement to self-expression and learning.
Creative movement activities tend to focus on large muscle development while allowing our students to express their unique personality through role playing and other games of pretend and make-believe. Follow the Leader, for example, allows a young child to take a turn leading the group. The leader can pretend to be different kinds of animals, such as a duck or a horse, or parts of nature like leaves and snowflakes. He or she can just go through a series of movements like jumping, hopping, and skipping, too. The rest of the group follows and imitates the leader and becomes excited for “their turn.”
Children can learn new skills, have fun, play, and develop self-confidence by spending time in the garden tending to plants and growing their own food. Most children already enjoy being outdoors and love digging in the soil, getting dirty, creating things, and watching plants grow, but gardening – in particular – is educational and develops new skills including:
- Responsibility – from caring for plants;
- Understanding – as they learn about cause and effect (for example, plants die without water, weeds compete with plants);
- Self-confidence – from achieving their goals and enjoying the food they have grown;
- Love of nature – as they learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place;
- Reasoning and discovery – by learning about the science of plants, animals, weather, the environment, nutrition, and planning their planting;
- Physical activity – by doing something fun and productive;
- Cooperation – by including shared play activity and teamwork;
- Creativity – by finding new and exciting ways to grow food; and
- Nutrition – from learning about where fresh food comes from.
We all need to move more, but nowhere is movement more important than with preschoolers. Children at this age are developing key motor skills and lifelong wellness habits. But, just as important, is that using their body has been proven to help children to learn. According to Dr. Sian Beilock, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, “In order to really engage our students and help them perform at their best we have to move beyond what’s happening in the head.”
This area of study, called “embodied learning,” is not new to many educators. Maria Montessori highlighted the connection between minds and bodies in her 1936 book The Secret of Childhood: “Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas.”
Increasingly scientists are proving Montessori right. Researchers are studying the body movements of children as young as four-to-six months old and have found earlier and more frequent movement correlates with academic learning down the road. Children who could sit up, sustain “tummy time” longer, and walk were all correlated with future academic success, even when researchers controlled for socioeconomics, family education, and type of future education, among other mitigating factors.
Von Wedel recognizes that caring for the whole child includes attention to good nutrition, meal patterns, and a balanced diet. Current research suggests that better overall nutrition leads to better attention spans and classroom behavior, enhanced learning, and improved health and wellness.
Von Wedel expects for students to eat healthful meals at school and asks that parents either:
- Send in an appropriately nutritious lunch from home in a labeled container/lunchbox, or
- Order lunch through an outside caterer who services our campus. (Do please note that any caterers who service our campus are outside agents who operate independently of Von Wedel Montessori School.) Our designated vendor is invited to set up an information booth during Student Orientation Day for any parents who may have questions about catered offerings. Parents who register after the school year has started are provided the caterer’s information at the time of registration and/or upon request.
All lunches and/or snacks sent to school must be complete, fully prepared at home, and ready for consumption at mealtime. Families wishing for their child to eat something that needs to be a certain temperature are asked to heat/cool the food in the morning and sent it to school in a thermos or other insulated container. (Our experience is that thermoses do a fine job at keeping things nice and warm – or cool – for mealtime.) Though staff members are happy to help a child open a container of milk or a packet of cheese (for example), school personnel will not heat or otherwise prepare lunches for students, nor will they be responsible for providing/supplying any items (e.g., utensils) that happen to be missing from a child’s lunch.
It is vital that all parents understand and appreciate the importance of a healthy lunch to everyday learning. A properly prepared meal gives a student the energy he/she needs to complete the day. As a rule, Von Wedel encourages families to send in nutritious meals that include appropriate protein, grain (whole), fruit, vegetable, and dairy offerings.
Von Wedel provides a daily snack to all children in its care. Should a family wish to have their child eat something in lieu of that snack, they are asked to please (1) send the alternate snack to school packed in an appropriate container, and (2) inform their child’s Teacher that a preferred snack has been sent in for the day.
Children staying for aftercare will have an additional, afternoon snack between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. each day. Once again, should a family wish to have their child eat something in lieu of our offerings, they are asked to please (1) send the alternate snack to school packed in an appropriate container, and (2) inform their child’s Teacher that a preferred snack has been sent in for the day.
There will, throughout the year, be special occasions when the school (e.g., Thanksgiving) or another Parent (e.g., a Birthday) provides an alternate meal option for students. Parents are notified of these events in advance and are asked to please inform their child’s Teacher (or the Main Office) should they prefer that their child not participate. Any child not participating in such an activity will need to have a substitute meal sent in from home on the day in question.
We strive to be a model for excellence in children’s education and ask that families who bring food to share for special occasions or events do their best to:
- Limit the amount of artificial colors or flavors, preservatives, additives, trans-fats, or artificial sugars;
- Use organic ingredients/foods as much as possible; and
- Avoid nuts or peanuts.
Von Wedel understands the needs of working Parents and offers “Before” and “After” care services to any families who may need. Extended Care provides a safe and nurturing environment with fun activities specially designed for our students.
Before Care is a quiet time to read a book, play a game, or socialize with friends before the school day begins. Before Care is by request and allows for arrival options as early as 7:00 a.m.
Students are welcome to remain for After Care until their parents get off work or for any family or scheduling obligations. After Care begins at the end of normal dismissal (3:30 p.m.) and extends until 5:00 p.m.
Families needing Extended Care on a regular basis sign-up in advance through the Main Office. Extended Care is affordably priced and can be used as much or as little as necessary.
Somewhat outside of our Extended Care program, the school also offers “Extra-Curricular” activities each afternoon for families wanting to complement the day’s instruction with entertaining options such as Arts & Crafts, Soccer, and Swimming instruction. Extra-Curricular activities take place immediately following normal dismissal and typically extend for 45 minutes to an hour.
Soccer can play an important part in your child’s physical and social development because it promotes agility, speed, and stamina, while also teaching children the value and importance of teamwork. As part of our Extra Curricular programs, we offer “after-school” soccer instruction that aims to:
We promote games that are less about “winning” and more about sprinting after the ball and jogging up and down the field, which are activities that build endurance and speed. We teach dribbling and shooting the ball, which develops agility and coordination. The benefits of such activity, we believe, include stronger bones and muscles, decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, decreased chance of becoming overweight, and improving the heart’s ability to deliver oxygen to all its cells.
Build Social Skills
Playing with a soccer team develops a child’s ability to cooperate and interact with other children. To win a soccer game, the whole team must communicate and work together. Defensive positions must support the midfield and coordinate against offensive positions during attacks on the goal. Meanwhile, offensive must work together when trying to score, but also prepare to return to their own goal to help the defensive positions when they are under pressure from the other team.
To move the ball up the field, players pass the ball, which requires communicating. These types of cooperative activities develop a child’s social abilities. Children who play soccer develop self-confidence and improved social skills.
Develop Positive Self-Image
Since soccer has an emphasis on the success of the team, rather than the success of individual players, it is a sport that less athletically inclined children tend to enjoy as well. Compared to team sports like baseball, which requires players to bat or field a ball alone, soccer puts less pressure on the individual child to perform. Instead, soccer emphasizes teamwork and communication, which allows a child to identify personally with team successes, rather than feel a need to outperform teammates to gain recognition.
At Von Wedel, we believe that the benefits of swimming are endless, and that your child should learn to swim as early as possible. We believe swimming is important because:
- It’s essential to a child’s safety.
According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death to children ages one through 14. It is absolutely crucial that all kids know how to swim at a young age. There is water all around us, especially here in South Florida, but we even if we aren’t in pools or the ocean, we need to be safe in “pools” as small as a bathtub. Making sure that your child is comfortable in and around water is important for their safety.
- It’s a healthy low-impact sport.
Swimming is obviously low-impact, as it’s performed in water. According to Bucknell University, the body is 90 percent buoyant when in the water up to your neck, so you’re not hitting the ground with the weight you carry on land. Swimming is the ideal sport for the well-being of one’s body in the long-run.
- Swimming is an incredible workout.
Swimming involves moving multiple muscle groups in a high-intensity, cardio workout. All four strokes involve working different muscle groups. Swimming burns calories quickly, and is easier for overweight people to pick up because it’s low-impact. Research from Bucknell says swimming offers 12 to 14 percent more resistance training than life on land and provides an exceptionally challenging workout.
Aside from weight loss, though, introducing your child to swimming early on will promote a healthy lifestyle. Once a child learns to swim, he or she can hop in a pool at any time and get a low-risk, high-intensity workout.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swimming can help with chronic diseases and mental health. Water-based exercising like swimming improves the use of joints affected by arthritis.
The CDC also states that “Parents of children with developmental disabilities find that recreational activities, such as swimming, improve family connections.” Swimming also releases endorphins, which aid in decreasing depression and improving moods.
- You can swim for the rest of your life.
If your child knows learns to swim at a young age, this skill is forever with them. In their later years, their longevity and quality of life will be enhanced by swimming. The CDC says that water exercising helps to decrease disability and aids in the quality of life in older adults. Since swimming is a low-impact sport, this makes it a safe option for older adults, rather than risking a fall while biking or running. Swimming feels good on joints and boosts one’s mood at the same time.
It’s essential that every child learn to swim, especially to be water-safe. But there are so many levels of swimming and additional benefits that come along the way. We encourage you to introduce your child to swimming early on so that they have the skill for their whole life. This can help to improve overall physical and mental health, and – hopefully – can lead to a child falling in love with the sport and lapping it up for years to come.