The Kendalwood Casa Community

Maria Montessori coined the term “the absorbent mind” to describe the early years of development, where children spontaneously and effortlessly accumulate knowledge through their environment. The years between three and six are a time of opportunity, where early experiences have set foundations yet children continue to unconsciously take in everything around them.

The Casa classroom is specifically set up to support this concept of enthusiastic exploration and independent discovery through the environment. During the Casa years, a child begins to interact with the world more consciously, refining their experiences and acting in a more purposeful way. The prepared environment within a Casa classroom encourages movement and activity, providing well thought out access to materials which have been specifically designed and arranged to entice the child to learn. A balanced mix of freedom and self-discipline develops within each student as they navigate the Casa environment.

Within this distinct classroom setting, Casa students enjoy a diverse peer group of children aged three to six. This three year age span is a hallmark of Montessori education which enables younger students to both observe and interact with older children in a familial setting. The elder students have the opportunity to gain confidence acting as leaders within the classroom. In other cases, students of the same age working at different levels can work together to share knowledge and assist one another. This environment of peer teaching and learning fosters a cooperative learning environment for all.

There are a number of key goals within the Casa community. Children work towards developing their sense of order and expand their concentration skills. Independence and problem solving capabilities are always an area of focus. The Casa classroom nurtures a natural love of learning and gives that “absorbent mind” the very best environment in which to grow.

 “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”

– Maria Montessori

Observing a Casa classroom is truly a remarkable experience for anyone who has not witnessed Montessori education in action. A first year Casa child learning letters one through twenty may be sitting beside a second year student working on addition and subtraction, or even a third year student working on multiplication or division. Each child works at their own level using supporting materials. A first year student is often supported and motivated by an older classmate while the elder of the pair thrives in the role of mentor.

Classmates, Friends, Mentors

Kendalwood Casa students are confident and engaged learners! Please contact us if you would like to tour the campus and see the Montessori magic in one of our classrooms.


The Kendalwood Giving Tree

Each winter, the Kendalwood Montessori and Elementary Community comes together in the spirit of the season to support Durham families in need. Kendalwood staff, our students and their families team up make the season a little brighter for less advantaged children. For the past five years, we have worked with Simcoe Hall Settlement House to provide sponsorship at Christmastime. The tradition continues in 2014!

treeThe Kendalwood Giving Tree is our customary way of coordinating the Christmas sponsorship program. A tree filled with special ornaments greets students and parents at each entrance of the school. Kendalwood families are invited to select an ornament which includes details about the family we are sponsoring, along with items they need or other special requests from their wish list. Items listed on the ornaments are then purchased, wrapped and returned to the school using the ornament as a gift tag.

Simcoe Hall Settlement House is a not-for-profit community resource centre dedicated, since 1935, to assisting less advantaged children, families and vulnerable adults whose lives are affected by poverty.

In addition to the gift collection for sponsored families, Elementary classrooms hold a bake sale where the children work together to prepare a delicious treat, cookie or square and then offer their wares for sale at the school. Students use the proceeds to purchase essential items for the Simcoe Settlement House food bank. It is a true experiential learning process for the children as they visit a local grocery store to purchase necessities for families in need, such as baby formula, diapers and food staples. It is an opportunity to learn about shopping on a budget and gain a better understanding of the amount of food a family requires for a week or a month. Each year, this field trip helps our students gain important perspective on what they consider to be the necessities of life.

The Kendalwood Giving Tree is not only an act of charity, but a larger community service initiative in which our students actively participate. The authentic experience gained by taking part in the annual sponsorship program gives students insight into the needs of others and provides invaluable character education which is so important to us at Kendalwood Montessori.

Today, our students and staff will personally deliver their contributions of gifts, grocery store gift cards and and food bank donations to Simcoe Hall Settlement House. They will also tour the facility and volunteer in the food bank. We couldn’t be more proud of our staff and students!

A special thank you goes out to the entire Kendalwood community for participating in the wonderful tradition of the Kendalwood Giving Tree.


Immense Growth through a Tiny Teacher at Kendalwood Montessori

Seeds of Empathy has come to Kendalwood Montessori and we couldn’t be happier to have our Casa B students taking part in this wonderful initiative. The “younger sibling” to the well-known Roots of Empathy program, Seeds of Empathy fosters social and emotional literacy in children three to five years of age. The number of schools able to participate in the program each year is dependent on funding.  Kendalwood is thrilled to be one of only twelve centres selected to participate this year. Seeds of Empathy’s mission is to build caring, peaceful, and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. The program has proven to be effective in fostering pro-social behaviour and reducing aggression levels while increasing empathy in young children.

Our Principal and several Kendalwood Staff participated in a weekend conference in Toronto earlier this year to learn all about the program, its components and practice training in order to deliver the program in our school. The distinctive aspect of the Seeds of Empathy program is the special guest educator – a baby.

Seeds of Empathy Begins With Literacy Circles

Students work through relevant themes in three week intervals. Our Literary Coaches – Ms. Logan & Mrs. Marchment – lead a thought-provoking curriculum based on children’s literature. During each program theme, lessons and activities based on the books read to the children help to find the meaning and purpose behind each narrative.

Our Tiny Teacher

At the end of each three week cycle, students enjoy a visit from baby Ronin, our special guest teacher. This interactive, experiential component of the program provides tangible RONINlearning opportunities for students which leave an indelible imprint.

Our Principal, Mrs. Koenders, facilitates the family visit sessions. During each visit, she leads a ritual with mom and baby, such as:

Singing hello
Observing baby’s growth and overall changes
Providing opportunities for exploration through the Seeds of Empathy bag of toys
Singing goodbye

Children answer questions based on the actions of the baby aimed at interpreting his behaviour.  Understanding is gained by exploring what the baby is trying to communicate, how he may be feeling and what we can do to make him happy.  Our students gather to observe the infant teacher for this discussion and actively learn how to empathize with his needs.


“It is equally important for a child to learn to relate as it is to learn to read.”

–   Mary Gordon, Seeds of Empathy Founder


Why is Empathy Important?

Teaching empathy, compassion and kindness were part of Maria Montessori’s first classrooms and remain essential aspects of the whole-child Montessori philosophy. Empathy is a life skill which translates to more resilient, fulfilled children and adults. Through Seeds of Empathy, our young students are given hands on opportunities to build social and emotional skills while developing a positive mindset around the needs of others at an early age.

Seeds of Empathy