MCS believes in creating traditions together, as a community, that reflect the changing seasons, the joy of giving, and the warmth of being together. These traditions often begin as an idea from a parent. Many have stood the test of time. MCS school traditions include:
Children at MCS participate in sign language bi-monthly, with classes alternating weekly so that each child has the opportunity to experience sign language. Signing involves physical movement and engages students’ bodies as well as their brains. Learning sign language supports physical coordination, increased dexterity, strengthened fine motor skills, and provides another avenue for children to express themselves and their emotions.
The heart of the Superhero of Kindness Project lies with the idea that we all hold the power of kindness within us. The ultimate goal of any Superhero of Kindness mission is to care; let kindness flow without regard of reward. We believe that no one, no matter how young or how small, is too small to make a difference in their community and their world. We can empower our youth by showing how easy it is to take the first steps (and maybe the most important steps) towards making an impact within your community. Children participate in regular Superhero missions in which they perform random acts of kindness ranging from handing out flowers to collecting over 800 pounds of food to donate to the food bank! You’ll see our superheroes on the streets, doning their capes of kindness. Missions and frequency vary throughout the year, except for our annual food drive that occurs in December, a fun way to celebrate the Supreheroes of Kindness’ birthday.
When used in the classroom, mindfulness can become a foundation for learning and for improving a child’s ability to become a self-learner. At MCS, we aspire to incorporate mindfulness practices as we teach children to know what is happening in the present and to fully engage their hearts and minds with themselves and with those around them. Children participate in weekly mindfulness and movement lessons, honing the skills of focus, self-regulation, self-control and compassion. Each Friday, individual small groups take turns stepping into our mindfulness and movement classroom to experience a lesson created and presented by our mindfulness coordinator. (Teachers bring the lessons into the classrooms for children who do not attend Fridays.)
A parent vision, the first pizza day was held in 2004. It was a simple idea: creating an opportunity for all of the children at MCS to be able to participate in a meaningful celebration that was community based, locally produced (as much as possible) and centered on the children who were the basis of our unique community bond. This experience allows the children to experience the process of having a meal together that was integral to their efforts. Pizza day occurs monthly with all children playing a role in helping the pizza get to the table. Together children, their teachers, and some family members share in the outcome of all of their efforts while they eat lunch together in one room. To find out more, read this fun community letter about pizza day.
**We are very thankful for both Le Petite Outre and Bernice’s Bakery, who help us make this monthly tradition happen!
Sports at MCS
Each school year, children between 3-6 participate in one month of gymnastics (at Bitterroot Gymnastics) and one month of swimming (at Currents). Each sports week is a whole morning adventure that is a highlight of the MCS experience. Children travel via city van for swimming and via city bus for gymnastics. Children in the PreK program also participate in ice skating lessons at Glacier Ice Rink. All children take part in our sports program no matter their weekly enrollment schedule. Parents are invited, and encouraged, to join! Once the sports schedule is solidified, you will find it on the calendar link.
The city is truly our jungle gym, and MCS strives to provide children with consistent and varied opportunities to explore the natural and cultural richness of our extended community. Through developmentally appropriate community-service projects, children discover their ability to make a meaningful contribution to the well-being of their extended community, thus fostering empathy, kindness, and a sense of interconnectivity within the community.
MCS does not celebrate holidays, but it celebrates each child’s birthday as a truly special event in the school year. The birthday child is recognized during circle with loving words as their classmates help create the infamous birthday chart. Summer birthdays are not overlooked; children whose birthday does not fall during the school year celebrate 1/2 birthdays (or 1/4 or 3/4…). A child’s birthday is a great opportunity to celebrate the unique individual they are and their contributions to our community. Parents are welcome, and very much encouraged, to join in their child’s birthday circle. Teachers make every effort to coordinate a reasonable time and date with parents.
Every couple of years, the school participates in a service learning project. This is an family friendly event that occurs outside of school hours. It coincides with the Superhero philosophy that we are never to young to make a difference in our community. Previously the children have painted the turtles at Sacajawea Park, a neighborhood park we frequent and love. Children helped with design creation, base coat prep, and of course helped the day of making their designs turn into turtle reality!
It never fails that children ask each year to have a pajama day. For the past several years, the school has held two pajama days annually (making sure all children get to enjoy the fun day). When the children start asking (often following a day in which a child did not want to get dressed to come to school) the teachers schedule the event and plan fun pajama based activities (toast making, pancake making are two fun examples). Parents will be notified via teacher email, and dates will show up on our calendar after they are set.
The Missoula Community School values the many traditions its families and friends represent, and strives to celebrate this diversity on a daily basis in its curriculum. However, MCS does not include the celebration of holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Valentines’ Day, Chanukah, Mothers and Fathers days, Kwanzaa, Easter, and Thanksgiving etc.) as part of its curriculum. These and many other holidays are important parts of particular cultures. They may be included and discussed as part of a classroom cultural study; children are also welcome to pursue holiday crafts or activities as part of a Workshop or Project they have proposed. However, it is not the role of MCS to choose which holiday traditions a particular child will participate in; we see this as the family’s role. This choice is made deliberately, in part to create a learning environment sheltered from the commercial and material aspects of many holidays, but also to encourage families and friends to share their traditions outside of school, as they choose, without obligation to participate or potential for hurt by omission.