The Second Great Lesson: The Coming of Life

On Monday, February 1st, our elementary classes will be given the second Great Lesson virtually from The Lyceum. The series of five great lessons are the stories of existence: of the earth and the things that live on it. Here is a summary of each:

The First Great Lesson: The Coming of the Universe. Students stand in a darkened room, passing ice packs from hand to hand. “In the beginning, there was nothing.” Out of the vast darkness suddenly a match is struck and a balloon filled with sparkles is pricked. This simulates the big bang and for the next three hours, children hear their teacher narrate the tale from the time of nothing to the cyanobacteria. The physical laws of the universe are explored with scientific demonstrations meant to drive home concepts like gavity, density and the laws of attraction.

The Second Great Lesson: The Coming of Life. This tale dips back into the jellylike algae and moves the story forward to the arrival of humankind. At Orchard, we use the 100 foot black strip that Montessori devised as a humility exercise in which we realize that humankind only arrived in the last moments in the clock of eras which counts down time from the Big Bang to the arrival of humans.

The Fourth Great Lesson: The Story of Language. Language and its symbols are traced from cave paintings onward.

The Fifth Great Lesson: The Story of Numbers Humans have used numbers and quantities to give meaning and transference to values of things.

Upper Elementary: The Nation of the Great River. In this beautiful narrative, we trace the human body as a river connecting our vital organs, each of which has a job to do just like cities and factories do. This extensive project has a built river model. like. Each story is t its teller.

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Happy Holidays!

…and the smiles and squeals made it so much more than a pleasure..

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Hand knitted Happy Holidays

26 hats, 8 days, 1 bottle of Aleve…

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Halloween Cancelled? It’s An Outrage!

The casa children at the Orchard decided to make their own Enchanted Forest Halloween Ball. For a week before the festivities, the children called upon all of their practical life skills, flights of avian, insect, fairie fancy, with a dash of gleeful spookiness to create all the elements of our Ball.

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Welcome Back

Look! We finally finished. The Orchard is ready to welcome everyone back where they belong. We have all been working diligently, with great thought and care, to secure the safe shell around our school to make your physical entry smooth and quick. Of critical importance to us is ensuring the heart of our school, our casas and elementary rooms, remain as familiar, comfortable and “normal” as ever. I think we’ve done it. We are extremely excited to share it all with you on Tuesday morning. All that is left is for you to have a fabulous Labour Day weekend and join us bright and early on your first day of school!

See you soon!


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Back to School!

We are very happy to announce that we will be back to school in September. Returning children will return to school on September 8th and new students over the following days. In order to keep everyone safe, we will be strictly following regulations from Toronto Public Health and the Ministry of Education. A new parent handbook with a section on COVID policies will be distributed to families on August 17th. There will also be a required school supply list that includes considerations for COVID safety. Students must be adequately prepared to start school.

The preparation of the rooms for the children depends on their age. Casa children are not masked except when they are moving through the common areas of the school. Elementary children will be masked and socially distanced all day. Lyceum students will be socially distanced and have desks divided by plexiglass barriers. They will require a mask when moving common areas also. We have very limited childminding spots (8 in each room) and after school classes are cancelled for this term. Children must remain in their rooms for the entire time that they are at school so if at all possible, we suggest they be picked up at the first dismissal.

There will be staged arrival times during which all assigned children must arrive at school. Once children are in, the doors will be locked. In order to gain entry at other times, you will have to phone the office to make an alternate arrangement once hallway sanitation is completed. Please note that due to staging areas, there is no parking in the school, apart from staff. Please plan to arrive by other means or park on the streets in the surrounding neighbourhood. You must also pick up your child on time in the ten minute window assigned to your co-hort. Children who are not picked up on time will be placed in the isolation room with a staff member and a $20 fee for the first five minutes (and $5 for each minute thereafter) will be due upon pickup. This will help ensure that everyone goes home safely on time.

Cohorts (classes) of children can not be mixed during the day so recess will be circulated in groups. Children are required to eat their lunches and snacks in their classrooms. We will be asking all casa families to sign a bagged lunch waiver and provide a lunch in the event that West End is unable to cater us. We are still waiting for a decision on this and we will rebate the lunch fee if necessary.

Unfortunately, gathering outside our school doors or on the green spaces during TDSB sessions is not permitted as cohorts of children are moved in and out of the buildings. Nancy Ng has volunteered to start an online parent social group. We will forward the invitation that you can opt on to with the handbook. Hopefully, this initiative will help families stay connected outside of school hours. School events will not be announced on this forum so please watch the blog for news of events and initiatives.

The sick policy will be strictly adhered to. Do not send your child to school if they are unwell in any way. If they develop a fever at school, you will be required to pick them up immediately from the isolation room at the top of the stairs and take them directly for a COVID test. Upon presentation of a negative result (and assuming they are well), children will be re-admitted to school. Please read this section of the handbook carefully.

We are expecting at least one more update to the start of school measures to be released by the government in the coming week at which we can finalize our protocols, standards and measures. If, upon reviewing the handbook, you have further questions, please contact Maude at

We will ask you to acknowledge your understanding and willingness to comply with the COVID measures and your acceptance of risk in writing. We take very seriously our responsibility for putting in place measures to keep our students and staff safe while at school.

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Congratulations to our eleven graduates from casa and elementary! We met our challenges and stuck together through all this and we are grateful for our beautiful school community. Special thanks to Katherine for her dedication to her seeing her students complete their year virtually and to Emily and Jennifer for supplying content to supplement Melody’s on the OWL kits. This year, the lyrics to Imagine took on a whole new meaning as we sang it together from our homes, separated but still together. Thank you, Nick, for leading us in this group sing. Thanks also to graduate Koan Wong for his inspiration to get members from the Orchard Elementary Band together on zoom to perform Sunflower by Post Malone. Nick provided scratch tracks and students submitted their recorded parts separately. We think is came together rather nicely.

We look forward to seeing you back at school in September. Meanwhile, have a safe and fun summer!

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OWL #2 Lands in Your Nest on Monday, April 20th

Casa kids!! This issue’s theme is Grace and Courtesy and it contains a special secret recipe from Melody’s kitchen! If you haven’t already signed up, get in touch with Maude right away:

Details can be found on the Owl’s Nest page.

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The OWL Package

Orchard With Love – OWL Packages

The Montessori Casa – “the Children’s House” – is a unique and beautiful place, custom-made for young children to explore and experience through their hands, fueling their absorbent minds and hearts. Maria Montessori always said if there could be only one area in the Casa, it must be Practical Life.

Practical Life exercises are distillations of the real activities of everyday life. While children are immersed in real life, seldom do these activities land in their own small, eager hands. The exercises of practical life establish, maintain, and embellish the environment. They are active expressions of awareness and care for people and for our community. They feed a child’s innate drive to become a caring, loving, honourable person of their time and place.

While the Children’s House cannot exist virtually, it can live in your house, your backyard, your neighbourhood. That is why, in this “hands-free” time and place, we created Orchard With Love Packages – OWL Packages – that we would like to share from our House to yours, with love.

OWL Packages contain a compilation of practical life exercises, pre-recorded sessions of Limon-inspired creative movement, yoga, music, and chapter book “conferences”. They have been designed for you to use in any combination that feels good in your day. The Practical Life exercises are not “one-shot activities”. They are, as in the Casa, meant to accumulate, grow, and extend. You and your child will receive two OWL Packages per month to build a repertoire of choices to be practiced repeatedly, happily, and with satisfying purpose. Your child will also have a chance to facetime conference with Melody each time they receive a package!

Our hope is that these exercises will be both an inspiration and a template for you and your child to create your own Practical Life exercises in your own family and community.

We hope you will join us,

Melody and Holly

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Whole School Group Sing Monday March 30th at 7pm!!

Nick is going to lead the whole school community in a distance-sing from his kitchen at 7pm. We will post the link here and on instagram. Meanwhile, get out your instruments or found objects, warm up your pipes and get ready to sing your heart out. Below you can find the lyrics and tab.

Here is the link to join in:


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