Nirvair’s Essays

11/14/14 Notes from Nirvair

One hundred years ago, Maria Montessori, a medical doctor, became an educator of young children. She approached her work as a scientist and became a curious observer of the nature of the child and the process of learning.


4/16/10 Notes from Nirvair


This week we were excited to hear from Clark Montessori High School in Ohio that they have been selected as one of six finalists in President Obama’s Race to the Top school competition. Videos from the winning schools will be aired soon on MTV for a public vote. We’ll let you know as we learn more so you can vote to support Montessori education.


3/26/10 Notes from Nirvair

Congratulations to all our Southern Arizona Regional Science Fair participants. Middle School student, Phoebe, and both upper elementary classes won honors for their projects, including first prize to Palo Verde class, teacher Kathy Bodenhemier. Congratulations to students, teachers and parent volunteers for all their hard work. And congratulations to upper elementary teacher, Erin Donaghy, and this year’s Model UN students for another successful presentation in New York this month.


5/14/09 Notes from Nirvair

I just read a new book which you might enjoy. It’s called Montessori Madness, by Trevor Eissler. You can find it at What’s great about this book is that it is written by a Montessori parent for other parents who may or may not have already discovered Montessori education for their children. It’s easy reading and passionately makes the case for choosing Montessori.


4/17/09 Notes from Nirvair: In these hard economic times…

We are excited about your enthusiastic support for our programs and we are optimistic about the year ahead. We will be sending three staff members to Montessori teacher training programs during the summer and we are collaborating on ideas for curriculum and projects for next year.


4/9/09 Notes from Nirvair

It’s great to be back at Khalsa Montessori School after travels to visit my daughter in India, and an extended weekend in Rome where I had been invited to teach a music workshop.Let me know if you want to see my pictures!

We are looking forward to Friday’s staff development day when we will work and plan as we are taken through a dynamic process with drama teacher, Paul Fisher. We are also busy planning for our spring arts presentations including lower elementary Peter and the Wolf with Dianna Bressler at River and Camden, and upper elementary student composed opera with Margie Kersey.

Be sure to take a look at the tiles installed on their building by middle school students and art teacher, Patty Paluda. Middle school students have completed an immersion week exploring race, including a bike trip to BICAS to express their ideas through art with bicycle parts. We look forward to a continued relationship with BICAS, a local non-profit community cooperative dedicated to promoting and recycling bicycles, bicycle awareness and bicycle art and culture.

Elementary and middle school students also enjoyed recent trips to New York for Model UN and Nashville for a national chess tournament, won awards at Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair (SARSEF), and took top honors at Arizona Sonora Desert Museum’s annual River of Words poetry contest.

We are grateful for the support of parents who attended a rally at the state capitol in support of charter school funding. Charter schools such as ours are making a difference in education and we appreciate the efforts of the Arizona Charter School Association to raise awareness and government support. One ACSA project is a collection of advice from charter school students to President Obama.

In honor of National Charter School week, our middle school students offered advice to President Obama:

  • Kalina: Always be determined and never give up.
  • Gil: Think about your decisions before you make them.
  • Kate: Before stating a problem, communicate soul to soul.
  • Maddie: Always stay as people’Äôs hero, don’Äôt change your ways. Also can you visit our school? It is Khalsa Montessori School in Tucson, Arizona.
  • Noah: End the war faster.
  • Liana: Lower all groceries prices.
  • Sky: Impress as many people as you can, sadly, as president that is what you have to do in your term if you want to get anywhere. We live to impress people and a lot of the time we have to. Also, I recommend that you read the book Maximum Ride by James Patterson.
  • Weston Don’t let racism stop you from being the best president that’s ever lived.
  • Logan: Compare Montessori Schools with other schools to learn from them how they make their campuses safer.
  • Josh: A lot of public schools aren’t safe because of drugs and weapons. Charter schools are safer than public schools.
  • Chloe: Obama should end the war because children have trouble understanding why they’re gone and have trouble dealing with the potential loss of their mom and dad.
  • Santiago: Taxes should be decreased so parents can pay for their kid’s college education.
  • Erin: More money should be put into programs to help kids from becoming homeless.
  • Nick: Make sure something is done to stop kids from becoming homeless.
  • Ishmael: Laws prohibiting alcohol and drugs on kids’Äô playgrounds should be better enforced.
  • Marirosa: There should be absolutely no tolerance for smoking on school campus.


3/06/09 Notes from Nirvair

These are uncertain times and we are all having to make adjustments in response to our new realities. We have heard from some of you about the challenges faced by your families. As individuals, as a nation and as a global community there are tough choices to be made. Many of you have asked about the impact of the economic changes on Khalsa Montessori School and we appreciate your concern. Here is an update that I hope will answer some of your questions.


2/27/09 Notes from Nirvair

There was a nod to Montessori education in an article about the magnificent blue whales in this month’s National Geographic magazine. Unexpected, it was fun to see Montessori becoming a recognizable part of the culture, and an acceptable adjective in the English language!

“The pair were moving slowly, spending a lot of time at the surface.

The mother surprised us by allowing her calf to turn toward Pacific Storm.

A mother whale often interposes herself between her calf and potential danger,

but this mother was an easygoing, Montessori sort of parent,

and she let her baby explore.”

Kenneth Brower, “Still Blue,” National Geographic, March 2009.


2/20/09 Notes from Nirvair

This week the Science Fair came to Khalsa Montessori School, River campus. Parent volunteer, Gary Burchard organized the fair along with administrator Datta Kaur and a team of parent scientists who have volunteered their time and expertise to support the teachers, students and projects. Science projects from each level will be selected to represent Khalsa School at the Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair, SARSEF, next month. Some of the projects will remain on display if you haven’t had a chance to visit the fair.


11/21/09 Notes from Nirvair

“Let us give the child a vision of the universe…for all things are part of the universe and are connected to form one whole unity.”

~Maria Montessori

At the center of the Montessori elementary curriculum is what has come to be called “The Cosmic Curriculum.” Maria Montessori knew children and she understood that even small children can ask big questions. Young philosophers can stump their parents and teachers with their questions of “why?” and “how?” and “what does it mean?” So Montessori designed the Great Lessons to fuel the child ºs imagination and ignite their curiosity.


11/07/08 Notes from Nirvair

After a long and hard-fought campaign season, half of America is celebrating it’Äôs victory while the other half finds itself disappointed and tries to re-group. I hope that during the coming transition period we as a nation will find a way to become less polarized, start seeing our similarity instead of our differences, recognize our shared hopes and dreams, our shared humanity.


10/24/08 Notes from Nirvair

Last week I met a remarkable man, Hal. Hal is a retired lawyer who worked for 50 years in patent law. It is amazing to think about all that he has witnessed on the cutting edge of invention over the last half century. He himself is a benefactor of invention. After four years of total blindness, Hal has regained his eyesight through stem cells and Montessori education. The stem cell technology provided the “hardware” for Hal’s eyesight. He was told that in order for the new cells to begin to “see,” he had to program his brain through multi-sensory experiences in an alpha state of mind (the meditative state).

Hal began researching sensory learning at his local library. As he studied, it all started sounding really familiar. You see, Hal’Äôs late wife was a Montessori teacher. During their life together, he had helped set up her classroom, watched her make materials, learned the philosophy behind the method. Hal went to work recreating Montessori-style sensorial learning experiences for himself. He invented exercises to engage all five of the senses simultaneously– touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. He learned to relax, deeply engage, and learn sensorially. Today with the help of a pair of thick glasses, Hal sees. Montessori education became the “software” that provided access to the wonderful technology he had been given..


10/17/08 Notes from Nirvair

This week I have been in Mesa, attending a seminar to learn how to facilitate leadership workshops for the Khalsa Montessori School community. The training is based on the ideas in the books Leadership and Self Deception and Anatomy of Peace, both by the Arbinger Institute. These books tap into some basic wisdom about human experience and relationships that is also present in Maria Montessori’Äôs discoveries. This wisdom includes ideas such as personal responsibility, the impact of relationships on results, the importance of community, and a focus on the learner rather than the teacher.


10/10/08 Notes from Nirvair

Montessori education prepares children, not just for the next level of schooling, but for life. One hundred years ago Maria Montessori was ahead of her time in advocating a whole-child approach to education. She realized that you can’t separate learning from life. The whole person is involved– head, hand and heart.

The work of the head– learning, processing and storing knowledge– is not isolated from the work of the hand and the work of the heart, there is a deep interconnection. The brain is flesh and blood and like the rest of the body, it benefits from healthy habits to stay fit and maintain optimal performance.


10/3/08 Notes From Nirvair

At Khalsa Montessori School we have worked at building community in the classroom and in the organization. We have chosen an organizational structure which shares the values of the Montessori classroom community, and encourages cooperation, leadership, participation and contribution regardless of role or position. The role of the administrative team is different in an organization in which leadership is shared and the leader’Äôs role is to serve. At Khalsa School, administrators Siri Atma Khalsa, Datta Kaur and Peggy Jelks work behind the scenes to support the success of the children, the teachers and the school.

more…includes administrator bios…

9/26/08 Notes from Nirvair

Last week I shared some ideas about listening. A few days later, I received this issue of Kid’s Talk, a free Montessori e-newsletter. (You might like to subscribe). The article is a nice expansion on the listening theme, so I’ll share it with you. Getting to the truth of a situation can be a challenge sometimes. When we listen for understanding and ask questions to explore all the perspectives, we get a clearer focus on reality. I hope you will find this article helpful.


9/19/08 Notes From Nirvair

In the Montessori learning community, parents and school are partners, working together to prepare the next generation for success in the world they will inherit. KCO co-chair, Sherman Scurry, and I met with parents last week for a conversation about the skills the twenty-first century will require of our children. Leaders in business, education and government collaborated in recent years to identify these skills. In addition to technology and core curriculum fluency, the list they developed included skills such as creativity, problem solving, team work, cultural literacy and communication. “Out of the box” thinking and the ability to establish positive and productive working relationships to participate in the exchange of ideas are valuable skills for our changing world. These skills are nurtured in the collaborative Montessori learning environment and extended community. The parent-school partnership can be a good role model for communication, collaboration and team work.


9/05/08 Notes From Nirvair

Many parents ask us how they can support Montessori education at home. The Montessori work materials are really attractive and sometimes parents ask if they should have these kinds of activities available in the elementary level there is not a lot of homework and parents be doing more work at home. As a holistic model of education, appreciates the many ways that children learn and values and learning environments, including life at home.


Montessori Centennial 1907-2007

Happy Birthday 100 years

By Nirvair Khalsa

On January 6, 1907, Maria Montessori opened her first school in a low income housing project in Rome. In her own words, “In the school that was opened, my method was shortly to come into being. On that day there was nothing to be seen but about fifty wretchedly poor children, rough and shy in manner, many of them crying, almost all the children of illiterate parents, who had been entrusted to my care.” The results of Maria Montessori’s education experiment made her an international celebrity and her school was visited by world leaders including the queen of Holland and Alexander Graham Bell. Montessori’s method of education enabled an extraordinary transformation, or as she wrote, “brought about the appearance of new children, whose souls revealed themselves with such radiance as to spread a light through the whole world.”

The initial international enthusiasm in response to her early results was interrupted by international politics including two world wars. Because of wartime politics, Maria Montessori was forced to leave Italy and shifted to Spain, to India and finally to Holland. The politics of academia also threatened the spread of Montessori education as the method was scrutinized and critiqued by the education establishment of the day.

Maria Montessori continued her work and expanded her initial program designed for preschool children (ages 3 to 6), adding the infant-toddler program (0-3) and elementary education (6-12). She wrote her vision for the adolescent program (12-18) although she did not live to see it realized. Maria Montessori died in 1952. In the late 1950ˆ¢s, the Montessori movement was re-launched in the United States and has continued to grow and thrive. Today there are over 5,000 Montessori schools in the U.S. and 8,000 worldwide.

Research and technology have finally caught up with Montessori. In her time, critics found her ideas ‘unscientific.’ Today, recent brain research as well as trends in research-based education confirm Montessori’s theories regarding ways the brain processes information and learns, the methods that best support learning, and the environments that are most conducive to learning.

The results that Montessori obtained at her first school one hundred years ago have been reproduced again and again as her method has been practiced in schools on every continent. Regardless of ethnicity, nationality, social status or even century, children have responded to Montessori education and have continued to reveal their potential to all those who, like Maria Montessori, have sought to discover the “secrets of childhood.”