D.C. Doctor’s Rx: A Stroll in the Park Instead of a Trip to the Pharmacy



Unity Health Care pediatricians Robert Zarr and María Rueda-González walk in Meridian Hill Park. Zarr created a pioneering database of all 350 or more green spaces in the District with information about safety, access and facilities and integrated it into Unity’s electronic health records. (Kate Patterson/The Washington Post)

Robert Zarr is walking from his Columbia Heights medical practice toward Meridian Hill Park, talking about what’s going on inside his head. If you could see his brain on an MRI, he says, far more extensive regions would be lighting up than if he were having this same conversation sitting at his desk.

Zarr, a pediatrician at Unity Health Care’s Upper Cardozo Health Center, has a special interest in the unseen benefits of getting outside. He is the “physician champion” of ­DC Parks Rx, an innovative community health program committed to combating the woes of urban living by prescribing time outdoors.

Zarr mentions obesity, diabetes and mental health disorders as he walks. “It only takes a couple of kids” with symptoms of ADHD to disrupt a classroom, he says, and teachers start recommending their parents talk to pediatricians about Ritalin or other medical interventions. Continue reading

Parent Resource: How Babies Learn, the Wisdom of Grandmothers

Beautiful article written by two loving grandmothers, Lois Ingellis and Arlene Rider, on “how babies learn”, specifically what we can do as parents/grandparents to help in their learning development. “Through the insights of Jean Piaget we have come to view … Continue reading

We Could All Use a Little More “Mindfulness”

Another great article from the Huffington Post, “How Mindful Children React Differently to Challenges”, by Renee Jain, describing through examples and illustrations the benefits of mindfulness training, and how it can effect your children’s decision making process and emotions when handling challenging situations.


…mindfulness is a skill which any child or adult can sharpen with practice. It’s a skill which the research shows can improve impulse control, calmness, kindness, patience, compassion, empathy, executive function and attention spans in children. It’s a skill we can give the next generation of kids to not only connect more deeply with others around them, but to really nurture a sense of self-respect and self-compassion.

Link to article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/how-mindful-children-react-differently-to-challenges_b_6347654.html?ir=Education&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000023

Let’s all try to be more “mindful” when dealing with challenges!

Teacher Resource: “Caring for the Dream” by Seth D. Webb

So many times, we misinterpret the philosophy, manipulating it to be what’s most convenient for our school community. We might even change the way the pedagogy is practiced to better correlate with current policies, compromising the very integrity of our precious philosophy. Rarely do schools come together for a common goal, to help maintain the very components that make the philosophy so strong; our families, the way we practice the pedagogy, and our policies with which we implement. We cannot move forward unless we do so by using a whole-school approach, including all aspects that help keep our Montessori community strong.

I came across a new blog post from MAA, reiterating the importance of working collaboratively with the four P’s: practice, pedagogy, people, and policies. You’ll notice the words “community”, “collective”, and “family” are mentioned several times.

A few of my favorite passages taken from the article…
“As local leaders in education we must be able to articulate and stand by the people, pedagogy, practices and policies of the schools we create. We need to be able to speak to each like they are parts of our family, parts of our bodies – each piece necessarily influencing and informing the whole. These are the interwoven fundamentals that, when realized authentically and kept healthy, speak to the very essence of our schools’ existence…Once articulated, our conception of the people, pedagogy, practices and polices of our schools informs every aspect of our work – from the classroom to the boardroom. If any of these four fundamentals becomes fragmented or diluted we must stop, reassess and reconsider the way ahead. We cannot continue to move forward until we can do so with authenticity and truth. Belief is a powerful thing, but only as powerful as the quality of its manifestation.”

To see the blog in full, click on the link below:

Parent & Teacher Resource: “The Right Way to Train Attention”, Laura Flores Shaw

Probably one of the best “Montessori” responses to the ever so growing, controversial ADHD diagnosis. This article explains the differences between conventional schools vs. Montessori schools, and what they both have to offer children diagnosed with ADHD. As parents, we struggle with what to do to help our children; we all want the best treatment. The answer just might lie in the type of education they are receiving, which can set a foundation for the way they learn for the rest of their lives. Children with diagnoses such as these need the opportunity to “train their attention” using works that capitalize on their spontaneous sensitive periods of concentration. Painting the world map can draw forth an immense amount of concentration, for example. Probably more so than any attention-training video game.


“Montessori environments are specifically designed to train attention by providing children opportunities to practice deep concentration for long periods without disruption. According to Dr. Montessori, concentration development is “the most important single result of our whole work.” This is why our preschool and elementary programs have 3-hour work cycles rather than a schedule that changes subject area every 30 to 40 minutes.

The periods of deep concentration Montessori students experience are what Dr. Mihály Csikszentmikály, refers to as flow…he defines flow as ‘the mental state in which a person engaged in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity…It’s a state that Dr. Csikszentmikály generally attributes to adults, but when he and his colleague Dr. Kevin Rathunde conducted a multi-year study comparing traditional school environments to Montessori environments, they found that students achieved flow experiences more frequently in Montessori settings.

Flow in a Montessori classroom fosters a love of learning, something computerized attention training games can’t do. A flow state is so pleasing, it literally makes you feel joyful, thus, the learning experience becomes associated with joy, not some video game. As Dr. Csikszentmikály writes, “Every teacher, whether they teach German or music or mathematics, is aware of how important it is for the kid to experience flow while learning because that would make them want to learn more.”

The reason flow is so pleasing to the brain is that it doesn’t require effort and self-control as it’s a state of effortless concentration that emerges from innate curiosity or interest. Yet, a byproduct of attention trained via flow is that a person becomes more self-regulated and, thus, can put more effort into things in which they’re not innately interested.”

Countdown to Thanksgiving: “What Children Can Teach Us About Thanksgiving”

Through diligent, daily observation of children, one can learn valuable lessons in humility and generosity; one thing we could all use a little more of this Thanksgiving holiday!

This article below from mariamontessori.com focuses on the humble spirit of children, which is acquired through “joyful obedience” and an internal need to help others. Children will do almost anything to help a fellow friend in need, even when the “prize” is simply knowing they fulfilled that need and finished the task to the best of their ability.

“We don’t give thanks because we are happy. We are happy because we give thanks.” -Douglas Wood

“We don’t give thanks because we are happy. We are happy because we give thanks.” -Douglas Wood

“Montessori described three levels of discipline: In the first, children may be persuaded (or forced) to follow the will of the adult. In the second, children begin to develop intentionality, a conscious will. She believed that well-parented, well-educated children could achieve a third level of joyful obedience, when they would act with generosity of their own free will, because they recognize a need and want to help.”  (Jennifer Rogers)


Make Learning Joyous!

Interesting article that focuses on “Alt School”, a new alternative to traditional teaching in primary education. Although not necessarily “Montessori”, many of their teaching methods are embraced here at our school as well! These children come together each day to work and learn as a community that incorporates play and learning, helping them become more empathetic, responsible young adults. If only more classrooms looked like this!

Check out the article below:

Parent Resource: “Play is a Child’s Work”

Play is a Childs Work_2
Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul. – 
Friedrich Froebel

Another great parent resource focusing on the importance of nurturing the child’s spiritual growth in the classroom, rather than forcing their academic achievements. Froebel created the concept of “kindergarten”, which literally means a “garden of children”, where each child is to be nurtured in the same way a new garden seedling would. Children need to be encouraged to use their creativity, imagination, playfulness, and individuality as they develop academically. The beauty of Montessori is that it incorporates exploration and creativity within its curriculum; giving the child the opportunity to play and learn at the same time.

“We need to allow children to be children for as long as possible. They need time to breathe in and breathe out. They need to play. Children are not computers or robots that can be programmed according to our wishes; they have a heart and soul, not only a brain.”

For the full article, click on the link below:

Parent Resource: “What’s Going on Inside the Brain of a Curious Child?”

The Limbic Reward System lights up when curiosity is piqued. (LA Johnson/NPR)

The Limbic Reward System lights up when curiosity is piqued. (LA Johnson/NPR)

“That’s science: Asking questions and seeking answers.”

An interesting peek into what happens in the brain during moments of curiosity. This article explores the importance of curiosity in the classroom. There are so many things you can remember and internalize when you are truly curious about the answer.

Click on the link below to review the article for yourself:

‘Curiosity really is one of the very intense and very basic impulses in humans. We should base education on this behavior.’

Article: “Rise and Shine, What Kids Around the World Eat for Breakfast”, the New York Times

12EatersAllOver-ss-slide-67SD-master1050_1Very unique look into the variety of breakfast foods our children enjoy all over the world. You’d be surprised by what some people eat, however the photos make everything look delicious!

For breakfast, our HBMH friends enjoy nutritional options such as waffles, turkey sausage, fresh fruits, scrambled eggs, organic oatmeal, and all natural scones with sun butter and fruit, amongst many other things.

Excerpt from the post:

Americans tend to lack imagination when it comes to breakfast. The vast majority of us, surveys say, start our days with cold cereal — and those of us with children are more likely to buy the kinds with the most sugar. Children all over the world eat cornflakes and drink chocolate milk, of course, but in many places they also eat things that would strike the average American palate as strange, or worse.

Continue reading