News | The Hills School and Atelier

School Starts at The Hills!


Ice Castle Day

by Nola Enge
This Wednesday is Ice Castle Day at the Hills. You and your child freeze unique sizes and shapes of ice in the days prior to the event (don’t wait until the day before, especially if you’re using big pails and bowls of water).  Hide special surprises or glitter in the ice… food coloring is a must…get creative!  The whole school community gathers for this giant art/science experiment sticking the cool shapes together using rock salt.

Don’t forget two things:  ICE AND MITTENS!  And you may want a camera.  Participants wear dark clothes or play clothes as the ice stains as we work with it.  Fun!  Drive by in early evening to see if it is still there.

Lantern Walk – November 15th @ 5pm

Don’t miss our annual Lantern Walk this Friday! Many families are making lanterns this week in expectation of the event, and our children are learning a traditional Martinmas song. Here are the lyrics, if you’d like to sing along:

Walking with my lantern into the night.
Chasing the shadows away with light.
My light will never dim.

We hope you can join us for this special celebration that takes place near sunset, when we will light our lanterns, hear the story of Martinmas, and take a short walk together.

If you need some ideas on designing your lantern just do a search for “Martinmas lanterns” on Pinterest. If you don’t have time to make a lantern, feel free to bring tea lights or a flashlight. Don’t forget matches if you need them!

Volunteering at The Hills

Each year, families at The Hills are asked to give at least 20 hours of volunteer time to the school. Many parents come to the classroom to read to the children or to help the teachers at snack time, while others find projects to help with around campus, like painting and cleaning. Earlier this year, moms Sharon and Margarita planted a flower garden for the children to enjoy, as you can see from the photos below. Many parents, especially working parents, do projects at home to benefit the school, like managing The Hills’ website or organizing group events. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved, help the kids, and feel connected to this wonderful community. If you’re a parent wanting to fulfill your volunteer hours, be sure to talk with your child’s teacher or Dr. Enge to see where your skills can best be utilized!

(Photos and text by R. Noll)

Getting your little one ready for school

In just a few days, The Hills will start it’s fall semester. Some other local schools have already started back, or will start soon. With that in mind, here are some tips by The Hills’ Head of School, Dr. Nola Enge, on things you can do to make your child’s transition easier.

Back-to-School: Tips to Ease Separation Anxiety

Soon Arcadia families will be readying children for our many fine neighborhood schools. For very young children it may be that all-important first school. Whether a child is a seasoned student or a newcomer, a new school year can be an abrupt and unwelcome shift in the comfortable family togetherness of summertime. What can parents do to ease smooth beginnings?

1. Recognize the signs of separation anxiety.

These include nightmares, headaches, stomachaches or a refusal to be left at school without the adults important to them. (Persistent suffering, stress or problems that affect social relationships or playing with peers should be addressed by a mental health professional.)

2. Acknowledge anxious feelings and discuss them openly and often.

Use art and storybooks to elicit feelings and articulations long before the first day of school. Brainstorm solutions together. Repeat their words and don’t dismiss feelings, even if they seem irrational to you.

3. Find a friend in the new group.

Just as it is for all of us, a good friend eases most situations.  Ask your child’s school to suggest a playmate to encourage a friendship before school begins.

4. Make sure your child feels some control.

When my daughter first went to preschool I gave her the power to tell me when she felt comfortable enough for me to leave. When she eventually whispered, “You can go now, Mama”, I internally cheered for her (and choked back tears for me). Surely she let me go earlier and more peacefully than if I’d been prying white-knuckled little fingers off of my knees. This is an important distinction; the difference between feelings of independence and feelings of abandonment. Adults can help children acquire the more positive of the two.

5. Listen to your instincts.

One mother touring schools saw the sign, “Quick Goodbyes Lead to Drier Eyes”. She felt an immediate confliction in her gut; this didn’t jibe with her personal parenting style. She found a school where she could stay with her child as long as she wished. Listening to her inner voice pushed her to find a philosophical fit for what she personally valued.

6. Learning styles matter.

There are many schools to choose from in our fortunate Arcadia community. Finances, proximity and joining friends all matter but philosophy is still King. Children will feel a sense of belonging if their parents do, too. Doing your philosophical homework and finding a comfortable fit will ultimately lessen your child’s anxiety greatly. Mom and Dad like this place so I can feel safe and happy here.

7. Seek an authentic learning community.

Nothing soothes separation anxiety faster than the warm feelings of belonging in a community. Find a school where everybody knows your name, wants your child to succeed and interacts joyfully. Observe whether staff knows your child’s individual learning preferences or instead expects every child to conform. Look for a healthy mix of individual, whole- and small group activities. Do teachers model their own curiosities? Will your child have a voice in the community? In their investigations? In their own intellect? Go where your child is valued as a unique individual and they will happily thrive within that community.

8. Accept approximations.

When children take steps – even baby steps – toward independence, celebrate! There are many steps to come before college and beyond and parents are setting a beautiful precedence: It is possible to both stay lovingly connected to family and become joyfully independent…one small step at a time.


Tie-Dye Day

The kids made some terrific tie-dye shirts today.

You can see more photos in our photo gallery.

Teddy Bear Picnic and Silent Auction

Join us this Saturday, April 13th, starting at 5pm for our annual Teddy Bear Picnic and Silent Auction. It’s a picnic…with BEARS!  Live Music, too!

Invite the Grandparents, your neighbors and friends!

Families BRING:

1.  Favorite TEDDY BEAR (or 2 or 3 or more!)
2.  A Blanket and Picnic Basket Supper for your Sleuth
(did you know a family of bears is called a sleuth?)

Live Music, Lemonade  and a Sweet Treat will be provided by our wonderful parent committee!

Bring silent auction items in now to your child’s teacher if you can.
See you and your BEARS there!

5524 East Lafayette Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ 85018

Caring for Animals at The Hills School

Text and photos by Robyn Noll, parent of a 3-year-old student.

The Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy embraced at my daughter’s school emphasizes the many ways in which children learn. They learn by touch, participation, exploration, listening and observation, and they need an enriching physical environment to facilitate that learning.  Happily, learning to care for animals is one of the many wonderful experiences that the school offers, and among other things it helps teach the students to value the natural world around them.

Early in the school year, the students were introduced to animal care through feeding the school’s fish. The fish tank in Ms. Metz’ classroom is home to a fish named “Puss In Boots” and there’s a big fish tank in Ms. Yohannes’ room with a variety of fish that like to dart about. Bubbles the Fish in Ms. Trickel’s room holds a place of high esteem right in the middle of the class table.

Puss In Boots

Fish in Ms. Yohannes' tank

Fishtank and seashells

There’s a frog named “Taffy” whose name was decided through an election process, exposing the children to the ideas of voting and democracy. Taffy is an expert hider but if you’re patient you can sometimes see it hopping about in the bottom of Ms. Yohannes’ tank.

Taffy the frog

Egg in the making

Fresh egg!

In January, one of the families kindly built a chicken coop and the school acquired two chickens. Another vote was held and the names of the hens decided on were “Rosa” and “Posa,” though to be quite honest it’s never really been decided which is which. Some families volunteer to clean the coop and the kids love to feed them and collect their eggs. Hard boiled eggs have been a healthy addition to snack time on occasion and in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Ms. Metz made an awesome “Green Eggs” scramble. The hens are allowed to roam outside their coop for special learning activities and children of all ages have learned to share their environment and be gentle with them.


Rosa and Posa

Green eggs and ham with a truffula tree cupcake

Chickens roaming

New neighbors


"Love Buns" the bunny

The latest additions to the menagerie are 50 worms and a black and white rabbit with a heart-shaped marking named “Love Buns.” Children are encouraged to keep fingers away from a bunny’s face and learn the proper ways to hold and care for our newest friend. The rabbit has been a particular source of creative inspiration among the children with many drawings and love letters for this new community member.  Illustrated bunny books are being created by little hands.  And the kids really love to draw the worms, too!


Bunny and worm inspired art

Red wigglers







Learning to care for animals is part of the larger lesson of caring for the community and it’s rewarding to see their presence has inspired acts of helpfulness, creativity and discovery. As a parent, I am immensely grateful to The Hills for offering our children such a rich environment in which to learn and play.


Bunny handling etiquette discussion

Petting the bunny only on the back

Students love collecting eggs

Bunny art

Snack for Rosa and Posa

Being gentle with "Love Buns"

Dr. Seuss Day – March 7, 2013

To celebrate Dr Seuss’ birthday, students at The Hills School & Atelier put on a play of the Dr. Seuss book “My Many Colored Days.” They decorated the backgrounds and rehearsed several times to bring you this wonderful little number. The actors are 3, 4, and 5 years olds from Ms. Metz and Ms. Yohannes’ classes.

Here is the video:

Other activities included making truffula trees from pipe cleaners and pom poms, sorting “red fish” and “blue fish,” and enjoying green eggs and ham for lunch, using eggs from the school’s own chickens. One of the moms even made “truffula tree” cupcakes! Please enjoy photos of the play rehearsal and some of the other activities from the day. Click on any image to see it larger.


Happy Sounds at The Hills School & Atelier

Celebrating the Germanic tradition of a Fasching carnival

Fasching Day

By Dr. Nola Enge, Director

Sometime last week playful sounds on campus made me think, “Now this is a happy time to be a young child!”.

I thought this when our European families hosted a Fasching celebration, educating us about this Ash Wednesday Germanic tradition.  There were old-fashioned games, songs, dancing to  The Chicken Dance, sweet treats and the children being able to again wear their Halloween costumes much to their delight.

I thought of it again when Nike delivered 6 large boxes of all kinds of balls for the children, thanks to generous parent and Nike employee April Myers.  What fun!

It crossed my mind when the older children wrote special letters and the real Pony Express delivered them to Scottsdale and our homes.  What a treat for children to imagine their words racing through the desert in a cowboy’s satchel for this speedy reenactment of olden days.

There was the excitement of Valentine’s cards, signed in the beautiful, earnest script of one newly able to form the letters in their name.  There were mailboxes made from a shoe box, doused in glue, glitter and paper lace.  Remember carving the slot with a kitchen knife for the all-important treats to fit as a child?

Finally, I thought about it again with the State of the Union appeal for national investment in early childhood education.  With a purported $7 return on every dollar spent it’s a compelling plea.  My field’s long neglected demographic – made up of citizens from birth to age 8 who can neither vote nor mobilize – deserves some political attention.  We’ll see how much traction it gets in Washington with so many competing contemporary needs but at least a conversation has begun on this unique area of human development.

Good people, there are challenges galore for children today yet I’m optimistic we’re making a difference locally.  Our own school’s children have the care of a good parent institution.  We have access to toys, books and to love; to Fasching celebrations, Pony Express and new soccer balls and footballs.  To tending chickens and gardens.  We have the attention of leaders to whom the very young are visible.  And recently young children here experienced a simple, delicious first we all remember:  Expressing love on a school Valentine.

Yes, a happy time to be a young child at The Hills School.