What an autumn term we have had, so much work, fun, challenges, learning and friendship.
Back refreshed from the summer holiday all the children were quick to get back to the school routine, but not everything was the same. Much work had been done over our two-week summer break in the school to refresh and renew the school itself. New hardwood floors for our classrooms, new sash windows for our Georgian façade, new bathrooms with gorgeous shiny tiles we love to touch and a wondrous new Snack Café that makes afternoon snack a delightful community affair.
A key element of the Montessori educational philosophy centres on the children forming a community of learners, and of course with children learning does not stop once the “class time” ends. Modelling and acquiring grace and courtesy, sensitivity to others needs, etiquette, patience, tolerance and above all kindness. All of these qualities are in much display in our new Snack Café
We use our snack café in the afternoon. Each table of children in the café take it in turn to come to the snack stand, patiently queuing to select the elements of their healthy snack before returning to eat with their friends old and young. The young diners are given the freedom to choose what they wish to eat and drink. Displaying the independence to pick their utensils and carry them gracefully back to the table. The children model great awareness of each other as the older children assist their younger community members to choose and carry their food. It is a great opportunity to perfect good manners and tolerance in this lovely community mealtime setting in a fun and relaxing atmosphere. All in all it is a pleasure to be part of I’m sure you can see.
So what have we been getting up to in our classrooms? Well let us fill you in.
Our nursery is busier than ever, lots of lovely new learners coming to join our more seasoned nursery students. The ever patient and kind Lisa and the fun and creative Magna keep everyone engaged and happy.
With a lovely mix of newcomers and second year students the settling in period is gentle and comfortable.
New students watching the engaged and active learning of the seasoned nursery are happy to get stuck into the inviting work displayed on the bright and welcoming shelves. Of course knowing they are the “big children” in the group keeps the returning students focused, as they love to be able to demonstrate the work to the new children and show them how to move in the room and find (and replace) what they need.
Our full stock of Montessori materials are getting lots of use, in this classroom the focus is on perfecting gross motor movements, honing our sensorial learning and expanding our language skills, alongside the constant development of socialisation and grace and courtesy skills. The older children in the room are experiencing the start of what Montessori would call the “explosion into writing” as they show great interest and aptitude in mark making, tracing their sounds and making efforts to copy their names and words in the environment.
The nursery class room is a living gallery of the children’s work, for many of the children in this room the nursery is their first experience of a group environment, and so displaying their art, and photos of themselves, like those on the birthday Board and in the hallway gives them a sense of belonging and community that is vital for their self-esteem and integration as an individual of importance to the class group.
Here is a gallery of images from the Nursery students autumn term.
Moving up to the Junior Class students in the preparatory school, who have become a lean learning machine! Again a group who are greatly benefiting from key concepts of the Montessori environment which beautifully compliment the natural capacity of children to soak up information and assimilate it to grasp amazing concepts in an effortless way.
Montessori observed that children at this stage have essential need of movement in the environment. The freedom to move, at will, allows the students the space and time to integrate the concepts and ideas they are observing and experiencing from their work with the materials in a gentle and holistic manner. The junior classroom is filled with unique and interesting learning opportunities for the children to work with alone, once they have received a demonstration from Aoife or Sinead, or with a peer to share the experience.
Peer learning is very important at this age, the children in the junior class are developmentally
geared to make a community of friends, the hustle and bustle of a Montessori class is perfect for this as the children are free to work with anyone they choose so they can move from working with one peer to a different piece of work with another peer or work alone if that suits them better in that moment. This easy engagement and disengagement with their classmates gives the children ample opportunity to perfect their social skills, boosting their confidence and self-esteem in social situations.
With a multi age range classroom group activities are always fun, two occasions for group work in this classroom are circle time and art work. Circle time is a fantastic supportive environment for the children to begin to discover their own opinions on topics and to voice them in an appropriate manner; it is also a perfect situation in which to practice the art of listening to others. Another fantastic area for expression is art; the children in the junior class really enjoy the large and individual art projects where self-expression, language, fine motor and social skills are all enmeshed in an entertaining and thought-provoking way.
Here is a gallery of images from the junior class students autumn term.
As usual the senior class are taking learning to new perspectives. A very hands on an eager bunch in the class make for an active and stimulating environment, of course Ashley & Evan are more than happy to keep the ideas coming and really understand how to ask just the right question to have the student dig deep within themselves and push their learning in a remarkable way.
It would be impossible to tell you about all the topics and themes our study has brought us in contact with, in this age group independent study is the order of the day. The students take individual topics or perspectives on topics and using all the resources and materials in the well-appointed environment can engage in project work learning to follow their interest. In the senior class the learners, accustomed to self paced study can pursue a topic and in that pursuit are refining all the core curriculum aspects, history, geography, maths, science and language are all integral to the self-study projects, but when approached from the viewpoint of the child’s own interest nothing feels enforced, it is a very natural learning that enhances the learners own vision of themselves as capable and motivated students.
The beauty of the Montessori classroom is when you see the blended learning happening, there is no “stand alone” subject, the children profit from all the subjects in a holistic manner, languages are practiced in the investigating of a maths problem, art can contain elements of science or history, Mandarin class can encourage exploration of art history, as witnessed in the children’s art explorations on the theme of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, they used the wolfhair brushes from our Chinese calligraphy classes and their knowledge of the mandarin characters to illustrate their adaptations with the characters for Happy Halloween. It is this kind of integrated thinking and problem solving that will stand to them in their futures as effective individuals in society.
I have to say one of my favourite projects to witness has been the personal timelines from each student. History and the exact passage of time can be a difficult concept for this age group, and as such a wonderful way to make it concrete and to make it personal is for the children to make a time line of their own life. The students with their family selected photos that marked the each passing year of their lives, it is a lovely opportunity to pass on stories which the children love to relay to their classmates as they compete the project in the classroom. Seeing and retelling the narrative of their lives gives the student a fantastic sense of the bond that exists in Hedley between the school and home settings, something which helps strengthen the importance of study to the young student, a vital reaffirmation to carry with them as they progress through education.
Another wonderful learning occasion arose when we had a visit from the fire safety officer; the senior class students showing great interest in his work were treated to a talk on fire safety and a hands-on demonstration of the use of fire extinguishers. Other than the very practical use of the demonstration, giving the students the confidence to handle a fire extinguisher in the event one is needed, it sparked conversation on force, propulsion, temperature, chemical properties and combustion. All topics no doubt will be explored in full over the coming weeks, its clear a big impression was made on these young scientists.
Here is a gallery of images from the senior class students autumn term.
Our final piece of news is regarding the Witches Walk, which occurred just before the midterm break. We have many traditions in Hedley Park, it is a wonderful way to mark the passing of the year for children, and gives our families the opportunity to spend time together strengthen the bonds that being in the school create.
Our Witches Walk takes place on the morning of our midterm break; we assemble at the gates of the school and walk to the wonderful amenity on our doorstep that is Merrion Square. Where we meet the kind but confused Witch who lost her list to create the spell that can take her home.
Our search of the park for the ingredients in her list take us to the four corners and we all have time to get involved and even sing a song or say a poem to help us on the quest. Finally we gather at the steps and help the Witch to decant the ingredients and perform her spell. She can now find her way home and in return we get lovely treats to share before we go home to enjoy a few days with our families.
Through the year we have more events, some as dramatic and exciting as the witches walk and some a little more sedate, but all serve to bind the community that is Hedley and leave memories of the fun and learning that takes place here indelibly etched into our hearts.
Keep an eye on the front page of our website for notice of upcoming events, or even download our calendar to your smart phone to receive updates and reminders.
Here is a gallery of images from the 2014 Witches Walk.