New Year, New Learning
What a fantastic month we have had, January days might be short but we packed so much in to them.
Early in the month we took delivery of the shipment of new materials we bought using the wonderful donations we received from our fundraising event at the end of last year. Our students really love their Montessori materials and it is fantastic that with the generous support of our parents we can continue to revitalise the stock of hands on learning opportunities we have to hand. These new materials can extend learning in an area giving the child further opportunity to develop a skill or ability or inspire a child to question, discover and internalise their learning more than they would from work sheets or books alone.
This time we got some really remarkable pieces, including a delightful continent box, to help the children discover the animals and continents of the world and the truly spectacular Timeline of Evolution which charts the stages and milestones in the evolution of life on the planet. This piece of material has in itself sparked so much debate, research, reading, experiments and conversations in the senior class.
The materials in a Montessori environment are the true “instructor” of the students, and this is very evident in the Timeline of Evolution. Watching the children pour over it, finding facts and heading off to the PCs, iPads and well-stocked library to investigate further was wonderful. Hearing them come up with ideas about why some stage of evolution happened before the next, where certain traits or animals or events occurred is really remarkable. It is this self-directed learning that embeds itself in the work ethic of the children as they mature as learners. The confidence it gives them as learners capable of taking charge of their own interests and questions, this is the real and long lasting effect of Montessori education for our children.
Of course having children who are simply self-motivated to learn is not the only outcome of the Montessori method. Children are very social and take so much from their environment and interactions. We want to ensure the children are compassionate and considerate of those around them. Children who grow into thoughtful and community minded individuals. With this in mid we love to see our Snack café develop as a central part of the afternoons activities. Practicing social graces, manners, helpfulness, conversation and listening skills. It is inspiring for us as adults in the environment to see the children naturally displaying all of the above and more. The older children relish their role, taking care of the needs of the younger children and the younger children model their behaviours on the example of their elders. Healthy eating is another cornerstone of Hedley Park and from the general policies on lunches and snacks to all the food we provide, allowing and encouraging children to widen their horizons and introduce their palates to new tastes and textures helping them to become the dietary norm for children is paramount to us.
So what have we been doing in class? As usual we start with the youngest group of learners in the school, the Nursery class. What a vibrant and loving group they are, constantly moving, hugging, chatting, laughing these young students pack a lot into their day. This month they have really been enjoying their Mandarin class, of course the 2-4 age group are in the midst of their natural sensitive period for language. They absorb new words, sounds, intonations and tones faster at this period than at any other time in their life. We don’t want to waste this wonderful natural drive so we ensure the Nursery class is a treasure trove of languages. From French songs, to Irish poems, stories and rhymes in English and their wonderful Mandarin class the Nursery children soak it all up.
The Nursery children are also in their sensitive period for movement, as any parent will tell you, they never stop going!
This sensitive period is not just about the need for movement but the refinement of movement. Strengthening muscles both gross and fine. From the big movements of carrying a chair or the largest block of the broad stairs, to the finest movements involved in holding a pencil or using a scissors the children are constantly making the neurological pathways that will be required for the rest of their lives. The Montessori environment is rich in occasions for movement, in fact we don’t just allow movement but expect and encourage it. Children move around the room selecting, setting up, doing and returning their work, they can walk around the classroom observing others, go to the library, to the home corner, to the shelves, freedom of movement is observed in all aspects of the day and it satisfies this deep unconscious need for the child to refine their movements in order to control their bodies.
If the Nursery class is a hive of activity then the Junior class is a bustling and vibrant pod of dedicated learners. Movement isn’t just the domain of the younger students. Our junior class students are very active, from Tuesday ballet to Friday Sport, daily activities in the park (weather permitting) we love to get active.
Sport is a weekly highlight; the youngest in our class stay with Sinead in school and enjoy music and rhythm exercises every Friday morning. The older students in the class along with the senior class pupils get their kit bags and head off with George (our bus driver), Ashley, Aoife and Katie to a local sport centre. Here in their spacious setting we can really move our bodies. Lots of individual and team games, gymnastics, muscle control and coordination exercises are enjoyed by all.
In the junior class this month we have been on an Asian adventure. We explored the continent of Asia and used it as the inspiration for all our projects, from writing samples, to art, geography to culture we have been on an odyssey of learning. It is a timely study as we are preparing for another great Hedley Park tradition, our Chinese New Year celebration and feast! 2015 is the year of the Goat, and we will make sure it is “Ram” packed with learning and fun!
The junior class aren’t the only ones to prepare for the year of the Goat. The senior class are past masters at calligraphy by now having enjoyed many many lessons in Mandarin, Chinese Culture and Calligraphy, we even have our own wolf hair brushes and inkstones. The senior students have been preparing a team project on the Chinese new Year and are looking forward to sowing off their hard work on the big day.
Another project the senior students got “stuck into” this month, was inspired by the Evolution Timeline it was a study on the development of the backbone in animals. We began this study with a dissection of the fish. As younger students we all worked with the parts of the fish puzzle and its control sheet.
We have often used the labels on the puzzle pieces so we are all familiar with the terminology, but a real fish is a wonderful extension of this. It was fascinating to label all the parts and then begin the search for a physical example of the backbone itself. Talk about enthralled by the topic, the students were captivated and very eager to lend a hand… or four to the proceedings. It was heartening for us a teachers to see the flame of knowledge burn bright in our students, a flame that is never far from this particular group but magical when it blazes en-masse.
So with that we will leave you, and will be back soon to update you on all our special projects, Chinese New Year and of course Valentines Day. My how fast the months pass when you are as busy and happy as we all are!
Please enjoy the photo gallery of our months work.