The first half of the autumn term has been full of fun and kindness, education and new friends. Where can we start?
From old traditions such as the Witches Walk and Winter Play rehearsals to new experiences such as the Cupcake Cafe and our Karate and Yoga classes, no two weeks in Hedley Park are the same this term. Of course what is most unpredictable and most interesting has been the journeys each child’s learning has taken us on. The Montessori Method is based on child lead learning and that is certainly evident in the every day of our school community.
A wonderful and most unexpected highlight of this term was our cupcake cafe. Inspired by the children’s own conversations about the plight of refugee children entering Europe they wondered how they could help make their journey easier and welcome those who had made it as far as Ireland. While most adults would feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the task, our ingenious students decided that a bake sale would raise much-needed funds to give them options for assistance. We made buns in school and at home, we got our parents involved and friends. On the morning itself we invited everyone we knew to come along buy some cake or a bun and a cup of tea and by 11am we had raised €587.93
Of course now the funds were raised what was the best way to help? Our children decided that gift bags containing essentials and treats would be the most welcoming idea. They decided on hats, and gloves, toothbrushes & toothpaste, notebooks, pens, playing cards, slinky and of course a sweet treat! Our Senior Class, who masterminded the majority of the operation, spent a morning packing all the bags and we delivered them to a charity to distribute.
All these feelings of oneness with mankind could be said to be promoted by our new extracurricular classes, yoga and karate. Both of these activities have immense benefits for our young students from essential mindfulness, self control and awareness of ones own body in space and time, to expanded concentration, community building, muscular and skeletal development and gross muscle coordination. We were very lucky that Estelle and Brendan joined the team of professionals that compliment our seven fantastic teachers (and Mairead) here at Hedley. While yoga and karate are new and very popular extracurricular classes, we still have the ever enjoyable ballet, drama, sport (including tennis in the summer), mandarin, chess and music lessons to ensure further holistic development.
Our daily classes are also jam packed with wonderful educational opportunities beginning in the Nursery Class with Lisa, Magna and Evan where so much of the learning is hands on. The autumn term has a lovely mix of returning students, who know the routine and are happy to make new friends, and new children, for whom this may be their first time in a class environment. Under the care of their teachers and the helpful second year students, the new children settle in early and delight in being part of all the comings and goings. Gaining independence is the main aim of the nursery, independence in self care and in their own learning and development. Nursery children are always eager to be involved and do it all for themselves! Thankfully their super patient teachers encourage this and very surprised parents see quickly this new found confidence in their little person.
The full Montessori curriculum is explored in each class, no matter how young, the learning materials are hands on and perfectly attuned to the needs of each stage. Montessori is less about what a 3, 4, or 5 year old should know and more about giving every child the opportunity to explore each subject area to any depth they wish. Children being naturally curious absorb and assimilate this learning and the materials are endless in supplying their eager and inquisitive minds. Thus we can see that no two children’s journey is the same and so we happily introduced the learning journal concept to our repertoire this year, and its been a resounding success in documenting each child’s unique interests and story in the class environment.
The Junior Class is no less action packed; again a lovely mix of the new and the returning students, some having moved up from the nursery and some joining the Hedley family for the first time, alongside the second year students who relish assisting their new classmates. Under the watchful eyes of teachers Aoife and Sinead who encourage the children to be full and involved participants in the classroom community our Junior Class students enjoy the group projects and independent learning opportunities on offer. The multi age groupings in Montessori classrooms really bring out the best in our students, the new students to the class can find support and assistance in the more established students and in turn the second year students get confidence and awareness from being class buddies with the younger class mates. Helping other children with the materials and the class routine provides “over learning” the opportunity to explain a lesson or a concept gives the students another perspective and concretes the idea further for the more experienced student, and for the younger student peer learning is often more valuable as at this age the children are eager to find the company and acknowledgment of their peers.
As for the Senior Class its chockablock with experiences and fun learning opportunities. Our seniors really have come into their own, each year they build on the projects and activities of the last, ably assisted by Ashley and Katie who are the facilitators of development in the classroom. It is under their supportive guidance that the children discover how the knowledge and relationships formed in the class relate to the outside world. Here they can see how they can be full and present parts of society. The current buzz word of cutting edge primary education in Ireland is “connected learning” the idea that students should see all the subjects as interdependent and that lessons should not be in one topic alone but should bring as many connected areas together as possible. However as experienced Montessori practitioners Katie and Ashley don’t find this a buzz word so much as a way of being in the classroom, it is the very heart of the Montessori experience through out the school.
As our parents know the children chose projects and ideas to develop from anywhere they wish, incorporating all the curriculum topics the students can research and find the information they need to answer their own questions or present their found knowledge to their peers. An example of this was not only the cupcake cafe but their Holiday Budget projects. Holidays are a big topic in all our lives and the children took on the idea of being given a budget to plan and organise a holiday for themselves and their families. Deciding on destination, transport, hotels, activities, restaurants, sightseeing and the all important shopping. Taking into account prices, currency, timetables, distances, changes in time and the interests of various family members. The “Holiday Plan” was presented to the class by each student and no doubt presented
at home for family approval!
So now we are back to school after the halloween break things have not slowed down. Everyone is still talking about the Witches Apprentice who made our walk so much fun and we are all enjoying the songs and rehearsals for the Winter Play, the title of which we are still keeping under lock and key!
Keep an eye on our Facebook in the coming days and weeks for more news and sneak peaks of the rehearsals and the other activities we are getting up to.