Happy New Year to you all, we hope everyone had a wonderful winter break and you are all looking forward to a fun 2016 of growth, giggles and learning.
We had such a lovely second half of the autumn term, in our last post we updated you on all our wonderful extracurricular and charitable activities from the first half of the term, November and December have been no less jam-packed!
From yoga and karate to practice for the winter play, science experiments and natural history field trips our young learners have had it all going on. Every day in Hedley Park bring unique and exciting learning opportunities, our staff and students are constantly asking questions of each other, discovering new ways to explore the world around them and expanding on the natural talents within us all.
From a personal perspective the Winter Play is really a wonderful opportunity to see hidden, and in some cases not so hidden talents in our learning community. As teachers in the school it is always a heart warming and intensely proud time at the end of the show, to see how the children have risen to the challenge, took on big roles, in a real theatre, with a professional sound and lighting crew and a full script. Each and every child has rehearsed, practiced lines, songs and moves for months, but at the dress rehearsal standing there in costume it all is so real. The children just take it in their stride, and watching them onstage (from the wings) they really shine!
It is so remarkable for the children to get the chance each year to perform in a real theatre; it shows the respect and confidence we place in their preparations and their talent. It is this respect that gives them the self confidence and inner belief to give it their all in the knowledge that they are seen as capable and effective members of the cast. The responsibility of each role allows the child to grow in new ways, they are aware that they are a vital member of the cast and that their presence is key to the groups success. It is this responsibility as a cast member and the spirit of taking part that gives them wings to go farther than anyone could ever think, and each year as staff and parents we are speechless at how far the children take the play and in so doing, their own development.
On the topic of unique developmental opportunities there are no shortage available to the students of Hedley Park. The classroom shelves are generously stocked with attractive, provoking and curriculum enhancing materials, and the students waster no time in exploring them to their fullest. Children learn best in a physical, hands on way, they deal in the real and the concrete and Dr Montessori identified this and used this knowledge to create materials that would aid the child to internalise their learning in the most natural and effective way.
Of course it’s not just the materials that have assisted our children’s learning all term. Our wonderful staff are all highly trained and experienced, they observe and journal each child’s interests, learning styles and development to plan lessons, plans and activities to allow each child to progress and flourish in a natural and exciting way.
In a Montessori setting the environment is known as the “third teacher” and our environment, its interior classrooms and its exterior surroundings combine to offer the students a distinctive and exceptional learning atmosphere.
It is a wonderful accolade to the Montessori approach that the newest student in the British Royal Family, Prince George has been attending a Montessori school. Of course he’s not alone, his father and uncle both experienced a Montessori setting, as did many other highly successful individuals. We have listed a few alumni here. There are studies in progress to discover what exactly does the Montessori offer to create the driven, compassionate and successful people amongst its alumni, but those of us who have experienced a Montessori community as a parent, teacher or student can see that the respect, trust, exploration and child lead curriculum sets our learners on a path to realise their fullest human potential in an empowered and contentious manner.
So as we move towards the spring term, we look forward to further Hedley traditions, and new experiences for staff, students and parents alike. Come back soon to find out more and like our facebook page to get mini updates along the way.
Enjoy the photo gallery of our learning and adventure.
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.
Summer is flying by and the lack of sunshine here in Merrion Square is not stopping us in any way.
We have been so busy in the last months there was hardly time to sit down and update you on all we have done, thankfully we grabbed a few moments to catch up on the highlights of the last while.
The seniors have, as ever, just been a hive of activity. They began with their projects and presentations. This is an activity that the students really enjoy and it shows. As a group we choose an overarching theme, this year the theme was animals. Each student then selects a subtopic, and they begin their independent research there. They are free to use any of the wealth of research opportunities in the school to compile their information and can present the information in any manner. This year some students took the opportunity to show off their PowerPoint skills and made use of the interactive whiteboard to present their research findings.
Once all the students have compiled and organised their research, created their display materials they get to present their work to the whole school. It’s a fantastic chance for each student to hone their public speaking skills, and grow in confidence as their classmates and the younger children soak up the information. For the younger children it’s a fantastic modelling experience as they learn how the older children conduct themselves in the presentations. It is this autonomous research and learning on a topic of their own choosing and then the confidence building presentation to a group that really concretes not only the facts and figures, but the whole suite of independent learning skills which will stay with these young students as they move through their educational careers.
While on a roll from their independent projects the senior class took on a mammoth team project, this time we were going on the Titanic. Montessori especially in the senior classes is characterised by the holistic nature of learning, the students don’t learn in isolation, nor do they experience the world one element at a time, so we embrace project learning where all elements of the curriculum can be encompassed in their connectedness. This project took in elements of science, history, maths, social studies, geography, english and we even looked at engineering and nutrition.
Children are by nature kinaesthetic learners, they are physical, hands on and involved in their learning and excel in settings where this is supported and encouraged. The setup of the classrooms in Hedley are designed for exactly such learning to occur spontaneously. The children had a wealth of questions about the story of the Titanic, and in true Montessori fashion Katie and Ashley supported the children to discover the answers for themselves through experiments, research, field trips, writing pieces and creating objects. The learning comes from their own interactions and can be seen to be fully absorbed by the students rather than put in front of them to learn off.
To fully “stand in the shoes” of those who boarded the fateful ship we went to Belfast on a field trip to the Harland & Wolfe shipyard at the Titanic museum, of course while there we also went to W5, and it was the perfect place for the seniors, whose parents will testify are constantly asking Why, What, When, Where and Who? Many answers were gleaned from the hands on exhibits there gave rise to further questions which were brought home to investigate at our leisure.
The capstone project of our Titanic Experience was the First Class Afternoon tea the seniors held for their parents and chosen VIPs. It was a fantastic afternoon planed, prepared and hosted by the young students. All elements were thought of and created by the children from invites to menus, choosing table settings, seating plans, appropriate outfits and of course the food and beverages. I’m sure the honoured guests will agree it was a beautiful experience and gave everyone unique memories to last a lifetime.
The seniors weren’t the only busy people, earlier in the year the whole school got involved in World Book day celebrations with a book sale and dress up day. We came as our favourite book characters, Matilda, the Cat in the Hat, many Harry Potter characters and plenty of super heroes turned up to share their love of reading in all its forms. Another lovely tradition began in the senior class that we hope to continue with the other class groups, we each brought a book we had read at home and enjoyed with a recommendation review and swapped them with our class mates to pass the love along.
The Junior class also got involved in project learning with their trip to the continent of Australasia. The Great Barrier Reef was explored in all its colourful teeming glory. Creating all the fish types is a fantastically expressive and creative way to absorb the wonders of this beautiful biosphere. On land we learned about Kangaroos and Koalas, the Aboriginal people of Australia and the native populations of the many countries and islands that make up Australasia.
The Nursery class enjoyed their foray into art appreciation by creating their own masterpieces on the theme of “I spy animals in art” it’s wonderful to hear their descriptions of what is happening in the paintings they created. Painting is such a valuable leaning space for children and is very therapeutic when they are overcome with the emotion’s that are very keenly felt by these youngsters in their journey to self-regulation.Other valuable sources of self regulation are Yoga and Kenpo Karate which we are happy to report are on the list of extracurricular classes for the next academic year. We cant wait to start classes with Estelle from The Olive Tree Yoga Studio, and Brendan from Golden Tiger Academy. Both of these extra curricular classes are designed to help the children with emotional self regulation, physical development, community spirit and self discipline and wonderfully complement our already diverse offering of extra mural classes.
For now we are looking forward to our two week summer break, before we all get stuck into another wonderful year of learning, fun and friendship.
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.