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.

Senior Class - examining angles

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.

Community in action - Snack Cafe, decisions decisions.

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.

Nursery Class - independent working

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!

Nursery Class - busy returning work to the shelves

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.

Prep School - Sports

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.

Junior Class - Asia writing samples

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.

Senior Class - Chinese Calligraphy

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.

Senior Class - labelling the parts of the fish

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.

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Winter Memories: Alice, Enda and lots of learning!

 

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On set at the Play

Now we are back after a restful, fun and family filled Winter Break its time to look back at the end of our first term.
Firstly we can take a little walk through the projects and themes we explored through the final month of the term.

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Asian Adventure

The nursery children began by going on an Asian adventure. As we have discussed before Montessori uses a colour-coded system to assist children to differentiate the continents, this colour also serves to link all the various themed artefacts to the particular continent to provide the child with a strong visual base from which to associate the images and items. For each of the seven continents the children in the nursery begin by painting a huge outline map of the continent. This fun group activity is our point to begin discussing the continent in question.
At the nursery stage we primarily focus on animals, very iconic imagery and stories or songs about the continent. However the beauty of the Montessori method lies in the individual nature of each child’s learning, when a child has the drive to enquire farther the materials are always on hand in our school to aid their exploration to the fullest of the child’s interest.

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Winter Art in the Nursery

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Photobombing is great fun!

Another theme much enjoyed by the nursery, especially when coming up to Christmas is that of the seasons. Winter is a wonderfully sensorial season. Learning about snow and ice, cold winds and shorter days really spark the children’s imaginations. Again we use art, and song, stories and sensorial play to inspire the children to question and learn. With such a multicultural group in the school as a whole we celebrate so many cultural festivals, and Christmas certainly is large on the list. The nursery has lovely traditions that help the children prepare for the holiday. My personal favourite is making our reindeer food to encourage the sleigh to stop at our homes.

Busy at work in the Junior class

Bust at work in the Junior class

The preparatory school junior class also had a busy winter term; handwriting is the buzzword in the group. Everyone is getting into their writing samples, enjoying writing poems, stories and getting lots of perfection making practice!
The drive children experience to communicate in the written medium is instinctive at this stage; Montessori called it the explosion into writing. Writing is a complex act that requires intellectual process combined with manual dexterity and is the ability to express thoughts with graphic symbols.

Handwriting Sample

Handwriting Sample

Activities that make this possible are abundant in the Montessori setting, from the nursery tracing sounds, sensorial activities and practical life to the insets for design in the junior class and the chalkboard and moveable alphabet, our teachers know the great importance of indirect preparation: the children must be given opportunity to prepare their hand and mind to then be able to write. When all of the components of language come together and the children individually come to the realisation they can write.

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Being photobomed again!

Montessori believed the children’s natural absorbent mind helps them to take in the images of the letters and also helps the children understand the importance of writing. It is significant in society and children are uniquely attuned to discovering the culture around them. This contributes to their deep desire to write. The children will come to realize that writing is not just any marks put on paper but is made of special marks. Knowing these special marks helps the child to do “special writing”.

In the senior class our crack team of “backstage managers and set designers” were busy outside of individual work time conceiving and crafting the props and set pieces that they wanted for the Christmas Play. As the oldest group they enjoy a lot of responsibility and relish taking charge and deciding what is required for each scene and how it should look. Then their years of group and individual craft and art classes come into the fray and wonderful and unique set props are created.

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Tweedle Dum & Dee

 

The Preparatory School play this year was Alice in Wonderland and what a masterpiece it was. To use Ashley’s catchphrase “Best show ever” and it was.

Backstage getting ready

Backstage getting ready

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Some of our Enchanted Flowers!

The children rehearsed their lines and on stage movements to polish the show until it shone! We had some stellar characterisations, from the gracefully mischievous Cheshire Cat, to the delicate and dainty Flower garden. The rambunctious twins Tweedle Dum & Dee to the military precision of the Deck of Cards. Alice was just superb and alongside the Mad Hatter they brought so much of their own personalities to the roles. The fearsome and beautiful Queen, with her much maligned and gentlemanly King to the White Rabbit who began it all. The children gave it their all and more and as usual you can see them blossom after the show, the confidence and poise performing a full play in a professional theatre is an amazing experience to have so early on in life.

Not to be outdone the Nursery group also had their play on the same day. I have to say it’s always so wonderful to see and this year was exceptional. The little ones themselves are not one bit fazed by the lights and the audience, and seem to enjoy the reaction of the parents from their places on stage. This year they performed “The Littlest Christmas Tree” and I think many of the parents were amazed at how well all the children participated.

Nursery on stage!

Nursery on stage!

Future leaders meet the current leader

Future leaders meet the current leader

Finally just before we broke up for the Christmas break, the preparatory school went on a trip to their neighbour in Government Buildings. We are so lucky to have so many public amenities on our doorstep. But one local amenity that not everyone gets the invitation to enjoy is the corridors of power in the department of the Taoiseach. On a guided tour of the gallery of the Dail, the chambers of the Senate and the Cabinet, we made our way to meet Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach of Ireland.

Fresh from their success onstage earlier that week the children were brimming with

The Dail Gallery

The Dail Gallery

confidence and poise and enjoyed asking some pretty challenging questions of our national leader. He was charmed by their manners and intelligence and they could see that he was enjoying their joie de vivre! There were Christmas carols and “fist bumps” a plenty as they gathered around the tree for a photo op!
Its with great thanks to Elsa & Leon’s Dad for organising this wonderful experience.

What a busy end of term, all I can say is we all really deserved the break when it came. And in our first week back we have been planning, scheming, inspiring and challenging each other to discover all we can about the new terms topics and projects! I for one cannot wait to see what the coming weeks have to offer!

2015 will be another amazing year of growth and learning for Hedley Park and all its bright and energetic pupils!

Have a look at our Photogallery below to see all our fun and work!

And make sure to scroll beneath to hear us singing with Enda Kenny.

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Gong Hei Fat Choi and Thank you!

Land of the Midnight Sun

Land of the Midnight Sun

It’s February already! Where does the time go? Well we can tell you the first half of the term may have passed in a flash but we squeezed so much work and fun into the first 6 weeks of the year.

More new materials

More new materials

Where to begin! Firstly we’d really like to thank everyone who came to our coffee morning last term, the funds you generously raised contributed to the purchase of our new materials.

Replacements for materials that have been loved so much we needed to get new ones and many advanced and new materials to extend our learning.

Even more new materials

Even more new materials

Some of our new materials

Some of our new materials

Everyone is so excited about the new work., students and teachers alike. It’s wonderful to hear the children exclaim, “I cant wait to start my work” or “I love this school so much” as they do every morning. Over hearing one young student tell his classmate “I’ve told my mother a million times I love Hedley Park” as he counts to a million with the new maths materials is so heart-warming. We are so lucky to have the wonderful students, parents and staff to make up the place that is Hedley Park.

Looking back at the work we have done in the last month, it is almost overwhelming when you see it all together. Over the course of the month the children work at new group projects and that work is displayed in their classrooms, this is only the tip of the iceberg. They also work on individual pieces in their own books and much shelf work, which does not create “display” but leaves the student with a lasting love of independent learning and self-discovery.

Parts of the river display

Parts of the river display

Our senior class have been working on not one but two group projects this month. The first was on the topic of rivers; they created a wonderful 3D wall display on the parts of the river and are creating individual booklets on other land and water formations.

Pin pushing our landforms

Pin pushing our landforms

 

Carefully pin poking each land and water form out, illustrating, labelling and gluing into their booklets. Exploration with the land and water form materials really serve to concrete this in the minds of our students.

 

The careful use of these materials brings a wonderful moment of zen amidst the buzz and hubbub of an active classroom.

A moment of zen

A moment of zen

The second group project was in preparation for our favourite annual event , Chinese New Year. Everyone chose an aspect of Chinese history, which they researched and summarised in their best penmanship.

Our Display.

Our Display.

Creativity to the fore each student made his or her own Terracotta Warrior and Lai See for good luck! They even got to use authentic wolf hair brushes to decorate their Lai See with calligraphy during Mandarin class with Evan.

Our Lai See

Our Lai See

I love how each year the celebrations and project work reflects the individual interests of the children in the class, this year a wonderful Lego Great Wall was built! It being the year of the snake we had representations of the serpent in cake and in majestic art form.

Year of the Snake Cake

Year of the Snake Cake

Of course on the final school day before the celebrations we all gathered for a Chinese banquet as guests of the senior class. It was lovely to share food and wish each other Gong Hei Fat Choi!

Chinese Buffet - Eating together

Chinese Buffet – Eating together

The senior class also presented their individual animal projects to the junior class. Each student chose an animal that interested them and researched using ipad apps, the internet and the many many books available in the school library. Interesting facts are written out in their best handwriting and photos printed and compiled to create a beautiful display.

Our Animal Projects

Our Animal Projects

Each student then presents to their peers and the junior class and answers questions after the presentation. The confidence gained by the students in such presentations is undeniable, and for those who are seniors in the class you can see the benefit of such presentations in their research and public speaking abilities. Essential experience for self-study and self-reliance as they approach secondary school.

Working with grammar symbols

Working with grammar symbols

Language arts are a very popular study subject at the moment in the Senior class and among the new materials the grammar symbols are being put through their paces in an almost never-ending cycle. From student to student the learning is being inspired and promoted, it is enchanting to see them work on something and then teach their classmates their findings. It really is peer learning at its best.

Geographical study is also au current at the moment with jigsaw maps and flags being pored over in great detail. Whether alone or in company the thirst for more information is being quenched in the senior class.

Working with the whole world

Working with the whole world

The junior class have also been hard at work with their group projects. January has seen them working on dairy foods and the cow, a project that incorporated, language, numeracy, science, culture and lots of fun. They studied the phonogram “ow” with the word cow, they identified and categorised food products in dairy and non dairy, they studied the parts of the cow and created handwriting samples on many delicious dairy products.

Parts of the cow

Parts of the cow

They also studied “the land of the midnight sun” in their geographic and cultural exploration of the arctic. A fantastic “frieze” of the vocabulary and iconry of the frozen continent, hung over their large map and individual continent plates.

Arctic Map and images

Arctic Map and images

Inspired by our new jigsaw parts of the penguin the junior class have created a large parts of the penguin display and individual ones that they are rightly very proud of.

Do you like my penguin

Do you like my penguin

Love was all around in the run up to Valentine’s day, love for their practical life work, love for their parents, love for each other and love for the new materials that are inspiring them to keep asking “can I take more work off the shelf”. As a teacher in such a class it is a joy to see the children motivate each other and themselves, find joy in learning and joy in sharing their learning.

Loving to work together

Loving to work together

Europe Display

Europe Display

Last but by no means least our tiny learners in the reception class who have conducted a tour of the continent of Europe. In their educational travels they have spent time studying Picasso’s abstract art pieces, and tried their hand creating their own. They also continued their study of the beautiful French language, and made a magnificent Tour Eiffel. While they made colourful “escargots” I’m not sure tasting them would have been as popular, that said our adventurous reception class are always open to new tastes!

Spring Display

Spring Display

With the change of season to Spring the reception class have created a vibrant display of all things spring, including gorgeous hand print ducks and ducklings, richly coloured springtime flowers and very cute cows.

Our reception class love literature, nothing is more enjoyable than reading a book together or exploring our library alone. With that in mind they chose two current favourites Jungle Book and Giraffes Cant Dance.

Giraffes Can't Dance

Giraffes Can’t Dance

The free painted giraffes are adorable I think you’ll agree and the emotions of the giraffes throughout the story as depicted by the students is a perfect conversation point at circle time or even at home to help our youngsters label the emotions that they feel through out the day.

Finally don’t forget to ask about the poem of the month, “Pitter Pater Raindrops” and I’m sure you will be entertained by the rendition at the dinner table or in the car!

As usual there are just so many photographs of our beautiful work that we can’t fit them all in the text, so here is a gallery so you don’t miss out on any. Enjoy!

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Welcoming the Year of the Dragon!

The year of the Dragon 2012 was welcomed with great celebration in the Senior class this week.

Our young Confucian Scholars

The year of the Dragon is an auspicious year in the cycle of the Chinese calendar, and it is a very popular year for children to be born. Unlike dragons in western culture who are considered portents of destruction and malice in eastern culture the dragon is a symbol of leadership and good fortune.

The senior class being the leaders of our school decided to encourage the good fortune of the Dragon Year to come their way. They set about their fact finding mission with a study of the country of China, its population, culture and geography as displayed on their informative project board.

Our Study of China.

They explored maths and art together with the ancient form of tangrams. The seven components of the tangram, must be cut from a square, the objective of the puzzle is to form a specific shape using all seven pieces, which may not overlap. Learning how to dissect the square accurately to create the seven shapes and set them together to recreate a silhouette was so much fun they hardly realised all the maths and geometry they were revising.

After all the fact finding, research, maths and design, the class were eager to get into the spirit of the Dragon Year and so they created a dramatic (almost life-size) Class Dragon, this will be the senior class’s talisman for the coming year. I know that luck isn’t something they are in need of as their hard work and good manners brings its own good fortune.

Senior Class Dragon

On the day of the New Year Festival itself the class had a celebration feast! What a fantastic cultural exchange it was. Chopsticks at the ready they feasted on many wonderful dishes from Chinese cuisine.

A feast fit for a Sun King.

The chopsticks themselves were a culinary adventure, we have often used them for transferring activities in the junior classes but eating lovely food while hungry was quite the challenge! The table was  full of conversation and giggling as the children tutored each other on the art of using chopsticks  to eat and share in the banquet.

Tummies full the children went up to our secret garden to make their wishes for the coming year of the dragon.

To their great surprise their teacher Ashley had brought a fantastic sky lantern to help take the children’s wishes to the sky. Another wonderous Chinese invention the Kongming Lantern originated in the 3rd century BC and is said to have inspired the creation of the modern hot air balloon.

Sending our wishes to the world.

All in all the class began the year of the Dragon more learned, accomplished and culturally aware. So its true that a balance of hard work and fun does bring its own good fortune.

 

 

Finally, to wrap up this New Year welcome here is our newest blogger Phoebe to give you a students eye view!

Happy Chinese New Year !   (xinnian kuaile)

Warm wishes of health and happiness  filled the air as we prepared to start our  Chinese New Year celebrations at school this week. Reception class waited with wide eyes as they unraveled their fortune cookies 😉 while us seniors  debated over which dishes should be included in our  chinese feast!! We managed to  gather a great selection and all sat down for lunch together  not forgetting to leave the customary empty seat for absent friends. After lots of chop stick fun we headed out to launch our  wish lantern 🙂  never-failing to miss an opportunity our teacher took the chance  to give a quick science lesson of warm air rising  and to our delight  our lantern took flight! A truly great school day was had by all .                                                                               By Phoebe ( with a little help from a friend!!) 

Happy Year of the Dragon!

The Pink Tower and The Post Office

It has been another great week in the nursery, hard to believe we are into the latter half of our first month back.

We are all truly settled now and enjoying the return of our extracurricular classes.

Ballet on Tuesday was much anticipated by all our budding ballerinas. While it does give our petite prima donnas a chance to don their fantastic pink tutus and wraps, it’s not just the girls that benefit.  Ballet refines the gross motor skills of boys and girls alike. Rhythm, music, movement, balance and coordination are all core aspects of the senior nursery ballet classes.

Drama on Wednesday is a roaring success, quite literally! The return of Esther saw the junior and senior nursery class visit “Chocolate Land” and “Monkey Land” they all drew their tickets, packed their cases and boarded the imagination express to explore the wonderful lands.

Music on Fridays is always a treat. Especially this year as we will be gearing up for the Big 20th Anniversary Christmas Musical. Keep in touch for more news on that!

Even with all our great extracurricular classes we had more than enough time to get into our Montessori curriculum.

The junior nursery class are really immersed in the culture and animals of the Australian Continent.

Junior Nursery Continental Australia

They started by painting the continent it’s Montessori key colour brown. Once that was done they began to add their cultural art items. Including the cutest Koala Bear’s, some pretty dazzling boomerangs and spectacular snakes!

We were all very proud of our new nursery juniors, who range in age from 2yrs 2 months to 3yrs. This week one of our youngest students completed the first in the sensorial curriculum, the pink tower.  It really is a great moment to see a child understand and internalize the lessons of the Montessori materials, as each lesson builds the child’s confidence and cognitive abilities.

My First Pink Tower.

The pink tower is a beautiful material, and gives so much to the young learner. There are 10 cubes in graduated dimension from 1cm to 10cm. In carrying and sorting, grading and building the tower the child develops coordination, concentration alongside visual and sensorial discrimination of size.

Our “big school buddy” Emma came to visit on Thursday and she began a new literature project with the junior nursery class. The Gruffalo.

If you havent read Julia Donaldson’s classic children’s tale, get to your local bookstore quick and enjoy it for yourself. Emma brought a fantastic Gruffalo pop up theatre book and we recreated the story as we listened to the Gruffalo song. Then everyone made their own Gruffalo mask, complete with prickly purple spines and tusks! Have a look below, click on the image to zoom in and see all the detail.

Junior Nursery Gruffalo Wall

With all the news from the Junior Nursery Class, lets not leave our Senior Class out of the updates.

We are still continuing on our Asian expedition.


Now you see it..... soon you wont!

This week we made sushi.

Many hands did indeed make light work, both of the creation and the consumption of our sushi. It vanished so fast we hardly had time to take photos.

Everyone enjoyed spreading the rice on the nori, laying the cucumber, mango or tuna and rolling the maki.


Enjoying the maki.

Then we all enjoyed a piece with our lunch, accompanied by pickled ginger, soy and some even ventured towards the wasabi. A real treat for our developing taste buds.

Next week we hope to explore the beauty and diversity of Asian architecture. Come back at the end of the week to find out what we discover.

Not to be outdone by our little neighbours in the junior class, the senior class have been creating their own fantastic interpretations of the animals of Asia. Our chosen animals are the Golden Monkey and the Giant Panda!

Our Golden Monkeys

Our Giant Pandas

We also began our Role Play area this week with the Post Office.

Role Play is important for young children. Role playing encourages the use of critical thinking Participation in role-play allows students to make decisions, and through the feedback received, see the results of their actions, and can therefore learn how to adjust words and actions to produce more successful outcomes. It also teaches many lessons that are needed in society, such as competition, cooperation and empathy.

The Post Office is a great hit and we will be expanding its tasks this week. So far we have been posting letters, emptying the letter box and sorting the post for delivery.

We have two functions of sorting, either by shape or by stamp colour. We take turns posting, collecting and sorting. Children work in pairs at the role play area and everyone ensures they get their time to get into the role.

In the coming days we want to create our own postcards and take them to the local post office to send to friends and family as a keepsake of our time in the Nursery.  Before we do, we have to practice our stamp buying, and our post office etiquette in our role play area.

Hedley Park P.O

Finally, perhaps you may have seen our 20th Anniversary write-up in the Metro Herald on Friday 17th? If not, or if your copy got wet in all the sudden rain showers we’ve been having, worry not, here is a pdf copy to read at leisure.  MetroHerald 17-09-10

It is with that note, that we await the beginning of a new week in Hedley Park Montessori, I wonder what we will learn this week!

Thanks for popping in to catch up, if you have something to tell us feel free to comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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Have a great week

From all the staff and pupils of the little school!