Spring Term: Feasts, Fun and Lots of Learning.

Spring term is underway and at Hedley park we are delighted to report that we are busy enjoying all that our unique environment has to offer. We truly are in a wonderful location and with the refurbishment of Merrion Square park in progress, our students are able to make the most of our historic, creative and natural environment.

Enjoying our wonderful outdoor environment

Enjoying our wonderful outdoor environment

The renewed play and exploration area is most welcome and very popular when we go out on nature walks or just to burn off some excess energy. Being a well read bunch our students love the fact that the inspiration for the play area came from our much loved Oscar Wilde and his story of the Selfish Giant. Dublin City created a lovely illustrated version of the story if you’d like to explore it with your child at home.

A big news story so far this terms has to be the receiving of our own copy of the 1916 Proclamation from the Irish Army Officials. In the preparatory school classes, the students are very aware of the historic and cultural significance of the upcoming centenary celebrations. The commencement of the republic as an independent nation has some resonance with them as they continue to work towards making their own independent place in the family, the classroom and indeed the world around them. The presentation itself was a wonderful experience for the whole school and was fittingly officiated by our most senior student.

Receiving our copy of the Proclamation

Receiving our copy of the Proclamation

As a staff member its wonderful to see our students grow in stature, knowledge and independence from the 2yr old toddlers that come into the nursery to our 10 and 11yr old senior students, we have time to learn and grow with the student and their family. Child lead learning is key in any quality Montessori environment and that is in evidence everywhere in the Hedley Park experience. We can certainly say that in being part of the learning story of some of our more senior students we have learned about topics we as staff would otherwise never have approached. The child’s interests and questions lead their exploration of subjects and each child brings a unique perspective that we are honoured to ensure they develop and strengthen. This natural inquisitiveness, eagerness to be challenged and joy in learning is a trait of Montessori educated individuals long after they progress beyond our halls.

Nursery Class - Matching Sounds

Nursery Class – Matching Sounds

Our nursery class have been exploring many subjects, from Geography to Poetry, Natural Sciences to Maths. Of course the underlying core within all our classroom activities is the development of the individual learner and their own independence and confidence in their ability to learn. Children of this stage need to be active, involved and engaged with the topic. The need sensory input in order to establish the facts of the lesson deep within their schema of knowledge. What we mean by this as Montessori practitioners, is that children learning through the method don’t just parrot back rhymes of numbers, sounds and topics, but through the materials and lessons they can absorb the quantity, shape, weight, feeling, sound and concrete truth of the numbers, letters, and basic building blocks of the world around them. It is through the connection of the hand to feel, the eyes to see and the mind to comprehend that the child internalises the abstract idea and makes it real and useful to them for the rest of their life long learning.

The Junior Class - Australia study area

The Junior Class – Australia study area

Our Junior class students are ready for some slight abstraction from the concrete learning of the nursery, but they are still very active and hands on in their quest for knowledge. In the early part of the spring term the group turned their attention to the continent of Australia. It’s a topic that students from the nursery will have already been introduced, however as the students have developed from nursery so have their interests and the learning at Junior Class level is deeper and more involved. Animals and the natural environment are intriguing to children of this age, being well versed in the natural landscape around them here in Ireland they are now intellectually capable of comparison with a new continent. This comparison to the known gives rise to the wonder and interest to explore further, coupled with a wealth of information sources at their disposal the child’s inner drive to learn is well rewarded. It is these positive formative experiences in learning that build a solid desire to learn that will remain within the child driving their learning and questioning for life.

Senior Class - Montessori Great Lessons

Senior Class – Montessori Great Lessons

Our Senior Class students are well versed in the abstract, with a very solid knowledge and base at their feet they stride out into some unique and challenging subject areas. Spring term has witnessed deep exploration into what Montessori termed the “Great Lessons” these 5 groups of lessons explain how and why the earth, life and civilisation came to be.
For a child, the Great Lessons spark the imagination and lead students to contemplate not only the past, but the future. It is through the telling (and re-telling) of these important cosmic lessons that students are motivated to further research and works in the Montessori classroom. Our seniors have been furthering their exploration of the second Great Lesson, Life Comes to Earth. Fascinated by the Era’s timeline the students have been using the materials available to create their own versions. Large work projects like this don’t just further the child’s subject knowledge, but deepens their independent working skills, self motivation, concentration, negotiation and in part team work. Watching a senior Montessori class like our is a joy, the learning and experiences are so varied and multi-layered, cross subject and skill development is naturally occurring in each moment of the day.

Chinese New Year Feast - Emperor hold court.

Chinese New Year Feast – Emperor holds court.

Our school community relish their extracurricular activities and classes, and in February it wasn’t just knowledge we were relishing, but yummy food in our Chinese New Year Banquet. Hosted by our Mandarin teacher the banquet has become a tradition of the Hedley Park calendar. This year we got the opportunity to make dumplings in the class and share them with our Emperor and Empress at the feast. It is a lovely occasion for the students and a very colourful and unique experience each year.

Music Workshop in National Concert Hall

Music Workshop in National Concert Hall

Another extracurricular experience this spring, was a trip to the local amenity that is the National Concert Hall. We are privileged to have such national treasures on our doorstep and luckily we are in a position to enjoy them when possible. On this occasion the Junior and senior prep school classes were treated to a very hands-on and interactive workshop in music and percussion. It was fantastic morning of sound and energy exploration that the children and their teachers thoroughly enjoyed. I have it on good authority that we will return for future workshops as it was a complete success.

So ends our update from the first half of the spring term, we have many new lessons, and events coming in the second half of the term. Beginning with our Proclamation Day on the 16th March, more details on the calendar and in school.

In the meantime please enjoy the gallery of our images from the Spring Term so far.

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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!