Winter 2012 – Science Snow & Sparkle

The Kind Christmas Tree Board

The Kind Christmas Tree Board

The winter season is well upon us and the Christmas spirit is alive and well in Hedley Park Montessori school.

The children are deep in character for their Christmas extravaganza, and all I can say is, even though snow may be forecast for this week. On the 18th December “the sun will come out ……..” and it wont be “a hard knock life for us” … what can I say, we will offer you “Annie” excuse to get in the Christmas mood and “wear a smile”. For parents looking for tickets, please talk to a member of staff. Our rehearsal is today Monday 10th (see Facebook page for details) for children from junior infants upwards.

Nursery winter wall

Nursery winter wall

On the big day itself (18th December) there will be an arrival schedule for each class group that will be communicated to you in the coming days. With our play housekeeping done let us fill you in on all the work we’ve been doing throughout November.

Polar Insulation experiment

Polar Insulation experiment

Starting with our senior class who got into the spirit of Science early in the month and have brought a scientific method to their studies in all subjects since.  They looked at Arctic insulation with a very hands-on experiment to show how polar animals keep warm.

Does a flame burn oxygen?

Does a flame burn oxygen?

Then a look at another side of that coin with an experiment to prove that a flame burns oxygen, this was fascinating as they got to witness the vacuum created by the flame as it burned the available oxygen and the water rose to fill the void generated.

In a further experiment, that took a little more time to witness, the senior class also created their own crystals along a line of thread. It was fascinating to watch the frosty looking crystals spread along as we progressed through the week.

Growing crystals

Growing crystals

The senior students also took a scientific look at leaf structure and types with some leaf rubbings and parts of a leaf analyses.  It is this sensorial approach to learning that the students have hones through their years in Montessori education that allows them to perceive the finest details of each leaf structure, identifying leaf types by touch alone, and internalising and synthesising this knowledge to build on their schemes of the natural world.

Leaf Structure Studies

Leaf Structure Studies

They got into the seasonal spirit with some lovely language arts display work, both as gaeilge and as bearla.

Snowman creative writing

Snowman creative writing

In English language arts they created original stories from the starting sentence “My snowman came alive today and he…” very creative an imaginative stories are on display on the walls. In Irish language arts they completed their Crann Nollag focloir sheets.

Crann Nollag Focloir

Crann Nollag Focloir

In a little bit of arts and crafts the class created gorgeous winter fir cone owls. I’m sure you will agree each is a very unique size and personality, but make a wonderfully unified clan en-masse, reflecting the class group itself.

Fir cone owl

Fir cone owl group

Another art moment took the class to a practical life exercise that helped them count down the days to Christmas day. They made a Santa with a numbered beard, each day they cut a little strip off with that days date until they have trimmed the beard in full and Santa is on his way!

Cutting down to Christmas

Cutting down to Christmas

Handmade Cards

Handmade Cards

Finally taking their place as the elders of the school, the senior class lead the school in creating wonderful Christmas cards and Yule logs for the sale of work at our fundraising breakfast last week.

It was wonderful to see the admiration in the younger students working with their older schoolmates and in turn the care and attention shown to the younger student by the senior students.

Creating a community

Creating a community

This really is the essence of a Montessori environment, younger children learning from and aspiring to the elder students, and the elders assuming responsibility and learning through teaching the younger. It was wonderful to see and experience.

Parts of a Reindeer

Parts of a Reindeer

While all that was going on in the senior class the reception and nursery classes were not falling behind in their winter learning. The Reception class also took a scientific approach to the season with their “parts of” displays.

Montessori created a wonderfully scientific and sensorial approach to learning about botany and the animal kingdom in the early years. “Parts of” jigsaws allow the child from the earliest experience to become aware of how the parts of something come together to create a whole.

Parts of a Robin

Parts of a Robin

Once the child has sensorially internalised this, they can move to connecting the names of each part. This serves as the first stepping-stone to further study and dissection of the unique characteristics of each aspect of the natural world. The Reception class chose the seasonal emblems of Robin and Reindeer.

Independent learning Robin

Independent learning Robin

The robin is a standard of Montessori part of study, but the reindeer is a lovely departure to inspire the students to look further than the materials to hand and a commendation to our staff who love to encourage the students to pastures of new learning.

Independent learning reindeer

Independent learning reindeer

The beautiful winter tree display with migrating birds leaves the room cheered to brightened the darkest winter spirit and serves to house the parts of labelling work that the students undertook either by handwriting each label (if they are at the writing stage) or cutting the appropriate labels (if they are at the reading stage) and identifying the parts during independent work. It is this independent work at the child’s level that is vital to the Montessori class, each contributes the work at their stage and all work comes to form the class board, no one feels in front or behind as each contribution at that students level is vital to form the whole and leave the student feeling accepted as an individual part of the unified class community.

Reception class Winter Tree

Reception class Winter Tree

The nursery class proved themselves, as ever, an art and craft phenomena. The scale and amount of projects and displays they create are astounding. It brings great joy to the class and their teachers to fill the room with wonderfully creative and bright display boards. November saw them on a literature exploration with Elmer the Elephant as the face of their sound of the month “e”, the elephant handprints are just exceptional!

Elmer the Elephant.

Elmer the Elephant.

They threw a party with the Gruffalo, on the party menu was scrambled snake, roasted fox and owl ice-cream and if that didn’t tickle your taste buds then the Gruffalo cake was sure to please the discerning palates of the nursery community.

Gruffalo Cake

Gruffalo Cake

I loved the Dr Seuss like rhyming words on the board, it’s a fantastic way to open the student’s ears to the sounds in words, and vital to inspire the word building that they are embarking on.

Gruffalo Party Display

Gruffalo Party Display

Annie Enright’s ‘The Kind Christmas Tree” took us on a journey of empathy with the birds to whom the kind Christmas tree gave homes to, a wonderful way to begin a conversation about the spirit of the oncoming Christmas season, being kind to others. The footprint robins are so cute and I’m sure when they go home they will make wonderful Christmas tree decorations for years to come.

Arctic Art

Arctic Art

The continent studies in the nursery this month was the Arctic and Antarctica. The students filled the walls with penguins, polar bears, ice caps, walruses and puffins. They had lots of experiential fun with the Arctic sensory box.

Arctic Sensory box

Arctic Sensory box

A sensory box allows the student to explore the colours, textures, sounds, smells and even tastes (depending on) attached to the topic. Small imaginative play items allow the child to construct meaning and explore the subject matter at hand in their own way.  The sensory box was very popular and we will with the aid of the students create more on further topics of study.

Jack Frost nipping at your nose.

Jack Frost nipping at your nose.

The seasonal theme of winter was also explored and illustrated in the displays and circle time talks on aspects of the season.  Jack Frost and the words that describe his work was illuminated on one, another depicted an igloo and winter scene snow globes, while paper cut snowmen was the icing on the cake for me. They really have created a “winter wonderland” of seasonal art.

Nursery papercut snowmen

Nursery papercut snowmen

With the season of winter well underway, we begin to decorate our classrooms for the Christmas festivities and we are looking forward to sharing all our holiday handiwork with you soon.

Lots of love

Students and Staff of Hedley Park.

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Yoga, Dinosaurs and The Heart…. a tour of our projects!

We are really happy that summer has returned to Ireland! It is brilliant to be able to take advantage of the warm afternoons in the park playing with our friends. Its just the kind of relaxation we need after all our hectic project work for Open Day 2012.

Reception Class Walking with Dinosaurs

This years Open Day was on Saturday 12th May and we were delighted to have so many visitors. Our students came with their families and friends and were so good at explaining all our hard work and projects to everyone. It was great to see so many new faces too, we look forward to getting to know you all better.

The students are eager to share their work with all our blog readers so here is a little recap of the projects and classwork.

Preschool Frog Lifecycle

The Preschool Class studied the lifecycle of the frog and the difference between frogs and toads. They learned the poem Five green & Speckled frogs and played the Speckled frog game. Playing games and learning poetry appeals to those that learn best through movement (kinaesthetic) and song (verbal).

We have many types of learners in our community and it is in our early years classroom that we observe the children first, to discover their learning styles. This is information that will be invaluable as they grow with us, enabling us to tailor the presentation and content of lessons to each child’s learning style.

Preschool 5 Green and Speckled Frogs

In Geography the pre-schoolers tackled the continent of North America, they learned about animals and plants native to the continent. They also created their own personal totem poles to represent themselves and made dream catchers. I love the airplane with a photo of the whole class “flying to America”.

Preschool North America

Our Science corner was very popular and we created lots of hands on learning experiences with the children to explain light and colour, wind and weather.

Preschool Class Science Corner

For many visitors their favourite part of the pre-schooler’s displays were the Self Portraits, listening to the children explain each part of the portrait to their family and classmates is adorable and the self confidence they show is a treasure to hold on to.

Preschool Self Portraits

Finally the preschool class would like to share with you their Yoga classes that they have been taking with Lisa and Magna. They have learned lots of poses and are really enjoying them all.It’s a very fun and relaxing time for all.

Speaking of relaxing, its tough being a 3year old and when the world is just getting too much our pre-schoolers have a place they can revive their sense of chi.

Preschool Relax Corner

The “Relax” Corner, has a soft mat, nice music and calming scents, plus soothing hand cream. It’s an express spa for toddlers! Namaste Pre-schoolers!

Preschool Yoga

Things were no less busy in the reception class where Junior and Senior Infants studied Dinosaurs and The Evolution of Humans.

Reception Walking with Dinosaurs

The project Walking with the Dinosaurs was really fun, each student picked one of our model dinosaurs to take home for a weekend. They named it and brought it on an adventure, took photos and made a Dinosaur presentation with the information and images. Very personal and very informative. Projects like this allow the students to express their uniqueness, the idea of the students as people in their own right is really emerging in this class, and they are encouraged to foster a sense of themselves, their abilities and individual natures.

The study of the evolution of humankind was fascinating, they learned about fossils and archaeology, making their own archaeological finds. Learning about early human kind, their tools and habitats gives the children an expanding sense of what it means to be human, what qualities we need to survive and what sets us apart. This is all incredibly important to the emerging sense of self our students have in this age group.

Reception Evolution of Human Window Display

In geography reception class explored Europe and it’s Volcanoes, specifically Pompeii. They made a giant paper volcano for the fireplace, complete with falling ash!

Their handwriting samples bare testimony to how far they have come since the beginning of the term. Again with the study of early humankind, the use of tools has been one factor that sets us apart, mark making being one of the most important. These young students have made fantastic progress with their handwriting and it is obvious these students are going to be separate from the rest!

Reception Class Volcano Handwriting

There was so much complementary work to the study themes available in the classroom, one of the ways of keeping the children absorbing without even trying is to incorporate the lessons into all the activities, art, practical life, history, creative storytelling, Aoife and Katie work hard to ensure that it all ties in making the learning is open-ended and personal to the children.

Check out the slide show at the end for more photos!

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Senior Class Flat Stanley visits South Africa

The Senior Class were not snoozing on the job either, they took on some weighty projects befitting our stately seniors students!

Senior Class Flat Stanley in Australia

Flat Stanley showed us the world, as he embarked upon his travels to Hong Kong, America twice, (East and West Coast), South Africa, Amsterdam, Australia & Wexford to name but a few places!

He played things incognito by trying on various disguises, designed by the students and the seniors finally made kites of Stanley Lambchop so he could continue his adventure wherever the wind took him!

Senior Class Flat Stanley in Disguise

Speaking of weather, the seniors created a very 3D water cycle display board. I love the clouds and raindrops, very lifelike! It is complete with their learning rhyme (to the tune of She’ll be coming round the mountain) being our scientific seniors they also partook in some weather related experiments; Making Rain in a Jar and The Evaporation Experiment (disappearing water).

Senior Class Water Cycle

Of course these were not the only scientific experiments undertaken, studies of the heart and blood were the “piece de resistance” of this Science inspired Open Day project work.

Senior Class The Heart

A heart dissection had earlier taken place with Ashley and was documented in photos on the wall. They learned about the components of a drop of blood, making their own replica of microscopic particles of blood, drawing their interpretation for display. Studying the parts of the heart and lots of facts about blood they even made a quiz for parents. In fact we might get a copy and put it here in case you tried to skip the test!!

Senior Class Microscopic Blood

The wonderful thing about our learning community is how well the students and teachers know each other, the projects really are a culmination of months and years of discovering what each child is already fascinated by or what even more importantly, they can develop a love for.

Senior Class Rain Experiment

The teachers on our staff prepare the topics armed with this knowledge and encourage the children with exactly the right information sparking the light of interest in each child confident that it will blaze within.

The senior class also displayed their linguistic ability as Gaeilge with their micro studies Mo Chorp and in English, with wonderful creative writing essays on display.

Senior Class Creative Writing

Of course there is lots of “all school” projects too, we don’t just stick to our classes, and many projects we enjoy come from our wonderful extracurricular classes, like ballet, music, drama, sport and new this year, Mandarin. In honour of the year of the dragon we extended our dragon project to include sample or our chinese calligraphy and phrases we have learned!

Our Chinese writing display

Now time for us to get to the park, and gear up for the summer term’s highlights of sports day and tennis camp!

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Friendship, Love and Valentine’s Day

Before we broke up for midterm the students of Hedley Park took time to celebrate all the best aspects of St Valentine’s Day. Every class got involved and it really was wonderful to witness the affection and caring shown by all to their classmates.

Nursery Hearts display

Nursery pre-writing table

Starting with the nursery class, they began with the new Valentines work on their pre-writing table. These tables are a great way to hone those newly developing pencil skills. Laminating the sheets means they can wipe and rewrite as much as they want. Even better our table is red!

Size sequencing skills were used to create our sparkly valentines sun catcher chains.  This visually striking display adorned our hall lending a very festive air. I’m certain they were much appreciated when our little cupids brought them home.

Nursery Valentines Art

Nursery Valentines all in a row

All week we worked hard on our Valentines Colouring books, using a variety of mediums, from watercolour, marker and collage to name a few. Working in a group was lots of fun as we shared and giggled and then hung our work up to dry.  We also worked on our drama and storytelling skills with a Snow White storyboard and Handa’s surprise display to compliment our African continent study.

Handa's Suprise

Snow White Storyboard

Junior and Senior Infants were also full of love for everyone. Beginning with their writing table and writing samples the walls were decorated with all things pink and heart shaped.

Junior & Senior Infants Valentines writing table

Learning the old school Nat King Cole song “L is for the way you look at me” with teacher Aoife was lots of fun, especially when we could hear it and watch a video on the school iPad.

L is for the way you look at me

Our practical life shelves had a special Cupid theme thanks to teacher Katie. Sequencing, cutting, pouring and transferring even heartshaped sewing cards were on offer.

Senior & Junior Infants practical life

Senior & Junior Infants practical life

The scent of sugar and spice and all things nice was everywhere when we made our Valentines cupcakes too. Baking hats at the ready we set to work, taking turns to measure, stir and pour.

Sifting the flour, practical life in real life!

Sifting the flour, practical life in real life!

Of course it wasn’t just love in the air but Spring too, and our snowdrops and daffodil displays alongside our spring writing really put a spring in our steps.

Valentines Writing Samples

Valentines writing up close!

Snowdrops for Spring

Snowdrop Writing Sample

In the Senior class friendship, creative writing and beautiful sewing were the orders of the day. Our “All about me” project has helped us to see that we are all a unique and special part of the class team, and our buddy system is giving us a wonderful opportunity to show our classmates that we care everyday.

Senior Class Buddy Wall

Using our typing and creative writing skills we created Valentines poems. (I sense soon the Senior class will be writing the blog unaided, as they are very confident pc and iPad users)

Sew Lovely!

But it was our sewing skills that really impressed as we created felted hearts to display and take home.

Felt Hearts

The last day before midterm we had a Pink & Red Party. Everyone wore pink or red or both.

Some of the Senior Class

Nursery Valentines Snack

Some of the Junior & Senior infants Class and Friends

Even Daisy Duck got in on the act. We checked our Valentines letter box for cards and notes, and we had a “party” snack enjoying our valentines cupcakes and one or two other goodies.

Valentines post box

What a lovely way to start the spring midterm. We hope you had a good time and are all rested for the spring term!

Daisy Valentine

Come back soon to learn all about the Senior class’s “Deep Space Odyssey”.

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Big School News: Anyone for Tennis?

Prefecting your net play!

Nothing says summer more than crisp tennis whites, the thud of tennis balls and giggling children playing outdoors on a sunny morning! So we heartily welcome the “first service” of summer in the big school with the much anticipated Hedley Park tennis lessons.

Twice a week, dressed in their school tennis whites the students from Junior Infants and up go to a nearby grass court tennis grounds to have professional tennis lessons. Being active, out in the air and learning new skills the children all adore this summer term treat.

Of course tennis and Montessori are a great match, both instil order, self-discipline, and the  all essential grace and courtesy. Tennis like many of the elementary Montessori lessons encourages the child to refine their gross and fine movements through improvements in hand-eye coordination; balance and overall muscular control are all built on within the tennis lessons. These mirror the Montessori lessons involving walking on the line, carrying chairs and other items, and fine motor skills which began with the young student selecting and carrying their work to and from the shelves in a graceful manner.

The order involved in a  game, learning the rules and keeping scores all add to the growing child’s control of their environment and there for themselves. Children thrive in and ordered environment and students in a Montessori environment are a testament to that. Tennis has a gentle order that allows the child to sequence and predict the next step allowing them to exercise self-control in a fun and energetic way.

Tennis Tuition.

The grace and courtesy aspect of tennis also appeals to the Montessori educated child, respect for the rules, the environment, other players, turn taking and sharing space comfortably are all innate to our students and so the comportment and sportsmanship of tennis is a natural fit.

While the adults are very enamoured with all these underlying principles and lessons for our students, the children themselves will tell you the one reason they look forward to tennis lessons in the summer term, its FUN!!!

Hedley Park meets Herbert Park!

Big School news: One should wave like this on television!

Daisy Duck dons her royal best and gets some relevant reading!

Unless you live outside Ireland you can’t have missed the excitement and interest in our historic royal visitor. Queen Elizabeth II is visiting Ireland for the next few days, being the first British monarch to do so in over 100 years.  Central Dublin has been awash with people trying to get a glimpse of the Queen and Prince Philip despite the security restrictions.

"We've been to London to visit the Queen" ... or to the bottom of Merrion Sq at least!

The children of the “big school” really wanted to be part of this remarkable event and knowing that the Queen was due to arrive at Leinster House we took it as our golden opportunity.

Not only is our school ideally located in an historic part of the city but we were also ideally located today to witness the Queen almost right outside our door!

Patiently waiting for the Royal cavalcade.

In their summer uniform best, the children waited at the end of the street as the cavalcade drove by, and waving and cheering the Queen couldn’t help but give us a royal wave!

Everyone was elated by the wonderful occasion. Even RTE News were charmed by our well-mannered children and they even had a brief word with Norah (from junior infants) and Val (senior infants) who were broadcast on the three main news bulletins!

Have a look here in case you missed it. The clip is called “Small crowds gather to see royals” and skip to 1 min 40 secs 🙂

"We waved like at the Queen like that!"