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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Hedley Halloween 2012

Reception Class Haunted City Scene

Refreshed after our midterm break we are back to school to get stuck into our practicing for the Christmas play, working on our winter projects and of course counting the days until the holiday season.

Before the midterm we had a frightful amount of work done and lots of good-goulish fashion fun at our Halloween events.

Fruits of our day at Pine Forest

Our reception and senior class enjoyed a trip to Pine Forest art centre for a morning of outdoor fun and art and craft. Some of the results of their creativity were displayed on the foyer walls. Everyone had a great day and enjoyed the bus journey and exploring the grounds of the art centre.

The nursery class worked on their sound C for cat, as we use phonetic sounds to assist the child later with word building and reading please feel free to ask our teachers Magna & Lisa for the phonetic sound of each letter so you can follow along at home. They made midnight black cats to reinforce the starting sound in a visual way.

C for Cat

Art took on another “body” of meaning with some fancy foot and handprint pieces to add to their ever-increasing art portfolio. Hand print trees and foot print ghosts adorned the walls as footprint witches flew on their brooms lending a spooktacular air to the nursery walls. I have to say my favourite are the freestyle Frankensteins made from geometric shapes and displaying some great scissors skills from the children in the class.

Nursery Halloween Display

The poem of the month “Flutter Flutter Little Bat” I’m sure was recited many times over at home as they really enjoyed learning it and absorbed it so quickly.

Hibernating Hedgehog

Finally the nursery children were continuing their seasonal nature studies with some adorable leaf filled hedgehogs, made from the leaves collected on our many walks around the beautiful Merrion Square as we soaked up the changes Autumn brings to our wonderfully appointed natural playground!

Reception class took to the Halloween decorations with their unending enthusiasm, led by Aoife and Katie the students created a Skeleton display, cutting shapes to form their interpretation of a skeleton, then with some creative writing they wrote “My bones like to…. “

My bones like to …..

Personalising each of their bony portraits! Montessori believed that subjects should not be taught in isolation, but that the child in choosing a project or work would naturally come into contact with art, literacy, maths, science, geography, history & culture. None of these subjects are experienced in isolation in the everyday world therefore it is natural for the child to absorb all subjects and utilise their learning to scaffold further discoveries. In our classroom environment we ensure that projects and lessons are undertaken with this in mind, and it can be witnessed in the boards and work displays around the class.

Spooky stencils and handwriting.

Our language arts were on display with some scarily good writing samples and some logic skills and fine motor work with our web mazes.

The group art project over the fireplace lent an atmospheric chill as it depicted a night-time cityscape haunted by friendly spooks. Of course the piece de resistance was the tableau of a witch caught in the chimney! Bravo Reception Class.

Reception chimney display

Not to be outdone the senior class followed the thread of their earlier sewing and stitching projects by weaving webs using hula hoops! These wonderfully large and evocative webs hung over the classroom and were themselves adorned with large spiders waiting for their supper!

Spiders Spinning Webs in the Senior Class

Witches Prep

The class were very busy secretly making the ingredients for our annual Witches Walk. Creating a list for our silly old sorceress who would have to lead the school on a hunt for the ingredients to ensure her safe passage back to her home for the year, the class worked steadily using their science skills and considerable imagination to make many potions and brews to get the job done.

Some of the students ready for the witches walk.

On the day of the Witches Walk all our teachers were in frighteningly good form dressed to the nines in costumes ready for all the fun. Face painting and stories, games and a party all before 11.30am when we went in search of the witch and her ingredients.

Faces Painted and ready for the party

We found her and got to work, searching high and low throughout the square stopping only to recite our poetry and sing our songs for the gathered parents and friends. Finally when all was found we helped the Witch cast her spell and lo and behold before our very eyes she vanished off for another year.

I thought this was a Witches Walk! Why are you sitting?

(Huge thank you to our photographer on the day Sharon, all photos of the witches walk were taken by her and we are very grateful)

Checking the list for the witch!

Halloween 2012 was our best yet and we cant wait to show you how we celebrate the winter holidays, Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas!

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Everyone smiled at our crocodiles!

Our gala performance of Peter Pan was memorable for many reasons. Waking up on December 21st to find a winter wonderland outside our windows we knew this was going to be a day to remember.  We had all worked very hard to ensure the 20th anniversary performance of the Hedley Park Christmas play would be one to talk about, and it seemed even mother nature was doing her best to help it stand out!

The Darling Nursery

Teachers arriving early at the theatre were treated to a surprise snowball fight from three of our cute cast members, Phoebe, Scarlett & Jules.  All morning as our parents brought our stars to dress rehearsal the soft falling snow provided a magical backdrop. However nothing proved more magical than seeing all our little ones on stage relishing the performance.

Cutest Crocodiles lie in wait for Captain Hook!

Of course, as all our parents will know we had spent weeks prior to the big day rehearsing with Ashley and our drama teacher Esther, practising our lines and songs, learning stages cues and generally enjoying the show.

Lost Boys in training!

 

 

I’m not sure anyone will forget “Following the Leader” and “Never Smile at a Crocodile” as we sung it at snack, lunch, playtime, and I can imagine even in our sleep!

Jnr. Stage Designers in action!

The big school cast members helped to create the props. Designing and painting each item. Some students even brought in items from home to make the stage perfect in every scene!

Ladies that Louis Vuitton

 

 

 

We had our usual day long pre show rehearsal in the week before the play. It’s a tiring day and some of our older students knew to pace themselves and reserve energy. Finding our Ashley’s beautiful LV scarf they settled themselves to watch their friends on stage wrapped in their new blanket.  These ladies know how to relax in style.

Indian Braves and Lost Boys.

Pirate SnuggMonster!

The day itself whizzed by, the calm air backstage belied all the work put in by staff and students alike. As usual our little stage stars rose to the occasion wowing the audience with their performances. Well behaved, full of fun and not in the least bit fazed by being on stage.  Every year under the guidance of our directress Ashley and our Drama & Music teachers, the children blossom into their roles and it is a joy to see.

The finale of our version of Peter Pan saw all the cast on stage for the (home-made) 20th Anniversary Birthday Cake. And accompanied by our staff we sang a wonderful rendition of Dionne Warrick’s Motown classic “That’s What Friends Are For”

Lovely Lost Boy and Girls!

For those who  want to relive the play, the snow and the beautiful slide show of backstage photos, DVD’s can still be arranged just contact the school when collecting or leaving your child in.  I’ll leave you with a few more enchanting photos of our stars! We cant wait to find out what we’ll be doing for the 21st Hedley Park Play!

Super Cute Crocodile

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell

 

All the cast staff on stage.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share with your family and friends that couldn’t make the show on the day.

 

Lots of love,

Staff & Pupils of Hedley Park Nursery & Prep  School.