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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Jumping right into the new academic year!

Welcome back to the blog for the new academic year

Our senior prep school class have certainly jumped into learning with both feet!

We have so much news to share with you, September has been a busy, happy and productive month for everyone in Hedley park.

Firstly welcome to all our new friends and their families, we are delighted to have you in our Hedley Family. I’m sure you feel right at home by now and that’s when the fun really begins! And to our old friends we are glad you all had a great summer and cant wait to show off all you’ve done this month.

Learning about the Seasons through art and colour.

We will start with the preschool group, its been great to welcome so many little brothers and sisters of our pupils in the prep school group. While Hedley does have a strong family feeling in general, nothing beats actually having your brothers and sisters close at hand to share in the fun.

On the “new” theme, the preschool room got a summer makeover and sports a fantastic new home corner area and loads more notice board space to display all the work our littlest ones are doing.  If you haven’t done so already, give us a call and come take a look!

Through September the Preschool group have been learning about many themes, Autumn, South America, and Weather being the main ones. Aside from the traditional academic, sounds and numbers for  preschool, the Monetsssori environment places an emphasis on assisting young children to understand world cultures, geography, natural sciences and the society they live in. This is achieved through art, music, story and movement. But particular to Montessori is the exploration of these themes through the senses.

Exploring the properties of 3D geometric shapes. Do they roll? Do they have sides or edges?

Using touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing young children absorb the physical impressions of  world around them and use these later as the foundations and cornerstones of all the abstract information older children and adults process. In the Montessori school there are materials created to provide this input to the child and assist the child in really creating the strong logical framework it needs to be an independent and active learner.

Group Painting the South American Continent: a social and physical learning experience.

South America was the focus of our geographic trip around the globe for September. As you may know Montessori colour codes the seven continents, this helps young learners to classify and connect the learning and images related to each continent. Allowing for quicker recall and better connection of plants, animals, people and traditions of each continent. Pink is the colour of the South American continent and with the help of our teachers, the preschool group painted a huge mountainous continent for our notice board.

Take a trip to Sunny South America!

Renoirs "Les Parapluies"

Another amazingly fun project got the preschoolers talking and exploring the weather through art. Using Renoirs “Les Parapluies” as an inspiration, we talked about rain!

Hedley Park's "Les Parapluies"

 

 

 

What rain felt like? What rain sounded like? What a rainy day looked like? What clothes we would wear? What things we would need?

All great topics to expand vocabulary and enhance listening and speaking skills in the group. Then we made our own version. We are sure you will agree the feeling and ambiance of a rainy day is captured perfectly!

Prep Schoolers learn about the Wonders of Ancient Egypt.

In the preparatory school group Aoife & Katie’s class have been busy beavering around too! Enjoying the mixed age range in this class, with the older ones helping the younger ones. It really is true what they say, you remember 90% of what you teach someone else to do, experiential learning has been a big feature of the work of the junior prep school class. Montessori classes have a mixed age range from each plane of development, knowing that younger children watch older ones looking for example, this n turn inspires the older children to be more responsible, assisting the younger children enhances self esteem and providing the social cohesion of a caring learning environment.

Swish! Great African themed handwriting sample!

The group learning themes this month have been The African Continent, (coded green) Ancient Egypt, Autumn and our phonogram “Sh” and the sound “C”.

Autumnal Leaves! Displaying great pencil skills.

Everyone is enjoying the discussions, art, song and story during group work and circle time, but personally I am really impressed with the personal handwriting and colouring work from these young students.

Africa Wall Display, lots of fine motor skills needed: colouring, cutting, glueing!

Practical life, a wonderful staple of the Montessori environment has been given a seasonal update. Practical live allows the younger child to gain independence and fine motor skills, and in the older child it enhances concentration and raises self esteem through accomplishment of interesting and detailed tasks.

One of our Practical Life shelves in the preparatory school

Halloween spooning. Enhancing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Witchy Eyedropping Work. Eydroppers strengthen fingers and utilise the pincer grip essential for handwriting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Halloween and Autumn themed work has been really well received and was proudly displayed to me by the students when I went to ask them about their work. I really liked using the magnifying glass to “spot” bugs in the sand! 🙂

Footy Fun for everyone!

Last but by no means least, our senior prep school group in Ashley’s class have indeed jumped right in! You can see from their fabulous “Footy Fun” display board (also at the top of the page). This was a fantastic team building experience for the new “big kids” to be welcomed by their more seasoned senior class colleagues. Everyone got to experience a mini spa, as shoes and socks were discarded and painted feet left their mark. Highlighting that even down to our toes everyone is unique, our differing feet impressions were lots of fun to create. A nice aside to this was a small lesson in “care of self” as foot washing and drying finished the group work nicely. Well done to all you really did put your best foot forward!

Aside from their extensive individual learning the senior class have been working on three projects. Family Trees, Properties and Characteristics of various materials, and finally Story telling and Writing.

Our Family Trees! Colourful and Significant.

The family tree project saw, history taking on a very personal journey. Each child took time to talk to family members and classify each segment of their family tree. This is a great project for the older class, who are developmentally very aware of their position and place in the greater family and relative structure. It promotes a feeling of belonging that is central to self image.

Labeling our science project.

In science the junior experimenters have been exploring the properties of materials. What better way to find out about a material than to add something to it. Letting the students predict what may happen,  then observe and  record their findings. It is this concrete emphasis on the steps involved  in the scientific approach that will assist these young minds to really take in what is necessary to explore the world in a scientific manner. They tried their hand at oil marbling with great success. They also created a wave bottle, which was great fun until it fell and broke on the carpet. But all proving to be valuable physical property based learning experiences.

Oil + Paint + Water + Paper = Art!

A Story by Scarlett (Age 7)

 

The final group project involved literature and an interesting community based twist. The students used their imaginations, and IT skills to compose and print fairy tales of their own creation. Once the stories were complete the senior class authors had a “story time” for their younger school mates. This proved very popular and was enjoyed by all.

 

 

Knowing the senior class it’s just the first of many creative sharing experiences they will lead for the whole school to enjoy!

The Magic Box written and illustrated by Phoebe.

Thanks for stopping by, as you can see we’ve been really busy. We look forward to showing you our work from October very soon.

Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the Facebook page for detail of this years “Super Spooky Witches Walk”.

Big School News: Senior Class Science, Experiments & Projects!

"Hands On Learning" at the Young Scientist Expo.

In the last post we talked about the essential aspect  of  “hands on” learning style to the Montessori method, this runs the whole way through the primary system from 2-12. In our primary senior class the ladies have taken “hands on” to a whole new level.

How a tornado works.In January the class took a trip to the RDS to see the stands and projects at the Young Scientist Expo.  This proved to be a great success and in the words of the three oldest class members “it was really cool”. The school stands themselves, the fighting robots and the floor piano being particular hits. With all this inspiration under their bowler hats they returned to school to research and present their own science experiments to the class.

Science Experiment Presentation

Each girl researched a different experiment using the science resources in our library and on the internet then they practised at home. The next day they set up their chosen experiments to present to the rest of the class.

Our Experiments recorded on paper.

The presentations included combining bread soda & vinegar to inflate a balloon, creating a sunset from milk, water & a torch, showing how hot water travels from a hot place to a cold place, and proving that Co2 is denser than O2. This was the first step in the overall introduction to project work and presentation that the children of the senior class carry out throughout the spring term.

Fizzy Lizzy in full flow!

Of course individual projects are great fun, but nothing beats a class project, especially one that makes a big mess and has your teacher right in the middle of it. In a new take on the “Cocoa Cola Rocket” the class called this project “Fizzy Lizzy blows her top!” They took mint sweets and combined with 7up in a litre bottle. The aspartame in 7up combined with the gelatine from the sweets lowers the surface tension in the liquid and encourages bubbles of CO2 to grow exponentially, shooting out of the neck of the bottle to produce a fountain!

Goop in the beginning...

The class also tried their hand at making “goop”; combining cornflour, water and food colouring they made their goop, and then began to explore its properties. On a microscopic level, the corn flour goop consists of small starch particles packed close together. Separating the particles is a thin layer of water that acts like grease – allowing the particles to slide across each other and move around, as long as they move slowly. So, when you slowly push your fingers into the goop, the starch slides out of the way, allowing you to slide in easily. However, if you try to push your hand in quickly, the starch tries to move faster than the water can accommodate and grains come into contact. Now, the much stronger force of static friction acts between the grains – as long as they are being pushed together, there is force preventing them from sliding across each other – and the harder they are pushed together, the stronger the friction force is!

Goop on the move!

This is something like Roman arches that hold together without mortar. Gravity pushing down on the archway causes friction between the heavy stone blocks that stops them from sliding across each other and collapsing. In the case of our corn flour goop, the structure is random and “self-assembled”, occurring when there is a very high concentration of starch granules leaving only a small volume for the lubricating water to fill.

King of the Savannah!

All of the researching and presenting skills the students gained in the science experiments are composited in the presentation of the self-selected Nature Projects.

As our Directress Ashley informed me “Individual project work encourages the student to investigate varied subjects with great depth, promoting general reading, research and creativity in the child. The responsibility associated with completing their projects gives the students confidence in their own work and abilities.” Researching their projects from the wide variety of sources available from books on the topic, encyclopaedia and the internet the children learn to rate and compile sources and the information they contain.

Hippo Project.

Project work is the foundation for self-teaching in the senior cycle, learning the skills of time management, choosing relevant research sources, logical information compilation, and concise presentation of the facts will all be invaluable to the student in their further studies and in the eventual work environment.

Giraffe Project

It is no coincidence that the Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were Montessori educated, founding a business based on well researched individual work that merges to a larger project undertaken with cooperation and responsibility.

Stripey Sensations, the Zebra.

Another class trip was the stimulus of the natural world projects, this time to a resource right on our doorstep, the Natural History Museum. The girls selected an animal that inspired or interested them and the research began. I found it refreshing to note that while the internet was available to all students they did not rely solely on it, displaying a vigorous use of books as a resource also.

Flying Foxes.

Topics included Pandas, Flying Foxes, Leopards, Hippos, Giraffes, Zebras, Kangaroos, Lions and Tigers. I think you’ll agree that there was something for everyone to learn in the presentations of the projects and as Ashley reported to me “the class presentations are a chance to display the new-found and immense knowledge gained with the other eager knowledge seekers”

If you are interested in learning more, I know that the ladies of the senior class would be delighted to show you around their room where their projects are on display.

Big School Mooos! Senior Infants Dairy Tasting.

Fun Food & Nutrition!

Who says learning can’t be tasty and fun? Not our Senior Infant class, that’s for sure. Any class that involves tasting cream, cheese, chocolate, home-made scones and ice-cream is sure to remain in the minds for a long time.

Discussing the food before tucking in!

Modern teaching practices extol the virtue and indeed necessity of hands on tactile experiences to the young learner, but it was Maria Montessori at the turn of the last century who recognised involvement of the senses as the essential learning tool of the child.  Throughout the Montessori curriculum we see the engagement and refinement of the child’s senses to organise and classify the world around them.

Yummy Dairy Goodness.

Beginning with the sensorial materials, the child’s senses are honed to distinguish fine variations in texture, weight, length, width, temperature, colour, sound and taste. Once these foundation blocks are in place the child can use them to frame their learning in all areas. The “sensorial” learning style is evident in maths, language, culture and science.

Parts of the Cow Display

Our Senior Infants embarked on a project to discover the place of dairy products in our diet. Beginning with a study on the dairy cow, they labelled the parts of the cow and created a wall display.

They practiced their handwriting cutting and drawing skills through various handwriting samples on the theme.

Handwriting Samples.

Handwriting Samples

The budding scientists then collated and classified various food packaging to produce another display of dairy products commonly found in our diet.

Dairy Food Packaging Samples

But by far the highlight of the Dairy Food Project was the tasting morning.

Tasting Table

Using their senses of smell, taste and touch the children sampled various dairy foods and classified them according to sweet, savoury, bitter, hard, soft, cold  and warm.

Cheese, Crackers & Grapes.

Discussing their experiences of the foods in the group added to their vocabulary store, allowing the students to learn new ways of communicating the food experience to each other.

Likes and Dislikes

 

They then filled in their “likes and dislikes” to record the morning’s activity.

 

 

We all know which dairy food our friend “Lots’o Huggin Bear” liked!

Lots'o Dairy Fun.

Lots’o Thanks from Senior Infants for reading all about their project.

Nursery White Christmas Remembered….

As promised in our last post here’s  a quick recap of what the nursery got up to in the run up to Christmas.  I have to say the pre-Christmas season literally flew at Santa’s sleigh speeds this year,  but our students packed more activities in each day than the elves who load up Santa’s presents!

🙂

The Junior class got the ball rolling with their seasonal tree display.

Winter Tree

Teaching history in the 2-6 age group begins with simple concepts such as what happens in a childs day, the concepts of morning, afternoon, evening and night,  days of the week and of course the seasons.  The seasonal tree takes a prominent place in classroom for discussion and observation with the children.

P-p-p-pick up our penguins!

Continuing on their Antarctic journey the junior students learned about the penguin in circle time, creating penguin art and learning their poem about  Playful Penguins!

Playful Penguin Poetry!

In the Senior class we were busy too, decorating our class for the festive season, making Christmas cards and decorations for home and lots of singing! 🙂

Christmas Cards and Paperchains.

Arts and Crafts are important in the 2-6 age group, creating things to take

Busy making garlands.

home and learning to express ourselves artistically gives the children a confidence in their abilities alongside having great things to take home to treasure. The skills involved in cutting, sticking, stapling, glueing, painting and colouring all develop hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. The sense of accomplishment in the finished product encourages children to complete the projects they start, these are many of the building blocks to the competent learner and member of society.

Some examples of what we were doing

Advent Wall

Christmas Weaths

Christmas Angels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course the seasonal theme didn’t end with arts and crafts or music, we began our Christmas counting.

Christmas Counting stage 1

Much like our Halloween counting we had a Christmas stocking filled with items to count from 1-5. As it turned out to be so popular we were all very proficient at 1-5 and I had hoped to move to 6-10 but the weather had other plans and the snow disrupted our progress somewhat.

Discussing the snowglobe

Still we really enjoyed examining and counting our Christmas cornucopia. 🙂  It’s a lovely work and alongside enhancing concrete number skills it added much to our language and vocabulary as we talked about each item and our experience of it. It also calls to the sensorially sensitive child, using our tactile and visual senses to group the items into similar and different items for counting.  The  snowglobe (pictured left) was particularly entrancing to the students.  I’m thinking in the summer we might make glitter globes as these two in the counting were so popular.

And finally once the numbers were laid out and the contents of the stocking examined our work looked like this…

One Angel, Two Snowglobes, Three Snowmen......

Our practical life work also took on a festive aspect, adding cinnamon and nutmeg to the sieving work, scenting the work with a Christmas air. We added glitter to our pouring water, and Christmas pompoms and mini baubles to our transferring work.

A break from festive themed work we were lucky to be given a pre-christmas gift from a mom of one of our teachers. Our wooden marble run!

Marble Run

 

Building this in a team and taking turns running the marbles through the maze was a very popular activity and gave us many learning and laughing experiences.

Taking turns on our marble run.

 

The last Christmas project the Nursery students would like to share with you was our extra large Santa complete with sleigh, reindeer and toys! This took us four afternoons of painting, glittering, glueing, and giggling. We were very proud of it. 🙂 And we hope the man himself visited your house as he was very generous to us all in the nursery! 🙂

 

Santa Claus Came to Town!

 

Thanks for reading and enjoying all our work. Come back soon for a review of our eventful christmas gala production. 🙂 And a host of posts from the big school on their work in the past three weeks. 🙂

Huge thank you from the staff and students of the Nursery!