I was talking the other day with Ava from the high school about the year 13s who are having their exams at the moment. All these students are moving on next year to further study. Our conversation was on the variety of interests that they are planning to follow:- Criminology, engineering, pre-med with a desire to go into neurology and nursing. None of these students are doing these things because they can’t think of anything better to do, but are truly following their interests. This has me thinking about how this has been nurtured a Wā Ora from very early on.
All children are encouraged to follow what interests them and this may look quite different in each area of the school. Sometimes these interests turn into something Montessori termed ‘Big Work’. Because ākonga have the freedom to choose, they are able to meet an internal need or sensitive period they have for learning a skill or knowledge. They take an interest they have and do something with it.
From what I have heard in the Preschool, ‘Big Work’ may look like tamariki practicing a lesson they have been given over and over again or learning all the names of the dinosaurs or countries in South America. At this level the children tend to practice their work individually.
In Primary we also encourage choices the children have towards work. We encourage the children to take on something of interest and research it further; or to take a lesson and show what they have learned. This can be a short term idea or can be something that takes a long time. Sometimes they take a concept through to some sort of final concrete product and other times there’s a lot of ‘finding out’ practice, without a concrete finish. Both ways are OK as the child is still fulfilling their need to find out. Some of the ‘Big Work’ I have seen over the years has been very interesting and different. The children at this level prefer to work together, so if someone has a work they are bursting to do they generally rope in some other children to work with them. The others often catch the spark and kindle their interest in the topic as well. Between the children in a group they may take something much further than we ever imagined.
Here are some of the things I have seen over the years of my teaching:- Writing, directing, acting in, making the costume / makeup for a play; putting the learning of circles into pizzas and sewing; building a model of a river; doing a huge math problem that takes up the whole page, learning about all (or as many as they could) of the types of dinosaurs, marking out the measurements of dinosaurs, trying to make all the planets to scale.
In the 9-12 classes big work takes on an even grander scale. I have heard about all sorts of things happening, for example, building a model of a bridge, film making, catering for events, huge maths works, going out into the community to find out more and community lunches.
In the adolescent programme big work looks more like large groups of people working on the same projects to completion.
All of this, I think, contributes to the fulfilment of what we want to see for our tamariki when they reach the end of year 13 – a young adult excited about the possibilities that lie before them.