Mother’s Day stories from ākonga

Tania Gaffney  – Deputy Principal Primary / 6-9 Head Teacher – Rātā

Kia ora whānau,

I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day a couple of weekends ago.  We wanted to share with you some of the writing done in Rāta class about mums.  Only those that have given permission have been shared.

Kia pai tō rā


My mum hates me annoying my little sister. She always gets a cup of coffee from the kitchen. I use the massage gun on her back to show my love. By Addison

My mum is the shortest in the family. My mum is like a cat. My mum likes me helping her and likes me doing new things. By Amelia T

My mum loves coffee! (she’s crazy about it) She loves roses and the smell of them. She likes feijoas and feijoa pie. She likes reading and colouring in and sketching and drawing. By Lucy

My mum has red hair. She speaks Spanish and she loves cake especially chocolate cake. I love my mum so much. By Loretta

My mum was born in 1972 and has the same birthday as my uncle. Her hobbies are gardening and cooking. Her best friend is coffee. Her favourite game on her phone is Scrabble and on a board, her favourite game is Ludo. My mum loves me to bits and she loves sweets. One of her favourite things in the whole world is her phone. She speaks 3 languages, Hindi, English and Fijian. She has dark hair with light brown stripes. She loves dogs because she had one when she was growing up and she also likes singing. When she makes her bed she likes to put on music. She reads a lot of books. One time she was carrying a chair and she saw a funny video on the TV and dropped the chair on my foot. I love her so much even when she is angry at me. By Nyla

My mum is my super hero. She is 33. She likes Chinese foods, chocolate and baked sweets. She is very good at gardening and teaching right from wrong. She does not allow mean words in the house and if you don’t say thank you then you can’t get it until you say it. She is a beautiful singer. If the house is not clean, we clean it. She likes when family come or if there is a play date. If there is time mum would love to play with us. She loves movie night and watching funny animal videos and playing the wii. I love Char so much.  By Aria B 

Science in the Preschool Akomanga

Tara Israelson – Nīkau Head Teacher – Preschool

I was once asked how we, as Montessori preschool teachers, incorporate science into our curriculum. I had to think for a moment to figure out how to answer because it’s not a simple answer. You see, in our preschool classrooms we don’t have many activities with the sole purpose of investigating a scientific concept, at least not explicitly. Instead our Montessori curriculum invites the child to engage in what we like to think of as “spontaneous science” – the sensorial experiences of different concepts in real time, directed by the children.

Rather than systematically investigating the questions of “why?” and “how?” things happen, our preschool children explore the world with their senses and make scientific discoveries almost by accident. When these discoveries are made by the child we, as teachers, have the privilege of watching the wonder unfold and we don’t always explain the science behind what they have experienced.

A 3-year-old child who mixes paint at the easel will discover that blue and yellow make green by accident one day and the next time they choose to paint they may put blue and yellow together again to see if green appears. A child building the Pink Tower may attempt to build the tower upside down and will watch as it topples due to insufficient support. An attempt may be made again, with a different block at the bottom, and the tower may stand – or not. This is how the preschool age child develops their own working theories about the world and we want to allow these theories to form without a lot of “spoilers”. So, rather than tell the child that blue and yellow make green and then invite them to prove our theory, we wait for the child to figure it out and then tell us. That being said we, the kaiārahi, don’t ignore the science happening around us! We support children by naming their experiences: a surface can be “rough” or “smooth”, a prism can be “thick” or “thin”. We also ask questions when we can see a child needs help, for example we might ask “where do insects like to hide?” when a child is
struggling to find them.

Children make sense of the world through their discoveries and their ability to share them with others. This idea is so powerful for young children – that they can work together alongside a friend or a teacher and solve a problem, or hypothesize and then experiment to determine whether their hypothesis was correct. We listen as they hypothesize, we stand back as they explore and experiment, and we often guide them with questions as they try to make sense of something new they have experienced. As they grow older this technique becomes more refined, but for our preschool tamariki it is so important to be given the space to truly explore, try something new, and share their findings with their community.

Through their daily work and play in our Montessori classrooms these children are laying the foundation for future scientific study. Not only are they developing working theories about the world that they will further investigate in Primary and Secondary school or even in their adult lives, they are also building confidence in themselves as explorers, scientists, discoverers and pioneers. Their minds know no limits, their hands are their tools, the world is their laboratory.

Montessori and Adolescent Mental Health

By Michael Draper Physics and Digital Technology Teacher – High School

In a time of increasing concern about adolescent mental health, it’s always great to read about research that backs up Maria Montessori’s guidance on adolescent development and mental health.

Research published by the University of Virginia in January 2022 found that mixed-age classes, greater social stability in school, hands-on learning, self-directed activity, and a collaborative play approach to education leads to better well-being outcomes in adulthood. The research found that those who attended a Montessori school for at least two years reported higher well-being as an adult than those who had not. In addition, the longer a person attended a school of this type, the higher their level of well-being in adulthood.

University of Cambridge Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, expert in the development of social cognition and decision making in the human adolescent brain and adolescent mental health, and author of Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain, writes that the period of adolescence is when “a teenager’s social world changes the most dramatically”. When transitioning from primary to secondary school, there are many biological and cognitive changes: how teenagers use their “social brain” or the “network of brain regions” to interact with others goes under substantial development during this time, development which continues for several years.

That adolescents take greater risks with their friends is a well-known feature of teenage development. As Blakemore says: “There is a huge amount of evidence that they are very susceptible to peer influence – if you think about the risks we are worried about teenagers taking (smoking, binge drinking, experimenting with drugs, dangerous driving) they don’t do those things on their own. They are taking those risks when they are with their friends. … There’s a drive for them to do that because they are particularly sensitive to being excluded by their peer group. To avoid social exclusion at any cost is their number one goal and that might result in them being more influenced by their friends than other age groups are.”  Blakemore goes on to discuss the critical role parents must play in the period of brain development during adolescence, noting: “It is a necessary part of the period of adolescence to become independent from your parents. And in order to do that, you need to forge your own identity, establish yourself with your peer group, test things out and explore.”

A lot of this adolescent ‘work’ happens outside the home, much of it at school, as that is where adolescents spend a significant portion of their time with peers. As a Montessori Adolescent Teacher and Guide, I have the privilege of accompanying our ākonga as they do this work. This involves assisting their academic progress and supporting their social and emotional function as individuals and as a group.  What I find especially wonderful is the way our Montessori adolescents accept and support each other, resolve difficulties and operate as a healthy thriving community.

Welcome back to Term 2

By Katy Cottrell – Acting Principal

Tena koutou katoa,

I hope you all have had a restful, well deserved break and taken time to reconnect with whanau and friends.

Over the holidays I was lucky to visit Zealandia and Staglands. It was great to take time out to reflect and think about my natural surroundings. As Maria Montessori stated (1976); “There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving” This made me think about the importance of nature within our Montessori principles and within our school setting.

Maria Montessori respected nature and believed it should be used to inspire children. She did not believe in confining children to the classroom and that kaiako should be taking children out into nature. Maria Montessori (1982) discussed; “There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature, to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature… so that the child may better understand and participate in the marvellous things which civilisation creates”.

It was not just being in nature that Maria Montessori suggested, it was the use of natural materials such as woods, metals, and cotton that children came into contact with within the prepared environment. Synthetics or plastics were not preferred. This in turn influenced child-size real objects to come into play. Furniture needed to be child-sized so that the child did not depend on the adult. Springstone Montessori school (US) stated; “Rakes, hoes, pitchers, tongs, shovels should all fit children’s hands and height so that the work is made easier, thus ensuring proper use and completion of the work without frustration”.

Over the term I hope to make the most of the opportunities of spending time with our akonga outside of the classroom.

This term Ava Szabo will be on her Principal’s sabbatical that she was awarded last year. During her absence the following staff will step up to take on additional responsibilities: I will step up as Acting Principal from my usual role as DP in the High School. Tania Gaffney will take on some additional responsibilities in the Primary School, Anna Mclean will take on additional responsibilities in the Preschool and Hilary Asquith will take on additional responsibilities in Kawakawa.

I would also like to welcome Cameron Burns, who will be joining us as our new PE teacher and Sports Co-ordinator. Craig Bluett will also be joining us as our new art teacher.

I hope you all have a great start to the term.

Mauri tū, mauri ora