Work versus Play

By Anna McLean – Preschool Deputy Principal

If you think of work as being part of a tamaiti’s natural development, then the word “work” takes on a different meaning.  When a tamaiti is offered an environment that is prepared for their developmental needs and they are given the freedom to choose activities that they are interested in then both words, “work” and “play” become redundant. You will often hear the word “work” used in a Montessori classroom to describe the activities that tamariki do.  As adults we tend to think of “work” in a negative way. We spend a lot of time at work and then we come home and there is more work to do!   The word “work” has a connotation of something that requires physical and/or mental effort and can be difficult at times.  Why would we want to subject our tamariki to “work” when they should be playing?  In her book, Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, page 17, Montessori-Pierson she says.  “Grown-ups think of play as a purposeless occupation that keeps children happy and out of mischief, but actually when children are left to play by themselves very little of their activity is purposeless.”

Their natural inclination to be active and doing something takes over and they aren’t making the distinction between work and play.

“This development takes place because the child has been able to work and to be in direct contact with reality.  It does not come from anything we teach the child; it is a definite, constructive process, a natural phenomenon that results when the child is given the chance to make his own efforts and do his own work without intermediaries.  We think the child is happiest when he is playing; but the truth is that the child is happiest when he is working.” (Education and Peace, page 78 Clio Press.)

We cannot know what inner processes are being formed with activity and what internal needs are being met. We can only see the external manifestation of their activity.

We see tamariki developing skills through using practical life activities as well as all the hands-on materials and activities.  We see concentration developing as they spend greater amounts of time on activities that have many steps.  There is a calmness in the environment when each tamaiti is going about their own work and absorbed in what they are doing.

“What motivates the child is thus not the goal set for him by the adult, but his own drive for self-perfection.  The child perfects himself through contact with reality, through activity that absorbs all his attention.” (Education and Peace pg 79 Clio Press.)

Naturally there is a place for play during a child’s day and the social interaction that is often associated with play has benefits to a tamaiti’s development as well.  The holistic approach we take to a tamaiti’s overall development is always at the forefront of our minds.  Perhaps the words work and play are interchangeable!

Just because….

By Rose Langridge – Humanities & English teacher

I think we can all agree that there is a lot of the time where we are switched on to the world – often through emails and media, be it news or social. There has never been a time when our ākonga have not been around technology… facebook is 18 years old (don’t worry, I was horrified myself). Deciding who you wanted to be without all these constant factors was not easy for us, but evolving “into you” with all these pressures is a whole new world for our ākonga.

This big work of deciding where and how you will be in the world is the job of the adolescent. This is known as a sensitive period. Teens are needing validation, a chance to be independent but also feeling incredibly vulnerable and their self-confidence takes a nosedive. At this time when they are trying to navigate this world, they are also developing their sense of justice, their sense of belonging and their independence. As I said, big work.

When someone is given the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential then according to Montessori the result is a “valorization of their personality, making them feel capable of succeeding in life by their own efforts and merits”.


We have many things within the program that help ākonga to move away from this outside world and focus within. As well as working on how they can be meaningful members of the community (reflection, creative and physical expression, community meetings, community work, working alongside many adults). I wanted to reflect on the things that they do for each other, just because. This is when I think the real learning happens in those incidental moments where they are learning to be contributing members of the community.

These are just a few examples that I have observed over the last few weeks. The level ones are planning a massive market at the moment. A group was meant to be making their product – one of them had to go home sick. This meant that suddenly one person was having to complete all of the work. Instantly without being asked two people joined them and gave their morning to helping (and in doing so giving up their independent work). Someone had some really hard news and they were instantly taken by friends to another space for comfort. There were no qualms from teachers just an acknowledgement that this time was needed. Later in the day another member of the class came up to them and offered them a snack saying that they hoped it would help and that they always carried comfort snacks in their backpack. Their altruism and the fistbumps along with the genuine thanks to each other is so wholesome (to use a teen phrase).

This may not be the timetabled learning but I think that the environment we have in the High School where ākonga have the freedom of working alongside others, so often is in fact the most important learning that they do.

Pukutākaro – Hutt City Council program – Term 2, 2022

By Scott McLeod  – Sports

Play is important for our health and wellbeing, we want to get our kids out exploring and being active.

Play is essential for our cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. It builds fundamental physical literacy, fosters creativity and innovation and builds our ability to identify and manage risk.

Play contributes to not only children’s lives but also the well-being of whānau and the wider community.

Play is where tamariki practice life.

Last month Wā Ora Montessori were lucky enough for the Hutt City Council to bring the Pukutākaro program to our school. Pukutākaro is a project which promotes free play – independent of adult support. Hutt City Council parked their van up and placed their ‘wow’ items and ‘big ticket’ sports gears in our school courts and encouraged students to interact with the gear in a way that is personal and meaningful to them. Through the process we saw cooperation, negotiation, and sometimes conflict. Arming our children with the skills to navigate these situations is very important. It was great to see our

tamariki playing more often and interacting with different children throughout the school.

Montessori values the importance of play for learning, believing that children have a drive to explore and learn from their environment and acknowledged play as the ideal way to provide that opportunity. The pukutākaro program offered our students the opportunity for movement, sensory exploration and hands-on experiences in a relaxed environment. The students were able to be independent and think for themselves through using their own imaginations without the pressure of competition and to play at their own pace with their friends.

The flexible nature of play supports all children by following the individual child however, not all play styles will be suitable for all children; some children like rough play e.g. rugby, whilst others may prefer solitary play or co-operative fantasy play. For us teachers it offered a valuable chance to sit back and observe and interpret the activities the children adapted. It allowed us to follow the child’s play rather than impose our own rules or agenda on the play. Montessori advocated that adults caring for children should resource the environment to allow play to develop naturally and flourish independently. Elements such as freedom of choice, repetition, exploration, active hands-on experiences and peer-to-peer learning highlight a strong symbiosis between Montessori education and play-based learning.

Maria Montessori wrote ‘Grown-ups think of play as a purposeless occupation that keeps children happy and out of mischief, but actually when children are left to play by themselves very little of their activity is purposeless.’ (p17).

Hopefully the children and their families enjoyed the two week pukutākaro program. Ben from HCC said that ‘It was great to see parents engaging with their children at the after school pick up time and it was the busiest school he had seen this year’

Incorporating Montessori in the home

By Belinda Rodrigues –  Tawhai Teacher

A little of Montessori might be the perfect way to keep the children’s brains active, without breaking out the textbooks. (Has anyone Googled how much extra screen time actually turns the brain to mush?) The Montessori Method is a child-led approach to teaching that focuses on a child’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. You can introduce as much or as little of the method at home as works for your child, starting with nature walks, visual math skills, or even etiquette. Does the Montessori Method actually work in a real-world setting?

Everything Has a Place

Children love order. Help your kids understand where everything goes, and they’ll enjoy returning toys and clothing to their proper place. You would have to make some adjustments in your home environment to help your children succeed, like; Mount hooks down low for your children’s coats, hats, etc. / Stack up rugs, and show them how to use one for working with puzzles, or other activities

Empower Your Child with Independence & Self-Motivation

Help your child learn to prepare their own snacks. Show them how to spread peanut butter on bread, and how to slice a banana with a safe knife. Give children the freedom to explore pouring their own water from a child-sized jug into a small cup. Let them use glass cups every now and then. It teaches cause and effect, and how to care for nice things – Keep a stack of clean rags easily accessible for spills / Pour over a tray to catch any spills.

Equip Your Children with Tools for Lifelong Success

One of the most striking aspects of a Montessori classroom is the air of mutual respect and courtesy throughout. Teach your children how to warmly greet visitors to their house. Demonstrate how to handle a cough or sneeze, show compassion, and respond politely when someone addresses them. Instruct them on how to push their chair back into the table, how to answer the phone politely, and how to avoid interrupting conversations.

“Help me do it myself”

Encourage your child to take an active part in caring for his home. Maintain a positive attitude about household chores. Cleaning should be associated with bringing about a sense of completion and order. Young children want to spend time with you. Instead of sending him off to clean his room, try to include him in whatever task you’re completing.

The Absorbent mind

Children learn by observation, more than being told the way things work. Encourage your child to explore the world through hands-on experiences, like nature walks and creating gardens.

Love for Learning

Your goal is to inspire your child’s natural zeal for learning. – Read aloud, whenever and wherever you can / Introduce the alphabet using multiple senses like sandpaper letters, listen to the sound a letter makes in a word, and rearrange magnetic letters to make words / Introduce number and quantity by counting household items.

Your role in impacting your child’s future is unique, fundamental, and powerful. You are, after all, in charge of nurturing their earliest childhood development. By creating the right environment, and supporting their interests, you can create your own Montessori-inspired home.

The Human Tendency for Orientation



By Tania Gaffney–Deputy Principal Primary

Have you ever walked into the supermarket and the products on the shelves have been rearranged, it can take a while to get used to the new layout again. There are certain ways that we help ourselves with this e.g. reading the signage, asking a worker where something is, using the general knowledge that you have about supermarkets.  These are some tools that we use to re-orient ourselves to a new place.

A couple of weeks ago at our full staff meeting we had a discussion on the Human Tendency of ‘Orientation’.  The tendency to orient is, in its broadest sense, adapting to new situations.  This could be physical, social or emotional.  For our ākonga it could be something hugely obvious, for instance starting a completely new school, or a bit subtler like having a new piece of equipment in the class.

When we think about orientation of ākonga into a new environment or situation, we also need to take into consideration which ‘Plane of Development’ they are in.  How we orient a pre-schooler will not be the same as how we orient an adolescent.

Because the preschooler is still at the stage where they are learning to be physically independent, there is a lot of showing.   The primary schooler is working on their intellectual independence which means there is still showing but now we can include more discussion.

Because Wā Ora spans all the way from playgroup to high school, children are often able to become used to the next environment they are moving into a little before they get there.  For example, the playgroup ākonga can become aware of what is going on in the pre-school over the fence.  The 5 year olds have opportunities to venture into the primary school.  The primary schoolers are often in the high school for various reasons.

Think about how you feel when you have had to start a new job, move to a new house or town, a friend has moved away or a child has moved out of home.  All very obvious and you know before it happens that you’ll have to get used to the way life is now.  But even when it’s something as simple as a change in the supermarket, you still have to reorient yourself, it can take a while to get used to the way things are again, sometimes there is a lot to take in, which is impossible to do all at once.  As a child gets older they have more experience with new situations and negotiating their way through them.  Some ākonga can take longer than others to orient, but the adults (and sometimes the other children) are there helping them along that new path.  As ākonga get older they need less and less direct help with this until as an adult they have learned some skills that will help them to be able to orient efficiently in any environment or situation they find themselves in.

Cursive Writing in 2022

By Tara Israelson – Nīkau Head Teacher – Preschool

In Montessori schools around the world teachers are often asked “why cursive?”.  This is an excellent question, and, as we see more and more schools deciding not to teach cursive at all, it can feel like Montessori is stuck in a different time period.  Well, perhaps this is slightly true if we go back to the genesis of Montessori philosophy.  At the time of the first Casa dei Bambini in Italy in 1907, Dr. Montessori naturally chose to use cursive because it was the smoothest and least complicated style of writing to introduce to budding writers.

Montessori writes in The Discovery of the Child “Let us observe the spontaneous drawing of children when, for example, they are drawing lines on the sand of a garden path with a fallen branch.  We shall never see them draw short straight lines, but long curved ones variously interlaced.” (p 194).   This type of writing involves whole arm movements in shapes such as circles and loops which children the world over include in their creative art.

The continuity of the pencil strokes are also attractive to the child who is still exploring with the writing instrument, almost as an extension of their artistic exploration.  This method of writing also requires less energy from the writer as they “run” the pen/pencil across the page without ever needing to lift it up or think about where the next line or circle is meant to go.  Consider the letter ‘k’.  In cursive this letter is almost like a bow you would find on a gift, all loops and curls.  In print the writer must create a line and then accurately decide where the next two lines are going to go.  The beginning writer does not need this distraction when what they are craving is the flow of getting the words out on paper.

Cursive letters also have an obvious beginning and end which makes it difficult to reverse the letters.  The fluid pattern learned becomes ingrained in muscular memory.  It is also obvious where a word begins and ends, making it easier to write stories.  We find that once our young writers begin linking their letters together it is much easier for them to naturally include space between the words. As the child begins to write, and gets immersed in the flow of their ideas and thoughts, the ability to expend less effort on the mechanics of writing and more on this flow makes cursive the obvious choice.  And, while cursive writing does harken back to the early days of Montessori, there is current research into its benefits and how using cursive writing is actually good for the brain.  In fact, “accumulating evidence suggests that not learning cursive handwriting may hinder the brain’s optimum potential to learn and remember.” (Psychology Today, 2020).

As adults, we are more likely to be using tablets, phones and computers for our communication and perhaps for some of us cursive handwriting feels like a challenge.  If you are interested in refreshing your cursive skills, or if you want to support your child as they begin their journey as a writer (or if you want to decipher what they have written) we have many tutorials to share so just stop in and ask!

If you would like to investigate the current research further here is a useful link

Understanding the 3rd Plane: Adolescence

By Michael Draper —Physics Teacher

The starting point for all Montessori education activity is understanding the developmental drives and needs of the child, at that time (because they change as the child grows).

Maria Montessori identified adolescence (approximately 12 to 18 years), with its own distinct set of developmental drives and needs, as the 3rd plane of human development.  Having developed basic cultural and physical competence (1st plane), and knowledge and frameworks for understanding their physical and human worlds (2nd plane), the adolescent begins the process of moving from dependence on the family to becoming an independent contributing adult member of society. (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p.18).

To operate outside the safety (or in the adolescent perspective, confines) of their family, the adolescent must learn:

  • to express themselves, both personally and as a member of society
  • the elements of supporting themselves materially
  • to participate in and share the benefits of collective work
  • to discharge adult responsibilities and manage adult consequences
  • to support themselves and others emotionally
  • the moral and ethical approaches needed to function successfully in society

The 3rd plane echoes the 1st in that much of the essential learning and development occurs experientially. Where the baby starts as a physical new-born, the adolescent starts as a social new-born, and must experiment with and master patterns of behaviour, attitudes, and communication they will use as a member of wider society.  As with any experimentation, there will be errors and failures along the way, but even these help the adolescent develop adult responses to the complexities of life. (MM, The Adolescent – a “Social Newborn” p73-78)

The physical and neurological changes that occur during adolescence present additional challenges. They experience clumsiness adapting to their changing body. Rapid reproductive and biochemical changes alter and intensify their feelings. Neurological changes impact their brain function. These unpredictable lapses in physical, emotional, and intellectual capability occur as they strive to develop their personal confidence. They need acceptance and patient support as they go through these changes.

The adolescent also needs to study and practise the manual and intellectual skills they will need to earn a living, function in modern society and adapt to our changing world. “But they must not be forced to study every minute, for this is a form of torture that causes mental illness. The human personality must be given a chance to realize every one of its capabilities” (MM, Education and Peace, p.110).

Adolescence is the sensitive period for the development outlined above. “When he enters the workaday world, man must be aware first and foremost of his social responsibility… It is therefore necessary to prepare men to be aware of it and to fulfil it.” (MM, Education and Peace, p.110). This is the heart of Montessori adolescent education.

What IS Montessori?

By Amy Johnson — Kōwhai Head Teacher – Preschool

“Oh, your children go to a Montessori school! What is Montessori?” Do you ever get this question from friends? Relatives? Parents involved in your kids sports or extra curricular activities? As a Montessori professional, one always has the debate when you meet someone and they ask what you do. You can give the short answer “I’m a teacher” or you know that you are committed to a conversation if you say “I am a Montessori teacher.” So, what IS Montessori? Do you talk about the specialised materials in our classrooms? Do you dive into the history of the 120 year old method of education based on observation and a prepared environment? Do you start to compare and contrast what our school does with the more traditional understanding of education? There are so many different ways to respond!

As I sit down to write my contribution for a newsletter that gets distributed throughout our community of families with students of all ages, I wondered… what do you say when someone asks “What is Montessori?” Did you choose Wā Ora because it is a Montessori school? Or for some other reason? Maybe your child has just started with us and you are as new to the idea of a Montessori school as the person asking you. Or possibly your child is about to graduate and you have been answering this question since they were in preschool. Perhaps you came to our school because of a recommendation or because of its’ location. We are all at different places in this journey of understanding.

I do however, want to encourage you to continue to grow and evolve your knowledge of Montessori and our community. Luckily, there are many different ways you could do this! There are parent education evenings throughout the year that highlight unique aspects of our philosophy at each stage and sector of the school. Keep an eye out for these as the weeks pass and I promise you will leave knowing more about your child’s educational experience than you did coming in. Did you know our school has a parent library with some wonderful books and other resources that you can borrow to read and better understand our school’s approach to learning and human development? I know that some of my colleges have hosted ‘book clubs’ that take on a Montessori text that is then discussed regularly, as a group. If some of you are keen, this could be a wonderful way to expand your knowledge of Montessori. If it wasn’t educational philosophy that drew you to our school, then there are plenty of ways to get involved and enrich our community through volunteering with the PTA activities and projects, or you could take time to be a chaperone on a class trip or ‘going out’ project. Everything from informal conversations at children’s birthday parties to workshops and MANZ courses designed for parents and professionals, can all enhance your understanding and appreciation of the type of education your child is experiencing at Wā Ora.

You are an extremely important partner in your child’s educational journey and we love to help share our special approach to their learning and development.

Relationships: the foundation of an effective learning environment


By Hilary Asquith –Kawakawa head teacher

Recently the staff at Wā Ora partook in a refresher course on restorative practices to further embed these processes into our everyday school life. Restorative practices are an approach that recognises that good relationships are the foundation of an effective learning environment. At school, ākonga will often work their hardest and be most eager to learn when they are in a positive relational space with their kaiako and peers. However, just like the rest of us, children and teenagers will, from time to time, make mistakes that damage these relationships. Restorative practices acknowledge that we all need to be given the opportunity to repair the harm caused and move forward with our māna intact. Restorative practices take incidents that might otherwise have resulted in punitive actions and creates opportunities for ākonga to become more self-aware of the impact of their choices. It helps them appreciate their need to take responsibility for their actions by putting relationships at the centre. Punishments, however, can lead to resentment and a withdrawal from relationships and participation in the classroom, and damage their connection with the community that surrounds that young person – the very things they need to move forward positively.

Maria Montessori saw education as a means to build a more harmonious society.

“We must help [the child] to develop within himself that which will make him capable of understanding. It is not merely words; it is a labour of education… for peace cannot exist without justice and without men endowed with a strong conscience.”

 Citizen of the World, Montessori-Pierson. Vol 14. p. 38.

Restorative practices are a mechanism for helping to build that conscience through educating our children about responsibility and nurturing their empathy. It requires people to listen to each other, to view others’ perspectives, and collaborate with them on remedies. It is a process of finding out what it was like for all the individuals involved and what each person needs to feel restored, both within themselves and their community. Done well, a restorative process almost always results in a better understanding of each other, stronger relationships and a more positive community life.

Five of the best questions we can all use with our tamariki anytime an incident occurs are:

  • What happened?
  • What were you thinking or feeling at the time?
  • What have you thought about since it happened?
  • Who has been affected, and how?
  • What do you think needs to be done to make it right?

The language and intricacies of the process may vary with the age of those involved, but the process and outcomes remain essentially the same whether we are supporting preschoolers, adolescents or adults. Local and global events of the past month only remind us as a community, that we need to further value relationships and support the development of restorative skills in hope of a more peaceful future community.

Montessori from birth

By Suzanne Eaddy – Playgroup Co-ordinator

When Maria Montessori began her studies in education in 1897, she found there were no education programmes for children under the age of six. Her observations of young children led her to develop a system of education based on the natural way that children learn, and her first Casa Dei Bambini opened on 6/1/1907 with children aged two to six years old.

Today 0 to 3 years is generally considered a time when babies play while learning to walk and speak.  Then they will attend a Kindy or Playgroup and begin their education at school, aged five. In the Montessori community this is a little different with playgroup, from a few months old, then preschool age three. So, within the Montessori community, when do we consider that education starts for our children?

At birth a baby is totally dependent; their nervous and skeletal systems are not fully developed so independent movement, self-care and communication are impossible. However, the baby’s senses are developed; sight, hearing, smell, feeling/ touch and taste.  From birth the baby’s work is to develop physically and to learn about the environment, language/s and customs they have been born into. Montessori believed that the baby “works” at these tasks because he learns by doing things, by physically interacting with the environment. We cannot tell a baby how to walk or talk; the baby has to learn this himself.

The Montessori educational system is responsive to the “basic responses of human beings allowing their complete development and adaptation to their environment”. One of the difficult skills for a 0 to 3 Montessori parent or teacher is learning to leave a young child uninterrupted for as long as the child is concentrating on an activity. As adults we need to develop preceptorship skills; hands off, encouraging and intervening only if requested or required.  It is fun to sit and play with a young child, however, we must remember:

“Concentration is the key that opens up the child to latent treasures within him” and

“Do not offer to help a child with a task that he believes he can complete”

Montessori developed theories of Planes of Development, Sensitive Periods and the Absorbent Mind. The first Plane of Development is ages 0 to 6 with sub-Planes of 0 to 3 and 3 to 6. From 0 to 3, children develop specific skills at certain times; crawling from 6 to 9 months, walking 9 to 13 months, i.e. during the Sensitive Periods.

A baby is born with no developed knowledge, memory or will power. The necessary organs develop and then the baby has to work to make them function:

“The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself”

While he is developing a memory, learning that objects have names and listening to sounds that will become words he is also developing his own personality and character which will be completed by age 3. Education and experience will allow further development to this core personality.

0 to 3 (Playgroup) is definitely the beginning of the Montessori education system….   : )