A Day in the Life of the Junior Class

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This is the latest article in the Lizard News, about our Junior Class at Matahui.  The full article is below.

By Donna McDonald, Matahui School Year 1-3 Teacher

We roll into our day with our learning through a play programme. I set up activities in the classroom that are designed to inspire the children to create, build and grow their imagination; inspired by the Montessori philosophy, wooden loose parts and natural materials are a big part of our programme. Our morning mat time includes music and song.

After morning tea, we practice reading, writing, poetry and spelling; we love learning through stories and poems. Term one has included a swimming programme where children build water confidence and learn the foundations of swimming and water safety. 

Math is one of our favourite parts of our day. We warm up with counting games that promote number knowledge and then split into groups where we do activities, applied knowledge worksheets and small group work with me. We love learning about coding and computational thinking too. 

Enquiry-based learning is at the centre of our curriculum. Enquiry-based learning is where I begin with an idea, and through discussion with the students I begin to understand what interests them about that topic. This term we are learning about our people and our community, with a focus on our school. This enquiry links into our forest school programme, Year 3 camp, and bush walks in our local community. We’ve been mapping our school, understanding its many purposes and uses, and then exploring ways we can make our school more sustainable. The children have chosen to build a sustainable water system to help collect rainwater to use in our garden and sandpit play.  

Another focus this term is learning about Photosynthesis: growing sunflowers from seed and experimenting with the conditions that plants need to grow. This term, our  families are donating native trees to help extend our forest block. Every child will plant their tree, care for it, and watch it grow over their time here at Matahui School. We will use the worm juice from our worm farm to fertilize our trees; and our learnings will help us understand how and what a tree needs to thrive and grow.   

An important part of our weekly programme includes nature and being among nature. We keep nature journals, learn about planting and weeding, cook our own food, and explore and discover our natural environment with our Guardians of the Forest programme. We explore and connect to nature in our Nature Everyday programme, link in science, and enjoy mindfulness under our favourite tree. The children love building huts and finding hideaways in our school nature block; and create rivers, cities, volcanoes and even villages in our sandpit.  

A big part of our education programme includes learning languages. We explore Māori and sign language through song, actions and movement. We also learn French and music with our specialised language and music teacher. Twice a term our junior students lead a community assembly which focuses on the Matahui School Value of the Week where we share our learning with the rest of the school community. This gives our students, even those as young as 5-years-old, the opportunity to practice public speaking: they are often very proud to showcase their learnings and artwork.  

Our hope is that when someone walks into our classroom it is warm, bright, calm, inviting, inspiring, exciting and a place to grow. We want to create a safe space where the children can learn about friendships, and develop socially, emotionally and academically. We are a family who love to share in our “aha moments” as we travel this learning journey together. 

Photo caption: Matahui School junior class master puzzles as part of their learning rotation. Puzzles improve our memory, problem solving skills and visual spatial awareness. 

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