Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS -

WICK­LOW Montessori Pri­mary School is pre­par­ing to cel­e­brate 40 years of pro­vid­ing a unique ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence to three to 13 year olds in Wick­low with a spe­cial Open Night.

Prin­ci­pal Dara Mul­hall says its en­dur­ing suc­cess over four decades is a tes­ta­ment to the gen­er­a­tions of par­ents who had the fore­sight to seek out an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, the Montessori method, that put child cen­tred teach­ing on the map, long be­fore the term be­came a buzz­word.

Ms Mul­hall was a teacher at the school when it first opened its doors. Her three chil­dren were all ed­u­cated at Wick­low Montessori Pri­mary School and one of her grand­chil­dren cur­rently at­tends.

2017 also marks the 90th an­niver­sary of the first Montessori school in the world, opened by pi­o­neer­ing ed­u­ca­tor Maria Montessori in Rome in 1907.

Of­ten mis­tak­enly be­lieved to re­fer only to the teach­ing of pre-school­ers, in fact Montessori ed­u­ca­tion is de­signed for chil­dren up to age of 18.

‘What makes Wick­low Montessori Pri­mary School so com­pelling is that we have cre­ated a teach­ing pro­gramme that is based on the Montessori method of ed­u­ca­tion com­bined with the State’s pri­mary school ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum, from age three right through to sixth class,’ said Ms Mul­hall.

Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Jeff Be­zos of Ama­zon and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have all been iden­ti­fied as ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a Montessori ed­u­ca­tion. Wick­low Montessori’s own past pupils have also gone on to suc­cess in a wide va­ri­ety of fields, from busi­ness and the arts to academia and en­trepreneur­ship.

‘The fact that we now have the chil­dren of our past pupils com­ing back to us is a re­flec­tion of how much their par­ents en­joyed their time here,’ added Ms Mul­hall.

Past pupil and lo­cal busi­ness­man Ja­son Wat­son sent his three chil­dren to Wick­low Montessori.

He said: ‘I loved my time at Wick­low Montessori as a child my­self so when it came to our own chil­dren, it was a no brainer. It was and is a very happy, car­ing en­vi­ron­ment that also in­stils a strong, in­de­pen­dent work ethic.’

The num­ber of past pupils who end up send­ing their own chil­dren to Wick­low Montessori is a tes­ta­ment to the high stan­dards set at the school.

‘In 1979 a pho­to­graph was taken of the class I was teach­ing at the time. Some of those kids are now par­ents whose own chil­dren are now ed­u­cated in the school. One of our teach­ers, Ni­amh, has a grand­child at­tend­ing, while two of Me­lanie’s chil­dren are also pupils. Hay­ley has two kids here too. It’s won­der­ful to keep those close con­nec­tions’ said Ms Mul­hall.

As well as of­fer­ing core sub­jects such as English, Ir­ish, maths, his­tory, sci­ence and ge­og­ra­phy, chil­dren at Wick­low Montessori have a wide range of ad­di­tional sub­jects in­clud­ing mu­sic, drama, French and Span­ish. The school also runs per­sonal devel­op­ment pro­grammes in ar­eas such as lead­er­ship and philosophy, as well as a range of arts, crafts and even bak­ing.

Wick­low Montessori has its own com­puter lab, where pupils learn web­site de­sign and HTML and CSS tag­ging as well as Mi­crosoft Word, Ex­cel and Pow­er­point skills.

The school is par­tic­u­larly strong on ro­bot­ics, where stu­dents learn to pro­gram a robot to ex­e­cute tasks based on in­put from mul­ti­ple sen­sors. This sum­mer its sixth class pupils rep­re­sented Ire­land in the world fi­nals of the First Lego League In­ter­na­tional Com­pe­ti­tion in Bath, Eng­land. But first, to rep­re­sent Ire­land, the team trav­elled to Gal­way and edged out 22 other Ir­ish teams.

In Eng­land, the team com­peted against more than 90 teams from 35 coun­tries in an event that brought to­gether more than 700 chil­dren aged 11 to 16 from around the world. While teams from Brazil and Ja­pan won the top awards, Wick­low Montessori was one of only two teams to be given an Over­all Judges Award for their pro­ject.

A grad­ual ex­pan­sion over the years these has led to the cre­ation of big­ger, brighter and bet­ter equipped class­rooms, an As­tro­turf pitch, play­ground, multi-pur­pose hall, com­puter lab, at­trac­tive chill out zone and li­brary with colour­ful bean bags.

Montessori moves ed­u­ca­tion far be­yond learn­ing things by rote.

Hay­ley Fitz­patrick is a teacher in the school and a par­ent of two of its pupils.

‘What I love about the Montessori en­vi­ron­ment is that the Montessori ma­te­ri­als al­low the chil­dren move from the con­crete to the ab­stract. The child is able to in­ter­act with con­cepts and ideas rather than sim­ply mem­o­rise facts. The ma­te­ri­als en­able the child to de­velop their senses by tac­tile ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘They also get free­dom of move­ment, so that they aren’t all work­ing on the same thing at the same time. As teach­ers we ob­serve each child closely, guid­ing their devel­op­ment on an


in­di­vid­ual ba­sis.”

Par­ents Sinead and Mick Nolan, of lo­cal busi­ness Noltek Of­fice Sup­plies, agree.

‘When our chil­dren were start­ing out in school what ap­pealed to us about Wick­low Montessori were the small classes, the high stan­dard of the teach­ing and the fact that when­ever we’d visit the kids would be work­ing away hap­pily in a lovely calm at­mos­phere, ei­ther in class with their teacher, on their own with some equip­ment, or in teams do­ing pro­ject work,’ said Sinead.

The Nolan chil­dren are now in sec­ondary schools lo­cally.

‘They both made a great tran­si­tion to sec­ondary school and I would say both have a quiet con­fi­dence, a strength of char­ac­ter, that we at­tribute to their time at Wick­low Montessori,’ added Sinead.

Wick­low Montessori is a mem­ber of the As­so­ci­ated In­de­pen­dent Ju­nior Schools of Ire­land.

The school will be host­ing an Open Night at 7 p.m. on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 17. If you’re in­ter­ested in com­ing, you may tele­phone the school at (0404) 67766 week­days be­tween 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

You can visit the web site www.wick­low­montes­sorischool.ie or Face­book page at www.face­book.com/wick­low­montes­soripri­ma­ryschool.

Maeve Bourke from se­nior in­fants. Prin­ci­pal Dara Mul­hall with her cur­rent class and (be­low) with her class from 1979.

Teacher Hay­ley Fitz­patrick with JD De­lahunt.

JD De­lahunt and Ted Tripp work to­gether.

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