Evelin Coronel, Centre Manager at Turramurra Montessori Academy, discusses what makes Turramurra an Exceeding Childcare Centre.
In October 2020, the team at Turramurra Montessori Academy went through the Assessment and Rating process by ACECQA and achieved an Exceeding the National Quality Standards Rating.
One area where the Turramurra team demonstrated exceeding practice was Quality Area One: Educational Program and Practice.
To achieve an Exceeding Rating, the Turramurra Team demonstrated how exceeding practice is embedded in service operations, informed by critical reflection, and shaped by meaningful engagement with families and the community.
Centre Manager, Evelin Coronel, shares her insights on how the standards and elements of Quality Area One are embedded in centre operations at Turramurra Montessori Academy.
How do you ensure your educational program is child-centred?
At Turramurra Montessori Academy, we follow children’s lead from the moment they arrive in the morning. Children are encouraged to explore the classroom environment, choose their work, and follow their interests.
We observe how they interact with the environment, their educators, and peers to determine individual and group interests.
These observations, in conjunction with listening to and talking to our students, provide us with the information we need to implement specific learning experiences suited to each child’s interests, stage of development, and competence.
Children’s interests are the foundation of our education program. We actively encourage our students to make choices, provide feedback on learning experiences, and look for ways to incorporate individual and group interests to enhance children’s learning.
How do you plan children’s learning?
We plan our educational program based on our observations of children’s learning.
This begins with observing children’ss interests, stage of development, and competency. Once we know these things, we can plan specific learning experiences to extend their learning.
The next step is to plan and implement the learning experience. It’s important to be present and commit to the activity.
Then we evaluate and reflect on the experience. This involves evaluating whether it worked or didn’t work, why, how children engaged with the activity and each other, what learning occurred, and what factors influenced the outcome of the learning experience.
Next, we take what we learned from the experience, and use this to plan our program. We set learning goals, create an action plan to achieve them, and then implement our ideas and insights.
The process of planning is a continuous cycle where we are consistently challenging ourselves to be better educators to deliver better learning outcomes for children.
How do you prepare the outdoor environment?
We set up the outdoor play area every single day based on children’s interests. Every day is different; however, on a typical day, we would prepare the sandpits with toys, set up a quiet space, create a music area, and set up an obstacle course where children can practice their gross motor skills.
If children show a particular interest in a Montessori material, such as the Pink Tower, we would create a space where children can sort and compare toys by size to further their interests, skills, and knowledge of visual discrimination.
Similarly, if children are interested in dinosaurs, we would create a space where children can explore and learn about dinosaurs. This might include setting up a small world, creating an activity where children can sort different species of dinosaurs, or implement an activity where children can match the dinosaur to their footprint.
We are constantly observing our students and updating our outdoor program to reflect the interests, strengths, ideas, and needs of our students. This is how we practice intentional teaching in the outdoor playground.
How do you encourage sustainability?
Sustainability is something we incorporate from the inside out at Turramurra Montessori Academy.
We encourage our families to participate in the program by donating elements from their home. We use recycled cardboard, bottle tops, and milk cartons for construction and craft projects.
In the outdoor area, we have set up a specific area where children work with recycled loose parts. We also have a veggie patch, where children learn about growing plants, cooking, and plant-care. We encourage families to take herbs home so they can include their children in cooking experiences that they share with the centre.
We also have chickens in the outdoor area. The children love taking turns to collect the eggs in the morning. We use the eggs in different cooking experience with the children.
In the classroom, children take turns being the Sustainability Officer each day. It is one child’s responsibility to water the plants and make sure no one destroys the veggie patch. Another child is responsible for ensuring the lights and air conditioning are off when their class goes outside.
What strategies do you use to help children learn self-regulation?
At Turramurra, we run a Kindness Curriculum in conjunction with the Grace and Courtesy Program.
Every week, our educators choose a theme, such as empathy, and plan learning experiences to develop children’s understanding, communication, and social skills.
This may include reading a book about empathy, practicing empathy through role-play, and asking children questions about empathy.
Educators focus on the topic for the whole week to assist children in developing positive values that will stay with them throughout life.
Through the Kindness Curriculum, we also teach children about self-regulation. This begins with ‘okaying’ and accepting all feelings and then reflecting on behaviours and self-regulation strategies with the children.
If we see that a child is angry or distressed, we let them know their feelings are ok, and that we are there to support them.
Once we have helped the child to calm down, we ask them why they felt that way, and listen to them.
When they are ready to talk it through, we reflect with them on their behaviour and discuss alternative strategies for next time.
This way we assist children in developing a ‘toolkit’ to help them manage big feelings. We aim to turn negative behaviours into positive learning experiences.
What does Turramurra do differently? What do you think makes it special?
At Turramurra Montessori Academy, we see ourselves as a big family. We have a great relationship with the children, each other, and the families at our service.
Open two-way communication is something that we continuously strive to achieve. We listen to one another, problem-solve, provide feedback, action ideas, and work together for the benefit of the children.
One example of this is how we developed our bushwalking program. Earlier this year, we received feedback from our families that they wanted the children to have greater access to gross motor activities.
We listened to the feedback, brain-stormed ideas, communicated with the children and families, and set a plan in place to begin weekly bush walks that would allow children to practice walking, running, climbing, and jumping, as well as road safety.
Our team is the most special thing about Turramurra Montessori Academy. Everyone is loving and caring, they value the uniqueness of every single child, they commit to each learning experience whole-heartedly, and they genuinely believe in the Montessori philosophy.
We have fun with each other, we love our work, and go home happy every day. We commit to bringing our best selves to work each day because this is the key to delivering the best learning outcomes for children.