Hazel Corlett, left, and Europe Randle using the sandpit for sensory learning. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER

ELISA VORSTER

elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

Mauriceville School is making the most of its small school roll and heading in an innovative direction of sensory and play-based learning.

Pioneering the change is newly-appointed teacher Carol Laubscher, who is excited to bring her Montessori teaching experience to the small community school.

Mrs Laubscher has already introduced several new tools and methods this term to her class of five- to eight-year-olds, including the use of letters and numbers made from sandpaper so the children can learn the shape formation through feel instead of through writing.

“Because we have small classrooms, we have a higher proportion of students with learning needs, and sensory learning is important with them,” Mrs Laubscher said.

There is also a sand tray for the children to experience learning through play by writing letters in the sand and gaining math skills through measuring.

Mrs Laubscher’s methods integrate the basic philosophy of Montessori which incorporates children’s interests through hands-on learning, as well as many ideas she has come up with herself through her teaching experience in both mainstream and Montessori schools in South Africa.

“Children respond so well to pretend, fantasy play and drama,” she said.

This led her to engaging the children in a play-based math lesson by using her puppets, “the four brothers”, who each have differing personalities depending on which maths skill they relate to.

She described “Brother Plus” as not very fussy as he added any numbers together, but “Brother Minus” as mean because he stole numbers away.

She found that involving the children this way helped them to cement their learning.

“It makes it less confusing for the children as it’s relatable.

“They love it and it really amazes me – even the eight-year-olds are thrilled when I take one of the puppets out.”

Principal Rebecca Stevens said one of the reasons the school appointed Mrs Laubscher this year was because her strength with play-based learning fitted in well with the strategic direction the school was already heading in.

“The kids are very calm, settled and very happy.

“They’re in a place where they’re ready to learn because they feel safe and secure.”