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Growing up at Greenwood Independent Primary School

| June 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

Situated 2 km from the centre of Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape, Greenwood Independent Primary School is nestled in natural vegetation within the Ladywood Estate.

Says John Wegerhoff, current principal, the school began in 1997. “It was initially privately owned and managed by a parent committee under the name of The Plettenberg Bay Montessori School.

“It was then handed over to the Greenwood Trust, which operated from a large barn. In January 2000, the school opened under the new name of Masifunde Montessori Preschool. The Greenwood Company was later formed (a section 21 association) with seven founder members. In January 2006, the school again took on a new name: Greenwood Primary Independent School. It’s managed by the principal and the board of directors.

“Today, the school provides preschool facilities for fifty children aged two to six, and primary school facilities for one hundred children.”

A blended approach The 50 tots that make up Greenwood’s preschool [Grade 000 (from 18 months), Grade 00 (ages three to five years) and Grade 0 (Grade R)] enjoy a blend of Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS),1 perceptual skills and Montessori programmes.2

Emotional security is the top priority when it comes to these very young learners, says Wegerhoff, explaining the blended approach. “We want them to acquire gross motor skills and we consistently update our curriculum, adding elements from, for example, the Bearobics3 and Clamber Club4 programmes. We’re particularly proud of our Jigglebugs outdoor exercise class, which was especially created by our three preschool teachers, who are busy refining the programme with a view to having it published for use by other schools.”

Join in the jigglebug!

Jigglebugs revolves around motor coordination skills such as bouncing, kicking, throwing and catching balls; aiming bean bags at buckets; balancing on beams and playing with hula hoops, ropes, tunnels, parachutes and stilts.

Enthuses Wegerhoff: “A typical weekly Jigglebugs class begins with a space awareness activity, moves onto a manipulative activity like throwing, catching or kicking, then to a non-manipulative activity such as balancing, stretching and jumping, and finally ends off with some type of rhythmic activity and game in a circle that encourages children to sing a relevant song, use their hands in free expression and to do stretching exercises.

“Jigglebugs aims to help children master throwing and catching, body and space awareness, weight transference, directionality, kicking, jumping, striking, rhythm and balance. “Most importantly, pupils learn cooperative strategies and they do so in the great outdoors, so that we can simultaneously reinforce the importance of becoming eco-warriors (Greenwood is a platinum-status Eco-school).5

“Our aim is to maintain a nurturing and happy environment that meets the needs and accommodates the learning style of each individual, whilst helping them to develop self-discipline.”

Excellence all the way through

Careful, planned intervention is the watchword in the primary phase at Greenwood, too, says Wegerhoff.

“In our foundation phase, we strive to ensure that all our little learners are actively and happily engaged in the learning process. We embrace the framework of the National Curriculum Statement6 as the basis of our integrated, holistic learning programme. A multisensory approach ensures that we ‘reach’ each child in our care, in order to ‘teach’ each child in our care. “In the intermediate/senior phase, we build on that approach, giving distinct focus to the academic, social, cultural and sporting aspects of the children’s development. Our daily syllabus content empowers children to use their knowledge and skills in various ways, including through e-learning.”

Multilingual moments

The language of instruction is a delicate issue in many schools. Greenwood has applied its customary sensitivity to the situation. According to Wegerhoff, “Although Afrikaans is largely the home language in the area, it was not part of Montessori programmes. Because Greenwood has made it part and parcel of language learning, students who were not previously able to understand instructions are now able to speak with a lot more confidence and far less embarrassment.”

Xhosa is treated with equal respect. “All our specially trained language teachers cooperate in instructing their pupils in all three languages – English, Afrikaans and Xhosa – at the same time. So the usual reading and writing exercises, but also singing, movement, games, perceptual awareness, cultural awareness, etc. is all done in a multilingual environment. Our teachers also incorporate rhymes, riddles, crossword puzzles, competitions, DVDs, CDs, creative writing and discussions and comprehension exercises based on TV programmes and current events into language lessons.”

A cheerful approach to change

Greenwood’s early history shows that the school is well able to change premises without losing a drop of its inherent magic. The planned relocation closer to the centre of town later in 2015 has therefore been greeted with excitement, says Wegerhoff. The prospect of new buildings and eventually a high school, as well as a new principal later in 2015, means that everyone will have to make adjustments, but they’re being superbly prepared.

“Our consistent goal at Greenwood is to help each child reach full potential in all areas of life. We want all students to experience the joy of learning and the time to enjoy the process.”

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Category: Winter 2015

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