From outdoor learning, even before it was a trend during COVID to connecting with the Earth and building strong relationships, Montessori education lives in the hearts and minds of our Graduates. Our 2022 graduates embody the purpose of a Montessori education – to educate for life and for peace. Listening to what they have to say, it will illuminate all that we hope for in our future generations.
Neste Szarka-Kovacs and I sat down for a chat about her experiences at FMS. It’s immediately evident that she is a mature, thoughtful student with a big heart for FMS.
“I started in the 6-9 after having some time in a public Kindergarten and being home schooled. I followed my brother to FMS and straight away I felt at home. Even although I was very shy and could only speak Hungarian, it was only a few months and my English was fluent and I made made friends.”
Born in Australia to Hungarian parents, Neste has an older brother who also attended FMS, graduating in 2020. Today’s she fluent in both English and Hungarian.
She has many fond memories or the kind of engaged learning she has been involved in at FMS. Like Xarifa teaching her one of the timelines outside because the chart was so long they needed more space. She enjoyed gardening when she moved to 9-12, finding it very satisfying to be pulling weeds and having her hands immersed in the soil. She can still feel the snake around her shoulder from the days the reptiles were in school. Anthony’s mathematics lessons have really helped her to understand the concepts as she talks rapidly about how good it is to have the Montessori materials ’to give learning meaning.”
One of the strongest memories for Neste is how the teachers treat the students;
“I love the way the teachers engage with the students especially when things go wrong. They don’t turn it into a big deal, just help us to sort things out in an adult like way. They also make you feel very special by the way they acknowledge you concentrate and finishing your work.”
In her graduating year, Neste has been working with Kayla on a project of their choice which looked at Fast Fashion and how its polluting the planet. She talks with great enthusiasm about all that she has learnt including the phenomenal fact that 500million kilos of clothing a year end up in landfill in Australia. This was part of the Montessori Model United Nations, MMUN work the graduates engage with.
“Actually, this project will make me change the way I think about clothing. I’m going to recycle or fix my clothes rather than just buy new items.”
Special interest out of school includes ballet and drawing, particularly people.
“I’ve taught myself how to draw people, including the details like their hair from watching clips on Pinterest.”
She’s not daunted by high school, saying she’s looking forward to the tests and feeling satisfied that she can demonstrate all that she knows.
As for changing anything at FMS?
“No, please don’t it’s perfect the way it is.”
It’s always such a pleasure to chat with our graduates and my conversation with Kayla Casey was no exception.
Kayla joined FMS when she was 3 years old then left for a year to go to Darwin with her family, returning to join the Lower Primary (6-9 Years). She is very animated about her school.
“You have more freedom to choose the work you want to explore. I love the way that at FMS you can choose the work you want to spend time on. Of course you still have to do all the basics but you get time to do special projects and even when you are in lessons, you are in a small group or one on one with your teacher so you get to ask lots of questions. Montessori.”
She’s a fan of not wearing a uniform because it means you can be an individual. This is one of the things she’s not looking forward to about high school when she will relocate to attend Snowy Mountains Grammar. She thinks the uniform is very restricting but she’s not that worried because the after school activities are definitely to her liking- horse-riding in summer and skiing in winter.
Kayla talks fondly about many aspects of FMS. Being surrounded by nature is a high priority for her and she has always liked being next to trees and being able to walk out into the FMS gardens. She also comments on how FMS is good for the environment with our attention to organic gardens and lots of greenery.
Top of her memories is the the time the school had a snake in the classroom, non-poisonous of course. Students had to learning how to handle the snake and be calm around it so as not to make it nervous. She’s glad Xarifa is getting a reptile license so we may be able to have snakes again. In the meantime, Kayla loves caring for all our other animals, guinea pigs, chickens, fish, turtle, pygmy dragon. She says it’s very calming and helps you to be responsible.
As we chatted about her memories, Kayla is alive and full of smiles. She remembers how Bonnie used to tell them stories and weave all their own names into the plot; she talks about many great relationships with her teachers saying that this is key to a good school because if you can’t talk to your teachers then it doesn’t work; she loves Harmony Day when all 6-12 students research different cultures and learn the backgrounds of children at the school but of course the very best part is the banquet with food from around the world; Jump Rope for Heart is a favourite of Kayla’s because the 9-12 students get to be the leaders, organising everything and being the presenters on the day.
“Sport for Jove was a lot of fun this year. I didn’t think I would like it as it was about Shakespeare, but I found that I loved it. The theatre sports and working with professional actors meant I got to really understand parts of Henry VIII in a way that I don’t think would happen if all you do is read the play.”
Kayla likes that FMS is a small school and that you get to know all the students and teachers. Like Neste, she enjoys the projects that you can choose and they both worked together on ‘Fast Fashion”, researching how the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters.
“I recycle my clothes and have stopped using the brands that use fast fashion. I’m going to be keeping my clothes as long as possible because I don’t want to be contributing to child labour.”
When we started chatting about possible changes FMS could make to improving the school, Kayla was quite adamant:
“It’s pretty good the way it is. One thing you could consider is providing more age-appropriate activities for the 9-12 in After School Care. I like helping the younger children but at a certain point, I’d like to be able to choose a book that’s age appropriate, maybe some board games, art materials and the game, Twister.”
Kayla is an avid reader. Right now, she has a few books on the go but her favourite all time author is Rick Riordan who wrote Heroes of Olympus, Percy Jackson and Trials of Apollo.
“He keeps you in suspense for a whole year before publishing his sequel!”
When it comes to what she’s learnt about herself as a person having been at FMS, she answers:
“Well, it wasn’t until I went on a holiday camp that I learnt I don’t like competition and that’s something you learn at a Montessori school, to do something because you want to not because you’re going to win an award. I valued the participation in all the activities not the winning of awards.”
So intrinsic motivation is a big part of Kayla’s personal motivation. One funny thing you would like to tell me that I might not know happens at the school?
“In 9-12 when the fish tank cleaners come into our classroom, we ask for their autographs. They’re always so surprised but we think they’re everyday heroes who are superstars for cleaning our fish tanks.”
Gratitude is shown in many different ways and I reckon Kayla and her friends know a thing or two about making people feel special.
It’s nine years since Abigail Warburton joined FMS as a three-year-old. She followed her brother, Jake who also started at three years old and was in the Lower Primary (6-9 years) when Abigail joined the Children’s House.
FMS has a special place in Abigail’s life. Her grandparents, Sue and Rodney Birdsall were Founders of the school along with Jenny and John Williams, Hank Van Gasselt and Tineke Ripping in 1981. Her mum, Idette attended FMS and she is now a Board Director.
When it comes to memories, Abigail says she has a lot of great memories. This year, she particularly enjoyed being one of the leaders for Jump Rope for Heart because she was given a role that she loved, to video the event. It’s at this moment that I learn that Abigail has a very special interest in video editing.
“I’ve taught myself to take clips and edit the videos. You can really experiment with different techniques. I like it because it’s creative.”
Abigail loves the independence she has been given to choose what and how she likes to learn at FMS. She is very complimentary of her teachers.
“They just get alongside you and help you to really understand what you are learning. It makes it easy for you to take the subjects to a higher level. The Montessori materials definitely help too. The checkerboard is probably my favourite, again because it helps you genuinely understand what you’re doing.”
At a recent Parent Child evening where the students take parents on a journey of their learning, Abigail shared her work on calculating the area of composite shapes. She is also enjoying mathematics now that involves counting in different bases; all topics that go above and beyond the regular primary curriculum.
Abigail talks enthusiastically about her learning and what she enjoys at FMS.
“Take the Grammar Boxes, for example, it such a fun way to learn grammar. The colours and the shapes help with memorisation.
Having animals at school teaches you how to handle and care for the different species. They’re calming and we all love being around the animals.”
Interests out of school include tennis, drumming, video editing and reading. Like her friend Kayla, Rick Riordan is her favourite author of the moment and she confesses to having her nose in a book most of the time.
“There are so many things about my school that I love like the freedom to be outside in our gardens and to help with the gardens. I also love spending time with the younger children. I’m going to miss the gardens and the children because taking care of them makes me feel good about myself and others.”
Would she change anything about FMS?
“No, not really I like the way it is but I do think some of the building need some upgrade but you guys have plans for that so it will be good to know other students will get to enjoy the upgrades.”
She is looking forward to her high school adventure and feels well prepared for the next step. Parents often ask how Montessori students manage in high school. Interviewing our graduates confirms what we know, they are independent, inspired thinkers who easily adjust to their changing environment, taking with them all they have from their time at FMS. They have been given and education for life and it shows.
Phoenix started at FMS before he was born. How can that be?
“Mum was pregnant with me and bringing my siblings to school so I came with her in her tummy!”
He has a long and strong connection with the school as his four siblings al attended FMS, starting in NIDO. McCreadie, Milo, Henry-Lee and Ty all attended FMS until they graduated from upper Primary (9-12 Years).
“McCreadie was the real reason we all came to FMS because she had been at public school and was bored. When she got to FMS she came to life again, she couldn’t get enough of Montessori!”
Phoenix likes all the freedom he has at FMS. He likes that he gets to choose what he wears and that we don’t have a dress code that if you get it wrong you get a detention. No detentions at FMS! He also likes the freedom to walk into the garden, choose different work, get creative in the art room and deciding to eat your snack when you’re hungry not when a bell rings.
When it comes to memories, he has lots. He enjoys working with friends on research projects. He remembers composing random funny songs when he was in the Lower Primary (6-9 Years) that he would sing with his friends as they took care of the environment in the afternoon. He said it made wiping the tables and washing the dishes a lot more fun!
Cooking is a strong memory, especially making double chocolate biscuits with Anthony. When it comes to his favourite Montessori materials, he chooses the large bead frame because it was teaching him in a really practical way. In a funny story, her tells me about doing the vacuum’, this is what he calls sweeping up all the beads when he was using the racks and tubes!
Out of school, his main interest would be teaching his friends how to do mathematics in easier ways. He’s a swimmer and participates in Nippers. Saturdays are big clean up days in his house, the whole family (apart from Henry Lee) gets into cleaning up.
He’s very happy with FMS just the way it us apart from the Upper Primary (9-12 Years) playground which he thinks needs an upgrade. He’d recommend a new design in the area where the cubby house and the bridge are currently.
Phoenix is looking forward to high school, saying he’s ready for the challenge and feels well prepared.
We wish all our graduates every success and happiness. Now they are welcomed into the FMS Alumni network.