The Montessori Elementary Program continues to strive for the same goals as the Montessori Casa Program: to instill a lifelong love of learning in the children, to instill a sense of respect for self and others, and to help the children become independent, confident individuals and caring, responsible members of their communities.
The Montessori Elementary Program builds on the foundation of skills acquired in the Casa Program. Montessori education stresses 'learning how to learn.'
Students are encouraged to do their own research, analyze their findings and come to their own conclusions. Montessori teaches students to think, not simply to memorize, reproduce on tests or exams, and forget. They literally learn how to learn, discovering along the way that the process of learning is fun, enjoyable and as natural as breathing.
Far from just passively giving students the “right answers”, Montessori teachers ask the “right questions” and challenge students to find new solutions or discover the answers on their own.
This is a key element of the Montessori program that prepares children to succeed in the real world of ideas, enterprise, and challenging perspectives. Learning the right answers may get children through a test, but learning how to learn will get them successfully through life.
Practical Life continues at the Elementary Level. The skills previously practiced and mastered as individual activities are now integrated as part of the daily classroom routine. Some of the activities now also extend beyond the classroom as the child widens his/her sphere of interaction with others.
- Self: dressing, changing, brushing teeth, brushing hair, basic first aid
- Environment: cooking, food preparation, cleaning, knitting, mending, gardening, recycling, composting
- Grace & Courtesy: greeting, interrupting, waiting for a turn, apologizing, thanking, giving and receiving compliments, telephone manners, introductions, welcoming visitors
- Movement: respecting space of others, planning use of space
The children will be putting their skills into use in a meaningful way every day in order to keep their classroom clean and tidy, as well as helping to keep the Earth clean and safe.
Reading, writing and grammar are integrated into all subject areas of the curriculum. Reading in the elementary classroom progresses from mastering decoding skills to in-depth novel study discussions. The technical skill of writing is practiced through penmanship exercises, and later, calligraphy. Written composition progresses from re-telling stories and daily events, to creating and publishing novellas, essays, research projects and classroom newspapers. Spoken language continues to be expanded through everyday communication with classmates and teachers. The children learn more formal presentation skills for sharing their written work as well as works of drama and poetry. Verbal communication is presented as an essential tool for problem solving and conflict resolution. A very important part of our curriculum is to expose the children to the Spanish language. They learn how to speak and write the language through songs, games and the use of the language material in the classroom.
Mathematics and Geometry
The elementary children’s reasoning minds are naturally engaged by mathematical challenges. Throughout the elementary program, the children are exposed to such concepts as numeration, the decimal system, the four operations, fractions, decimals, exponents, squaring, cubing, and algebra. Each concept is presented with concrete materials, which the children can manipulate and use repeatedly to acquire skills in memorization, computation, estimation, measurement, problem-solving and spatial reasoning. Exploring different mathematical concepts with concrete materials affords the children the opportunity to discover abstract rules for themselves. An integrated component of the Montessori Math program at the elementary level is an introduction to the history of numbers and different numeric systems. An understanding of different numerical “languages” fosters respect for different cultures and the achievements of our ancestors.
The elementary-aged child is intensely curious about the how and why of any and every possible thing in the world. Their thirst for knowledge knows no boundaries. Their eagerness to learn is infinite. How can we possibly offer these young minds what they desire without overwhelming them? Maria Montessori had a unique solution to this challenge. She said simply, “Offer the child the universe.” The universe as a starting point, the universe as a framework, and the universe as the biggest thing we know about. And the biggest of anything is particularly appealing to a 6-year-old mind! At the elementary level, we follow Montessori guidelines by starting with the big picture for any new concept and then allowing the children to choose which detail they wish to further explore. We cannot possibly expect or desire for the children to study every possible entity under the sun with interest and enthusiasm. But we can offer them the opportunity to choose what excites them and ensure that they understand how their chosen topic is interconnected with everything else. And ultimately the biggest question of all can be asked: how do I fit into the world? Given the freedom of exploration and the exposure to everything in the universe, the children will be able to reflect upon this question in a meaningful way. The children will also have a deep respect for what others have contributed and are continuing to contribute to our world.
The study of Geography begins with the history of the universe and its creation. This is related to the children in an exciting story format, which provides a framework for everything that will be presented to them. Geography then progresses from this overall picture to looking at each of the details in turn: the solar system, our earth, its layers and the natural phenomenon that occur at each layer. The layers in turn involve a progression from the centre, to the crust, to the water, to the air to all the living beings that inhabit the earth. On their “journey” through each layer, the children hear stories, look at charts and pictures, make and read maps, build models, conduct and interpret experiments, and compile research projects. Interrelatedness and interdependency are concepts essential to every aspect of Geography and help to instil a sense of respect in the children for all the world has to offer.
The study of History begins with an introduction to the measurement of time. Once the children have an awareness of clocks and calendars, they begin to look at History from the beginning of time when the universe was created. The timelines are essential History materials. Each timeline displays events from the past in pictures and shows the passage of time in a linear sequence. The first timeline is the 25-foot-long Timeline of Life. It shows every living being from the first bacteria to trilobites to dinosaurs and finally a tiny red stripe to represent humans and the very short amount of time we have been on the Earth. Sections from this timeline are later expanded into timelines of their own allowing for the study of humans in greater depth. The children are also introduced to the idea that everything has a history: from names to numbers to modes of transportation. Underlying every lesson are the ideas of respect and interconnectedness.
Every child is interested in learning about living creatures. In order to make sense of the great abundance of life on our planet, the children begin with a chart called the Five Kingdoms which classifies examples of every life form into one of five major groups, just like Biologists do. The children are introduced to the various functions of animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and unicellular life forms. They learn to classify specific examples according to their different functions. The study of Botany in particular lends itself well to conducting safe and respectful experiments.
Children are natural scientists who approach every challenge as if it were an experiment. In the elementary program, Science is largely integrated into Geography and Biology. The Laws of the Universe in the beginning of the Geography program, for example, include fundamental physical laws such as gravity, the three states of matter and centrifugal and centripetal forces. Additional scientific concepts such as magnetism, electricity, light, sound, acids and bases, simple machines and the table of elements are introduced through stories, charts and experiments.
The Arts Program offers the children opportunities to be artists themselves as well as to become appreciative of the artistic endeavours of others. Music, visual art and drama are integrated into the curriculum and the weekly classroom routine. The children are introduced to formal elements of each type of artistic expression. The children are also introduced to many artistic accomplishments of people from around the world. Throughout the year, displays and performances will take place to share their creations with their parents and the community.
The physical health of our children is a crucial aspect of their education. A Montessori environment affords the children freedom of movement throughout the day. They choose where to sit, where to work and return their materials to various places throughout the classroom. In addition to this daily freedom of movement, the children are also offered formal instruction in sports classes. A balance of team and individual sports is provided. Team spirit and individual best efforts are encouraged. The children are competing against themselves and celebrate the successes of all of their peers. Cooperation and respect for our bodies are the main goals of the program.