From the age of six onward, the conscious mind continues to develop, but no longer under the influence of the absorbent mind that so defined the primary years. The children in the 6-9 and 9-12 planes of development gravitate outward toward others and begin to start choosing work with classmates. They show genuine interest in others, their local community, and in their culture. Montessori programs take advantage of this inclination by providing a wide range of opportunities through the study of history, geography, language arts and the sciences.
The second plane of development is also very much affected by a sensitive period for the imagination; imagination refers to creative ideas based on what is real-in effect, seeing the possibilities in every experience. For this reason Montessori elementary programs begin each school year with the telling of the Five Great Lessons, a series of five imaginative stories that give students an overall impression of the grand topics of the universe, earth, and life on earth. The stories span about fifteen billion years, and introduce the students to the universe by stirring their imaginations and initiating their exploration of important questions. The Five Great Lessons inspire the children to explore other subjects in the Montessori curriculum: history, math, science and language arts. The Five Great Lessons are often described as the heart of the Montessori elementary curriculum.
Elementary Curriculum includes:
If the Great Lessons are the heart of the Montessori elementary education, then cosmic education can be described as its soul. The wonderful benefit of cosmic education for children is the gradual development of thankfulness for the world around them and an understanding of their place in it. They will begin to understand that they have been given many gifts from ancient and modern people and an understanding that most things we have today are the direct result of earlier times and people. They also develop wonder, gratitude, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of responsibility to others, to the earth, and to future generations.
Cosmic education is meant to permeate every student’s educational experience in the Montessori classroom. In the early childhood classroom (3-6), cosmic education begins by building on young students’ natural connections to the earth, nature, and other people, laying the foundation for a cosmic education in the elementary years. The four main components of the Elementary program,Sensorial Activities, Language, Mathematics, and Cultural Activities, incorporate this integrated approach to learning.
Elementary students continue their study of Spanish, with a greater emphasis on a writing component. Art classes tie in with the cultural studies in the classroom, and allow for exploration in various media; our annual “Mipsonian Living Museum” Presentation and individual classrooms’ Art Shows showcase the beautiful work the students have done in these areas.
Montessori teachers use culture as a generic term to refer to the areas of the curriculum that are not math or language. It incorporates History, Geography (physical and cultural) Biology, Health Sciences, Matter and Astronomy.
History: Researching and exploring other cultures and times is of great interest to this age; the timeline of civilization and the needs of man are woven together in an interdisciplinary way that invites the children to explore all aspects of human civilization.
Geography: We explore the formation of the earth and its place in the solar system, its atmosphere, weather and seasons, and its various land and water features. We also explore land features through the use of maps and globes. A major component of this curriculum is the study of continents, countries of the world, and capital cities.
Biology: In our study of botany, the children learn plant anatomy, physiology, geography, industries and horticulture. They gain an appreciation that animals have inhabited the Earth for millions of years, growing from simple one-celled organisms to the diverse variety on earth today. Students observe, research, and classify the animal kingdom and appreciate its importance to the world.
Health Sciences: Montessorians believe that a healthy mind, body and spirit are vital elements for success on the universal path of progress and development. It is in this spirit that the children explore physical, mental and emotional health.
Matter and Astronomy: Children examine the mysteries of the universe and discover answers to how and why things exist. They explore supernovas, stars, asteroids, meteors, satellites and galaxies! The curriculum delves into the wonder and power of atoms and all their potential.
Comprehension and reading fluency are the focus of the language curriculum in Lower Elementary; the work is individualized and appropriate to the student. There are physical materials to teach parts of speech, sentence analysis and grammar. Research and report-writing skills are a focus, a satisfying activity for this developmental age. Both Upper and Lower Elementary students prepare oral presentations frequently; oral presentations to younger students as well as their peers are an ongoing part of the elementary curriculum. Upper Elementary takes this even further, with independent research projects as well as collaborative work, with the teachers working with each child to continually improve the broad variety of writing skills they will need to master.
Elementary students solidify their understanding of the four mathematical operations, previously introduced in the primary level. They explore fractions and equivalencies, measurements, geometry and more; the Montessori math materials allow for a physical exploration of the underlying concepts. Upper Elementary learn about decimals, properties of numbers, algebraic equations and even more geometry. They are able to test hypotheses and draw conclusions based upon a concrete understanding of the mathematical principles that they may have simply memorized in a more traditional educational model. Each child’s individual ability is monitored and continuously challenged by the teachers.