“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.” – Maria Montessori
Learning How To Think
The Montessori Lower Elementary program, for children between the ages of six and nine, is designed to meet the needs of your child in a new phase of development. This age is characterized by heightened social awareness, imagination, and a sense of morality. Younger children are inspired by the big work of their older peers. The focus is not on forcing the child to memorize facts, but rather to understand concepts and learn how to learn. The elementary classroom supports children’s independence and potential by inviting them to engage in an expansive course of study.
The Montessori Elementary is built on the foundations of the Children’s House.
Many of the beautiful, inviting Montessori materials from the Children’s House are also found in the Elementary, where children will use them in new ways suited to their expanding minds, and make their own discoveries. Whereas the younger child asks “What is this?”, the older child asks, “Why?” and “How?” Now, instead of repetition, the elementary child craves variety, so there are many new materials with which to explore. The noise and activity levels in the Elementary classroom increase. Because the children are learning with and from each other, the classroom is characterized by a “productive buzz.” The Children’s House experiences have helped children develop independence and concentration. These skills now enable the student to take full advantage of all that the Elementary classroom has to offer.
The Elementary “curriculum” is only limited by a child’s imagination.
A traditional curriculum delineates what a child is supposed to learn. In Montessori classrooms, there is no limit. Montessori’s “Great Lessons,” presented every year, provide a starting point for any course of study. For example, the Great Lesson referred to as “The Birth of the Universe” incorporates astronomy, physics, chemistry, earth science, and geography. Using illustrations, scientific demonstrations, and storytelling, the Great Lessons touch on the natural world, as well as the world of humankind in history. They are designed to spark the child’s imagination and to provide a context for all further study. Meaningful learning happens when children are inspired by a lesson and begin to explore the subject and work on their own.
Elementary age students are naturally curious and have a strong internal drive to discover how our world works. They may ask, “How does a fish breathe under water?” “What number comes after a trillion?” “What causes a volcano to erupt?” Montessori guides encourage children to find out! Montessori students are empowered to find the answers to their own questions with the materials and resources in a prepared environment; this frees them from being dependent upon an adult to provide them with knowledge. Children enjoy learning that is driven by their passions!
Children are met where they are.
Children in Montessori have significantly more input into how they are taught, and control over how they learn, than children in traditional school settings. Their natural learning styles and preferences are respected and supported. Children are free to continue to work with a material or concept as long as necessary, reviewing or repeating lessons until achieving mastery. On the other hand, children are able to move on when ready for a new challenge. Lessons are presented in small groups to the children who are ready for them, regardless of their age. Through observation, the guide determines when the child has internalized a concept and is ready for a new concept. Guides keep meticulous notes of which lessons the child has received and which he or she still needs. For example, the child who demonstrates understanding of the basic functions of a verb is now ready for a presentation on the introduction of a clause. The child who has used the pegs to find common factors may be ready to find common denominators with the fraction pieces. Montessori students are empowered to ask for new lessons because they enjoy fresh challenges!
The children’s work is open-ended…
Each child’s response to a lesson is unique, and their follow-up work reflects those individual differences. Your child is free to form or join a group to work with the concepts introduced in a lesson. For example, when the Elementary guide gives a lesson on the Timeline of Life, some children will be especially inspired by this. Some may choose to study invertebrates, while others will want to learn more about dinosaurs, how mass extinctions occur, how plants reproduce, or how a volcano erupts. Some may wish to present their research to the class or a small group of children. The research integrates other skills, such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening in a meaningful context. Because the children are free to move around the classroom and see what others are doing, it’s not uncommon for an idea to spread; children are stimulated not just by the teacher’s lessons, but by each other. Excitement about learning is often contagious!
Children work collaboratively and cooperatively.
In the Children’s House, your child was best able to concentrate when working parallel to peers. Elementary children, however, have a strong drive to be social and to collaborate. For this reason, many of the lessons and follow-up projects in elementary are done in pairs or groups of children. Each day, your child will practice the social skills necessary to plan and carry out his projects: delegation and division of labor, sharing resources, making group decisions, taking responsibility for actions, and celebrating the success of peers. Conflict is not uncommon; it is a necessary and important part of the child’s work. The motivation to resolve it comes from the children and their engagement with their projects. The Montessori guide models and supports constructive and respectful problem-solving. Learning how to work well with the different personalities and characteristics of other children in the classroom community is a significant life lesson.
Children are empowered to seek knowledge beyond the classroom.
“Going Out” occurs for a group of children who need an experience outside of the classroom in order to deepen their study. For example, a group of children may have been studying sharks for several weeks. After exhausting the resources of the classroom, they find a resource in the community (such as an aquarium), schedule the outing, and arrange for their own transportation and supervision (by staff or parent volunteers), and then return to share their research with the rest of the class. In addition to its academic value, each Going Out is an entire course of study on independence, responsibility, and good citizenship.
Your child is now ready to move on to the Montessori Upper Elementary Program.
From the Lower Elementary Program
Written by Lower Elementary Guide, Allison Buckley
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