“Follow the child,” Maria Montessori advises us. And, so we do.
We group children in multi-age classrooms: the Lower Elementary for six to nine year olds, and the Upper Elementary for nine to twelve year olds. Collaborative learning and problem solving naturally take place when older children act as mentors to younger children. Older children inspire younger children through more advanced work. When three age levels are represented in a class, children connect with others at their developmental level, not just their numerical age.
Our elementary classrooms are best described as a community of inquisitive and self motivated students. Elementary age children are naturally curious. There are no limits to the kinds of questions that they ask. Children readily wonder, “How does the universe work? What number comes after trillions? Which is hotter, a sun or a volcano? How does a fish breathe under water?”
Children are supported in finding answers to these questions through the comprehensive Montessori curriculum, which is designed to educate the whole child. Progressively through our elementary programs, children develop a broad knowledge base with lessons drawn from anthropology, art, biology, botany, chemistry, earth science ecology, geography, geology, geometry, history, language, mathematics, physics, sociology and zoology. An additional component of the integrated curriculum is peace education. We aim to be a diverse school representing the global community in which our children will live and work as adults.
Working in three hour, uninterrupted blocks of time allows our students to focus with sustained concentration in a relaxed learning environment. Children initiate research projects into topics of their own choosing. They might, for example, read about aquatic environments, analyze water samples, write about and illustrate their discoveries, develop a historical timeline of a water source and present their findings. Because a child’s imagination is immense, there are no limits to the range of topics or depth of research in our classrooms.
There are no workbooks or ditto sheets. Rather, we offer a wealth of concrete, manipulative materials from which the child learns. The colors, sizes and textures of Montessori materials are designed to appeal to a child’s sense of wonder and guide investigations into patterns and relationships that help to develop children’s problem-solving abilities. In addition, children use timelines, pictures, charts and reference materials to complete meaningful and challenging work in all areas of the curriculum.