“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”
Learning How to Think
Within the elementary years of Montessori, the child is entering a new period in his life: this imaginative, social, creative child needs a planned environment and expansive course of study to support his rapidly increasing independence and potential. This experience will not only shape his knowledge and skills, but also his attitude about learning for the rest of his life.
A few truths about Montessori elementary are:
- The elementary “curriculum” is only limited by a child’s imagination
- Children work collaboratively.
- The classroom is designed to nurture imagination and reason.
- The children’s work is open-ended and creative.
- Children are agents in their own education.
- Children explore their own interests while meeting age-appropriate standards.
- The children are empowered to seek knowledge beyond the classroom.
The starting point for all courses of study are the “Great Lessons’, which are impressionistic and scientific stories presented every year giving the ‘big picture’ of cosmology, astronomy, earth science, geography, chemistry, physics, biology, history, anthropology, cultural and social studies, language, math, music, and art.
Subsequent lessons offer keys for further exploration of all areas. Lessons are considered starting points for the child’s own inquisitive activity.
Because language serves as a foundation for much of what the child learns in all other areas, reading, writing, and oral expression are emphasized. Elementary students build on their past foundation of sound, phonics, writing and grammar, and come to feel an instinctive sense of language.
In the elementary classroom language activities give keys to our language and the child undertakes the study of words, their origins, spelling and grammatical function. Reading and writing continue and are an integral part of the entire curriculum. They are strengthened through the development of research skills, composition, exploration of poetry and drama and keeping a journal of daily work.
In the Montessori elementary classroom mathematics materials are concrete representations of abstract concepts that demonstrate what takes place in a given mathematical process. Mathematics in the Montessori environment is an integration of arithmetic, algebra and geometry into a system where each illuminate the other. Concrete learning materials help to establish the spatial aspects of basic concepts such as computations in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division until the child is able to explore them more abstractly later on.
History, geography and the sciences are greatly enhanced by the presentation of the “Great Lessons.” These lessons are dramatic presentations giving the history of the universe and the world, as well as the evolution of plants, animals and humans on the earth.
Children are involved in many ways in understanding the cosmic story of the beginnings of the universe, the formation of stars, planets, the sun and the earth. They learn the story of the origins of man and all things. The human being represents both a culmination and a point of departure. Time lines, charts and basic research cards of human needs and the advancement of civilizations help the child in independent study. Here is the opportunity for special studies in geology, biology, geography and history.
The model of “Cosmic Education” and the “Great Lessons” creates an integrated curriculum of history, biology, geography, geology and the story of the development of language and mathematics.
Going out is an integral part of the Montessori elementary experience. The children extend the classroom into the larger community in which we live by following up on an interest or research project, by arranging a visit to a museum, library, pet store or other site that can provide them with the information they need. Going out can involve a small group of children accompanied by a staff person or in some cases, a parent volunteer. The whole class also may take field trips to local museums, drama productions, factories and agencies to learn about the community.