KEYS TO THE UNIVERSE
The elementary years are years of vigorous, continual growth. Building on the foundation of the first six years, these children are now transitioning to adolescence. This is a supremely social time in life dominated by the work of self-understanding, of orienting oneself in society and history, and of beginning to experience oneself as a power in the world. Elementary children are increasingly social, independent and competent, and possessed of an increasingly penetrating intelligence.
These children are astonishingly capable and need opportunities to demonstrate to themselves and others just how capable they are. This is the time of Great Work; of impossibly ambitious projects, often undertaken with a group; including trips organized by the children, challenging plays, community service, art and science fairs, field days organized for the younger elementary children, and the like.
The Montessori elementary supports these children’s higher-level thinking by providing frameworks for learning and exploration; strategies for achieving their goals; processes for effective workflow; and habits of mind that characterize the life-long learner.
CONTINUING THE MONTESSORI JOURNEY
As the elementary-aged child gradually moves from the concrete learning pathways of preschool to the more abstract ones of the elementary, Montessori meets his/her developmental needs each step of the way.
THE SIX-YEAR-OLD AS PHILOSOPHER
The six-year-old has the mark of a philosopher. Wonder is intrinsic to his/her learning. The stars, nature, technology, and social life induce great questions: Where did I come from? What are the stars made of? What is my purpose for living? What is justice? What is happiness? What is right and what is wrong?
In Montessori elementary, the child’s own questions provide the basis for exploration of the world. Because these questions are heeded and nurtured, the child really connects with knowledge. Subject matter, then, is made relevant to the child’s personal quest, providing an inner motivation. A Montessori elementary education does not give the child a collection of trivial facts but rather bestows a vision of interrelated knowledge and a love of learning.
The elementary-aged child wants to know everything about everything. He/she has a natural tendency to explore the expansive “cosmic” perspective within disciplines such as the sciences, the arts, and social studies. To study is to be immersed in nothing more or less than the infinite domain of the universe.
The “cosmic” perspective does not mean, however, that Montessori elementary ignores the “basics” of reading, writing, and arithmetic. During the preschool years, the Montessori child has already acquired a beginning literacy of letters, numbers, and writing. In the elementary years, these basic skills are polished in the meaningful context of a “big picture.” The child’s own philosophical spirit motivates skill mastery. Montessori elementary education speaks to a child’s imagination and sets him/her off on a lifelong voyage of discovery.
STORYTELLING: CAPTURING THE IMAGINATION
Every six-year-old loves a story.
In the beginning, before your parents were born, before your grandparents were born, before there were even people, before there was even an earth—there was nothing…
So begins one version of “The Story of the Universe”, the first of five stories known as the Great Lessons that are told in the Montessori elementary program. As the children ponder the story, questions beget questions: I wonder how many solar systems there are? I wonder how the volcanoes cooled? I wonder what color the first ocean was? I wonder…
The Great Lessons are connected stories that span the enormous historical frames of time and space. “The Coming of Life” introduces the history of life on earth from one-celled animals and plants to human beings. “The Coming of Humans” relates the significance of human beings, their special abilities, and what differentiates them from other life forms. “The Story of Communication in Signs” and “The Story of Numbers” provide a look at human invention in the context of expanding civilization.
From this core of story frameworks emanate the details of the disciplines: science, mathematics, social studies, and language. The story provides an overview; the children then investigate the disciplines in details. Since there is a unifying thread of the Great Lessons, no subject is studied in isolation from the others. Knowledge is intertwined even though discrete in its parts.
After exposure to each story, the children, in small groups or individually, freely explore their own questions prompted by the story. Some work with timelines and other materials designed to support the stories that are carefully presented by the teacher in response to a child’s question. Some may perform experiments using materials available in the classroom. Some may gather information from library books or a local science or natural history museum, enjoying the dignity of conducting research on their own, at their own pace, following their own interest. The Great Lessons develop sustained conviction in the child around the themes of progress and interdependency. The stories present not only the changes the earth has undergone since it beginnings but also the ways in which each new animal or plant affects all the others. The stories inspire awe and wonder about the ecology of the natural world. They are also building a sense of the importance of making a contribution to the continuing stream of human progress. Thus Montessori elementary provides the foundations for life commitment.
About our teachers
All of our head teachers have obtained their Montessori Elementary certification as well as a BA in Education. Some have a Master's Degree in Education, as well. All of our classroom assistants either have or are working towards one or more of these credentials.
In addition to the core curriculum, students are exposed to various enrichment options throughout the year.
Foreign language classes serve to expose children to other cultures. Spanish is taught from Toddler House through Upper Elementary.
GROUP MUSIC INSTRUCTION
Students receive group instruction in music twice per week. Instruction includes opportunities to explore sound through singing, moving, listening, and playing instruments such as the recorder, as well as introductory experiences with verbalization and visualization of musical ideas.
The music literature included in the curriculum includes traditional children’s songs, folk songs, classical music, and music from a variety of cultures, styles, and time periods.
INDIVIDUAL PIANO, VIOLIN OR GUITAR INSTRUCTION
Elementary students and up have the option of signing up for individual instruction in one of the above-listed instruments. Lessons are 20-minutes long, two times per week. Students participate in several recitals throughout the year; some given for parents and some for other student groups within the school community. An additional fee applies for individual music instruction.
Parents have the option of packing a lunch for their child, or purchasing daily hot lunches. Lunch is served family-style. Children take turns setting the tables, serving others, and cleaning up. Hot lunches are provided by Yummy In My Tummy.
Yummy In My Tummy provides MMA with fresh (never frozen) hot meals, that are eco-friendly, toxin-free, and composed of environmentally sustainable USDA-certified organic ingredients.
The food is either roasted, baked or simmered to prevent any loss of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals in the cooking process. The food arrives in BPA-free, phthalate-free, BHT-free, and BHA-free containers.