© 2019 Peaceful Pathways Montessori Academy

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Elementary Program

ages 6-12 years old  (1st - 6th grade)

(By permission of The Michael Olaf Montessori Company, www.michaelolaf.net)

 

There is no subject in the elementary class that is taught in isolation; all of the work is interrelated and a child's interest and developing passion in one area of study gradually leads her to all the rest. The teacher does not require specific work, but guides the children as individuals or self-formed small groups in doing research.  The children follow their own interests in creating and finishing research projects, and in finding a way to express them. The teacher gives the basic lessons over and over, but never knows where this research will go each year, with each individual child, and each group of children. This is as exciting for the teacher as for the children.

Early in elementary, the names (or nomenclature) of the geometrical solids are reintroduced from the first exposure in 3-6.  Now that the children are older they will explore them in greater detail.  The teacher adds etymology to the nomenclature.  "This ellipsoid isn't quite a sphere.  That's why the Greeks chose the word, 'not quite a sphere, something lacking."  One can see clearly that Montessori has a very integrated curriculum.  Geometry, language and history are part of this one lesson on geometric solids.  The children then learn the parts of a solid and classify them.

The student above is making her own geometric solid.

(By permission of The Michael Olaf Montessori Company, www.michaelolaf.net)

 

There is no subject in the elementary class that is taught in isolation; all of the work is interrelated and a child's interest and developing passion in one area of study gradually leads her to all the rest. The teacher does not require specific work, but guides the children as individuals or self-formed small groups in doing research.  The children follow their own interests in creating and finishing research projects, and in finding a way to express them. The teacher gives the basic lessons over and over, but never knows where this research will go each year, with each individual child, and each group of children. This is as exciting for the teacher as for the children.

 

ASTRONOMY TO GEOLOGY, COSMIC TASKS 

Long ago, the sciences were taught in conjunction with the study of human life. This changed radically with the discovery, by Copernicus, that the Earth is not the center of the universe—science and religion going their separate ways. This break has lasted till today.

 

There is now a movement to bring the spiritual view of life and sciences back together. We can help by giving lessons that show the child that:

 

(1) All of the rules of physics and chemistry (e.g. gravity) follow an order dictated by God.

 

(2) Each element, from the tiniest atom to the human being, has an important role to play, a cosmic task, in this scheme of life. The term cosmic task is used often in the elementary class. Cosmos is the opposite of chaos, and implies some kind of a logical order to reality, and children at this age are fascinated by attempts to figure it out. 

 

Dr. Montessori pointed our that every element in our world has some important task to perform, a task that will fulfill a need for itself, and in the process— contribute to the need of others. She took the common mollusk as an example. As it draws calcium carbonate out of the seas to build its protective coating, its house or shell, it at the same time reduces the level of this substance from sea water. If the level of this mineral were high enough it would poison all life on earth. This work is the cosmic task of the mollusk. The lowly common fly, as another example, lays its eggs on dead creatures and its offspring devour the tissues, feeding themselves, and at the same time ridding the environment of dead matter, that would otherwise pile up and pollute the earth. This is the cosmic task of the fly. 

 

An artist, in fulfilling an inner command to express through paints a feeling that must get out and can be expressed in no other way, brings beauty and/or meaning to others sometimes throughout generations. This is the cosmic task of the artist. 

 

Children explore first the cosmic task of the elements of the physical earth, then other living creatures, and finally other humans and themselves. The most important point is that the child realizes that he or she has an important part to play in this picture.

SCIENCES

 

How often is the soul of man, especially that of the child, deprived because one does not put him in contact with nature.

 

There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving. The wood reveals that it is not only the trees that exist, but a whole, interrelated collection of lives. And this earth, this climate, this cosmic power are necessary for the development of all these lives. The myriad lives around the trees, the majesty, the variety are things one must hunt for, and which no one can bring into the school. —Dr. Maria Montessori, MD 

 

In the elementary class, for children from age six to twelve, the study of biology has three main focuses: 

 

(1) experiments and observation of plants and animals to discover their needs and the amazing variety of each; 

 

(2) evolution of plants and animals;

 

(3) classification of plants and animals.

 

At the beginning of each year the teacher inspires children to carry out research in these areas by telling stories, and presenting beautiful books, posters, charts, and timelines. Then each child begins a personal journey of discovery, joining others for research projects and presentations. Every year is unpredictable, not even the teacher knowing what will be covered, as the rule is to "follow the child." 

CLASSIFICATION OF PLANTS & ANIMALS

 
The discovery of the multitude of kinds of plants and animals helps children understand why there must be a system of sorting and naming them—this is biological classification. 

Children want to know how and why plants and animals have been classified and how the systems of classification change as we learn more about biology. This work links biology to logic, math and language, English and Latin.

When subjects flow into each other like this, a child following an interest, the knowledge is in a sense recreated by the child and becomes a part of his long term memory, instead of a subject to be memorized, tested on and forgotten. Biology often becomes a lifelong interest for these children.

SOCIAL SCIENCES - GEOGRAPHY, HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY

 

Today those things which occupy us in the field of education, are the interests of humanity at large and of civilization. Before such great forces we can recognize only one country—the entire world. —Dr. Montessori, MD 

 

History, geography, and biography—the history of a people cannot be separated from the possibilities of the environment in which it develops, and the leadership of its great men and women. 

 

In the beginning of each year the children are introduced to the study of humankind with stories, beautiful books, maps, posters, timelines and other research inspirations. 

 

Throughout the six years in the elementary class, the child moves from the general to the specific in the following way: 

 

       Age 6-8, the emphasis is on prehistoric life, and plants and animals. 

 

      Age 8-10, the emphasis is on early civilizations, from tribal cultures and ancient civilizations to the development of modern cities.

 

       Age 10-12, the emphasis is on the child's national and state history. 

 

Of course all of these studies are going on at the same time and the child is free to follow her interests, no matter what the age.

 

History is essentially a record of how humans fulfilled their physical, mental, and spiritual needs. These can be thought of as: 

 

       (1) physical needs: food, clothing, shelter, transportation and defense

       (2) mental tendencies: work, exploration, creation, communication, play

       (3) spiritual needs: self respect or self love, love of others, creative love and the love of God. 

 

These subjects are also experienced subjectively in the classroom. For example, as the child learns about how different people obtain food, he learns to grow and prepare food. As he learns about clothing he may learn to knit or to make clothing or costumes. He studies the arts of other cultures while developing his own musical and other artistic talents. And while studying the ethics and religions of other cultures he is exploring his own relationship with friends, family and God. 

 

This creates, not only new abilities, but an empathy with members of other cultures in the present and the past.

LANGUAGE

 

CREATING A LANGUAGE ENVIRONMENT


A love of reading and writing comes about quite naturally for a child who grows up seeing other people tell stories and read, and who is often read to. Writing notes, grocery lists, thank you letters, and recording personal experiences and thoughts, by means of drawings and written stories, can begin at a very early age. 

A nightly ritual of family reading (instead of watching TV) is a good way to make sure that there is time for all the great literature and poetry that you might want to read to your child. In our family we as parents have filled in many a gaps in our own knowledge of great stories and books by reading to our children.

Poetry brings more important elements into the child's language; there is a great increase in vocabulary when one delves into poetry. Even in the simplest forms words are used that are not common in prose. The music of poetry gives greater pleasure and facilitates memorization. Our favorite kinds of poetry are those that can be read aloud, like a Greek chorus, or which tell long stories, such as the Pied Piper.

It sometimes happens, however, that a child becomes disinterested in reading on his own because he is afraid this nightly ritual will come to an end. To prevent this we can assure the child that we will continue to read as long as he desires. In our home we read to our children even during their teenage years, to the delight of all. 

Reading well can take years, hopefully of enjoyable experiences, and a child continues to need to be read to. This is how he hears the correct pronunciation of new words, many new words which increase his vocabulary, the intonation and beauty of voice and expression of an experienced reader. 

But most of all he needs, and perhaps never outgrows the need for, the love and the closeness, the personal attention from parents, a friend or a teacher, that comes with curling up with a book, picturing the magic scenes in his head with his eyes closed as he listens, and listens. 


The child over seven is intensely interested in morals and heroes. Mythology provides a wealth of material for this exploration, and inspires discussion which will encompass behavior in everyday life, in the family, the class, and society.

HANDWRITING


Beautiful writing has been a lost art in our country for many years but it is having a resurgence. Children feel very good about themselves and tend to write far more when they have been taught beautiful handwriting. Giving a child a new alphabet and a different kind of writing utensil often does wonders to inspire writing. The Italic script is very beautiful and a link between cursive and print. I have seen a child's cursive writing improve dramatically as he casually worked through a set of Italic workbooks over a period of years.

THE HISTORY OF LANGUAGE 


Through stories, pictures and beautiful carefully chosen books, we enable the child to begin to understand: 

 

      (1) The path traced by language, the growth and development of language—through travel, colonization, commerce, war, etc.,

 

      (2) How humans have given a name to everything found or made and how this process continues, 

 

      (3) How language constantly changes and why, 

 

      (4) How language expresses the creative force of humanity. 

 

At this age children in many ways are repeating the history of humans on earth. They want to cook, sew, garden, begin to learn all of the skills of adults. Children and adults alike find it fascinating to trace the development of the language, to realize that in the past only a few people, sometimes only priests, knew how to read and write. They find the connection between the migrations and other contacts between groups of people and the many different languages on earth. 

 

GRAMMAR


As adults we have mixed memories of learning grammar. Usually these studies are considered difficult and taught at a period of life when we were not really interested in language. It works best to follow the child's interest and this is the time of life when children are very interested in the progress of civilization, including language—including the structure of their own language.

 

Many great educators and philosophers have stated that there is nothing that cannot be taught if the student and the subject matter are well understood and creatively put in touch with each other. We try to make everything interesting, so that it will be enjoyed and retained.

MATH

 

Abstract work is a higher mental level of work, which comes naturally after the child has learned to picture the object being measured or related to other objects in her mind. 

 

In the elementary class stories are told and experiments carried out to show children how humans used their imaginations in the past, and how they are using them today, to solve problems and come up with great inventions—the use of fire, measuring the earth, compasses, boats, and many others. They see how inventions, geometry and math came about as the result of human progress, to meet specific needs. 

 

Geometry, for example, arose from the practical need to reestablish planting boundaries after the annual flooding of the Nile in Egypt. In "geometry," geo  stands for earth, and metry for measure. 

 

Children of this age love to reach back into history with their imaginations and reconstruct these needs and solutions and the creation of systems of learning. The Hindus introduced the use of "0." Let the child try to do math without it! Where did algebra, calculus, trigonometry come from? They want to know! 

 

Children are inspired by these stories, and by examples and pictures, to find out more. Children come to realize that mathematics has evolved and is still evolving from a practical need. Math, graphing, fractions, all become logical tools for recording and measuring, and algebra a short cut for recording. 

 

Geometry, math, and invention are languages used to explore and manipulate, to theorize and create, real objects in a real world. At this age children continue to enjoy exploring math and geometry concepts if they are related to real life, and if they are presented with materials which can be handled, manipulated, used to create. We must keep sight of this fact when teaching children. We give manipulative materials in all areas of math and leave it to each child to decide when she is ready to work without materials—in the abstract—on paper with pencil. 

 

We encourage children to make up their own problems—especially story problems related to their lives and the subjects they are studying—for themselves and for their friends, in order to come to a very practical and clear understanding of geometry and math. Children enjoy making up problems for each other, and examples that stump their teachers. This process of math concepts makes them stick in the child's mind. 

 

With higher math, geometry and algebra, we give many practical examples and help the children come up with their own formulae after much experience. For example, if a child measures all of the rectangles in the room—tables, windows, books, etc. for figuring surface area, he will easily create, and even better understand, the formula "A=lw." 

 

For each grade level, from 1st through high school, the children are shown the state requirements of math, just as any other subject. Then they learn to plan and schedule their work. It is left to each child to decide the best system and schedule, through trial and error, and with adult help, depending on learning styles, and interests. 

 

This teaches the math of planning, scheduling, allotting sufficient time, and it teaches responsibility. 

 

When children are given this solid, material foundation, and see the relationship of geometry and math to the real world, it makes it easier for them, in later years, to spend long periods of time working on paper.

 

This is because they know that these steps are just that—steps which will take them to a new level of understanding in the exciting world of math and science.

THE ARTS

 

The arts play a large part of every area of the elementary studies. Models, plays enacting historical dramas such as the measurement of the earth, songs, artwork, there is no end to possibilities. 

 

All of the academic work in the elementary class is connected with and expressed by means of the arts. Instead of unrelated art and music lessons for the few, the techniques of creating in all areas (art, music, drama, dance, etc.) are taught by the teacher (often with the help of parents or specialists, but only when called upon by the students, for a reason), and then used to make learning exciting. There might be a play acting out the process of photosynthesis or the population of the world, a quilt made with squares of leaf shapes as a school fundraiser, or a series of beautiful watercolors demonstrating the principles of geometry. Just as in all areas, the teacher is in charge of teaching the tools and the students of designing and executing the work. 

When we look at the curricula of the past, the Greeks and the Tibetans for example, we see that music and dance, and the arts in general, were an important part of the classical education. This was developed over many years of trial and error. It was considered "back to the basics," perhaps because they had discovered that purely mental learning did not stick in the mind, and that the arts allowed a student to enjoy learning, instead of just cramming in facts for a test. Maybe they discovered that learning that was fun and creative was remembered and that children who look forward to enjoying school have a better chance of being successfully educated.

 

When information is processed in some active, musical or artistic way—graphs, posters, drawings, creating maps, songs, plays, and so forth, the knowledge becomes permanent and it strengthens the creative part of the brain. Processing means the arts!

A student becomes interested in a topic, with the teacher or a few friends she designs the research, then settles down to read and gather information. Most projects are, in the end, presented to the group in some form. Part of the group plan may be to decide who will do the art, the costumes, the music. Or an individual may work on something and present it as a song or poem, or a sculpted model. The work, whether it be in the field of geography, biography, history, math, or language takes the form of a project where the head and hand work together toward a creative, artistic expression. In order to learn in this way the child needs the tools and uninterrupted time. The adult supplies art materials, the model, such as exposure to good music or art, long blocks of uninterrupted time, and respect for the child's ideas and expression. 

When a child learns by combining academics and the arts the whole understanding of life—and development of the brain—makes a giant leap. There are no limits to avenues of creativity.

Not only are famous artists and musicians studied, but ordinary people who bring the arts into their everyday lives. A child might interview parents, teachers, grandparents, to see what art forms they pursue as hobbies, what they did as children, and what are their dreams. One school we know selects a group art creation every year and auctions it off to raise class trip funds. 

Studying the creations of other cultures, experiencing their dances and music, studying the reasons why different architectural forms developed, and clothing or language, gives a child an understanding of the universality of human needs and expression.

When elementary-aged children reach adolescence they enter one of the most creative periods of life, and will create based on those talents they have begun to develop in these earlier years. The period of life between the age of six and twelve is the time to explore as many creative forms as possible.

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