"Let me think by myself"
The elementary program fosters the exploration and imagination typical of children this age in an integrated curriculum. A combination of individual work and group collaboration promotes critical thinking, problem solving and research skills that are necessary at all levels of education. Montessori graduates combine excellence in academics, community values and stewardship of the environment with the dignity and purpose of human endeavors. What is truly special about these graduates is their strong love of learning; they work hard because they are motivated by a desire to learn more. After graduating from the elementary program, Adams Montessori School alumni continue their formal education in both private and public schools.
The Montessori curriculum comes alive by engaging the imaginations of children through vivid story telling, creative impressionistic posters, and integration of all subject areas. Integrated studies of grammar, reading and writing, mathematics, geometry, history, science, geography, Spanish, music, drama, art and physical education all come together to create a prepared environment for the elementary aged child. Elementary children participate in the planning, management and assessment of their own learning through daily record keeping enhanced by weekly conferences with their teachers.
The Montessori term “cosmic education” is often used to describe the elementary curriculum. This is done to respect all religious traditions without favoring one above another. The school year starts off with what Montessori described as the Five Great Lessons. The first Great Lesson describes the creation of the earth, and is followed by the stories about the beginning of life and the coming of human beings. The final two great lessons describe human being’s two greatest contributions: communication and invention. These Great Lessons set the tone for all core subjects in the elementary. The first two lessons set the stage for the sciences, geology and geography. The third great lesson presents human history. Communication and invention speak to language, math and geometry. Music, drama and art stem from human history and invention. It is through these fantastic presentations and follow-up stories that children’s imaginations are sparked and discovery is in the making.
Each year the class finds their own way to serve the community. Past endeavors have included raising money for Haiti, collecting pennies to build schools in Afghanistan, sponsoring a food drive for a local food pantry, and buying gifts for needy children in Quincy. Each service is student led and driven.
Throughout the year Montessori elementary children spend time working on research projects and are often interested in seeking out information that goes beyond the classroom walls. Children will organize a “going out” based on their project. It could be a general visit to the local library or a more specific trip to a veterinary clinic to further research a particular animal study. Usually a small group of children organizes this interest-based field trip to some location outside the classroom.
Montessori Model United Nations
In the upper elementary classroom, children participate in a model United Nations where they select a country to research. They write papers on the position their country takes on real problems that the nations of the world struggle to solve, such as aiding poor farmers worldwide or eradicating extreme poverty and hunger in Africa. After writing their position paper and then constructing a speech on their topic, the students convene in New York City along with 700 other students from across many nations to defend their position. After debating these topics they join with the “delegates” representing other countries to present a resolution to the general committee. Finally, they go to the actual United Nations where they vote on their resolutions, like so many official delegates have done before them.
The Montessori classroom offers an integrated approach to all subjects. For the convenience of presenting our curriculum, we have divided the areas of learning into core subjects.
Early in the year, children are introduced to the history of the English language. Writing, spelling and reading are reinforced through all the core subjects. Children are introduced to parts of speech using colorful materials to reinforce this early learning. Etymology, word study (affixes, compound words, synonyms) and sentence structure are taught, using didactic materials. In spelling, children are taught all the rules and generalities of the English language along with the meaning and function of the words. Children also have focused readings and discussion groups to reinforce what they have read. An exciting part of the elementary program is research. Children spontaneously want to delve deeper into what they are learning and this is supported through research, culminating in oral presentations to the class.
The children begin their exploration of math through the history of numbers. While striking the imagination and intellect, these stories lay the groundwork for exploration with Montessori didactic materials designed to give children a strong understanding of math concepts. All mathematical operations are introduced early in lower elementary and are explored thoroughly through the years. In geometry, the children are first introduced to its origins. Geometric vocabulary and concepts are presented early in the elementary because the young child is attracted to the order of classification and the beauty of the shapes. Theorems are presented to children through concrete manipulatives after they have explored the properties and have internalized the vocabulary.
History is taught in the context of time in relation to the fundamental needs of human beings. This is very exciting to the elementary aged children as they seek to find their place in history. It begins with the creation of the universe and the five great lessons. In fact, every core subject begins with history. The timeline of human history begins with early humans, continues with the first civilizations, migrations, world history and the history of our country. Children also learn about the rich history of Massachusetts, visiting the many historic sites available to them.
Children begin with the theories behind the origins of the earth, learning the different layers of the earth’s crust. Starting with the physical properties of matter, the children embark on the study of the work of water and air, volcanism and its effects of the topography of the earth’s surface. Political and economic geography are also introduced, using charts, maps and specifically designed Montessori materials. Current dynamics between countries are discussed in further detail in the upper elementary through their work with the Montessori Model United Nations.
Science in a Montessori classroom is an experiential endeavor. Children experience botany by working with real specimens to observe, classify and use in experiments. They explore these classifications on a deeper level through booklets and science books, learning the scientific names, along with their Latin and Greek roots. In zoology, the children have class pets from various scientific classes that the children care for, such as mammals, fish, and reptiles. They are able to study and observe the animals in addition to developing responsibility for the care of them. The zoology materials in the classroom support these explorations and give the children starting points for further work. All work concerning the classification of animals and plants begins from here, including investigation of human body systems.
At this age, children are very interested in learning new languages. Students study Spanish on a weekly basis through music, sports and materials. Class instruction is rich with the oral tradition, and as the year progresses, the students are introduced to writing and reading.
The elementary classroom is a musical place! As with other areas of the curriculum, music begins with history. The children study significant figures in music. Singing occurs spontaneously while the children are working, but also as a class lesson several times during the week. Through their work with the bells and the tone bars, the students study musical theory. The children are free to study music at any time during the work period and frequently translate the songs they sing to the instruments in class.
The elements of art (line, shape, color, value, texture, form, and space) are introduced through various mediums in order for the child to explore their own skills. Scale drawing is also explored once the child has studied measurement and geometry. Artwork is often integrated into reports as visual aids and in lesson follow up work, such as drawing leaves for botany or drawing skeletons for biology work.