The Elementary Child
The six year old embarking on an elementary education is a very special child. No longer satisfied with just the tasks of absorbing the world through her senses, they have begun to show a deep interest in the how’s and why’s of the world around them.
The elementary age child’s physical body is changing and maturing at the same time that they are beginning to display infinite imagination and intellectual curiosity. The information and knowledge they seek is acquired not just with concrete answers to questions that ask “What is this?” but now take on the deeper intellectual specificity and abstraction of “Why is this?” and “How?”
The elementary child’s deeper questions offers us as parents and teachers the exciting opportunity to participate in the child’s quest by helping them find answers, and by so doing, perceive new worlds of possibility and exploration. Those newly opened worlds, in turn, open exponentially into the universe of knowledge.
The Montessori Method
Our efforts at Sunset Hills Montessori Elementary are focused on facilitating the individual child’s ability to discover the answers to these deeper questions. We do this by bringing the world into the classroom, and by escorting the child out into the world. Daily, each child arrives eagerly, prepared to meet the challenges that his own curiosity offers.
As certified Montessori teachers, we are trained to guide, advise and help the student to find answers not through lectures and memorization, but through his own research and discoveries. Our goal is to teach our students how to learn, how to find answers on their own, how to satisfy the curiosity that burns brightly inside them.
The Prepared Environment
The Montessori elementary classroom is like no other. Every detail - from the choice of furniture and its placement, to the educational materials’ arrangement on the shelves, to the color of the walls and carpet on the floor - has been attended to with a specific thought in mind: “How will this best serve the needs of the child?” It is a place for work and discovery, a space for learning and a place for imagination.
Through the use of concrete educational materials developed by Dr. Montessori, the computer, and our classroom and public libraries, the child discovers the how’s and why’s behind each new learning quest. In the process she acquires not only answers to specific questions but, just as importanty, an understanding of the underlying nuances of meaning in those answers.
The order and the beauty of the classroom allows the children to teach themselves, and to come to realize that it belongs to them and their fellow students. With the teacher as mentor and guide, the prepared environment offers the children the opportunity to begin to build the confidence they need for a productive, satisfying life.
Putting it All Together
The learning that goes on in the Sunset Hills Montessori Elementary classroom is not just an abstract concept. It is learning that is intricately connected with the world. Our children are free to explore how the world works, both in the global and the local sense. Our teachers guide and motivate them to achieve the ever higher goals they set for themselves. In addition to giving them a foundation in the curriculum skills they will need throughout life, the Montessori method offers them a precious gift: the chance to discover themselves. It allows the child the space needed to discover who they are and where they fit in, both among their peers and out in the world. It gives the child confidence, self-assurance, and the courage of their own ideas and beliefs. Ultimately, it gives the child the universe, and in doing so, it gives him himself.
The following is a general summary of the sequenced lessons covered during the first three Montessori elementary years.
- Decimal system including concept of number and quantitative relationships
- The four fundamental operations with whole numbers, fractions, and decimal fractions
- Memorization of math facts Introduction to algebra
- Problem solving
- Nomenclature for geometric forms
- Introduction to congruency, similarity and equivalence
- Reading taught through a combination of phonics and sight words: reading for comprehension, vocabulary development, interpretive reading, and beginning library and research skills.
- Jr. Great Books for 2nd & 3rd years
- Writing strategies including development of mechanical skills, creative writing of both prose and poetry, and beginning research skills
- Grammar studies
- Reading and sentence analysis
- Physical & Cultural Geography:
- Continents and oceans
- Countries and states
- Landforms: e.g. peninsula, gulf, bay, etc.
- Introduction to physical geography through mapping, geographical features, and creation of imaginary islands
- Astronomy and cosmology
- Structure of the Earth: the geological history
- Fundamental needs of humans
- Concept of time
- Natural history
- How past cultures through time have met fundamental needs
- Introduction to chemistry
- Energy studies: e.g. electricity, friction, and introductory physics
- Earth sciences/geology
- Seven elements of design (color, line, shape, form, texture, space, and value)
- Composition and perspective
- Introduction to various media
- Art and culture appreciation
- Orff-based approach to music, which integrates music and movement using a full range of pitched and unpitched instruments
- Uses literature to frame music and movement
- Incorporates world music in conjunction with our geography studies
- Vocabulary building
- Physical Education:
- Helps children to develop an initial positive feeling for vigorous physical activity while learning group games and “sports” of a competitive and cooperative nature
- Field Trips:
- “Experience is a key for the intensification of instruction given inside the school.”
“When the child goes out, it is the world that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of (just) making objects which represent ideas.”
- At Sunset Hills Montessori, we take the children on many and varied field trips including the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, Greenspring Gardens, Luray Caverns, Calvert Cliffs, Rock Creek Planetarium and the National Building Museum as well as regularly scheduled trips to the public library.
Recommended reading about Montessori elementary:
by Paula Polk Lillard