Ages 6-9 / 1st-3rd grade
The guiding principle behind the elementary Montessori curriculum is that of “Cosmic Education.” In the Primary program, the child is given the keys to the world. In the Lower Elementary program, the child is given the keys to the universe.
At the beginning of each school year the children are told five “Great Stories,” which introduce them to the main concepts behind geography, biology, history, language, and mathematics. From there, guided by each child’s interests, the additional concepts are filled in through lessons and other smaller stories.
What we present to the child relies heavily on the elementary child’s vivid sense of imagination. We aim to spark interest in a child so that he may desire to learn more and follow his own interests. While a great deal of emphasis is placed on learning the basics of reading, spelling, and mathematics in the beginning of the Lower Elementary program, once a child can work independently in these areas she is open to follow her own interests to truly form her own unique and individualized educational path.
Topics forming the body of Montessori elementary geography include space, Earth and the universe; the composition of Earth; the nature of the elements; the sun and its relationship with Earth; the work of air; the work of water; life on land; interdependencies; and economic geography. For each of these topics we provide aids to the imagination in the form of stories, colorful, impressive charts, and a variety of experiments that have been selected to provide impressions.
Introduction to biology in the elementary classroom begins with the story of The Coming of Life and the introduction of the Timeline of Life, where children can investigate any life form and the interdependence of that life form and the physical geography it inhabits. It also gives the children the opportunity to experience how minute the lives of humans have been on this planet in regards to the rest of various organisms. Botany presentations include but are not limited to the needs of the plant, the functions of the vegetative parts of the plants (leaves, roots, and stems), and the function of the reproductive parts of the plant (flowers, fruits, and seeds). Zoology presentations include lessons that introduce the child to different animals and their bodily functions. Children are also introduced to the concept of classification of plants and animals and the study of ecology.
The scope of history in Montessori elementary includes almost everything! Children learn about how various groups of people worked, communicated, and explored. We learn about how the accomplishments of different people were managed, embracing failures as well! We admire the unknown heroes that have helped to make our lives what they are today. The children learn about the fundamental needs of all creatures and can directly relate to the needs of even inanimate objects. Every day is an opportunity to learn about something in history.
The goals of language lessons in the elementary program include building upon the experiences that the child has already received in the primary program, a deep study of grammar and language expression in addition to the rules and facts that exist in language, and using language to aid the child in his development of intellect and a moral sense. Spoken language lessons continue through storytelling, daily informal conversation, and presentations given by the children to the class. Written language is fostered through sentence analysis and a deeper exploration of word study including spelling, vocabulary, pronunciation, understanding, reading, and etymology. Children are also encouraged to express themselves through various forms of writing including reports, fiction, and poetry. When a child first enters the elementary program she may not be an independent reader. In such a case, much emphasis is placed on supporting that child to reach reading independence. Once a mastery of mechanical reading is achieved, a greater study of literature is offered. Daily read-alouds happen in the elementary classroom and children are given the freedom to read as much as they want, whenever they would like!
Each topic in elementary Montessori mathematics begins with sensorial activities, which leads to abstraction of mathematical concepts through imagination. Because of this sensorial approach to mathematics, we are allowed to introduce the child to many high- level mathematic concepts at an early age. Geometry, arithmetic, and algebra are presented simultaneously. Mathematic concepts naturally need to be repeated in order to be memorized, but in the elementary program that repetition is provided through variety. Children are able to choose their own math problems and many materials lend themselves to group work.
While academics are very important in the Lower Elementary program at Parkside, we respect and guide the whole child, socially and emotionally, as well as academically. Children of this age are constantly formulating what is “right” and “wrong” in addition to testing out various behaviors and friend groups to find a comfortable place in society and the world. We provide opportunities for children to grow in these areas by allowing them to work in small groups or with partners and providing freedom to work out problems or challenges that may arise with their friends quickly and in a safe environment.
Artistic, musical, and creative endeavors are always being fostered and supported in our elementary program. The elements of artistic creation are introduced to the child in addition to various types of media and material. From there the child is encouraged to not only freely explore her own artistic abilities, but to apply the various techniques to lessons across the curriculum. An introduction to and appreciation of art history is also explored. Music is a daily adventure in the elementary classroom. Singing, rhythm, and movement are supported constantly.
When children reach the third year of lower elementary they are introduced to the guitar through lessons in school. Elementary children are constantly being encouraged to find different solutions to problems, and alternate methods of using materials in order to exercise the creative brain!
We believe that the elementary child needs to move and be connected with the outdoors in order to truly be willing and able to focus in school. So at Parkside, we provide ample opportunity for both. A typical day in Lower Elementary begins with some form of exercise, either through free outdoor play, an organized hike, or martial arts before moving into the morning work period. After lunch and playground time, the afternoon usually consists of another work period, full class lessons, show-and-share, or community meetings before moving into community chores and a read-aloud time to wind down at the end of the day.