The Elementary School
We think of our classroom make-up as “responsive”. This means that our classrooms are thoughtfully designed each year in response to our changing enrollment and the social, emotional, and academic readiness of our students as individuals and a community. At MdMCS, student movement between the classrooms is based on the readiness of the individual child and the culture and expectations of each classroom.
The Lower Elementary program has students ranging from ages 6 to 9. Students, guided by the head teacher, move through developmentally appropriate materials that increase in complexity and challenge. Our Lower El integrates art, music, math, science, geography, social studies, literacy and movement into classroom experiences. It is here that our students solidify the foundation of their Montessori learning.
The Upper Elementary serves our oldest students--ages 9 to 13. Students participate in a workshop model that encourages self study, self-regulation, projects and research, and a diversity of reading and writing opportunities, all while integrating science, social studies, global citizenship, art and music concepts and themes. Math is differentiated with concrete and abstract materials to meet the needs of all students while preparing them for the higher level math concepts introduced in high school. Students in the Upper El pursue their individual areas of interest through independent study projects. Our oldest students have the opportunity to participate in the international Montessori Model United Nations program.
The Primary classroom is for students ages 5-6 years with 12 or less students learning side-by-side with a head teacher. The students work with age-appropriate concrete materials while following their developing curiosities and love for learning.
Freedom within limits – This term refers to a Montessori ideal that children have freedom, but it is freedom that is structured by the environment and the teacher. For example, at this point in the year, a child may be asked to complete work in math, language and cultural daily. The child would be free to choose the order in which the work is completed, the work in those areas, and the amount of time spent on the work. Children in a Montessori environment are given quite a bit of latitude when they make appropriate choices.
Work time/work period/work contract – Typically referring to a three hour period of time in which the children cycle through work, being very diligent, slowing down or taking a break, and then reenergizing to finish the work or choose something new. It is tremendously important that the work period not be needlessly interrupted. During the work period, teachers observe the behaviors of the children and invite individuals and small groups to short lessons when they see opportunities to assist a child’s progress. Optimally, the majority of each morning and afternoon is devoted to self-motivated work. At the Primary level, teachers tend to give mostly individual or small group lessons. Large group lessons are given for cultural subjects. At the elementary level the work period enables the teacher to provide small group and individual instruction while other children are working. The work contract is used to guide student work throughout the work period and encourage independent learners. A contract, work plan, or work journal is used to facilitate the development of organization and time management skills. The work contract/plan/journal is an individualized daily or weekly list of lessons, activities, or projects. Students are to complete their contract daily as well as by the end of the end of the week.
THE ELEMENTARY EXPERIENCE AT MDMCS
Our elementary program reflects the core principles identified by the North American Montessori Teachers Association (NAMTA). These are as follows:
Integration of the arts, sciences, geography, history, and language that evokes the native imagination and abstraction of the elementary child.
Presentation of the formal scientific language of zoology, botany, anthropology, geography, geology, etc., exposing the child to accurate, organized information and respecting the child's intelligence and interests.
The use of timelines, pictures, charts, and other visual aids to provide a linguistic and visual overview of the first principles of each discipline.
Presentation of knowledge as part of a large-scale narrative that unfolds the origins of the earth, life, human communities, and modern history, always in the context of the wholeness of life.
A mathematics curriculum presented with concrete materials that simultaneously reveal arithmetic, geometric, and algebraic correlations.
Emphasis on open-ended research and in-depth study using primary and secondary sources (no textbooks or worksheets) as well as other materials.
Montessori-trained adults who are "enlightened generalists" (teachers who are able to integrate the teaching of all subjects, not as isolated disciplines, but as part of a whole intellectual tradition).
"Going out" to make use of community resources beyond the four walls of the classroom.
The Montessori materials are a means to an end. They are intended to evoke the imagination, to aid abstraction, to generate a world view about the human task and purpose. The child works within a philosophical system asking questions about the origins of the universe, the nature of life, people and their differences, and so on. On a factual basis, interdisciplinary studies combine geological, biological, and anthropological science in the study of natural history and world ecology.
The program is made up of connective narratives that provide an inspiring overview as the organizing, integrating "Great Lessons." Great Lessons span the history of the universe from the big bang theory of the origin of the solar system, earth, and life forms to the emergence of human cultures and the rise of civilization. Aided by impressionistic charts and timelines, the child's study of detail in reference to the Great Lessons leads to awe and respect for the totality of knowledge.
Studies are integrated not only in terms of subject matter but in terms of moral learning as well, resulting in appreciation and respect for life, moral empathy, and a fundamental belief in progress, the contribution of the individual, the universality of the human condition, and the meaning of true justice.