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Elementary Program

Summary

 The elementary curriculum is called “Cosmic Education” because we offer children a vision of the whole, the whole of creation, the universe. From this whole, children are able to fit in pieces, or the details. We provide this perspective to children because they are ready to use their reasoning minds and imaginations to conceive the whole and then explore details that comprise the whole, the universe in which they live.

This whole picture is presented through five “Great Lessons,” which are factual stories interwoven with creative impressions that expand children’s minds. Although children cannot see the universe, the passage of time, or the development of language, they can use their imaginations to understand these expansive concepts. These stories prepare the context into which all the details of traditional “academic” studies fit.

“Key Lessons” are an integral part of the Montessori curriculum. These lessons provide “keys” that open the door for children to learn and work independently, exploring until their interests are satisfied. Examples of key lessons include the function of the parts of speech, the needs of humans, and place value in mathematics. From these key lessons, children form the foundation from which they can use their reasoning mind and imagination to engage in critical thinking and problem solving.

According to Dr. Maria Montessori, six to twelve year old children are guided by specific psychological characteristics. The elementary curriculum and classroom environments strive to honor these characteristics. This is reflected in the manner in which lessons are presented and in the expectations of the children’s work. One psychological characteristics of this developmental period is a desire to be self-sufficient as children strive to attain higher levels of independence. Elementary children are more adventurous and daring, willing to take risks to learn more about the society and natural world in which they live. They have an increase in physical strength, which they use for exploration; it also enables them to work for longer periods of time. They are seeking independence from close family bonds and simultaneously striving to become members of a peer group. Finally, a desire to establish a sense of right and wrong and the development of morality is accomplished through a tendency for hero worship and their interactions within society. To provide children opportunities to interact with society (family, school, and the community), children are guided and encouraged to design and participate in Going Out trips. These trips allow children to go off campus to learn from museums, historical sites, zoos, planetariums, interviews and so forth. Thus, the “curriculum” is far more than the lessons presented by the teachers

 

Elementary—The Second Plane of Development

The child emerging from the first plane of development (ages 0-6) has acquired the keys to the world and formed a sense of individuality. This child self-constructed by exploration of his environment through the senses and gathered facts about his world through his absorbent mind. When this child enters the second plane of development (ages 6-12), he is capable and eager to explore with his imagination and reason. He builds on the foundation of the first plane through these newly acquired characteristics. The elementary child is now forming his identity as a member of society.

“Curriculum”

The Montessori elementary “curriculum” is a continuum designed to meet the needs of children throughout the second plane of development. As he or she matures, the child continues to form an identity as a member of society. These later elementary years are characterized by greater independence, more involvement in peer relationships and group dynamics, and an increasing facility to move from concrete to abstract intellectual reasoning.

The elementary child wants to know the hows and whys of everything, so we need to find a way to make everything available to him. In Montessori elementary, this is achieved through a rich and diverse curriculum, presented through “key” lessons—ideas and skills that a child can use to open doors of further exploration (because we cannot really give him everything). With these keys, it is possible for a child to fulfill his insatiable desire for information about the universe in which he lives, helping the child find his place within society and the universe.

A Montessori elementary educational environment includes both the school as well as the outside community. The child must be shown how and then left free to find answers to his unanswered questions through resources in the school as well as by “going out” into the larger community. Through this practical life activity not only does the child find answers, he learns how to negotiate and navigate the world in which he lives.

Psychological Characteristics

The child in the second plane is guided by certain psychological characteristics to fulfill the human tendencies for exploration, orientation, communication, order, work, and repetition. The psychological characteristics of the second plane child include a desire to be self-sufficient as he strives to attain a higher level of independence. The elementary child is more adventurous and daring—willing to take risks to find out about the society in which he lives. He has an increase in physical strength, which allows him to work for longer periods of time. During the second plane, the child seeks independence from close family bonds and simultaneously strives to become a member of a peer group. Through hero worship and his interactions within society, he develops a sense of morality as well as a sense of right and wrong. He is able to explore the whole universe and participate in creation by means of his imagination and reason.

Freedom and Responsibility

The formation of the child in the second plane is achieved within an environment where there is a healthy balance of freedom and responsibility. The child is free to choose his work, and he is free to work in groups, which involves discussion, disagreement, and compromise. At the same time, his work should be productive, demonstrate high quality, and be completed. The child is free to talk as long as such communication is used as a constructive tool to accomplish his work. He is free to move about and participate in classroom activities while abiding by the law and order established by the society (rules created with student participation at the beginning of the school year) that govern and maintain harmony in the environment. The child is encouraged to pursue his interests, yet his choices are balanced by the three metaphorical pieces: The child must keep a record book of his work activities, meet periodically with his teacher to complete a cooperative evaluation of his use of work time, and be responsible for key curriculum requirements. 

 

“Great work is a repetition of the same idea until such time as the child is able to make a generalization.” Unlike the first plane child, who repeats in exactly the same way, the child in the second plane of development “will most often repeat with inventiveness, variety, and with a grand plan.” from Kay Baker, former Montessori 6-12 Trainer, Washington Montessori Institute and Professor of Education, Loyola University

 

“The more basic question is how to manage the program in such a way that the child does not perceive each lesson as isolated pieces of the puzzle, but as related parts of a great and unified whole; in other words, to build up in the children appropriation of culture in a way that will engender appreciation, awe and the impulse toward further investigation.”

The Second Plane of Development-Fertile Field for Sowing the Seeds of Culture, by Sanford Jones, 1979 AMI Publication

 

 

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