Maria Montessori termed the ages 6-12 the second plane of development. The Montessori elementary curriculum was developed as an integrated whole. Based on students’ developmental needs, the plane is divided into two stages. During the three years of the lower elementary children work extensively with Montessori materials and come to discover their individual learning styles. During the three years in the upper elementary students use their imagination and move from concrete representation to abstract thinking as they seek to bring order to the various disconnected facts and ideas they encounter in the world. They are able to think hypothetically and conduct in-depth researches. They manage their time and workload on a larger scale and during a longer period. The overarching goal of the upper elementary is to provide a prepared environment that meets the myriad needs and inclinations of the child during the transition from childhood to adolescence. During this period, children form and refine habits and develop skills that enable them to grow into confident, independent, peaceful, productive citizens of the world.
The Sycamore upper elementary class is based primarily on inquiry, research and discovery, and writing. Our curriculum includes writing for both quantity and quality. Writing for quantity affords students opportunity, diversity, habit development, and the nurturing of a “renaissance” mind. Writing for quality allows students to fully explore deeply developed ideas as well as develop expertise on a particular subject. A curriculum based on research, using primary and secondary sources, and writing is so appropriate for this age because children who can investigate, think about, and write about the world can begin to make sense of that world and grow into very effective adults who can find their unique place in it.
The class calendar is divided into six sessions and students are given multiple opportunities to select and research topics each session. Using organizational tools, students set up individual work plans containing regular checkpoints. Every session, all members of the class observe and conduct science experiments, then record them in their notebooks for replication. This introduces special challenges of note taking, measurement, causality and accurate communication. Students are supported in intellectual independence, rigor, and a love of learning.
This is a very social time in the lives of 9- to 12-year-olds as they begin to look more toward their peers than their families when deciding how to approach certain things. Their strong social instincts lead to community building and working and playing in groups. Our classroom encourages social interaction, group work, and community building as part of each student’s academic work. We also ask parents to stay involved and act as valuable resources by means of goal sheets. We weave social and conscientious development into all aspects of the curriculum and respond to the 9- to 12- year-old’s interest in fairness, justice, and morality.
Practical Life: Children of elementary age are “societal explorers”. They are finding their place outside of the family and establishing a cooperative classroom community in which they play a vital role. From this foundation they develop connections to a broader world community. At this age practical life work includes leadership, organization and time management, meal planning and food preparation, budgeting and money management, and classroom care.
Language: Language in the elementary program is holistic and includes history, grammar, etymology, and spelling. Writing develops in conjunction with exploration, research, and experimentation. Students refine research and writing skills by means of self-editing.
Math: The focus of the upper elementary mathematics curriculum is metacognition. Students have the opportunity to absorb all operations of arithmetic, fractions, geometry, and some algebra. In doing so, they may come to realize that math is a universal language that permeates daily life. Students are working on different levels of understanding and abstraction. Concrete materials that simultaneously reveal arithmetic, geometric, and algebraic correlations are still used as children move to abstraction and expand their problem solving skills. Materials are used judiciously and with less repetition than in earlier years but are available to all students. Children review traditional elementary math concepts introduced concretely in the lower elementary, testing and deepening their knowledge with pencil and paper. Students are encouraged to put language to mathematical processes through personal discovery. By recognizing and documenting these patterns and relationships, students deeply internalize mathematical concepts.
The mathematics curriculum is introduced with the Fifth Great Lesson, The Story of Numbers. It is divided into 13 primary areas of work: numeration, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, squaring and cubing, square root and cube root, powers of numbers, negative numbers, non-decimal bases, word problems, ratio and proportion, and algebra. The study of geometry forms a separate curricular area in the Montessori methodology. However, geometry concepts are introduced and examined in the same manner as general mathematical ideas and the two curricula are explored concurrently throughout the school year.
Geometry: This includes the study of the nomenclature, characteristics, measurement and drawing of the geometric shapes and concepts such as points, line, angle, surface, solid, properties of triangles, circles, etc. Over the three year period students study congruency, similarity, and equivalence, quadrilaterals and polygons, the Pythagorean theorem, volume and area including calculations, transformations, reflections, rotations, translations, and constructions with compass and straightedge. Students also study the history of applications of geometry.
Cultural Studies (History and Geography): The Upper Elementary curriculum includes a study of World History, American History, and Indiana History. History begins with the concept of the passage of time, then geologic time and the study of civilizations throughout history. This includes physical and cultural geography. History study helps illustrate the interconnectedness of all life. Children study the fundamental needs of humans to explore commonalities across culture. Detailed studies highlight characteristics unique to each culture through time and place. Students study how history is recorded and the cultural lenses through which it is interpreted.
Science: Upper Elementary students approach their scientific investigations as authentic scientists, hypothesizing, testing ideas and documenting their conclusions. Students participate in scientific experimentation utilizing the scientific method. They practice developing hypotheses and identifying variables, recording their experiments with precision. Scientific studies include: Astronomy, Physics, Geology, Zoology, Biology and Chemistry.
Art and Architecture: The goals of the Upper Elementary Art program are to strengthen visual awareness, aesthetic appreciation, creative expression, and use of imagination. Students refine technical skills and explore elements and principles of visual design. They acquaint themselves with a variety of materials and mediums. Architectural studies include aesthetic and cultural considerations as well as history, geometry, engineering, and technical precision.
Music: Instruction builds on Lower Elementary skills. Styles and periods of music are explored, and students enjoy ensemble experience with recorder and voice. Students at all levels of skill and interest may benefit from ensemble experience.
Technology: Computers are available in class for all students. Research, word processing, Word Art and drawing tools, presentation programs, map making and newsletter or brochure formats are all used. Students have opportunities to use film and animation software as well as a basic coding program. We have Lego Mindstorm robotics in the classroom and each year different opportunities for construction and innovation are available. Students also learn about effective Internet usage and online safety.
Physical Education: Our Physical Education program is intended to promote components of physical fitness and health as well as complement peace education as students practice good sprortspersonship, fair play, and teamwork. Diverse activities include focus on speed, agility, strength, power, endurance, flexibility and coordination.
Spanish: Upper Elementary Students participate in Spanish lessons organized around listening and reading comprehension, speaking, writing, and cultural studies.
Peace: The Montessori model, in which children’s educations are led by their own passions and imaginations and in which discipline is developed from within rather than from fear of external punishment or hope for external reward, is an ideal model for developing peaceful citizens. Dr. Montessori saw education as the path to peace. In our classroom and school we strive to nurture children in forming form healthy, productive, peaceful, effective habits. This includes nurturing individual and community awareness, finding positive and effective community roles for all, developing effective and respectful communication tools and skills, modeling respect and dignity, teaching interconnectedness and Cosmic Education, and a dynamically-developing awareness of larger communities and visions of peace fro