Langley Montessori School’s Lower Elementary (Grades Kindergarten through grade 2) and Upper Elementary (Grades 3 through 7) both receive children already accustomed to being independent, self-motivated learners and encourages them to use their maturing reason and will to become highly productive and skilled individuals, cooperative with others, and appreciative of the world in which they live.
Children of the elementary years have remarkable intellectual powers which are enhanced by educational resources and by the imagination of the adults around them. Responding to the boundless learning capacities of the elementary age, the Montessori curriculum aims not only to prepare children to perform at the BC curriculum grade level, but to achieve the highest level to which they themselves aspire. Therein lies its distinguishing feature:
The curriculum follows the child and not the other way around.
Language in the Elementary program is not simply reading and writing, but an immersion into the history, grammar, etymology, and spelling of language. Writing develops in connection with exploration, research, and experimentation, as children want to share what they have discovered. Creative writing allows all children to acquire very early in life a valuable tool for self expression. Witnessing older children reading and writing spontaneously, the younger ones are highly motivated to perfect those language skills which still need work. With carefully structured presentations and appealing follow-up work, the teacher and the child work together to accomplish that goal. This basic skill building in reading and writing is done individually or in very small groups. Having acquired both the mechanics of language and a sense of its history and spirit, the child them experiences poetry, prose, drama, dialogue, discussion, debate, and research, in oral as well as written forms.
History begins with the concept of the passage of time, then geologic time and the study of civilizations throughout history. This subject is linked with other areas like geology, geography, biology etc. For example children learn about the history of languages and mathematics. Children love to hear the stories of the past. Stories are used to spark interest in all subject areas. Natural history materials, such as an elaborate time line of life, show children the dramatic and colourful spectacle of life forms and their development. Human history is presented from a perspective of the basic human needs (food, shelter, protection, transport, spiritual expression, etc.) and the variety of ways in which different peoples have been able to meet them. This framework guides their research and reveals both the unique attributes of different cultures and the universality of all. The study of history reveals many fascinating connections and interdependencies, not only among various peoples, but between people and the changing physical environment.
Mathematics during the Elementary years, consists of a sequence of lessons that brings the child naturally and gradually to the point of understanding abstract mathematical operations. The structure of the decimal system, the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and other key concepts follow this same pattern. Once they have a firm understanding of the concepts, children move toward memorization, keeping track of their own progress and work both in teams and individually. By using the Montessori math material, most children experience many concepts traditionally taught much later, including fractions, squared and cubed numbers, multiples, and factors, for example. The Montessori geometry materials offer children an open ended field of exploration. These materials and the lessons that accompany them permit children to discover important principles and relationships. When, later in their education, they learn the formal rules of geometry, it’s like meeting old friends again. A student may learn nomenclature for the types and parts of polygons, circles, angles, and lines. New knowledge is always applied to the environment (e.g., finding right triangles in the floor, walls, and furniture) and often extends to the creation of a piece of handwork as well. With the principles of geometric equivalence, the child acquires a key which unlocks a whole field of creative work and which prepares him for the study of area.
Geography: We begin with theories on the origin of the Universe, in which principles of physical science are revealed, and then proceed to examine the forces which have acted over the ages to shape the world we inhabit. Children explore volcanism, the work of water, wind and air, and the basic physical properties of matter. We employ demonstrations, field activities, and experiments the children learn to perform by themselves. The relationships of earth, sun, seasons, zones of climate, etc., are also studied along with economic and political geography. Each topic offers a number of possible side trips which a student may follow. A basic principle here and throughout the Montessori elementary program is that we give first the “big picture” answers to the fundamental why’s and how’s and only then work toward the more particular, the more local.
Biology Children are fascinated by plants and animals. It is not unusual for our preschool children already to have learned the names of many of the flowers, trees, birds, and mammals that surround them in the world, as well as the parts of flowers and the very beginnings of biological classification. In the Elementary curriculum, the emphasis is on understanding plant and animal behaviour and physiology. The basic needs of plants and animals (e.g. water, food, defence, reproduction) provide the framework for investigating the unique varieties from the point of view of adaptation, both to contemporary environments and throughout time. Children’s observation and discussion of differences build up the stores of experience with which they further their understanding of biological classification. It builds their ability to use/learn the scientific method, observe and explore the different aspects of the plant and animal lives.
Art. In Montessori education, we see art work as an important form of self-expression and a part of the daily life of the class. A teacher’s approach is to give basic lessons to small groups of children in the mechanics of using a media, then to have the supplies available on the shelf for the child to use during the work time. Children often access the art supplies to illustrate and decorate their work in other curriculum areas. Medias commonly presented during the year include watercolours, chalks, pastels, clay, coloured pencil, collage. Since art, like any other work, is not limited to short “art class” periods and projects, children’s creativity has a chance to truly grow and bloom as a part of everyday activity. Music and art history and appreciation are also included as a part of the children’s study of human culture and can lead to “going out” to attend a performance or visit a gallery.
Music is as much a part of the classroom environment as pictures on the wall. The work with ear training with both the diatonic and chromatic scales begins in preschool. In the Elementary program we build upon these experiences, taking children into the beginnings of reading and writing music.
Cosmic Education was the way in which Dr. Montessori exposed the older child to an imaginative and reasoning exploration of the universe and its components, and introduced the child to one’s place and responsibility in society. Through what’s known in the elementary Montessori terminology as the five Great lessons, the doors are opened to the drama of the universe. We study the Story of the Universe, Story of Life on Earth, Story of Man, Story of Numbers, and the Story of Language. History, as the story of the human being and our achievements, is at the centre of Cosmic Education. Dr. Montessori called the child “cosmic agent”. She said that the child between the ages of 6 and 12 needs to be given a cosmic viewpoint. Cosmic Education is not a scheme or a method of education, divided into subjects of a curriculum with preset time limits for study. It is the sowing of seeds to ignite the child’s interest in the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life.
Physical Education We are aware that the growing Elementary student needs to have outlets for his/her increasing energy. Students begin each day with a period of DPA (Daily Physical Activity). There is also an extensive P.E. program offered throughout the year. Examples of typical gym modules include: jazzercise, yoga, gymnastics, soccer, tennis, taekwondo, nature hikes, dance and many more. Our emphasis is always on skill-building, to develop consciousness and control of movement, to enhance personal confidence, and to teach the techniques and values of teamwork and cooperation. The study of nutrition and the human body are included in this part of the curriculum.