The Elementary Classroom
The children of the elementary classroom have different needs and challenges than those of the three to six-year-old children. These children possess strong imaginations and are physically stronger. They look at the world with a different perspective. They are concerned with right and wrong, with the unusual and the extraordinary. Where the younger children required physical order, these children require order of the unseen. They are moving from a mechanical way towards an intellectual level. These children need a more abstract approach, one that aids in the development of logical, reasoning minds. The elementary classroom changes its approach and materials to nurture these characteristics, and again, follows the children. The prepared environment encourages children to be self-motivated, active, and inquisitive learners.
Free verbalization and movement in the classroom enriches the emerging social lives of the children. The children want to work in small groups and interact with their peers. Work in the classroom is shared and learning is bolstered by social life. Each child’s work is unique. The exchange of academic facts and discoveries become second nature.
The elementary Montessori curriculum includes math, geometry, science, botany, zoology, language, geography, and history. The children also learn computer skills, have instruction in foreign languages, and participate in weekly physical education programs.
The presentation of the curriculum is rooted in storytelling and ever broadening lessons to evoke the children’s intensely developing imaginations. It conveys a wealth of knowledge about the universe, world, country, and community. Dr. Montessori felt the universe provided the answers to all questions. She offered the ‘whole’ to centralize the intelligence. This helps the child answer “How?” and “Why?”.
Concepts are presented in a historical line – that is, they are presented in the order in which they were developed, were discovered or emerged along the timeline of civilization. These broad concepts become the platform from which students explore the various subjects within the curriculum.
The subjects of the curriculum are interrelated, just like in our world. They integrate skills and information acquired in each area. For example, a study of the solar system may lead to research on the gods of Roman and Greek mythology, the exploration of temperature and states of matter, making a model of the system using large numbers to record planetary dimension and distance, gathering information and compiling it in a report on a planet, and visiting a planetarium. All of this stimulates more interest and learning. Field trips extend the classroom environment and facilitate the social nature of the child. These outings can be to stimulate or culminate studies in a subject. It enforces a child’s learning through experience. The integration of subjects and field trip experiences allows the child to see how what he/she learns in the classroom applies to life, and how things that are learned now may be used in the future.