“The successive levels of education must conform to the successive personalities of the child.” – Maria Montessori
The Montessori Journey
The Montessori Educational journey continues with the Elementary School experience. The Montessori Elementary program builds upon each student’s previous experiences, moving from the concrete learning of preschool to much more elaborate and abstract learning, meeting each student’s developmental needs along the way.
The Elementary Prepared Environment
The Montessori elementary environment provides balance for the student’s developing imagination and powers of abstraction with concrete, hands-on materials. Because the areas of study in the elementary program are so fully integrated, the student’s curiosity is innately stirred by the environment and the lessons within it. This deep curiosity, combined with the teachers’ specialized training and intimate knowledge of the individual students’ personalities and learning levels, provides a rich learning experience that has a wide reputation for producing highly advanced learners.
Logically, this high level of learning does not come from a strict regimin of educational curriculum handed down from a teacher, but rather from the careful preparation of the learning environment and from nurturing and supporting each student’s natural interests in learning.
Extension of the Elementary Classroom
At the elementary level, the outside world becomes much more a part of the classroom as the students go out to explore extensions of their individual studies, from museums to libraries and volunteer opportunities. These outings provide the students with opportunities to plan and be, once again, active participants in their own education.
Mixed Age Grouping and Elementary
In the elementary classroom, the mixed age grouping of a Montessori classroom continues, providing students with a familiar learning environment over the course of three years that allows them to move through the curriculum at their own pace and with a range of closely-knit peers all learning at their individual levels. This consistency of environment provides a unique relationship with classmates and with teachers that cannot be replicated in a more traditional classroom of grade by grade segregation.
A Social Creature
Social development is one of the main tasks of an elementary student. In a Montessori environment, the teacher works with the students’ social needs instead of against them by providing opportunities for students to work on projects together and collaborate. Much like in the primary classroom, the freedom of movement in class and the variety of group sizes gives students the chance to further develop their social skills. It also gives them the opportunity to build friendships in an appropriate way during class at a time in their lives when friendships mean the world to them.
Keeping Learning Meaningful
And in the beginning… the exploration of the history of the world, how everything has evolved, and where we fit into that big picture. This is the story that starts out the elementary school year. From that story spins off all of the areas of study. For an elementary student, this nurtures understanding of why learning is important, how each of the areas of study is interrelated and has meaning for them in their life. And, most importantly, how everything is connected, making even more meaningful their own existance and their own impact in the world. Transforming unnecessary rote memorization and meaningless work into meaningful, purposeful activity that has a place in the grand scheme of things and that will clearly impact each child’s and society’s future is one of the most important insights of Montessori Education.
The elementary teacher is a master storyteller, telling factual stories related to each area of study. This allows the teacher to once again work with instead of against the students in their learning by tapping into the incredible imagination of each elementary student. The telling of factual stories helps to spark excitement and thought and keep the learning experience meaningful and fun.
Quotes from Montessori Elementary Graduates
“It’s not that we do what we like; it’s that we like what we do.” -A Montessori elementary student
“Montessori school taught me to think – that makes the hardest test seem easy.” -A Montessori Elementary Graduate
“I felt that I knew everyone at the Montessori school and it was really easy to open up and talk to other people. I found that an extremely useful skill at the school I’m going to now.” -A Montessori Elementary Graduate
“Everything invented by man, physical or mental, is the fruit of someone’s imagination. In the study of history and geography we are helpless without imagination, and when we propose to introduce the universe to the child, what but imagination can be of use to us?” -Maria Montessori