“To do well, it is necessary to aim at giving an idea of all the sciences, not in precise detail, but only as an impression. The idea is to sow the seeds of the sciences at this age when a sort of sensitive period of the imagination exists…And, as we have seen, the examination of a detail triggers the study of the whole.”
Maria Montessori, “From Childhood to Adolescence”
The Elementary Environment
Like the Primary Program, the Montessori School of Lake Forest Elementary Program is organized in three-year age groupings. At both levels, the multi-age grouping provides children with broad opportunities for social development. Therefore, a full complement of ages, up to 30 children per class, is optimal. Montessori education provides the Elementary age child with diverse and creative paths to developing abstract thinking. Mathematics for instance, is presented through three-dimensional manipulative materials that reveal simultaneously arithmetic, geometric, and algebraic correlations—each providing a concrete way to experience an abstract concept. The materials for disciplines such as geometry present basic terminology as the groundwork for future in-depth study. Likewise, the Elementary grammar materials use symbols and visual patterns to help the child discover parts of speech and analyze the structure, style, and logic of sentences. These exercises refine reading and writing skills. In addition, art, music, and physical activity are integral parts of Montessori Elementary education. Children also plan their own “going out” excursions according to individual or small group interests. These “goings out” can be service projects, such as visiting the elderly, cleaning up the environment, or holding a food drive. They can also be a way to run classroom errands, or do research in the community.
As Your Child Learns, So Do You
In addition to volunteering and attending Parent Information Sessions, Elementary parents are invited to support the community spirit of the classroom by getting involved. Because parents are treated as collaborators, they are often invited into the classroom to share and participate in activities. Elementary age children begin to see that their educational experience is the direct result of their parents’ input and action. They learn to see that the school is a community, and that all are involved in events such as operettas, celebrations, and “goings out.” Observation of your child’s class is another way to gain insight and understanding of the Montessori way.
Montessori Education Does Not End With The Elementary Experience
The Elementary age child has learned how to learn. Through their long experience of sustained relationships with other children through multi-age classes, they have insight into the personalities of other children, and into how groups function. They usually make friends easily. They have a balanced outlook on life, and tend to be level-headed problem-solvers. They have a liberal arts understanding and mastery of basic educational foundations—literature and mathematics, as well as the beginnings of the study of ethics. Their project orientation emphasizes working beyond set limits to gain a complete knowledge of a subject, because they love to learn. By the end of the Elementary years, Montessori children are well prepared to meet the challenges of the Adolescent Program, where they learn how to begin constructing themselves as responsible members of society.