The Upper Elementary Program was designed to suit the developmental needs of the child moving toward adolescence. Upper Elementary students transition toward more abstract thinking as they begin to rely more on books and traditional resource materials as they build upon the work done with materials in the Lower Elementary. The goal of the Montessori Upper Elementary program is to prepare the child for what lies ahead academically, while addressing the child’s needs as a whole. While the Upper Elementary curriculum aligns with state standards, you will find that it functions well above advanced academics standards. The Upper Elementary combines 3rd through 6th grades in a dynamic multi-age classroom. Students build important social and leadership skills in a respectful environment.
The study of grammar in Montessori is unique. Having already explored the function of words as they relate to grammar in Lower Elementary, in Upper Elementary, grammar is explored in more detail. Key elements of grammar are applied throughout with an intense focus on writing. Sentence analysis, paragraph writing, research reports, essays, letters, poetry and creative writing are all explored. Daily journal writing on a wide variety of topics strengthens writing skills while peaking the student’s interest in writing.
Most students learn to read in the Primary classroom. In the Elementary classroom, the students begin reading to learn. In Upper Elementary, students explore books of various literary types through lively literary discussion groups where literatures including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, biographies, etc. are analyzed and appreciated. In addition to literary discussion groups, the students deepen their research skills where both online and book research skills are utilized for report writing and oral presentations done in class.
The concrete understanding of mathematical concepts is solidified in Lower Elementary through the use of Montessori math manipulatives. For the Upper Elementary student, this foundation motivates the student to further explore numbers. Progression through the Upper Elementary math curriculum is not strictly linear. Instead, the students explore different concepts of math simultaneously. Students explore concepts of whole number operations, fractions, decimals, measurement, problem solving, algebra and geometry. Key lessons on the history of mathematics and different number systems such as the Babylonians, Romans and Mayans lend new perspective to the student’s developing knowledge base.
“We are confronted with a considerable development of consciousness that has already taken place, but now that consciousness is thrown outwards with a special direction, intelligence being extroverted, and there is an unusual demand on the part of the child to know the reasons of things. Knowledge can be best given where there is eagerness to learn, so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture. ~ Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential”
– Maria Montessori
Our hands-on science program uses an inquiry-based, Socratic approach incorporating the Scientific Method throughout. Dr. Maria Montessori lived and worked during a time of immense technological and social change. Her work not only challenged social conventions of her day, but embraced innovation and understood the importance of technological progress, particularly in education. It is with this in mind that our Upper Elementary curriculum has embraced technology including computers, robotics and engineering as a staple of the classroom environment. In partnership with a local robotics lab, students plan, build and design their own robots utilizing the latest technology. This innovative program goes above and beyond what is introduced in advanced technology-based programs in the area. Our robotics program follows our physics program, and is a natural progression from studies in the Laws of Thermodynamics, Newton’s Laws, studies in potential and kinetic energy and simple machines.
In addition to robotics, our science curriculum incorporates biology, chemistry, ecology, astronomy and Earth science in a hands-on, comprehensive science program. It is here that students have the opportunity to perform experiments utilizing the steps in the scientific method. Although the plant and animal kingdoms are our primary focus in biology, all five kingdoms are introduced: Monera, Protista, Fungi, Plant and animal. Students conduct research, write reports and often present their finding to their peers. In chemistry, students research the Periodic Table and explore atomic and molecular structures building out their own molecules in the classroom. Earth science is divided into several units of study including the relationship of the Earth and the sun, composition of the Earth, the Earth’s atmosphere, weather and the hydrosphere. The Earth sciences provides a foundation for studies in ecology including ecosystems, endangered species and the role of humans in maintaining our environment.
Cultural Studies: Ancient Civilizations, American History, world geography
Dr. Maria Montessori placed a particular emphasis on what she termed “cosmic education”. The goal of cosmic education is to guide the child to an initial examination of the question, “Who am I?” ; Tracing life and human origins through materials such as the Timeline of Life, the Early Humans timeline and extensive studies in ancient civilizations and the needs of people . World geography is incorporated simultaneously as it applies to regions studied. Modern history is explored with a focus on American history (colonial, the new nation, the civil war, westward expansion, the age of industry and invention and the modern age). Virginia studies are also incorporated into the cultural studies curriculum, in keeping with state standards and requirements.
Maria Montessori believed that the learning that went on in the classroom was not enough, so she developed “going out,” which is the equivalent of today’s field trip. Students need to get out of the classroom and experience the world through hands on learning. We take numerous field trips throughout the year, and we strive to connect those field trips to what we are learning in the classroom. Field trips include visits to museums in Washington D.C., learning about Native American life in Fairfax County, experiencing the performing arts at the Kennedy Center and Imagination Stage, or simply getting the children out and active in the community by volunteering. There are also field trips where the students really get out and get active. We have an annual 3-day camping trip and a 1-day ski trip where they students really get to foster their independence while forming bonds with their fellow classmates.
Field studies such as our annual camping trip, monthly museum trips to Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas and theater performances, keep students fully immersed in learning and in touch with nature and the arts. In addition to this, we have an annual ski trip as well as numerous monthly field trips. Elementary is always it seems, “on the go”.
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