Escuela del Sol Elementary • Grades 1 - 6
Dr. Montessori saw children change profoundly from the Primary to the Elementary years, in how they approach each other and how they encounter their environment. This "new child" requires a special educational approach: Montessori Elementary programs build on the Primary's foundation to produce successful, confident, and joyful students.
The Junior Elementary (ages 6 to 9) and Senior Elementary (ages 9 to 12) programs inspire awe about the world, intrigue children to acquire knowledge, and help them to develop intellectually, emotionally and socially. At Escuela del Sol Elementary, fundamental skills are integrated in an interdisciplinary program to nurture creativity and enthusiasm for learning while fostering critical thinking and social responsibility. Classrooms are designed to support group and individual learning, and are equipped with a rich array of materials that stimulate intellectual curiosity and passion.
Imagination, Reason and Social Interest
Primary classes were devoted to the physical and tangible; Elementary classes use that library of ideas and sensations to explore the universe. The elementary student is ready to use imagination as a powerful learning tool. Through stories ("Great Stories"), impressionistic charts and evocative materials, students research, investigate, study and work together to develop socially and academically. Through exploration and discovery, students find relationships and order in the world.
Children are particularly well suited at the elementary level to work in groups. Having developed a sense of self, they are ready and prepared to contribute toward greater work. There is no part of society that does not require working as part of a group to accomplish great things. Escuela del Sol strongly encourages this type of group work because more than a century of Montessori education demonstrates that this approach provides the foundation that is essential for every person to best participate and contribute to society.
A Sense of Justice and Community
During the elementary years Dr. Montessori observed that children are in a sensitive period for moral reasoning. This is a crucial time to integrate character development, mediation and conflict resolution skills. Learning in an environment of kindness, courtesy, self-respect and consideration for others is crucial to the child's moral development, sense of dignity and academic success.
Elementary children typically develop a strong interest in ethics and "fair play." The same impulse that led the Primary child to insist "help me to do it by myself" for physical tasks - putting on a coat, carrying a chair, or opening a door - now moves into the moral realm. Elementary students want to independently investigate rules of behavior and roles in a group. Their questions move from the Primary "What is that?" to the Elementary "Why is that?" Cause and effect, connections and consequences, are of paramount interest. Teachers, with the aide of classroom materials, direct these intellectual and social explorers to the interrelated roles in any society or ecosystem: for example, the give and take that allows for a balance between plants and animals, predator and prey, or farmers and merchants.
As in the younger classes, students learn by doing. Each Elementary class holds regular meetings, not only as opportunities to share work and research but also as a chance to work out social problems in a fair and reasonable fashion. Teachers act as moderators and facilitators, helping students learn how to negotiate solutions that respect everyone's thoughts and feelings to maintain a smoothly functioning classroom community - and develop real-world skills of compromise and diplomacy that will serve them well for years to come.
Escuela's Elementary program harnesses the developmental hunger for information by throwing open the doors to the whole of human knowledge: the history of ancient civilizations, the mechanics of language, biological and geological classification, the intricacies of physical and political geography, the methods of mathematics from basic operations through cube roots and basic algebra.
The Elementary classroom offers the child more than any curriculum requires; and, since the classroom encourages exploration by individuals and small groups who then report back to the whole community, the children create a rich culture of discovery in which they are constantly exposed to a wide variety of information. With creative thought, individual expression and joy as integral to a learning environment, students develop an appreciation that leads to a lifelong zest for learning.
Two recent studies addressed the academic abilities of Montessori children compared with traditionally educated peers. The first study, conducted by academic psychologists Angeline Lillard (University of Virginia) and Nicole Else-Quest (University of Wisconsin) and published in Science magazine (Sept. 2006), found that Montessori children at age five scored significantly higher on measurements of math, reading and executive functions. Young Montessori children were also more advanced in moral development, demonstrating a greater understanding of justice and fairness. At age 12, Montessori children exhibited greater creativity and use of more complex language skills, responded more positively to social dilemmas and felt a greater sense of community at their school.
A second study published in The American Journal of Education (May 2005) (Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi) tested the motivation and quality of experience of Montessori and traditional school children of middle school age. Montessori children reported feeling greater energy, passion, motivation and interest in academic activities at school than did their peers at traditional middle schools.