Our Elementary program at Keystone Montessori School is a six year plan of study following the curriculum created the Italian physician Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) for children in what she termed the second plane of development. Children who enter Lower Elementary, (Grades 1-3) beginning in the second plane of development, can usually be characterized by their developing abilities of reason, their ability to abstract concepts, their imagination and their passion for hands-on exploratory research. Our program is characterized by an emphasis on self-directed inquiry on the part of the child, immersion in a “prepared environment” by the teacher to foster learning, and the use of self-correcting materials that introduce complex and abstract concepts concretely.
The study of language arts at Keystone is fully integrated across all other aspects of the learning environment. Children learn to read, write, listen, and speak while immersed in the context of a vastly rich cultural curriculum. In Lower Elementary, children begin with learning concepts that provide the fundamental building blocks of all future advanced learning.
Direct instruction is given in word study, grammar & syntax, the history of language, the 6 traits of writing (composition), editing and guided self-evaluation, manuscript & cursive handwriting, keyboard typing, reference & study skills, listening & speaking skills through informal and formal presentations and all components of reading & spelling skills including: decoding (phonemic awareness & phonics), fluency, vocabulary development and comprehension.
Our mathematics curriculum is a multi-dimensional, exceptionally designed program that leads children from the most concrete mathematical understandings using integrated hands-on Montessori materials to the abstraction of advanced concepts. All children work at their own pace, and are given individual/small group lessons based on their own developmental readiness.
The scope and sequence of the math curriculum is vast. Lessons and materials developed by Maria Montessori as well as supplemental topics found in Massachusetts State Standards are taught including: numeration, place value, computation in all 4 operations, fact memorization, advanced geometry, fractions/decimals, measurement, problem solving, time, money, graphing, and algebra.
Maria Montessori recognized children as the redeeming factor in the evolution of humankind. Peace education is a huge emphasis in our Elementary program as we aim to teach children to be self confident global citizens, ready to be tomorrow’s decision makers and responsible members of our planet.
Peace education includes studies about the people of the world which spirals through all other subject areas while learning about other cultures’ differing fundamental needs. Learning how to work, play and relate to others is one of the most important peacemaker skills children at Keystone learn. We focus on topics such as the integration of community service and service learning projects, development of emotional vocabulary to facilitate communication, honoring the light inside each person, conflict resolution, community building, appropriate social skills and self regulation of stress through activities such as yoga, guided meditation and making silence.
Practical life lessons are such an integrated part of each child’s day at Keystone, interwoven throughout all aspects of the learning process. Through direct instruction and gradually gained responsibility, the children learn to care for themselves and their environment, to manage their time, navigate social relationships and solve conflicts, learning skills they will need throughout their life as independent & responsible people. Practical life lessons take many different forms.
Academic Practical Life: At Keystone, the children learn much more then academic information. They also learn how to participate in, manage and take responsibility for their own learning. Practical life skills that teach children independence with academics include: test taking skills, facilitating daily meetings, checking their own work, keeping accurate work records, managing work completion with deadlines, organization skills, learning to use resources to find information, giving lessons to others, creating follow-up projects that best suite their learning style.
Social Practical Life: The social environment is every bit as important as the physical and academic environment. The children learn how to navigate social relationships and solve daily conflicts with independence and confidence. Part of the weekly schedule includes multiple community meetings where children have an opportunity to work collectively to solve problems, to share successes and reflect on sharing gratitude of others. The staff also provide direct instruction on effective communication skills, greeting visitors, strategies to solve problems independently, how to read social cues from others and gentle support when it is needed.
Care of Environment Practical Life: Daily school life at Keystone includes many components of life outside most traditional learning environments. Children learn how to properly care for their environment including: food preparation, recycling, laundry, care of animals and plants, cleaning materials & furniture.
Physical Education: Keystone Montessori is proud to offer the Elementary children a unique physical education program that focuses on fine & gross motor development, team work & cooperation, practical lifelong skills and is FUN! Children learn flexibility, coordination, strength, endurance, and agility through mini-unit programs lasting 4-6 weeks each. Each winter, the children take downhill skiing lessons at Nashoba Valley. Examples of other programs throughout the year: swimming, zumba, yoga, tennis, track & field, African dance, golf etc.
Spanish: All Elementary children take Spanish classes twice a week. Students are immersed in the language through listening, speaking, reading and writing. They learn to express themselves in Spanish with confidence and creativity. This year Keystone is also excited to offer every Elementary student a seat in Rosetta Stone, an online program that is accessible both in the classroom and for additional practice at home.
Art: Art is a fundamental part of the Elementary Montessori learning environment at Keystone. The children attend formal art classes once a week in our beautiful art room. They use professional art materials to explore the history of art and the principals of design. Students learn visual awareness, aesthetic appreciation, creative expression and imaginative thinking. Art is also integrated throughout much of the academic curriculum. The classroom teachers work hands-on with the art teacher to help support the students in creating follow-up projects based on classroom research.
Music & Performing Art: Children take weekly lessons in music and performing art which are directly spiraled into the academic focus of each semester. As they learn the skills of musical composition, rhythm, melody and drama, they prepare for performances in yearly events such as the Wintefest celebration of culture and poetry, and the Museum presentation of ancient cultures.
In the Lower Elementary program, the child is given the cosmic vision of the origin and interdependence of life, of cooperation and partnership of each element of creation, all of which work together to create the totality of our experience & knowledge of the universe. Montessori cultural studies seek to instill a sense of mystery and wonder in the child, and to assist the child in gaining an appreciation of their role & responsibility in the cosmic community.
History: History is literally the study of time: its components, how we track it and what has changed throughout it. History lessons provide the child with a larger understanding of our unique place in modern society and an awareness of how we got here. Areas of study include: time (timelines, calendars, clocks), creation myths, evolution, pre-history and the study of early civilizations, development of humankind, and recorded history. Students study the fundamental needs of humans throughout the ages and how the contributions of mankind have developed to modern time.
Geography: The characteristics of the people and places of the earth provide the foundation of Keystone’s geography curriculum. The children study physical geography (land & water forms, water cycle, water currents, wind), biomes, political geography (continents, countries, states & capitals, flags), map skills, and economic geography (the movement of goods and services through the economy).
Science: Through discovery projects and experiments, the students’ natural curiosity is stimulated and children learn to drawn their own conclusions based on careful observation. In biology students learn about the 5 kingdoms of life, the 5 classes of animals (external parts, body functions and research of animals), botany nomenclature, and biological classification. Other science studies that flow through the other cultural subject areas include geology, the big-bang theory, origins of the universe, states of matter, scientific process & conducting experiments, energy, laws of attraction & gravity as well as the sun & solar system.
Technology and Engineering
This year Keystone is thrilled to offer our Elementary students the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) program from Boston’s Museum of Science. EiE is designed to foster engineering and technological literacy to Elementary age students. Students learn about the various fields of engineering, the engineering design process as well as how society influences and is influenced by engineering. Students apply science and math skills and concepts and use creativity to solve engineering problems.
Both the Lower and Upper Elementary programs are pleased to offer typing as part of handwriting instruction in recognition to teach children 21st century skills. This is a practical life and academic component for both programs. Children receive lessons on saving computer files, creating new files, logging in and logging out, etc. They also have access to and instruction with using our class IPad. Older students use Microsoft Excell to organize and track the orders for our school wide pizza business.
Exploring and utilizing the world outside the classroom are integral components of the Keystone “Going Out” philosophy. Children participate in array of field trips each year. As the students become mature and display appropriate levels of independence, they are encouraged to “go out” and complete their work.
“Going out” is a Montessori term that is designed to foster independence and resourcefulness, and to give children real life experience outside of the classroom. The EL community trips are typically planned by the teachers with student’s input. Ultimately, it is up to the student to arrange and plan for their lunch, gather materials necessary for the outing and to present their best self, as they are representing Keystone. These practical life experiences place the responsibility on the student and help them practice communication and organizational techniques.
The EL community plan a number of field trips, usually once a month, that are purposely integrated to the academics in the classroom. Past field trips include the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Mapparium; the Museum of Fine Arts; The Museum of Science; local farms; poetry and dramatic recitals; and many more.
As a culminating trip, the EL community travels to Nature’s Classroom in the spring. The UE students leave on Monday morning and spend the entire week there and are greeted by their LE friends halfway through the week. We return together as a community at the end of the week.