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. Developmentally, physically and emotionally, UE students (ages 9-12) are transitioning into adolescence. Children in this age group are very similar to one another, although they present themselves in various ways. They are beginning to demand their independence, but still require emotional and organizational support. The program is characterized by an emphasis on self-directed inquiry, research and problem solving 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.
ANTI BIAS EDUCATION
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 citizens of our planet.
At KMS, children of all ages explore their own selves and focus on their unique strengths and individualities. They interact in a considerate and empathetic manner with others. We aim to foster each child’s ability to recognize and act upon injustice, as well as to respect and cultivate diversity. Upper Elementary students receive a Peace Education lesson on a weekly basis in order to promote a stronger sense of empathy among others. 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.
The Upper Elementary PE program is combined with our LE program. The students learn rules, procedures and sportsmanship while continuing to develop cooperative skills for working with a partner or small group. Most children at this age are beginning to incorporate fitness into their daily lives. We strive to enhance their understanding of healthy competitiveness in our program. 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.
Upper Elementary students are developing connections to a larger, more abstract world. Their interest in others and in their world broadens at this age. They develop a stronger sense of responsibility and their feeling of connection to a broader world community deepens. Practical life activities at this age are much less concrete; they are woven within basic work. The UE students most active practical life activity is managing our school wide pizza business which serves as a fundraiser for our class trip in the spring. During the year, the students plan, monitor, assess and organize their academic and social work and independent progress in written workplans and during weekly teacher child conferences. In multiple weekly community meetings, they voice their opinions, suggest improvements and problem solve as well as accept and give appreciations to others. They learn how to properly take care of the environment, the materials in class, as well as each community area of our school: kitchen, office, multi purpose room, etc. They research and become active participants in political issues they care deeply about such as fresh water wells in Niger and Mali. They learn about service by completing important tasks within our community such as school wide paper and plastic recycling, and they participate in various fundraisers to help those less fortunate locally and internationally.
History and Geography
The Upper Elementary history and geography curriculum are deeply interconnected. Our history program includes three levels of lessons that build upon one another: human evolution, world civilizations and early American history. In our geography program, students complete an independent self paced comprehensive study of the world.
Most UE students come in having a basic understanding of the effects of the natural world and the people who inhabit it. UE students have a strong tendency to explore, understand and conclude; therefore, the desire to learn more about the evolution of life on earth is natural. We begin our history curriculum exploring our closest relatives. The next year, the students begin studying the first civilization and continue to compare and contrast succeeding civilizations. In the final year, the UE students learn about American history from pre-historic times through the colonial period. All of these lessons include geographic features.
As a parallel work, the students complete a three year independent study of geography through lessons and materials. These lessons include basic mapping skills, latitude and longitude, legends and scales on maps, and the history of map making. The three year curriculum ends with an independent study on the regions of the earth, starting with the USA.
Upper Elementary students begin to handle and express complex thoughts since they are moving into abstract reasoning. They learn to examine evidence, listen to differences in opinion, think about options, and make connections between other areas of learning as well as personal experience. They need to work individually yet thrive in group settings with peers. Making themselves heard and knowing others personally are the utmost priorities at this age. We build on these developmental changes by integrating skill development with opportunity for self expression. Individuals and groups give oral presentations, student facilitated meetings offer experiences for problem solving, Montessori materials enable students to study sophisticated grammar topics, spelling groups are formed based on ability, and expectations of mechanics and convention become clear. Our writers workshop three day program offers students to receive a lessons, brainstorm, begin writing, and informally present what they’re working on to their community.
As Upper Elementary students use the sophisticated Montessori math materials and become less concrete, they begin to do computations abstractly and leave the materials behind. Much of the materials are an extension of the earlier years. They begin their independent work by expanding polynomials and work through calculating in various numeration systems within a three year time frame, and as a parallel work, focus on concepts and procedures for work with fractions, decimals, percents, and calculating area, volume and surface area.
By the Upper Elementary years, most children have a basic understanding of the scientific method, scientific classification and believe themselves to be critical thinkers who can identify, explore, question and make connections. Most of our science studies are given as whole group lessons with the LE students. Most of the curriculum taught are integrated through the other cultural subject areas and include geology, the big-bang theory, origins of the universe, states of matter, scientific process & conducting experiments, photosynthesis and aerodynamics, energy, laws of attraction & gravity as well as the sun & solar system.
Advanced botany and biology nomenclature and classification is also done as an independent work in the UE grades. Each student works through each year learning multiple concepts and completing comprehensive follow up assignments.
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.
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.
Other exciting programs Keystone has in the works for this year include: computer programing and Lego Robotics.
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.