THE AGE OF “WHY”?
The elementary experience meets the developmental needs of the 6 to 9 year old student. Lower elementry integrates the arts, sciences, geography, history, and language in a way that evokes the imagination and abstraction of the elementary child. The presentation of knowledge is given as part of a large-scale narrative that presents the theories of the origins of the earth, life, human communities, and modern history, always in the context of the wholeness of life. Elementary life also begins the process of “going out” to makeuse of community resources beyond the four walls of the classroom. The elementary curriculum includes lessons in math, geometry, language, and cultural (history, geography, physical and life sciences).
With intelligent simplicity, the Montessori math materials give children a sensorial experience of the abstraction that is mathematics. The math curriculum allows students to do hands-on work with concrete materials. While stressing the importance of computational proficiency, this process leads to a conceptual understanding of math and lays a foundation for eventually working in abstract terms.
Traditionally, the study of geometry is undertaken in later years as an abstract series of rules, theorems, and propositions. Montessori saw geometry as firmly rooted in reality and built a curriculum that uses concrete, sensorial experimentation, leading students to concepts through their own creative research. The point of the work is not so much determined by the result as by all the work the child has done to reach that result. The essence is in the journey, not in the destination.
As the basis for all communication, there is no area integrated with the balance of the curriculum more than language. And so, while still presenting the child with the practical tools for encoding and decoding words, sentences, and paragraphs, the study of language is never seen as an isolated exercise. In this way, children never lose sight of the power of language as a means of conveying ideas.
Cultural studies in the Lower elementary classroom flow from themes developed in what Maria Montessori called the Great Lessons. These lessons, presented with highly impressionistic stories and materials,offer the cild a panoramic view of the universe and a sense of humanity across time. The great questions that arise serve as a blueprint for further study in all cultural areas. The use of hands-on materials, coupled with developing reading, writing, and research skills allow the elementary child to ask and attempt to answer questions no less profound than, “How did the world begin?” ”Where did we come from?” and “Why..?”