The Elementary Classroom
Since 1997, McMinnville Montessori School has served elementary aged children, from six through twelve years old.
This classroom is an exciting environment for children who benefit from a program rich in opportunities to explore the history of the world, the universe, the history of humans on earth, and the natural and physical sciences. Language arts skills are well developed through in-depth study of grammar and syntax, through research and writing and through literature and discussion.
The students learn the concepts of geometry, arithmetic and algebra by working with specially designed didactic materials. The program is based on experiential learning, and children have the opportunity to go out into the community to do hands on research, visit with local experts, attend cultural and artistic events, and travel to natural areas to expand their horizons.
Music, art, Spanish and movement are included in the curriculum to educate the whole child. The same emphasis on social relations found in the primary classroom continues and is built upon in the elementary program.
Children who graduate from the Montessori elementary program have a very solid foundation in academic subjects, have an appreciation for culture, are self-directed learners, and have highly developed social skills. These children are better equipped to handle the academic and social challenges the encounter as they mature.
Montessori education is based on the belief that each person carries a love of learning within themselves which, given the proper environment, becomes a motivating force to explore the world. A child who has been encouraged to explore and allowed to self-direct from an early age will carry throughout life the tendency to be an active, creative and broadly focused learner.
The Montessori Elementary classroom continues the experience of individualized learning the children benefit from in the primary years. Respect for each child, for the process of exploration, and for the classroom community is paramount. Social development blossoms with the three year age span, as the spirit of cooperation inherent in the life of the group encourages children to create friendships which have greater depth.
The foundations of self-direction and innovation laid in the primary will serve the older child well. Children who enter the program without the primary experience will receive special attention in order to encourage the development of the self-motivated learner within.
The child of 6 years and older moves into a period of greater abstraction and active imagination. Having figured out as a young child how the “basics” of living work, elementary children long to expand their horizons. Through the Great Lessons, stories of the earth and humanity, through exploration of more abstract didactic materials and through direct experience of the world via field study, the elementary program will call the child to an inquisitive search for information about the world. The Montessori approach accentuates the opportunity for deeper study into the interdependency of life.
The Great Lessons include stories which, in the telling, encourage the children to think beyond and wonder. “The Story of the Universe” tells of the ancient roots of the cosmos. The “Coming to Life” traces the history of life on earth from one-celled animals and plants to complex human beings. “The Story of Communications in Signs” and “The Story of Numbers” reveal the human inventions of written language and enumeration as civilization becomes more complex. These stories are a springboard from which children can launch individual interest and study.
Thought the study, the child is gaining in literacy skills. These, and mathematics, including arithmetic, algebraic concepts and geometry, will be built upon through work with specialized material. The Montessori materials are designed to be progressive, leading the child through continually advancing skill levels. Lessons are given by the teacher to groups and to individuals who become ready for that level of work, regardless of chronological age. Thus, the student can proceed at his or her own pace and work up to his or her own skill level.
Art and Music are an integral part of the curriculum, though hand-on exploration, professional guests invited to the classrooms and visits to museums and concerts. The children also explore Spanish language with a native speaker. Physical education is an important part of the student’s development. Along with the free movement allowed in the classroom and the outdoor extension, daily opportunity from greater physical expression will be available.
The classroom hums with the delighted expectancy of exploration. Children at this age work individually as well as in groups, across and within the multiple age span. The classroom is a beautiful space, orderly and full of unique cultural and natural items. Furnishings are elementary sized, and the children, rather than the adults, are the focal point of the activity.
The children make forays into both the cultural and the natural world on day and overnight trips. These trips will most often evolve out of an individual or small group’s interest in a particular subject: the children’s interest in Monet may take them to the Art Museum, a child studying astronomy may coordinate a trip to the planetarium as well as a night watching the sky. We are fortunate to have the cultural and natural resources near at hand. The classroom emphasis on respect for the individual and the life of the group is augmented by community service. Projects such as cleanup in the downtown area, visits to nursing homes, or coordinating at food drives stimulates the 6-10 year-old’s interest in life in the greater community.
Evaluation of a student’s progress is partially inherent in the materials: successful completion of a task depends on the child “getting” the concept and applying it. This is a self-test which helps the child learn what he or she needs in order to continue. Evaluation will also be made by student/teacher conference, by written teacher evaluations given to the parents in conference, and by portfolio. Student and teacher will cooperate to compile student works throughout the year into a portfolio which will be given, along with the written evaluations, to the family at the end of the year.
Before and After School Care
MMS offers before and after school care. The same philosophy of respect, creativity, and attention to detail is followed in activities offered at these times.
Children may choose from independent work or join in group activities. Creative arts, drama, music and movement as well as quiet, nurturing time will be included. Opportunities for play at Dancer Park and the City Park will occur when weather permits.
The important partnership between parent, child and teacher, between home and school in a child’s life will be nurtured through inviting parents to participate in field studies, in special classroom projects, and in sharing skills and knowledge with the students. Special training sessions will be help to prepare parent volunteers in accompanying the students on their forays into the community. Parents may come observe their child’s classroom at work. Sing alongs and special events such as cultural celebrations and parent-child teas will also be planned.
The smooth operation of the school as a whole depends on parent involvement. Everything from fundraising to construction projects to doing the class laundry is done by parent volunteers in alliance with the school, strengthening the feeling of community for all involved.