The Elementary Program and the Cosmic Curriculum
Written By Jennifer Cowle, Head Lower Elementary Guide
The most frequent question I am asked is, “Why should I choose Montessori for the Elementary years?”.
The simple answer… Montessori’s pedagogy allows for self-led, individualized learning. It fosters self-confidence, responsibility and a sense of independence at a time when, developmentally, children are beginning to compare themselves to their peers, be socially driven, and begin to question the “why” of everything. What better to support them through these formative years than confidence in themselves and in what they can accomplish as an individual and as a part of a mixed-age, social group setting.
The children in the elementary program are trusted and treated with respect like we would expect to be treated as adults. They are listened to when they have a concern or problem, their feedback is taken into consideration and conversations are had around what is working for them and where they feel they need adjustments. They are involved in brainstorming solutions to these problems with help from the Montessori guide. This allows the child to feel in control and in turn, they are more likely to follow through with the task or action. The sense of pride that the child feels is also stronger when they accomplish a task that they themselves set out to do, rather than if they had been told they had to complete it.
In the Elementary program we strive to continuously draw their attention to the interconnectedness of life. We look at how life is miraculously intertwined - from the smallest of particles to the largest of mountains. The Cosmic Curriculum, which is the guiding light of the elementary classroom, is designed to do just that. It relates to the child that they are made from the universe and also a very integral part of it. It is the method of connecting their interests to all subjects within the classroom. For example, if looking at water we can connect that interest to chemistry while looking at the particles and atoms that make up water (H20), then look at the different zones of the ocean and the different types of bodies of water (oceans, rivers, ponds, lakes, etc.). From there we can practice our reading by looking at a timeline of Autumn Peltier (the Chief Water Commissioner for the Aniishnabek Nation) and our spelling and creative writing via the creation of water themed poetry. In math maybe we could look at word problems pertaining to the distribution of water throughout their town, province and country. As you can see, the possibilities for connection here are endless and this process of connection can be done with nearly anything in our universe. This beautiful idea and curriculum is ever changing to follow the child’s interests and desires and it helps instill a sense of purpose and passion for their life. These ideas and principles are also supported with five different Great Lessons that are given a few months apart, throughout the course of the year. They are as follows:
The First Great Lesson: The Coming of the Universe
The Second Great Lesson: The Coming of Life
The Third Great Lesson: The Coming of Humans
The Fourth Great Lesson: The History of Communication
The Fifth Great Lesson: The History of Numbers and Mathematics
These Great Lessons are interactive and riveting stories that kick off an abundance of learning and exploration within the classroom.
The Mixed-Age Group and Benefits of a Combined Classroom
The mixed age group is found within any level of a Montessori program. This mixed-age setting is beneficial for a number of reasons, some of which being that they develop stronger social and collaboration skills, they learn more advanced concepts from watching their older peers (or sometimes from their younger peers interests), they support one another and develop leadership skills naturally, and they have access to material and work that suits where they are academically rather than where they “should be” based on their grade or age. We do not believe in “should be’s” and instead talk continuously about how we all have different strengths and weaknesses and how we meet those with different types of work. It is not uncommon to see a year 2 student doing a year 4 math work but a year 2 language work. Having all years (1-3 and 4-6) in one classroom means that they can advance as they are ready to and are not held back by only having access to grade 3 materials.
While my training is in Lower Elementary (grades 1-3), the albums provided to me and the materials within the classroom are designed to teach the 6-12 year old child, not just the 6-9. This means that I am able to support and advance the learning of the 9-12 child when they are in the same room as me. Finding an Upper Elementary trained teacher is like finding a unicorn, however, Lodestar has the Upper Elementary albums (our albums are the lessons and curriculum guidelines) and the Upper Elementary materials. These resources, along with a trained Montessorian, are all the tools needed to offer a successful Montessori education for the child of 6-12 years old.
By choosing Montessori for your elementary aged child, you are choosing to put them in an environment that supports not only their academics but also their spiritual, mental and physical development. We look at helping the whole child grow.
"The elementary child has reached a new level of development. Before he was interested in things: working with his hands, learning their names. Now he is interested mainly in the how and why...the problem of cause and effect."