The elementary program at Westside Montessori School in Toronto is designed on Dr. Montessori's holistic curriculum that meets the developmental needs of elementary children aged 6 to 9. The following subjects are covered at the elementary montessori school.
History begins with natural history followed by the introduction of human history. By studying the achievements of those who have come before us, and how they have impacted our lives now, they develop an appreciation for humanity and our special human gifts. Timelines are used to help the children place themselves in time and place in relation to what has come before.
Geography in Montessori elementary explores geology, meteorology, oceanography, chemistry, and some aspects of economics all in an integrated manner. It is introduced with the story of the universe into which all other parts fit. The imagination is the most important tool used in their geography explorations, as it helps them to understand what is beyond their own experience. From materialized abstractions, such as the ‘air takes up space’ demonstration, or models such as the volcano or river, the children come to understand concepts, and apply these concepts to comprehend the world beyond the walls of their classroom.
The Elementary biology curriculum offers rich language, and an opportunity to develop and refine the skills of observation, analysis and classification, in order to further their understanding of life. Biology is a gift to the elementary child, as it engages their growing reasoning and imaginative mind, and answers some of their big “why” and “how” questions. The biology work gives the children a chance to practice scientific methods, and further their research skills. Through the study of biology from the perspective of how living things meet their needs, and with a focus on interdependencies, children develop respect, love, gratitude and a sense of responsibility for all life.
In Montessori, language is learned through the efforts, activities and experiences of the children, creating a rich context in which they explore grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and literary conventions of their own language, as well as French. Strong literacy skills and clear communication, both written and spoken, are ultimate goals of the language curriculum.
It is not only a way to explore sound, but also movement, language, history, essentially any and all of the subject areas. The children are introduced to musical theory and have the opportunity to learn to read and write music. They use the tone bars, a Montessori material that builds on the sound bells, as well as other instruments including their own voices, in their musical explorations.
The progression through the Elementary Math manipulatives leads the children from work that is focused mainly on process, to written work, which becomes increasingly symbolic, enabling them to check for accuracy. The children learn the rules of math as a result of their own activity, in other words they discover them as opposed to being told. This allows for a deeper understanding of the algorithms. The elementary child’s reasoning and imaginative mind pushes them to explore the literally infinite world of mathematics, including properties of numbers, and numeration, work with the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and the order of operations, powers of numbers, integers, other base systems, fractions, decimals, squaring and cubing, as well as word problems.
We begin with the etymology of the word Geometry, a story that takes us back to ancient Egypt, during the seasonal flooding. Geometry offered solutions to some of the challenges that the people faced and it continues to do so today. This approach immediately roots geometry in its applications. The materials lead the children through explorations in equivalence, similarity and congruence, lines, angles, polygons, area, and solid geometry including volume. This work exercises the elementary child’s reasoning mind and helps build higher and clearer cognitions, thereby increasing children’s mental capacity.
Art, like music, is integrated into the curriculum and is often a part of whatever the children are doing, whether it be focusing on the history of art, or using art to explore history. The arts curriculum will encompass visual arts such as painting, sculpting and photography, as well as physical arts like theatre and dance. Exposure to and experience within the arts has shown to support the development of creativity, confidence, problem solving, perseverance, focus, non-verbal communication, receiving constructive feedback, collaboration, dedication and accountability.
Physical education should be a vital part of any elementary program, as it is essential in the development of strong healthy minds and bodies. The children will be introduced to a variety of physical activities. Every week the children have an hour-long specialty class in the afternoon. These classes may include martial arts, dance, rock climbing, skateboarding, etc., and each runs for 6-8 weeks throughout the year, allowing time for the children to get a feel for it, and perhaps even discover a hidden talent. On another day of the week, we alternate between a nature program including a hike in High Park, and Sportball (indoors or outdoors), where a Sportball coach teaches skills used in all different sports.
Digital Technology & Computors
We take seriously our responsibility to make thoughtful decisions about when and how technology is introduced. Digital education should not only include operation of hardware, software, and the Internet, but also social media. In terms of using digital technology as a research tool, children should have certain skills in place first. The Internet is a wealth of information, however it can also be overwhelming, especially to a non-discerning mind. Books and encyclopedias allow children to develop research skills, and it has been proven that hard copies lend themselves to better navigation and reading comprehension. Therefore, technology will be introduced towards the end of lower elementary and as with all other work it will depend on the child’s readiness and interest.
As the elementary child is in search of answers to how the world works, many of the materials, such as those in sciences, and social sciences, are purposefully limited to create a need to explore the actual world beyond the classroom walls. These explorations may take place in the library, museums, institutes, parks or even local shops and businesses and offer the children meaningful learning opportunities, beyond just what they discover about the topic being explored. These outings involve planning, and are student-led from beginning to end. This process will have them planning from the proposal stage, to mapping out how to get to their destination, to knowing the hours and costs. It will require learning how to appropriately and politely acquire information from people over the phone or via email and in person and of course showing appreciation to those who took time out of their day by sending thank you notes. The natural consequences they may face due to lack of planning are invaluable learning experiences, as are their successes.