Elementary Program (Grades 1-6)
Students between 6 – 12 years of age are entering a new stage of development. The absorbent mind of the younger child is evolving into a conscious mind. Elementary students are interested in reasons, explanations, and the perspective of time; they love grand ideas and lofty concepts— the bigger, the better. They are eager to explore.
Students of elementary age have developed a sure sense of what is real and now enjoy using their imaginations to explore things that they cannot experience concretely, such as other cultures or big ideas. The concrete, manipulative work of the pre-school Casa program naturally gives way to more abstract, intellectual work.
Elementary students are also more aware of their peers, community, and global issues. They are less focused on physical order and more interested in a moral sense of order. They have a strong sense of justice, fairness and rules.
Elementary students are interested in working in groups and often display a “herd instinct.” They associate with others not merely for the sake of company, but in some sort of organized activity. A leader is chosen and obeyed, and a strong group is formed. The multi-age Montessori Elementary classroom encourages this social development and the adult moderates the process.
In addition to a classroom and a method of teaching that encourages cooperation and exploration, the international Elementary Montessori curriculum taps into the natural sensitivities of this age to create an energy that animates Elementary education. Each year five great stories are told in a dramatic fashion in order to create a framework of information to which students will add detail and understanding throughout their elementary years. The story of the beginning of the universe, of life on the Earth, of human life and of the great human creations of language, mathematics and science create a broad framework that invites students to explore all the traditional curriculums (the sciences, history and geography, as well as mathematics and language) creating greater depths of understanding each year.
The technical aspects of language, mathematics and geometry (grammar, spelling, verb tenses, math facts, mathematical operations and facts, geometry constructions, etc.) are layered onto this curriculum, benefitting from the students’ natural curiosity and desire to master their world. These skills are supported with materials and exercises that continue the sequence begun in the Casa/pre-school programme. The sequence of materials gradually directs the students into abstraction and work on paper. The Montessori curriculum encourages depth of understanding, creative thinking, problem solving, collaborative effort and mastery.
Using students’ natural tendencies creates the conditions for ‘flow,’ a term coined by modern psychologist Mihály Csikszentmihályi. In this state, students become focused, they learn easily and feel good about themselves, they accept guidance, are energized by their activities, and work well beyond the expectations that an adult might place upon them.
Dr. Montessori called this curriculum a ‘cosmic’ curriculum. The emphasis is on understanding that everything that exists has developed through time and that humans have created much of what we take for granted – technologies, knowledge, and culture. She planned for students to be introduced to everything in the universe so that by the time they entered adolescence they would have a solid understanding of where they were in terms of place, time and culture; and they would be ready for the adolescent work of finding the role they are to play in the development of life.
Elementary student characteristics and the resulting curriculum extend over the six-year period from 6 to 12 years of age. It is a spiral curriculum with each year bringing greater sophistication and abstraction. It is often separated into 6 to 9 year old classes (OMS Lower Elementary) and 9 to 12 year old classes (OMS Upper Elementary) but the progression is continuous.
OMS has an Art Resource Room for Elementary students’ use. The room has a wide variety of art materials on display and available to students, such as clay, watercolours, acrylics, charcoal, paper-making and marbling. While small groups of students are given group lessons on such things as calligraphy, drawing, painting, sculpting, sewing, book making, etc., and learn about artists like Rembrandt, Picasso, Bateman, and The Group of Seven, individual students may sign out of their classroom and visit the Art Resource Room to work on an art form of their choice. There is often a variety of students in the Art Resource Room doing a variety of art for a variety of purposes (to support a class project, as a gift, greeting or thank you card). Having a space dedicated to art but available to students throughout the day helps our students experience art as an integral part of their lives.
In a Montessori classroom, students are free to work on their choice of activity after lessons and with whom they will collaborate but they must demonstrate engagement in the work. Music is one of the many subjects a student can choose to explore. We use the ukulele to facilitate this exploration of music. The ukulele has a mellow tone that lends itself well to a classroom setting. It is not unusual to have the soft, background sound of the ukulele fill our Upper Elementary classrooms. Students play in the halls, the classroom, and often perform for other classes. In addition to exploring the ukulele on their own accord, all students receive weekly lessons in small groups from a professional jazz musician. Music pieces presented during these lessons are immediately ready on the shelf for the students to use. We have ukuleles available and students are responsible for keeping the instruments tuned and in good repair. Music is often selected by the student as a piece of work to be presented alongside other portfolio work during conferences with parents and teachers. During the half-hour conference, some students will show off their ukulele skills, their ability to read music, and their singing voice. Ukuleles use a Low A tuning to segue with the guitar lessons that will be given in The Element.
Opportunities to be dramatic abound in Montessori Elementary classes. Some Montessori activities such as the Grammar Boxes require students to ‘act out’ various scenarios or interpret the nuances of our language in a dramatic way. Students often present projects they have done to their peers, students in other classes or other adults in the school. In addition, each Elementary class produces some type of dramatic performance at least once a year, which they present to their families. Having class level plays and presentations rather than a school-wide one, ensures that every student can participate fully.
Physical Fitness and Health
Students in both the Lower and Upper Elementary programs have a physical education class ever other day in our large, bright and well equipped gymnasium. The emphasis is on making physical activity and fitness fun while building skills for a variety of sports.
All Elementary students have a 45 minute recess each day and, weather permitting, they enjoy the use of our new natural playground which encourages active play.
Upper Elementary students also have the opportunity to participate in an intramural program held at lunch recess. This allows them to practice skills learned in phys. ed. class and further develop team skills. Upper Elementary students may be invited to participate in a sport event or a competition with other independent schools in the Ottawa area through OMS’s membership in the Ottawa Independent School Athletic Association. Students are chosen for sportsmanship, leadership, and collaborative play as much as for their athletic abilities.
OMS Montessori encourages healthy eating at all levels. Elementary students bring their own lunches and snacks most days although parents can choose to purchase healthy hot lunches three days a week from the same provider who caters to our preschool programs. Unhealthy foods and beverages are actively discouraged. Other health topics are integrated into the sciences and flow naturally from the students work with other living organisms.
If Elementary students are staying beyond the 3:45 dismissal, their supervision includes active play, outdoors when possible but otherwise in the gym.
To see a detailed outline of the curriculums click on the links below: