The elementary level spans an important period of development in the life of a child between the ages of 6 to 12 years. Our educational approach addresses the imperatives of the developmental level rather than arbitrary age groupings. The child between the ages of 6 and 12 is in a time of deep investigation and the consolidation of knowledge. The Elementary student builds upon foundational skills that began to flower in the Children’s House and strengthens and consolidates them throughout the early elementary years. Our curriculum is called “Cosmic Education.” This phrase refers to the breadth of learning that happens within the classroom as well as the interconnectedness that lends structure and coherence to the implementation of our philosophy.
Children and teachers work together to ensure that the students master the basics of an age-appropriate curriculum while exploring areas of personal interest. The students record their work choices and set appropriate goals. Regular meetings with their teacher encourage students to use the freedom of the classroom with responsibility. Students are free to choose worthy and appropriate work and have uninterrupted time to explore their own interests. Teachers guide them in goal-setting and completion. As independence is fostered, the children’s passion for learning often leads them to mastery that exceeds an adult’s expectations.
The Great Lessons are at the center of Cosmic Education, the elementary Montessori curriculum. Elementary children use their imaginations and reasoning minds to explore the universe. The adult acts as a storyteller of the truth, inspiring the children and guiding them as they acquire the skills to pursue their interests with dedication, rigor, and joy. “The stories present not only the changes the earth has undergone since its beginnings but also the ways in which each new animal or plant affects all the others. The stories inspire awe and wonder about the ecology of the natural world. They also build a sense of the importance of making a contribution to the continuing stream of human progress…” in search of each individual’s cosmic task.
Each child’s experience is enhanced by key lessons opening doors to new areas of investigation. As children learn at different times in partnership with others, each child is both a teacher and a learner. Freed and supported by the trust of the adults, the elementary child is independent, self-motivated, and imbued with a love of learning and a respect for self, others, and the environment.
Through Dr. Montessori’s plan of Cosmic Education elementary students enter deeply into the process of researching, classifying, and organizing areas of history, science, geography, geometry, English language, and mathematics. Ignited by the materials and lessons presented in the prepared environment, the imagination of the child is able to explore widely and deeply into all elements of the universe. The classroom environment is organized to offer maximum opportunity for children to learn from and with each other. Older children are positive role models and mentors for younger students. Class meetings and group discussions help children navigate the challenges of establishing friendship and working together in a positive supportive community.
The story of the universe provides a framework into which all subsequent lessons in various disciplines find a meaningful place. Students use their powerful imaginations and reasoning minds to investigate the formation of stars, planets, and the solar system. They explore the beginning and evolution of life on earth, culminating in studies of human beings. Investigation of human beings leads to the study of early humans, their needs, and the development of civilizations. Students are introduced to the many fields of human exploration: geology, physical science, biology, geography, and history. Students are able to explore these topics in great depth and also weave them into a larger vision of the cosmic whole.
Language is the foundation for discovery and communication. Elementary students learn the history of the English language and study grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling. Students read literature and poetry from a wide range of genres and eras. Students continue to hone their reading and writing skills, becoming proficient in both creative and expository writing and with many opportunities to develop oral language skills. Formal presentation of written work, as well as informal opportunities to debate ideas in class meetings or classroom work helps the students become confident and competent in expressing themselves with grace and clarity.
Every human being possesses a mathematical mind in search of order and pattern. In the Montessori classroom this power is nurtured to aid the child in constructing a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and fluency in applying these concepts to a range of topics and situations. Concrete learning materials assist the children in building abstract understanding of arithmetic, geometry, and algebra.
The arts are a vital part of the child’s self-expression and cultural exploration in the Montessori classroom. Students are free to choose art activities that have been presented to them to develop their skills and to integrate the arts into many aspects of their exploration. Art lessons provide an opportunity for students to work to further develop their understanding of the elements and principles of art. They explore working with a variety of media, and problem solving methods. In addition, historical and cultural elements are also studied.
The French program offers a second language-learning experience that spans all levels of our school in developmentally appropriate ways. Working with French specialists, students study and develop oral and written language-learning skills against a backdrop of exploration into worldwide cultures where French is the official language. Students also have options to participate in school offerings provided beyond the school day, including French camp and clubs.
Music & Theater
Music and Theater studies are an important part of the elementary Montessori experience. Weekly lessons are informed by the Orff Schulwerk music pedagogy- a child-centered approach that emphasizes the child’s role in the creation of music, theater and dance. Students work on improvisation, composition, ensemble work, recorder, singing, movement, and music literacy. Students use the music studio for lesson work to explore their own musical or theatrical projects with the guidance of the specialist or classroom teacher.
Lessons in Physical Education provide an opportunity for all students to develop competence in many movement forms. Students take part in activities that demonstrate how to achieve and maintain a healthy level of fitness through a physically active lifestyle. Respect for self and others sets the tone for all students no matter what level of skill they have attained. Team play is emphasized and students are expected to be inclusive in their play and supportive of their peers so that everybody has an equal opportunity to experience all facets of the program.
Rural Campus & Camps
Elementary 1 & 2 classes visit our rural campus for day visits and overnight trips each year. During these visits, students participate in farm chores such as tending gardens, caring for animals, and environmental activities such as hiking, pond studies and bird watching.
Elementary 2 students visit Camp Widjiwagan annually for a week of environmental education and exploration of the challenges of winter in northern Minnesota. This adventure is designed to provide an opportunity to develop outdoor skills in a wilderness setting. It is also a chance to practice independence within the supportive community of classmates and teachers.
Students can also enjoy visits to our rural campus in small groups throughout the year to explore topics such as pond life, beekeeping, maple sugaring, or bird watching. Students perform service work at the rural campus and participate in planting and harvesting in the organic gardens.
Students have many interests that extend beyond the walls of the classroom to “going out” explorations into the broader community. These student or teacher initiated trips allow children to access resources from the rich diversity of the Twin Cities area and to experience first-hand the interdependence of citizens in an urban community. Students can also organize going outs to the Land School. Students are encouraged to choose appropriate destinations to pursue their interests more deeply and make the arrangements for the visit. In engaging in the life of the larger community, they are exposed to numerous individuals whose work makes our society possible. Going out helps students learn and practice the norms of grace and courtesy in the broader society as they explore the possibilities of their own contributions to the knowledge and functioning of society as a whole.