At the lower elementary level, lessons are primarily presented through the use of Montessori materials and exercises. However, the transition to more abstract thinking and the reliance on books and other research materials begins at this level and continues throughout the elementary program. The curriculum is inter-disciplinary; no subject is taught in isolation.
Students focus on basic operations, the decimal system, and beginning geometry through the use of hands-on manipulative materials. Basic concepts of algebra, such as squaring and cubing, are also introduced. Exploration of math skills through the Montessori materials forms the foundation for a smooth transition from concrete to abstract understanding.
The curriculum emphasizes writing, grammar, and sentence analysis. Reading skills acquired at the primary level are continually enhanced through literature, poetry and book discussion groups. The students produce stories and research papers.
Geography and Science
The Montessori curriculum focuses on history, world geography, earth sciences (such as the formulation of volcanoes and the work of rivers), as well as the areas traditionally called Social Studies (such as economic geography and basic human needs).
In Lower Elementary, the program continues the listening and speaking sequence established at the primary level. Reading and writing skills are added to the curriculum. By the end of the lower elementary experience, the vocabulary that has been introduced expands into more thematic units such as how we are unique, healthy eating or taking care of pets.
The Upper Elementary program continues to focus on language for communication. Although grammar is never taught in isolation, students are introduced to more complex language structures, which prepare them for middle and high school language programs. Thematic units are again expanded into culminating projects that take several weeks to complete such as giant personal time lines, market place re-enactments, TV weather reports, etc.
Elementary Music Program
At Arbor, the goal of the elementary music program is to guide young people to respond to the expressiveness of music, to teach them about musical concepts, and to introduce them to specific musical works and instruments. Students in music classes sing, dance, and play melodic and percussion instruments. They improvise melodies, rhythms and creative movement and practice reading and writing standard music notation. Working primarily with melodies and rhythm patterns, they build a working vocabulary of solfege (do, re, mi, etc.) and rhythm language which they use in a conversational manner to create their own music. As they sing or play instruments in ensembles, children build their skill and understanding of music conventions such as how to rehearse, critique, begin and end a performance. The students also get exposure to instruments, songs, and culture from around the world from Australia to Zimbabwe. With the recent addition of recording equipment, the students get first-hand experience composing, arranging, and recording music and sound effects.
Elementary Art Program
Arbor’s elementary art program reflects the Montessori philosophy of respect for the child’s innate desire to learn and create. Observation, memory, imagination, innovation, interaction, reflection, problem-solving, and independent thinking are all involved when a child is engaged in the process of making his or her own images and forms. Making art provides a child with tools for interpreting life experience, builds identity and self-worth, and provides a form of non-verbal communication for expressing ideas and emotions.
Children in the lower elementary art classes are involved in gaining technical skills, learning to control a variety of media, and using visual symbols. They view art from many places and times and come to see that art plays a valued role in creating cultures and building civilizations. Lower elementary students are introduced to the stories of famous artists and view their masterpieces to learn about the elements and principles of art. They then apply what they have learned to their own work. They study and apply color, pattern, texture, line, and form. They draw with pencil, charcoal, pastels, crayons, and markers, and they learn to paint with watercolor, tempera, and acrylic paints. The children also experiment with printmaking, ceramics, collage and sculpture. Perhaps most importantly, they begin to experience the joy and satisfaction found in the creative endeavor.
In upper elementary art classes, students continue this hands-on exploration while they expand and refine their skills with media, techniques, and artistic processes. At this age they begin to create works of art that deal with ideas of personal significance. Upper elementary students continue to look at specific works of art for subject matter, themes, symbols, meaning, and purpose.
Student artwork is displayed regularly throughout the school year and at the spring art exhibit as a dynamic and visual celebration of the creativity and diversity within our community.
The Elementary Classroom
The elementary classroom at first glance appears very similar to the primary classroom. The materials are placed at child height; rugs are available for children to work on the floor; the materials are beautiful. However, there are subtle differences that are in place to meet the very specific needs of the elementary-aged child. Tables are larger so that several children can work together which suits their social nature. The classrooms have a kitchen which allows children to exercise their creativity as well as feeding their reasoning mind (learning measurements, the steps in a recipe). Care of the environment is enhanced with classroom chores, the care of plants and animals, recycling and composting. Children at this age can see beyond themselves and understand their impact on the environment. Charts and timelines emphasize man’s place in the world and provide concrete history lessons. Children at this age are ready to learn beyond the classroom so you will see them working in the halls and going out to visit the public library, grocery store, museums…anyplace their research and passions take them.
What Comes Next:
As students transition from the Elementary into the Adolescent Program, they move forward with the ability to work abstractly with a deep understanding of the academic process. The Arbor Adolescent Program
is able to capitalize on their developed work ethic, strong time management skills and a solid educational foundation. The Elementary child is able to balance the social world with the classroom work in a way that begins their transformation into the deep thinker of the adolescent years.