The Montessori approach to learning encourages the child to take an active, independent role in his/her education. In the words of Dr. Maria Montessori, "education is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on the environment."
The goal of the Montessori philosophy is to build a foundation for a lifetime of creative learning in the child; to develop the characteristics of responsibility, initiative, independence, and self-confidence. The child learns a sense of order, the ability to concentrate, and develops an increased curiosity. Children are led to be aware of their own abilities and interests and to take pride in their achievements. In total, the child develops a positive attitude toward exploration, discovery, and learning.
The Montessori classroom seeks to provide each child with a structured environment in which he can freely develop. Structure is important in order to set boundaries, which help the child focus on the task at hand. Freedom is necessary in order for each child to be able to develop at his own pace. And thirdly, action is necessary. It is only through direct manipulation of the environment that significant learning can occur. Through actual experiences with concrete objects the child discovers relationships and concepts which can later be abstracted.
The Montessori materials stimulate a young child's natural desire to learn, guiding him in a series of successful steps to confident, independent study habits.
Practical life activities encourage independence by helping the child to care for himself and his environment, to develop self-control, and to learn consideration for others.
The sensorial materials help the child to clarify and classify differences in the world. These exercises form the base for all future learning experiences.
Sandpaper letter, moveable alphabets, metal insets, and phonics provide the child with keys to the rich and varied world of language.
The knowledge of numbers is based on understanding, not on memory disconnected from actual fact, and provides a basis for later abstract thinking.
Art, music, history, science, and geography are included in the daily activities of the program. Social development takes place naturally within a flexible program geared to the individual rates of progress. With an emphasis on cooperation rather than competition, a spirit of joy and enthusiasm permeates the classroom.
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“…education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” — Dr. Maria Montessori
The Montessori classroom is referred to as a ‘prepared environment’. This environment encourages children to pursue their interests and to work independently at their own pace. A minimum use of wall displays, soft colors, and child-sized furnishings are the norm in this environment.
A typical day in the Montessori classroom will include activities to encourage independent work, small group activities, demonstrations by the teacher and opportunities to explore the environment both inside and out.
When necessary, teachers assist the child in the decision-making process by offering options from which the child can choose. The Montessori trained teacher is an astute observer who presents appropriate materials to the child or children in small groups. Recording your child’s progress on a daily basis allows the teachers the opportunity to stay in tune to the needs of the child’s and the environment. These records will also assist the teacher in communicating the child’s progress to his/her parents. Teachers in this environment serve as facilitators and observers who offer stimulation and choices. The child’s natural curiosity, love for work, and a sense of community are stimulated and nurtured in this environment.
The Early Childhood Classroom is organized into four major areas: practical life, sensorial, language arts, and mathematics.
Practical life exercises would include buttoning, food preparation, plant care, silver polishing and other activities that encourage self-care, environment care and care for others.
Sensorial area assists in the development of the intellectual skills of classification and mental organization by refining the child’s sense of touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight.
Language arts area develops the many facets of language. Oral language development, creative writing, listening skills, and handwriting development are skill areas that the language area focuses on.
Mathematics area focuses on counting, number recognition, making sets, measuring and patterning.
Arts and music encourages the growth and development of aesthetic qualities. Exercises in science including botany, zoology and physical science along with focus on history, geography and foreign language complete this well rounded curriculum.
The Elementary Program expands and extends the structure of the preschool environment, offering individual and small-group instruction using beautiful and dynamic manipulations which present abstract ideas concretely.
Language is an important part of the entire Montessori curriculum for it brings the child to conscious awareness of language and how it can be used more effectively. Once the child has an understanding that writing is a graphic form of language, then he begins work with spelling, word study, penmanship, grammar, punctuation and capitalization. The real experience in reading and writing comes through the child’s work in other areas of the curriculum, such as geography, history, botany, etc.
Foreign Language - Spanish is the foreign language currently being studied in the elementary program.
Mathematics - Manipulation of concrete and symbolic materials with built-in control of error develops sound arithmetic skills and leads the child to make his or her own abstractions. The children work with fraction materials, cubing materials and materials for studying algebra and calculus.
Geometry - Experienced sensorially through manipulation of both plane and solid geometric figures. As much geometric nomenclature is supplied as the child is able to assimilate so that the child will have as much information as possible at his or her command upon entering the stage of exploring why, how and when things happen.
Social Studies and Science (Cultural Studies) - Dr. Maria Montessori felt that social studies and sciences should be integrated in the environment, as they are in life. The subject areas studied include geography, geology, history, botany, zoology, chemistry, sociology and government.
History - The Montessori curriculum follows the development of the solar system, life on Earth, the development of humankind, early civilizations and recorded history. The child sees the long labor of humankind that is needed to accomplish all that is enjoyed here today.
Geography - Studies focus on how the physical configurations of the Earth contribute to our history. The study of physical geography is the basis for the study of economic geography, which shows the interdependence of people.
Art - In the elementary environment, the adult aids the child in the development of skills in order that the child may creatively express him or herself through various media. In addition to art expression, art is an integrating factor for the rest of the curriculum. The child may use it in such ways as geometrical drawings, geographical maps or illustrations for history, botany, zoology, social studies, etc.
Music - The elementary program consists of singing, dancing, music appreciation, guest listening and ear training. There will be opportunities to listen to and discuss many different types of musical instruments.
Physical Education - Biological studies relating to physical education include human anatomy, physiology and nutrition. An interest in the development of skills that could be used in later life is the emphasis, along with the challenge of competing with oneself rather than competing against others.
MSC middle school students in grades 7 & 8 study mathematics, science, language arts, and social studies in accordance with Georgia Performance Standards. In addition, students go on a variety of curriculum-based and outdoor-education-oriented field trips, maintain a plot in the Clark’s Grove community garden, create and run multiple class businesses, facilitate community service projects, and participate in community internships.
Teachers at the middle school level are specialists in their academic fields. They work with students in groups as well as on an individual basis. A low teacher-student ratio allows teachers to know students as unique individuals and meet individual needs.
Mathematics - Students are placed in a math textbook based on their previous math experience along with the mastery of certain concepts as demonstrated by beginning, mid-year, and end-of-year assessments. The following textbooks are used:
McDougall Littell Mathematics Course 2-The topics covered include algebra, integers and equation solving; algebra and rational numbers; similarity, geometry and measurement; and advanced algebra topics.
-The topics covered include algebra, integers and equation solving; algebra and rational numbers; similarity, geometry and measurement; and advanced algebra topics.
McDougall Littell Mathematics Course 3/PreAlgebra-The topics covered include integers, equations and inequalities; rational numbers and proportions; functions, geometry and measurement; and data analysis, polynomials and transformations.
-The topics covered include integers, equations and inequalities; rational numbers and proportions; functions, geometry and measurement; and data analysis, polynomials and transformations.
McDougall Littell Algebra I-This course begins with a review of simple equations and properties of real numbers. Once this is completed, the following topics are covered: solving, graphing and writing linear equations and inequalities; systems of equations and inequalities; exponents and exponential functions; quadratic and rational equations and functions; polynomials and factoring; and radicals and connections to geometry.
The Arts – Students have weekly classes in art and music. In both classes, students have the opportunity to explore a variety of genres and materials. An annual art and music show highlights student work.
Foreign Language: Spanish – the middle school foreign language program is a continuation of the foreign language study students begin in the lower elementary classroom with expanded work in the areas of conversation, vocabulary, grammar, and cultural studies.
Physical Education - a versatile weekly physical education class for middle school students is provided. The program emphasizes preparing students for a lifetime of physical fitness.
Middle School Community Involvement - Opportunities to serve and work in the local community are essential in the development of confident adolescents who feel capable of making positive contributions to society.
Middle school students are required to facilitate a community service project each year. Students may choose to create a unique school or class project or include classmates in a local nonprofit’s service event. Past projects have included food and coat drives, designing and manning a table at Newton County’s annual literacy festival, participating in Rivers Alive, assisting at the Newton County Special Olympics, and organizing a Red Cross blood drive.
Community Internships - Involving adolescents in the work of the adult world is a strong component of Montessori middle school programs. One of the ways that MSC addresses this need is to have students participate in a 20-hour community internship during their eighth-grade year. With parent and teacher support, students are responsible for arranging the details of their internship in an area that interests them. Students maintain a journal reflecting on their experiences.
Middle School Philosophy
Dr. Maria Montessori described the middle school years as a period of vulnerability characterized by physical and emotional unrest. She also viewed it as a period of opportunity and growth during which students seek to discover both self and society in order to take their places in the adult world as contributing members.
Montessori called her program for adolescents Erdkinder, which translates as “land children,” emphasizing the interdependence of the natural world and human life. In addition to academics and the arts, a major component of Erdkinder would entail students working on a farm and running a store or hotel as a means for them to have a place in the social and economic life of a community.
Following ten years of research review, the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development‘s findings reveal that Maria Montessori’s vision for adolescents is relevant for the twenty-first century. According to the Council, middle school students
Find a valued place in a constructive group Feel a sense of worth as a person Know how to use the support systems available to them Express constructive curiosity and exploratory behavior Believe in a promising future with real opportunities Master social skills, including the ability to manage conflict peacefully Cultivate the inquiring and problem-solving habits of mind for lifelong learning Acquire the technical and analytic capabilities to participate in a world-class economy Become ethical persons Learn the requirements of responsible citizenship Respect diversity in our pluralistic society In keeping with the best practices for programs serving adolescents, the MSC middle school includes a strong academic and arts component in conjunction with opportunities to interact with the natural environment and community in which they live. Small class size allows students to build positive relationships with peers and teachers, practice leadership skills, and develop effective problem solving skills in a supportive setting.