The Elementary Experience
When students move from the Primary level to the Elementary grades, it seems everything gets bigger. The classroom, the kitchen, the garden - even the green space where students play - are all noticeably larger. The children themselves have grown and acquired a greater need to interact in groups, so their furniture and materials have been appropriately designed and sized as well.
What has grown more than anything, however, is the students' capacity and desire to discover the world and their place in it. Elementary children possess powerful intellectual curiosity and imagination. They have entered what Maria Montessori called the second plane of development, and are eager to acquire new concepts and experiences. No longer are they simply asking what, but using developing powers of reasoning and abstract thought to ascertain why, how, when, and where.
Children this age develop best when they are given a large framework from which to learn. Maria Montessori called it "cosmic education" - curriculum that teaches the grand interconnectedness of all things in the universe. "Our Elementary classrooms are not about presenting facts for memorization," says one Omni teacher, "but about providing students with the big picture and allowing them to break it down, connect the pieces, and come to true understanding."
At Omni Montessori School, a cohesive six-year curriculum is designed to meet the developmental needs of students ages 6 to 12. Classrooms are divided into Lower Elementary (grades 1 to 3) and Upper Elementary (grades 4 to 6).
"Let us give [the Elementary child] a vision of the whole universe," wrote Maria Montessori in describing the basis for her Elementary curriculum. "All things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity. This idea helps the mind of the child become fixed, to stop wandering in an aimless quest for knowledge."
Dr. Montessori chose five Great Lessons to be shared with the children - covering the beginnings of the universe, origins of life, evolution of humans, development of language, and history of mathematics. These broad narratives entice the students' curiosity, and allow them to begin discovering and connecting elements in the body of human knowledge. Maria Montessori also developed Elementary classroom materials as the tools for students to learn, explore, and discover.
The Elementary teacher's goal is not to rely on a syllabus, but to guide students using lessons, materials, and experiences, both inside and outside of school.