ELEMENTARY PRogram (6-12y)
“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his inmost core. We do not want complacent pupils, but eager ones.”
- Dr. Maria Montessori
The Montessori Elementary program (six to twelve years of age) offers a unique opportunity for nurturing the child into a wholesome human being. Having journeyed through the first plane (birth to six years), children enter a new, yet continuous, development phase in the elementary environment, called the second plane in Montessori pedagogy from six to twelve years of a child's life. This new phase is the second period of physical and psychological development, where children exhibit a more robust immune system, a reasoning mind with a growing desire for independence, the spark of imagination fueling the intellectual hunger, gregariouness with a social outlook, creativity that allows to view classroom subjects as interconnected, sense of ethics and a growing desire to make the world just and better. The Elementary learning environment at Sketches is designed to meet these very natural needs of the child of the second plane as defined and explained under the Montessori pedagogy.
The Elementary program not only helps build the academic concepts but also preserves and promotes the desire to learn and think creatively and independently for all the up-coming years of life. The children work in a mixed-age group classroom of ages six to nine (Lower elementary) and ages nine to twelve (Upper elementary), gaining from both the psychological aspect of such a mixed-age setting, as well as the social need for working in a team.
Only limited by the child's imagination
The Montessori elementary environment (which are actually learning laboratories) offers children the big picture of the universe and the interconnections between mathematics, geometry, geography, language, history, astronomy, earth science, chemistry, biology, physics, social studies, art, and music, instead of compartmentalizing learning into different silos i.e. subjects, which traditional schooling systems do. Children move seamlessly from one subject area to another building a deeper and holistic understanding. They get inspired naturally to delve consciously and explore widely into the understanding of the universe via research, scientific investigations, experiments and self-exploration rather than mere rote learning from text books and teacher's lectures.
The curriculum is broad and children “go out” beyond the limits of the classroom to expand their knowledge when exploration of a topic needs resources outside the classroom. Each "Going Out" is a practical exercise on independence, responsibility, and good citizenship —apart from the intellectual rewards that children get from such experience.
Collaborative and cooperative team work
Key 21st century life skills
Supporting the natural developmental characteristics of the ages 6 to 12 years, Montessori children grow in a mixed-age community of peers. Here, they find plenty of opportunities every day to practice crucial 21st century life skills. Most lessons by the guide and project work are carried out in small groups of peers which naturally involves planning, delegation, and execution of work, which involves division of labor, sharing resources, group decision making, negotiating, conflict resolution, problem solving, taking responsibility for actions, and encouraging each other towards a common goal and success. This is entirely different from a traditional schooling system where children study in teacher-centric classrooms and progress through different levels on basis on individual grades, often leading to unproductive competitiveness.
Learning how to work well with the different personalities and characteristics of other children in the Montessori community is a significant life lesson with practical applications in the “real world” of high school, college and the professional workplace in the future.
Agents in their own education
Developing a love for lifelong learning
Unlike traditional methods, the Montessori way of education gives children choices and the liberty to work on concepts of their interest for as long as necessary to master the topics. While the Montessori trained guides work collaboratively with the children to make sure that they are mastering the basic academic skills at each level, they are encouraged to be curious and autonomous in their decision to work on their individual and group interests.
The children take ownership of their own learning. Every child maintains their work journal – an introduction to time management and self-assessment. They write an account of work and lessons they have engaged in throughout each day with the date and the time they began a work. This initiative-taking is an integral part of their learning experience and empowers them to take charge of their work and be more deeply engaged with the whole process.
Respecting every child's individual interest and pace
The fundamental belief in the Montessori philosophy is that every child is a very intelligent and highly capable being who can self-educate in a carefully prepared environment following his/her own interests and pace. This then calls for a tailor made approach to learning at each stage of the child's development.
In elementary environments too, each child’s response to a lesson is unique, and their follow up work reflects those individual differences. Their natural learning styles and preferences are respected and supported by the Montessori method. They are free to form or join a group to work with the concepts introduced in a lesson. Because the children are free to move around in the classroom and see what others are doing, it’s not uncommon for an idea to spread; children are stimulated not just by the guide’s lessons but by each other as well. Moreover, the Montessori trained guide individualizes instruction to keep each child optimally challenged.
Nurturing imagination and reason
Reasoning explorers of the abstract
Children have a natural curiosity and a strong internal desire to discover how this world works. They use the Elementary Montessori materials instead of textbooks and worksheets to understand the why and the how of things. In such a learning environment, children acquire a mindset of thinking about concepts and figuring them out, rather than memorizing words or processes on an adult’s commands. This helps them develop into independent thinkers.
Montessori guides ask the right questions rather than simply giving children the correct answers. They tell stories to inspire the children’s imagination and intrigue them to explore further on their own.
Trained Professionals as Guides
A true mentor and not a lecturer
The Elementary guide is in continuous dialogue with each child, offering honest reflections and soliciting discussions on personal work and progress. Each child is encouraged to ask himself: “How much can I do?” (Not, “How much do I have to do?”) And, “How well have I done it?” (Not, “Was it better than others?”). This approach helps develop a sense of personal responsibility that is not limited by constant comparison to others leading to intrinsic desire to learn. Later in life, this personal responsibility will help them make their greatest contribution of talent and wisdom in the 21st century. The guide deeply understands each child and plans lessons such that every child is optimally challenged.
The curriculum and the approach to education takes care of the child’s total needs, both physical and psychological as they enter a new period of development characterized by:
Transition from concrete thinking to abstract thinking.
Work that is enhanced by creativity and imagination.
Concern over what is fair, just, and empathetic.
The curriculum includes Language study, Mathematics, History, Geometry, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, Biology, Art and Music. All subjects journey from concrete to abstract learning, and the scope of learning is only limited by the child’s imagination. All concepts are delivered through a panoramic story, called the Great Story, providing general information in the area under study. Subsequently, after the narration of the Great Stories, concepts are discussed in detail via Key Lessons. The lessons are starting point of collaborative work and individual learning through child’s own activity. All this leads to meaningful learning and interest development as children decide their own work program for the day after the guide lays the foundation in different study areas.
In Elementary environment, all subjects are presented in an interconnected manner and human existence is seen in relation to other animate and inanimate matter from past and present. This approach was termed as Cosmic Education by Dr Montessori. Cosmic Education invites second plane children to see themselves as part of a whole.
The learning of the elementary becomes the foundation for the third phase of development, the adolescent age. After gaining in-depth knowledge in the Elementary program, the child has developed the love for learning and the skill to work in cooperation with others. The elementary child who is entering the new phase of adolescent life is prepared to understand the world out there and is confident to socialize with new adults and peers.
The great lesson on ‘Story of our Alphabet’ marks the entry point helping children to look into the history of language, how humans came to talk, read and write. Key lessons on Word Study contain use of suffixes, prefixes, classified suffixes and compound words. Lesson in Parts of Speech open children’s work in Article, Noun, Adjective, Verb and its types, Preposition, Adverb, Pronoun, Conjunction, Interjection. Later lessons in Sentence Analysis and Clause Analysis help the child to learn the nuances of written and spoken language, helping the child to become a creative and independent writer.
Second plane children discover the powers and energy of their ‘Mathematical Mind’. The Montessori mathematics curriculum is rich, and there are many paths that lead outward, many paths that converge. Lessons comprise of Decimal system presentation aiming at the number categories and families, multiplication and division with large numbers, Commutative Law and Distributive Law, Multiple and Factors, Divisibility, Common Fractions, Decimal Fractions, Squares & Cubes of Numbers, Squaring and Cubing, Square Root and Cube Root, Powers of Numbers, Non-Decimal Bases, Ratio & Proportion, Negative Numbers, Introduction to Algebra and Word Problems, Measurement.
Geometry is a key area in Montessori from the time the child enters the primary environment. Arithmetic, Geometry, and Algebra form the three legs of the mathematics tripod. Three pillars upon which the area of Mathematics is built, geometry informs arithmetic. Topics covered under Geometry range from understanding shapes and their parts, lines, Angles, Polygons, Congruency –Similarity- equivalence, Area and Volume. Geometry also leads to art through work like tessellation.
History, geography and basic political science is presented through timelines and charts. History is aimed towards making children become aware of age of earth, time of humanity on earth, fundamental needs of humans, forms of human migration, asking pertinent questions in human history, and detailed study of major civilisations that have emerged in history starting from the Sumerians to the present ones. Lessons in topic of time, understanding concept of BCE and AD are also presented.
Geography lessons present the child with the notion of everything related to ‘life and physical reality’. The study of Geography encompasses fields of Astronomy, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and geology. Geography engages the reasoning mind of the second plane child, allowing them the tools to learn as much as they like about the world and the universe we live in. The first Great Story about the Universe is presented to the children, opens the child’s mind to how the universe and our planets came into existence. A study in ‘composition of the earth’ introduces the child to Geology, Physics, and Meteorology. Relation between the Sun and the Earth help to understand concept of day and night, seasons, time zones, flora and fauna in different parts of the world.
Ideas across fields of Chemistry, physics, geology intersect and cross over as the child is allowed the opportunity to see how all fields of learning are connected.
A stepping off point into the study of Chemistry is through lessons on different ways of combining the states of Matter. By means of experiments and charts, children grasp how different elements work. This work builds future concept of how air and water work in the context of various earthly phenomena. Basic principles that govern the functioning of universe are introduced through experiential demonstrations and experiments on Attraction & Gravity. Children take a close look at the spread of vegetation across the planet and how life and humans are supported on the planet.History of life forms and evolution on our planet unfold chapters in biology and how the ecosystem on earth works.
FINE ARTs AND MUSIC
Formal learning in Art and Music starts in the primary environment itself. Different types of art are explored - drawing, painting, threads, sculptures, collage and mosaics along with different art media such as colour pencils, water colours, clay, embroidery threads, pastel colours, calligraphy pens etc. Art history and Art appreciation lessons are also presented to study art.
In primary environment, music is initially used to train the body movements of the children. Later in the elementary environment, children can learn to sing on pitch and carry a tune, and even, with the advanced lessons on the Montessori Bells, learn to read and write music.
Apart from academic learning and knowledge building, children will also be introduced to different skills as a part of their regular curriculum such as pottery, clay modelling, painting, drama, weaving and knitting, embroidery, music, crafting, dance, puppetry, calligraphy, sports and physical education, farm education and sustainability, gardening, baking, cooking, yoga and Foreign languages (French or German). The school will also involve the parent community in sharing their skills and talents with the children providing them with a range of rich cultural experiences.
Directress, Elementary Environment (6-12)
Shalini is a graduate from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and holds postgraduate degrees from Delhi School of Economics and University of London. She got her AMI diploma in Montessori Primary education (3-6) from Sir Ratan Tata Institute, Mumbai and AMI diploma in Montessori Elementary Education (6-12) from MTRT, Hyderabad.
She is the lead directress for elementary environment and as the overall academic program manager, she wears many hats to ensure smooth functioning of our learning environments across all age groups.
She has worked for a few schools in Delhi previously. She helped establish the primary environment for a new Montessori school in Thailand and worked there for 2 years prior to returning back to India and joining Sketches Team.
A mother of a daughter, Shalini is deeply invested in the Montessori philosophy and method of education and this is not just a profession for her but her chosen way of life.