At Discovery Garden the Elementary consists of children ages 6 – 11 years old or the equivalent of 1st-5th grade.
Elementary age children have very distinct characteristics that are different than those of the primary children. At this age children start exploring outside the family and classroom. In a few words the world becomes their classroom. Their interest is in the culture that they live in. Even physically these children exhibit significant changes. By age 6 children start losing their baby teeth and they lose their baby belly. These are simple signs that they are transitioning to what Maria Montessori called the “second plane of development.”
The Montessori curriculum in the Lower Elementary consists of areas of study that are studied interconnected with each other. This is what Maria Montessori called the “Cosmic Education”. She believed that there were two things necessary for raising peaceful human beings: an awareness of interdependence and the sense of gratitude that comes from that awareness. By providing a holistic, therefore Cosmic education, children receiving these lessons learn to be grateful to previous generations so that they may benefit from their knowledge. Children study areas such as History, Botany, Geography, Zoology, Biology, Geometry, Math and Languages and figure out their connections. A common example will be the study of History and its connection to Geography and then to Botany and Zoology. These areas will be discussed deeper in the next paragraphs.
Elementary aged children are fascinated with the universe and all of its mysteries. There are several key, cultural lessons which are meant to inspire children to ask questions and to make connections. Maria Montessori called these the “Great Lessons.” The first Great Lesson is the formation of the universe which also includes the formation of our solar system and the Earth. This Great Lesson branches into countless areas of study and experiments on topics such as; the layers of the earth, the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, astronomy, chemistry, and much more. Children connect their knowledge of the universe with lessons on geographic features and on the maps of the world which cover all of the continents and their countries as well as the U.S. states.
The historical Great Lesson on the Timeline of Life introduces children to the story of life on Earth and how it has changed and evolved over time. This lesson connects to the children’s further study of the plant and animal kingdoms. After the Timeline of Life, children study the Coming of Humans which demonstrates man’s journey on a timeline from early humans to modern day humans and the formation of language, the usage of tools, fire, math, art, and so forth. The lesson shows how humans are different from other mammals because of our hands, our minds, and our ability to love. This lesson, combined with a lesson on the Needs of Man, brings meaning and connection to the study of cultures, language, numbers, and geography.
The Great Lessons which prepare children for a more detailed study of zoology and botany. Through their work with the zoology materials, the children discover the classification of the animal kingdom and their lineages as well as the internal and external parts of vertebrates and invertebrates. In botany, children study nomenclature of the parts of plants, classification of plants, and more detailed study on topics such as the function of plants, the needs of plants, the carbon cycle, and the nitrogen cycle.
Language is connected to the history curriculum as children study the history of language and how cultures have influenced each other over time as they have branched into different languages. The language curriculum helps children to develop an appreciation of the written and spoken language and to discover the different parts of speech, to analyze sentence structure, and to increase their vocabulary, comprehension, word study, and writing skills. Each of the parts of speech is introduced to children with an interesting story, game, or interactive lesson and they are represented by meaningful symbols that help the children to increase their understanding of grammar.
Math and Geometry
Children in the elementary years are moving toward abstraction and the elementary materials allow them to do that at their own pace. They begin performing operations with concrete materials which help to enforce their understanding of place value and they gradually progress to more abstract materials over time. Children can add, subtract, multiply, and divide independently with hands – on materials which allow them to discover answers for themselves and to visually see the meaning behind the problems.
In geometry, children study point, line, plane, angles, polygons, and circles. They are able to apply their knowledge with the materials which allow them to do work such as measuring the area of polygons and the size of angles and determining the relationship between angles and the relationship between lines. They learn to identify congruent, equivalent, and similar polygons. There are many geometry lessons which are told as stories and some that have historical references as well. Most of the work in geometry requires mathematical operations and helps them to apply what they have been learning in other areas of math.