With the guidance of our knowledgeable teachers and through interacting with Montessori materials children learn to care for themselves, others, and the environment while developing fine and gross motor abilities, social skills and emotional awareness. Children learn the foundations of academic knowledge such as literacy, math, science and cultural studies with excitement, comfort and joy. Similarly, principles of creative expression are presented in a way that the children are free to challenge and express themselves while exploring fine arts, music, dance, drama, yoga, etc. We believe that the arts and creative expression are equally important as academic understanding, therefore our curriculum is presented with this balance in mind.
- How can we convey meaning to others through the arts?
- Through what artistic means can we express ourselves?
- How can the arts help us get to know ourselves better?
Children can explore music, movement, dance and drama throughout the school year. This may include introduction to different artistic media, for example: charcoal, collage, oil pastels, watercolor, clay, etc., dancing to different rhythms and tempos, or acting out scenarios during dramatic play. Stress-relieving yoga and breathing are modeled and practiced. Gross and fine motor skills and physical and spatial awareness are honed in on through this type of play. Making, Tinkering and Engineering is incorporated to help children learn how to use everyday materials as tools to build their ideas.
- How can children gain a sense of confidence and independence?
- What everyday life skills do we need to be successful?
In the practical life area of the classroom children work with a variety of real life materials that help develop independence, concentration, order and coordination. Many of the works found in this area are based on items and scenarios that are familiar to the child and commonly found in everyday life. By using works that use zippering, buttoning, tying, pouring, scooping, threading, tweezing, cleaning, gardening, cutting with scissors, gluing, mopping, sponging, sewing, etc, children learn to care for themselves, others, and their environment.
- How do we receive input from our environment?
- What do we learn through the use of our senses?
Dr. Montessori referred to our senses as the “doorway to the mind.” In this section of the classroom, children exercise careful attention to distinguish between nuanced differences of color, texture, sound, temperature, length, weight, taste, smell, and so on. They order, compare and classify items and in doing so, they exercise and refine the growth of their developing organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin) all while exploring foundations of mathematical knowledge.
- How does the natural world work?
- How are living and nonliving things classified?
Cosmic studies focus on the big picture first, learning about our solar system, and then dive deeper into finding out more about our beautiful Earth. Children are lead to learn about the air, land, and water on the earth, and begin to study many of the things we find on the Earth, both living and nonliving. Our science curriculum guides the process of studying our physical world and organizing that information by identifying, classifying, sorting and categorizing material. Children enjoy experiences with nature through gardening, nature walks, and natural materials that are brought into the classroom.
- Who are some important people from our past?
- What is the world like in other parts of our world?
Children learn about significant people who have come before us and the contributions they have made to the world. Time is introduced through calendars, clocks, and timelines. Puzzle maps and landforms become a challenging way to discover geography. Through this curricular area, children develop a sense of time and place and become aware of and interested in the wider world beyond our community. Geography and history act as a gateway into deeper cultural studies.
- What is life like in other parts of our world?
- What are some similarities and differences between cultures around the world?
Children are exposed to world culture through art, music, books, and playful use of foreign language. Cultural studies are very cross-curricular and blend together learning about geography, peace and community, history, the arts, language, etc. This curriculum is directly tied in with the core principle of promoting peace through understanding. When children learn about and celebrate people who are different from themselves, they gain an understanding and respect and appreciation for cultures around the world. See also our peace curriculum.
- What are the elements of a harmonious community?
- Why is it important to respect and care for others?
- How do our similarities and differences make us unique and special?
Peace education is the foundation of Montessori education because it affects all other aspects of our classroom community and ultimately affects how children will interact with the world at large. Children are first taught to care for their own inner peace, through awareness of body, mind, emotions, and “spirit” or an inner calmness, to cultivate and preserve peace within. An example of this would be when children “make silence” together during each morning circle, taking time to calm themselves and connect to their breath. This inner awareness brings harmony to the interrelationship they have with the community at large. Learning about and celebrating cultures found in our classroom community and around the world brings is a way we celebrate the diverse world we live in. Compassionate communication skills and grace and courtesy lessons further reinforce the integration of peace both within the child and in their relationship to others and the world. “Education is the best weapon for Peace.” – Maria Montessori
- Why are shapes important?
- How and why are numbers used?
As early as our toddler program, children are exposed to fundamental math concepts that are introduced in a concrete way. This understanding becomes a foundation of understanding kids bring with them to the primary classroom where concrete examples of math transition into abstract concepts (using numbers as symbols to represent a quantity). The math curriculum includes a variety of materials that encourage an understanding of the foundations of arithmetic, geometry and algebra.
- What are the building blocks of language?
- How are words formed?
- How can we communicate with one another through language?
At Fishtown Montessori, children are exposed to the foundations of reading, writing, speaking, and listening and are given opportunities to explore these essential skills. These experiences may look like a child tracing sandpaper letters while speaking the sound that letter makes, getting captivated by the classroom library, joyfully matching figurines whose names rhyme or have the same beginning or ending sounds. It can look like a young learner writing a caption to a drawing of their family or reading a book to their teacher or classmate. While there is a specific area of the classroom dedicated to language, rich literacy experiences can also be observed taking place in science, math, geography, foreign language, etc.
In a Montessori classroom, children learn by interacting with the materials in the classroom environment. These materials were designed by Dr. Maria Montessori who spent a lifetime observing children, watching them learn, and designing “work” based on her observations. Montessori determined that children learn from simple to complex, and from concrete to abstract. Teachers prepare the classroom to present materials on the shelves that range from simple and concrete, to complex and abstract. Because of this, our Montessori classroom offers individualized learning for children of varying development simultaneously.
It should be noted that when we refer to “work” in the Montessori world, we are really talking about the materials displayed on shelves that are available to the children to engage with. Is washing a baby doll in a basin hard work to a toddler? No! It’s an enjoyable and engaging activity that results in feelings of accomplishment and pride. Is drawing “rainbow letters” a tough task for a three or four year old? No! It’s a personal challenge in fine motor skills and a creative exploration into the foundations of our language. Children don’t “do math” to please their teacher, they do it because they have a natural motivation to solve problems and they find pleasure in doing so. Children engage with materials in a playful way and establish positive feelings about learning at school.