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Where construction of the social child occurs through the work of

the HANDS and MINDS within the Universe  


The curriculum of the Montessori elementary class consists of an adventure sure to excite and amaze any child. Who wouldn’t want to take a journey back in time to the origin of the universe to explore how it all began and then to examine first-hand how life began on earth? These and many other wonders are available to children every day at St. Catherine’s Montessori School through a process called Cosmic Education. Before we speak more of this method, we will describe the child of the second plane of development.

Interdisciplinary, Self-directed learning 

As children move from the first plane of development to the second plane at around six years of age, they begin to develop a number of unique characteristics. During this phase, the child becomes more social and assertive, and bonds with his peers. At this time, the reasoning mind develops, and the children spend much time exploring the why of things. They enjoy deepening and broadening their understanding of concepts through group work, listening to stories which help to put the drama of creation into the child’s grasp, and using their imagination to better grasp the complexity of the universe. The conscience begins to develop, and the child is very concerned with the fairness of things. These characteristics are taken into account as the child moves through the elementary classes.

The Montessori elementary curriculum was designed by Dr. Maria Montessori to give the child between the ages of six and twelve the opportunity to gain an understanding of how the universe came into being and the place of the human being in that great drama. This is begun through the presentation of five “great stories” by the guide. These stories include the origin of the universe, the coming of life on earth, the coming of human beings, the story of oral and written communication, and the story of numbers. These stories are a spring-board from which the child begins to explore and appreciate how interesting and exciting learning can be. The Montessori curriculum does not present isolated subjects. Rather, the child is presented with the whole, from which the parts emerge in a natural fashion. The stories are then referred to again and again as the child gains more and more knowledge. The curriculum of Cosmic Education gives the child a clear picture of what has gone before, how the earth came to be, the preparation of the earth with plants and animals for the coming of human beings, and the many inventions and discoveries which human beings have made. This understanding leads the child to an appreciation of the gifts we have received from all who came before.

Social Learning

The elementary curriculum provides the child with materials for assistance in understanding abstract concepts. The child moves through the curriculum at a pace that ensures success and confidence. There are work choices that follow presentations which appeal to all learning styles. Group work is very important in the elementary classroom. Children might form small groups to create time lines and charts or to work out a math problem. There is a lively buzz as the children confer and refine their work. Many different kinds of activities take place at the same time as the child is free to choose his or her work. This freedom is tempered with responsibility in that the child is given more freedom as he or she develops self-discipline and an awareness of others’ needs.

The elementary is divided into a lower elementary, usually six to nine year olds, and an upper elementary, nine to twelve year olds. Work in the lower elementary is more concrete with more reliance on Montessori materials. The students in the upper elementary class further refine their understanding of concepts and do more work on paper as well as more elaborate research projects requiring abstraction and finely-honed collaboration abilities. The Montessori materials are again used, but now as tools for advanced work in different subject areas such as algebra or solid geometry.

Learning in the Community

As the child explores different areas of the curriculum, it becomes important to take advantage of opportunities to move outside the classroom to gain more information. These excursions into the larger environment are known as “going out”. These experiences are initiated by the children and may include many destinations, such as a trip to a local library for more reference materials or a trip to the arboretum to learn more about the plants in the local area.

The Montessori elementary classroom is designed as an aid to the development of the whole human being. Facts are not presented in a random fashion to be learned and forgotten after the test. Children are given an image of the wonder and drama of how we have come to this place and time and the opportunity to develop a sense of gratitude to all who have come before. As the child is exposed to the unfolding of the universe, he or she is free to exercise his or her potential, and eventually to become a confident, knowledgeable citizen of the world.