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Montessori Overview

As a North Carolina Public School, our curriculum is the North Carolina Standard Course of Study (NCSCOS). We deliver a full Montessori curriculum using Montessori pedagogy and then add any additional curriculum elements prescribed by the NCSCOS. Italian pediatrician Maria Montessori developed the child-centered Montessori educational movement at the beginning of the twentieth century. Dr. Montessori found that children’s innate drive to acquire and develop knowledge can best be cultivated by providing children with tools and manipulative materials for learning. The tools are tailored to particular stages of development which occur naturally in children around the world. Therefore, in a Montessori classroom, the teacher serves as guide, presenting a variety of materials and activities to students. As a professional educator, the teacher is also a student of the nature of children. The Montessori “guide” provides activities appropriate to children’s needs, guiding students toward mastery of themselves and their environment. The Montessori trained teacher uses a variety of tools to assess the progress of each individual child.

Children direct their own work by touching, manipulating, and experimenting with materials that are self-teaching and self-correcting. They develop physically, intellectually and socially. In the classroom, children are free to work independently or with others, to move about, to speak, to help others, and to seek help from adults or classmates. Dr. Montessori developed specific “Lessons of Grace and Courtesy,” which appeal to children’s interests in relationships and help them develop valuable social skills.

 

How Do I Know If Montessori Is Right For My Child?

  • Am I as a parent ready to support a teacher and my child in a non-traditional approach to learning?
  • Is my child an independent worker?
  • Am I willing to be active in my child’s education?
  • Is my child able to accept responsibility?
  • Does my child follow directions?
  • Is my child able to focus on tasks for a period of time and not be preoccupied with things going on around him/her?
  • Am I ready for my child to form a life time bond with his/her teacher?
  • Am I as a parent ready for my child to become independent and responsible for his/her actions?
  • Am I willing to support classroom management practices that encourage freedom within limits*?

If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, your child may be a good candidate for a Montessori education delivery model. We encourage all families to observe at a variety of Montessori schools before determining which school is the most appropriate for the student and family.

*Freedom Within Limits
Montessori environments encourage children to move about freely, within reasonable limits of appropriate behavior. There are opportunities for activity in the classroom, and the student is encouraged to choose activity that meets his developmental needs. When he completes his work, he is puts it away as he found it for the next child to use. Through this process, the child develops a sense of personal responsibility. He is making decisions for himself and evaluating his progress. Students care for their environment, the materials, themselves, and their peers. This allows the child to prepare for a lifetime of meaningful independence, a high sense of responsibility and good global citizenship.

Primary (Children’s House) Curriculum

The classroom environment includes math, language, sensorial, practical life and cultural areas. The lessons experienced by the child build a solid foundation for future learning. This is especially important for young children through the age of 6, because they have what Dr. Montessori called the Absorbent Mind, through which they literally absorb knowledge from their environment. Therefore, everything in the Montessori classroom environment serves the purpose of laying a foundation for the child physically, intellectually and emotionally. There is a special emphasis on connecting the child with nature and things that are real in the world. At the 3-6 level, children have limited field trips. More common is bringing a visitor, expert, or experience into the classroom. When 3-6 children go on field trips, they do so as a whole class.

Dr. Montessori specified that the primary-aged child is in the sensitive period for connection with the world. Montessori primary classrooms are communities of children who are busily and happily engaged in purposeful, orderly and spontaneous activities:

Practical Life

Dr. Montessori found that children ages three to six years naturally direct their efforts to developing strength, and precision of body and mind. She created exercises of “Practical Life” such as washing, pouring, polishing, and folding, to give the children opportunities to focus themselves on worthwhile tasks while at the same time refining both coordination and concentration.

Sensorial

Sensorial exercises allow children to discover and internalize abstractions, such as dimension, color, sound, and shape.

Language

Children’s unconsciously absorbed language becomes conscious in the primary years. In the Montessori classroom, children work with carefully designed materials such as sandpaper and movable letters that enhance their conscious exploration of spoken and written language.

Math

The ingenious Montessori mathematical materials lead children to an understanding of the decimal system and arithmetic operations. Through mathematics, children’s abilities to perceive and express precise relationships are developed.

Freedom with Responsibility

As the children’s intellectual capacities, attention spans and physical abilities increase, concentration and independence deepen and grow. Exercises in language, mathematics and all disciplines of human endeavor help them build skills and ideas which will allow them freedom to explore the larger world and join in the greater work of society.

 

Elementary Curriculum

The elementary program is divided into two age groups. Lower Elementary includes students 6-9 years old. Upper Elementary hosts students 9-12 years old. The elementary child is entering a period of imagination, socialization and moral justice.

Dr. Montessori believed that, “The older child is oriented toward intellectual discovery and investigation.”  They want answers to the big questions who, what, when, why, how and where. Dr. Montessori’s plan for educating the elementary aged child was to give him a vision of the universe and raise a thinking child. She called this plan Cosmic Education.  Dr. Montessori wrote, “Cosmic education will allow the child to develop a kind of philosophy which teaches him the unity of the universe. This is the very thing to organize his intelligence and principles and give him better insight into this own task and place in the world.”

Cosmic education enables the child to discover the answers to his own questions. Through integrated study of science, history, the arts, literature and world cultures, students gain understanding and strengthen the basic skills of reading, writing, spelling and mathematics. The advanced elementary Montessori lessons allow students to explore more complex and abstract concepts. These lessons aid the children in their passage from concrete to abstract thinking.

As in the Primary level, both elementary learning environments are specially prepared to meet the developmental needs of the children. Children ready for the elementary classroom turn outward to the world around them, ready for new horizons of research and discovery. They are full of questions and are ready to be inspired by stories, lessons and materials to seek answers to their questions through reason and imagination. Their questions drive the work of the classroom, with each endeavor developing new skills and raising new questions.

Working in partnerships and teams, the children share struggles and successes and learn to support, respect, and depend upon one another. Together, they are capable of wonderfully complex tasks. Much of the work of the elementary class is accomplished through large projects which require cooperation and planning, and facilitate the integration of different subjects, as well as the development of deeper understanding.

The Lower Elementary student experiences real-world applications of lessons both in the classroom setting and on field trips. For Upper Elementary students, academic lessons are further enhanced by small-group, off-campus learning experiences called “going out.”

Going out is an integral part of the Montessori elementary experience. The world becomes the children’s classroom. A trip into the community can provide the information they need to complete a research project or provide the real life experience that truly demonstrates life skills. Going out involves a small group of children and field trips involve the whole class. Destinations include local museums, theaters, special agencies and environments to learn about the community in which they live.
Children in both Lower and Upper Elementary take class trips during the school year to educational sites as extensions of their learning experiences in the classrooms and to foster community building. These trips are an important part of the program and all students are expected to attend. Parents may be required to attend with their students to ensure safe and responsible behavior.

Middle Grades Curriculum

The Middle Grades integrated curriculum includes formal instruction in Language Arts, Mathematics, Physical Education and Healthy Living, Science, Social Sciences, Spanish, and Technology. Multiple teachers, all of whom are state certified in their curriculum area, work with the students. Casa’s Middle Grades curriculum was developed with the needs of the whole child in mind: intellectual, psychosocial/emotional, and physical needs are considered. Students at this age are searching for more responsibility, higher expectations, and challenging work that relates to the world as they see it. These needs are best met in an environment specifically designed to meet their social and emotional needs.

All this calls for a very specific structure that, while providing a definite framework, must also be extremely malleable. The curriculum is presented as a starting point from which students explore, create, and make connections. Key activities within the classroom support the continued journey of middle grades students from concrete to abstract thinkers. For example, class lessons and presentations stimulate critical thinking; writing and reading workshops provide crucial opportunities for the expression of self as well as the expression of new knowledge; and students explore their academic passions through independent and group projects.

Casa middle grades students participate in community apprenticeships, an extended living-on-the-land experience to help build a sense of place, on-site community service, and a micro-economy (student-run business). Field trips (both day and overnight) and special visitors support and enhance the core curriculum. While working within the framework of Montessori philosophy, our Middle Grades program is designed to bridge the gap from Montessori to traditional schools, and Casa students are well-prepared to enter a more traditional educational setting for high school.

As is the case for younger Casa students, Middle Grades students participate in the mandated state EOG tests, as well as the school-elected nationally-normed testing program (MAP).

Overnight Field Trips for Older Elementary and Middle Grades Students

Going on longer trips is a key component of Montessori academic and social experience in the third plane of development (ages 12-15).  At this stage of development, children’s goals are to further develop skills, to gain confidence, to confirm their own value, and to recognize the value of others. As maturity of spirit and mind develop, we see these children become adolescent women and men ready to contribute their good share to the broad world.

At the end of the sixth grade year, Casa students take a culminating trip to Washington D.C. This trip helps students experience the concepts they have been studying throughout Upper Elementary; it also serves as the first long trip students are asked to take without family members attending–an opportunity for students to increase their skills and sense of independence.

Middle Grades students continue taking trips with their classmates. These trips have a variety of goals, including:

  • enhancing leadership and team building skills, decision making, and communication and cooperation skills; and
  • providing a rich, curriculum-focused, first hand experience of concepts covered in the classroom setting.

Example of leadership and team building trips might include: Betsy Jeff Penn, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Examples of curriculum focused experiences might include: Colonial Williamsburg, Camp Don Lee, Luray Caverns, Museum of Natural History (NYC), Monticello, Smithsonian Museum, Gettysburg, Montessori Model United Nations (NYC), etc.

These longer trips all provide the much needed element of “bonding” as a community. The students live and work together for extended periods of time, which gives them the opportunity to forge strong working relationships with their peers while applying their community-learned skills in a real-life situation (practical life).

 

Fine Arts Enrichment

All students at Casa take part in weekly, in-class art and music activities. All students also benefit from our participation in the United Arts Council matching grant program, through which we host artists in residence, including authors, fine artists and musicians.

 

Community Service

Community service is an important part of Casa’s community life. All students participate in community service activities and events throughout the year to help them learn their places in our global community and how their talents and service can help themselves and others.

Every year Casa students, faculty members, and parents join in several community service projects. This Valentine’s Day, our families donated and delivered 750 pounds of food to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, at a time when food pantries historically run low on donations.

Additionally, our Middle Grades program donated food to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina at the winter holiday break in response to a plea from the Food Bank to help replenish its overtaxed resources during these challenging economic times.

Casa families and faculty members recycle year round through the Terracycle program. Our first shipment included 8 cartons of recycled items ranging from food to toiletries to used glue sticks and markers.

Casa students collect cardboard,  newspaper and used paper items from classrooms and offices on a weekly basis and recycle them through the county Feed the Bin program.

Upper Elementary and Middle Grades students also perform weekly community service in Lower Elementary and Children’s House classrooms, helping younger students with their reading and language arts activities. Students also volunteer weekly in the school’s Media Center helping younger students and shelving books.

 

Recess

We play outside every day it is not raining or below freezing temperatures. Please send your children to school in clothing appropriate for the current climate conditions. If students are too ill to fully participate in all aspects of the school day, including outside time, parents may either choose to keep the child at home that day, or they may come to school to be with the child while the class is outdoors. We staff our program with the correct number of adults needed to safely supervise an entire class during outside time. In order to preserve the adult to student ratio necessary for safe supervision for the entire class while children are at recess, it is not possible for a staff member to stay indoors with a child who is unable to play outside.

Please also review the medical information in the Parent Information Handbook for more specifics about when students must be kept home for medical reasons.