Between the ages of 6 and 12, children experience the Second Plane of Development. At this age, children become much more social. They are passionate about justice and fairness, and they begin to utilize their imagination to expand their knowledge into what could be in addition to what is.
As with our Children’s House, classrooms in Elementary are designed for three-year groupings, with Lower Elementary classrooms designed for children between the ages of 6 and 9 and Upper Elementary classrooms designed for children between ages 9 and 12.
Our students have the advantage of working in the same classroom for three full years, with the same teacher and peer group. In an environment of continuity, this unique feature of the Montessori curriculum promotes creativity, builds self-esteem, and allows the development of leadership skills as the older children naturally become mentors for their younger classmates. With a heightened sense of curiosity, a well-developed ability to solve problems, and a greater sensitivity to the environment, the child begins, in earnest, to learn the traditional disciplines of mathematics, literature, and science.
It is at this stage, too, that the child begins to expand his cultural boundaries through active participation in the areas of art, music, creative dramatics, and foreign languages. In these years, the child becomes accustomed to success and simply treats the obstacles that he encounters as new challenges to overcome.
Our teachers, known as “guides”, offer lessons to students as well as follow-up work. As a student grows and matures, she may choose follow-up work from several choices or even design her own follow-up work. Because they are able to design their own work, Stepping Stones students become very self-aware, understanding their own strengths and leveraging them for success. Whether a student favors three-dimensional work, intricate mathematical graphs, or creative story-telling, each student’s unique learning shines through their work as they master traditional academics.
In order to allow students the opportunity to take advantage of their extended ability to concentrate as well as their curiosity, our classrooms carefully protect three-hour work cycles, avoiding interruptions, bells, or large group transitions. Instead, students can flow between their own academic work projects, learning to balance friendships and social needs as they do so. Older students plan and prepare for “going outs”, where they go out into the community to learn about topics they are researching. Once they reach the limits of classroom resources, these trips are opportunities for students to interact with experts in our community—developing stronger research skills, planning skills, and collaborative learning skills. Past going outs have included interviews with business professionals, university professors, librarians, museum curators, artists, and hobbyists.
Elementary classrooms are communities where students are afforded time to resolve peer-conflict and learn to participate meaningfully in a group setting. Students share responsibility for the upkeep of classrooms, care of animals and plants, and accountability to one another.
After completing the elementary level, our students are prepared to tackle the more rigorous work of our Adolescent Community at River Ridge Farm.