Integrated, Interconnected, and Interested
Marin Montessori School's Elementary classrooms allow children to respond to lessons eagerly - and often dramatically - when they are able to see and explore connections between everything they are actively learning. Their engagement is reflective of how the world, in general, operates. The best thinkers - CEOs, artists, activists, peace-brokers - are all good at what they do because they see how things are interconnected and interdependent. By seeing the whole, children are better able to understand their role - how they fit in and what their contribution can be.
At the beginning of every year, Marin Montessori School's teachers ignite curiosity in the children by presenting the "Five Great Lessons." Each of these lessons is the leaping-off point to key academic areas that must be mastered in the elementary setting. The stories are told with drama, often acted out and supplemented with demonstrations. The essential lessons excite the children and raise more questions than answers. The stories are the catalysts that trigger curiosity and enthusiasm for exciting and important intellectual topics. The result is that children are eager to learn - even topics that might not have personally interested them in earlier studies. The Five Great Lessons vary in detail, complexity and depth for the Upper Elementary and the Lower Elementary presentations.
A critical aspect of the Great Lessons presentations is the unique ability for the story to provide a meaningful context for all of the key lessons that follow - as well as an opportunity to show interrelationships between topics and ideas. Context-setting enables young people to more rapidly understand, categorize, and carry out exercises on the topic materials as they embark on what is arguably one of the most dynamic cognitive acquisition periods in their development as human beings. Key lessons also vary in depth, complexity and type between the Upper and Lower Elementary classrooms.
Imagination, Reason And Moral Character
For example, in looking at past civilizations young adults explore the factors that make some civilizations succeed and others fail. Working in groups, children pursue a variety of means to bring discussions to life (building timelines, creating a language system, modeling architecture, etc.). Heroes and heroines play significant roles in these discussions. Biographies illustrate the moral decisions that people in history were faced with, and the consequences and results of those moral decisions. Children have models by which to learn about real life and to make their own positive, moral decisions in context, both in and out of the classroom.
Once Key Lessons are imparted to a group of children the group, and the individuals within the group, are charged with finding a way to explore and master the lesson. The group must come up with a concept, determine how to execute the idea, determine how each member will contribute, and successfully complete the idea - and then figure out how to present and teach the idea to other groups. We call these demonstrations of understanding "Big Works."
This approach has several outcomes: first, the children universally come up with original ideas bigger and better than the teacher could have imagined because they are unconstrained. Second, the children learn, in real time, the skills necessary to communicate, work together, manage time, and create collaboratively. Finally, these children gain a deep understanding of the lessons they are pursuing because they are deeply interested in achieving a successful expression of their idea.
Agents Of Change
Children at the Elementary level learn that everything we have in this world stems from the work - intellectual or manual - of some other human being, and that we experience both the positive and negative consequences resulting from the work done before us. This leads to a fundamental question for each young person: What and how will I contribute?
But it is not enough for the question merely to be asked. At Marin Montessori School, we encourage each child to understand and realize the power they have to make a difference for the better. They are challenged to determine individually how they can become a life-long "agents of change" in ways that benefit others. Teachers appeal to their children to funnel their energies into projects where they can see the positive impact that they can make in the world.
Positive, Creative, Morally Invested People
Marin Montessori School strives to help young people build the skills, acquire the knowledge, and develop a moral compass that will serve them as adults who are passionate about life - and passionate about doing things in life that will make a difference to us all. Whether through the invention of new technologies, the creation of breathtaking art, the brokering of peace among warring nations, or simply by making a day-to-day difference in the life of another person, Marin Montessori School will have provided its children with the tools and incited their passions, enabling them to make important things happen.
One Great Story
One of the Great Lessons is The Coming of the Universe. This story provides context and shows relationships between states of matter, physical sciences, earth sciences, astronomy and more. Key lessons in each of these areas follow over the course of the year. With the telling of the story the children realize their own picture of how all these lessons fit together. This enables them to more rapidly master and apply each concept to the next.
Other stories provide context for critical (and required) areas of study: from topics like math (multiplication, division, squaring, cubing, etc.) and language (parts of speech, sentence structure, creative writing, etc.) to science (natural and physical), art and music, and more.