Great River School provides Montessori learning environments for 124 children in two Lower Elementary classrooms (for children ages 6-90 and two Upper Elementary classrooms (for children ages 9-12). Beginning in 2012, we welcomed these younger children and their families to GRS giving us the opportunity to serve children from 1st grade through 12th grade. Guided by the principles of Montessori education that inform our program, our learning environment inspires love of work, encourages initiative, independence and sociability. We see these ideals embodied in our program.
Characteristics of an elementary child
- possess an expansive intellect, a powerful imagination and an ever-increasing ability to reason abstractly.
- compelled to learn about everything and to follow their interests intensely.
- sensitive to culture and ethics and have a growing sense of justice, morality and compassion.
- becoming part of an ever-widening social network and beginning to consider their place in that society and the contribution they might make to it.
Needs of an elementary child met are met by a Montessori program by allowing them to:
- engage imagination, sentiment and intellect through a holistic, integrated curriculum
- participate in choosing work and work partners
- be actively engaged in chosen work
- have extended and uninterrupted work time to do encompassing work inspired by personal interests
- build and practice skills necessary to support their work
- work in collaboration with others
- build and practice skills necessary to create positive relationships with others and to support community
- practice skills necessary to participate in a variety of social experiences
A cosmic perspective is the heart of an elementary class. Cosmic stories depict the critically important development in the creation of the world, the coming of life and the growth of human civilization. The stories provide endless possibilities for exploration and discovery. Students are inspired and guided to pursue interests and to connect and organize facts in relationship to one another.
The Prepared Environment
The elementary prepared environment is one of possibility. Books, materials and an atmosphere of excited learning support a child’s need to be an active participant in his or her chosen work and the development of skills. Responsible work choices are made in collaboration with the teacher/guide.
Role of the Adult
Trust and belief in the innate power of every child is the underlying principle in the relationship between teacher /guide and student. It is the trusted and trusting teacher/guide, who through observation and conversation encourages and supports a child’s interest and helps the child make appropriate work choices to practice skills needed and expected. The teacher is in constant communication with children as they take a major role in their work choices and the schedule of their day.
The Elementary Community
The work of building community is vital to an elementary environment. Children have continual opportunities to practice being respectful to one another, to cooperate in many tasks that keep a community functioning well and to experience the discussions necessary to resolve social problems with others in a fair and honest way. Children in community celebrate the successes and unique gifts of others and offer support and guidance to those who, at times, may need extra support. There is a growing understanding that each individual is a vital and integral part of a community whose members support one another and the work they do together.
Mixed aged classrooms are traditionally found in Montessori schools, allowing a three-year age span in one classroom. Younger children benefit from having older peers as role models and helpmates. Children, in collaboration with the teacher, progress at their own pace. A variety of lessons and materials are designed to engage the interests of the children, to aid their independence, and to build skills.
At Great River School, we have two Lower Elementary classrooms (grades 1, 2 and 3 in the same room) and two Upper Elementary classrooms (grades 4, 5 and 6 in the same room). Each classroom has one teacher and one assistant. Children must be 6 by September 1 to enter the first grade.
Experiential Learning provides opportunities outside the classroom for students to make discoveries for themselves and learn by doing. GRS secondary school students spend part of the academic year away from campus on Key Experiences that shape their learning during the rest of the year. Younger students also have Key Experiences that take them into the wider world at an age appropriate level. Lower Elementary students have day long field trips to introduce them to the concept of going out. Upper Elementary students have a 4-day experience at an environmental learning center. These experiences will be designed to give them opportunities to experience and understand their role in their community, culture and natural world.