Montessori School of Columbia Upper Elementary Program
Students in grades 4-6 have reached an exciting time in their lives—they are making the leap to abstract thinking and they ready for large, challenging research projects. As a result, the upper elementary classroom buzzes with the enthusiasm of students making new discoveries and producing works of remarkable sophistication.
Research confirms what Dr. Montessori found to be true—at about the age of 9, students are ready to move from concrete to abstract concepts. The Montessori curriculum reflects this truth. In math, students continue to work with a remarkable set of math materials that help them to understand such complex concepts as decimal multiplication and division, fraction multiplication and division, square root, algebra, and geometry. The materials and guided instruction allow each student to be a little Euclid or a little Pythagoras, arriving at the same truths as the great mathematicians of history. The students move toward abstraction and ownership of a mathematical understanding of the world.
In science, upper elementary students study big ideas—the birth of the universe and the laws that govern it, the formation of stars, the generation of the elements, atoms, and molecules. They study zoology, botany, plate tectonics, chemistry, and physics. They conduct experiments; dissect such varied specimens as frogs, squids, and flowers; and record research in individualized science books.
In history, students create their own timelines for the ancient world, U.S. history, and South Carolina history. The elementary years are particularly ripe for the study of geography, and students make atlases of the world as they learn about the countries, mountains, deserts, forests, and waterways of the world.
To round out the rich academics of the morning work cycle, upper elementary students take classes in Latin, Spanish, art, and music in the afternoons.
“Going out” is the Montessori term for taking field trips into the real world, extending the classroom beyond the physical boundary of its four walls. Going out is an essential part of an authentic Montessori program.
The upper elementary class takes between 10 and 19 field trips each year, all of which relate to the curriculum. Examples include sailing on the Spirit of South Carolina, a tai chi class, a walk through Peachtree Rock Preserve, or an overnight trip to Barrier Island Environmental Education Center.