Each classroom has a Montessori-certified teacher and an assistant or co-teacher.
The Preprimary program at MSNV recognizes and nurtures the unique stages of development in the 2- to 3-year-old child. Our objective is to provide an environment that is rich in cognitive, social, motor and language opportunities especially selected for children of this age.
The Preprimary classroom is designed and maintained to afford the child the greatest opportunity for safe, independent exploration and mobility. It is attractive, clean and orderly and is furnished with child-sized furniture and developmentally appropriate materials. The Preprimary class offers the youngest members of our MSNV community a positive introduction to the world of school and the wonders of Montessori education.
The MSNV Primary program for children ages 3-6, stresses the importance of providing a secure environment within which the child can adapt easily to new social interactions not only with other children but also with adults. Within this secure environment, children are eager to learn and explore as independently as possible. MSNV emphasizes two areas of learning for the younger Primary children: “sensorial” activities which promote awareness and development of the senses and “practical life” activities through which the children learn about themselves, their world and others.
As the children become more self-assured, more confident of their abilities and surroundings, the sensorial lessons are applied to hands-on learning of mathematical and language concepts. Through the use of Montessori materials children can see and feel, for example, what “four” or even “nothing” is. A child’s understanding of the world is enriched by work in science and geography and the beginnings of reading come naturally, at each child’s individual pace.
Independent work and social interaction become well developed in our older Primary children. Their minds are more rational and less instinctive than at an earlier age and they not only need but also demand more intellectual stimulation. Their energy is seemingly endless; they are increasingly self-directed and self-disciplined, eager for the challenge and the opportunity to shape their social and physical surroundings. As they move from concrete learning to more abstract levels of thinking, more advanced materials are provided. The atmosphere fosters exploration and creativity while remaining warm and supportive.
In the Elementary program at MSNV, children ages 6-9 continue to develop their potential, learn more about their world and acquire new skills, all extended upon what they’ve learned in the Primary class. Maria Montessori believed that children absorb knowledge early and have the ability to teach themselves. For the Elementary child, Dr. Montessori wrote, “the power of imagination is what educates.” Students are introduced to the Cosmic Curriculum, an integrated and differentiated approach to human relations through language, mathematics, botany and zoology, history and geography, art and music. Serving as the basis for this curriculum are five “Great Lessons” which are presented as impressionistic stories. These stories dramatize the known truths of the universe and the progression of human civilization and knowledge. They are followed by detailed studies of the key elements of each story, all designed to appeal to the child’s imagination.
In the Lower Elementary classroom, children have the unique ability to learn academic subjects with hands on materials. For example, children are not forced to memorize long division, they work with scientifically engineered manipulatives until they reach their own understanding of the concept. The direct aim of the Montessori materials is to deepen the understanding of fundamental concepts. The indirect aim is to foster the love of learning. Children want to come to school every day and learn with their friends. The materials also allow children to work on concepts well above grade level, such as dynamic multiplication in first grade.
A final tenet of the Lower Elementary Montessori classroom is the environment. The structure of the classroom is such that it encompasses a 3 year age span. This allows older children to give lessons to younger children. Directly this reinforces the concept for the older child and indirectly serves to bolster confidence. Older children also provide positive role modeling for younger children. In a mixed age classroom younger children naturally want to live up to the expectations of older children, both emotionally and academically. Behavior problems are few and far between because children are engrossed in hands on materials and exciting lessons. Children are also responsible for the care of their environment. By the time a Montessori child is of middle school age, they have a strong desire to do “real work” with their hands, such as making and selling a product, or helping in the community. This groundwork for this plane of development is laid in the elementary classroom where their work includes caring for plants and animals, cleaning up after themselves and others and respect for handmade materials.
The Montessori Upper Elementary program at MSNV helps students become self-confident, lifelong learners who have the ability to self-motivate, self-regulate, work with others and solve conflicts peacefully. MSNV graduates are excited about learning, have a sophisticated understanding of themselves as human beings and as students and are ready to take on the world!
The Upper Elementary curriculum is designed to be responsive to the social, emotional and academic needs of students 9-12 years old or in grades 4-6. It blends Montessori materials and methods with national and state curriculum standards. With this curriculum the classroom becomes a learning laboratory where students discover, explore and expand their knowledge of academic subjects and self-identified topics of major interest. Subject matter is connected. This integration, called Cosmic Education, allows students to see the big picture and discover connections between information. Small group and cooperative learning alternate with independent work time, teaching students how to work both individually and in groups.
Community meetings provide a forum for students to be active participants in the decision-making and problem-solving processes in the classroom environment. Time management skills and a sense of accountability are fostered as students learn how to maintain a balance between work and socialization. Students are held to high expectations and are taught to hold themselves up to those standards as well. They emerge as self-motivated and independent learners, equipped with sound work habits.
Writing skills are emphasized across the curriculum, from English to mathematics. Science involves hands-on experiments and encourages observation and critical thinking skills.
Mathematical concepts are taught with hands-on materials that allow students to practice high-level math skills, such as algebraic concepts, while still in the Upper Elementary program. Students in the Upper Elementary program move from the concrete to the abstract and eventually no longer need materials. Cultural areas of study include history, botany, zoology and physical and political geography. As much as possible, cultural lessons employ real life examples or opportunities for students to learn – be it monitoring the watershed health of the nearby creek or cooking over an open fire to learn more about the Colonial Period.
MSNV’s Upper Elementary program emphasizes giving back to the local and global community. For example, the Upper Elementary class organized a meal for Bailey’s Crossroad Community Shelter. We invited a nearby Montessori Upper Elementary class to help prepare and serve the meal. After serving the patrons of the homeless shelter, students sat in the dining area to enjoy their home cooked meal. Students also organize fundraising events that benefit their classroom, school and greater community. In addition, students have the opportunity to participate in an overnight camping trip, annual school play and weekly trips to the local Recreational Center for PE.
Throughout the year students plan, coordinate and execute Going-Out Events-mini-field trips related to their personal interest research projects. These trips, a unique feature of Montessori elementary education, encourage students to go outside of the classroom to access and explore information and resources. Going-Outs bolster students’ self- motivation to investigate areas of high interest. These experiences give students the real-life skills, tools and self-confidence necessary to make use of community resources beyond the four walls of the classroom.