Students learn about their world through practical life exercises. For our Preprimary and Primary children, the mastery of everyday tasks (such as buttoning buttons, zipping zippers and snapping snaps) are essential for young hands to accomplish and important in building self confidence. These tasks also teach children to concentrate and extend their attention span. The practice of taking ordered and sequential steps to care for classroom materials, plants and animals, translates to math and language learning. For Elementary students, practical life exercises may also take the form of woodworking, designing costumes for a classroom performance or making arrangements for an outing. In all cases, students learn to care for themselves as well as others by understanding the importance of completing a task, cleaning up and returning the materials to the appropriate place, ready for the next person to use.
Children learn best when allowed to touch, feel, hold, smell, listen, see and taste; the sensorial materials are designed to refine these senses and illustrate their use as a child’s tools for exploring the world. Children experience the similarities and differences of size, weight, texture, color, sound and other properties as both concrete and abstract concepts.
A child’s command of vocabulary is stimulated in all classroom activities. Children are encouraged to participate during lessons, to ask and answer questions, tell stories, explain activities — all to help them organize their ideas. Once the sounds of the letter symbols are known, the child can begin to use them, first to construct words with the letters of the moveable alphabet (a hands-on material that engages several senses to help with language learning) and then to read. Elementary students explore various forms of literature through small-group discussion, They create compositions in a variety of fiction and nonfiction genres during Weekly Writing Workshops. Requisite daily reading is augmented by our extensive school library and occasional trips to the nearby George Mason Regional Library. Reading and writing skills are taught and interwoven throughout the program. Grammar, spelling, cursive and research skills are all part of the basic Elementary curriculum.
A basic tenet of Montessori education is that understanding is often a matter of seeing and touching. Special materials help the child to see and feel numbers and thus to understand them more completely. Basic principles of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are taught first with materials the child can feel and manipulate, then later in more abstract form, according to each child’s own pace and interest. Elementary students also learn basic concepts of algebra and geometry. While concrete materials enhance understanding of higher-order concepts, real worth math applications like graphing global data or balancing the classrooms budget are also incorporated.
The world of our Primary students is expanded through art, geography, nature and science studies. Many materials are present in the classroom for daily use, with each area emphasized at different times by special lessons, projects and experiences such as field trips. In MSNV Elementary, history, geography and social studies often focus on the children themselves. Through the study of their universe, planet, country, state, town, their species and their personal histories, Elementary students gain a clear and tangible understanding and perspective of their place in the course of human and natural events. MSNV students are fortunate to live in a region so rich in social and historical significance, an area full of examples to illustrate a variety of lessons. All levels share their global learning and showcase family cultures during International Day.
“Plant the seeds of all the sciences,” directed Dr. Montessori and at MSNV, science is an exciting and popular subject. Studies in botany, zoology, physics, astronomy and chemistry are explored through individual projects aided by field trips and natural observation.