The Lower Elementary program is taught from large scope to small, moving from big-picture understanding to a focus on details. Students are fascinated with stories and asking big questions. They want to know where things come from and to learn about great accomplishments.
The curriculum engages each student’s imagination and creativity while working with concrete materials to explore academic areas. Students quickly discover abstract methods to utilize throughout their academic experience. The program is interdisciplinary, hands-on, experiential, and open-ended, presented in an environment of mutual respect and appreciation. Prior attendance at a Montessori school is not a prerequisite for admission.
Lessons encourage self-discipline and enhance the student’s ability to concentrate. A highlight of our language arts program is Wilson Fundations, a scientifically based, sequential phonetic approach to learning language, which complements the Montessori curriculum. Lower Elementary students are immersed into a rich curriculum of geography and social studies, which is organized around essential questions for inquiry and understanding, and provides deep immersion into world cultures.
Students gain the understanding of concrete mathematical concepts that will prepare them for future studies in more abstract concepts such as algebra and geometry. Students begin to gain an understanding of the scientific method for exploration in biology, physics, chemistry, and earth sciences. They explore the importance of the natural world around them and begin to sharpen their senses through specially designed sensorial lessons. Students begin to understand the concepts of time and history. The Lower Elementary classroom provides students with an effective and productive environment in which to explore these questions and gain a deeper knowledge of who they are as learners and as citizens of the world.
Areas of Learning
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The Lower Elementary math curriculum deepens the students’ understanding of simple mathematical operations introduced in Children’s House. Through the use of Montessori manipulative materials, students establish a concrete basis of understanding to support more abstract concepts such as algebra and geometry. Students develop a conceptual understanding of basic number facts and functions, the value of money, the meaning of time and spatial relationships, as well as computational and problem solving skills. When they are ready, students are introduced to more advanced materials that help them understand complex concepts including fractions, multiplication, and division.
Lower Elementary students attend Spanish classes once a week during which they learn useful phrases, such as “may I come in?” Classroom communication includes: “I need…”; “pass me…”; and “it’s your/my turn.” Additional common courtesies are practiced between teacher and student, and among classmates.
Familiar themes are revisited and expanded upon, and new ones are introduced adapting the Montessori technique of the three period lesson. This spiral approach to vocabulary allows for the development of second language acquisition from preproduction to early production, and eventual fluency in four areas: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Activities are presented to target auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners. In the classroom there is movement, singing, rhyming, and drawing. Students also practice simple skits, and play familiar vocabulary games, such as Bingo (Lotería) and Memory (Memoría).
The Lower Elementary music curriculum emphasizes group singing, dance, musical literacy, ear-training, rhythmic training, individual confidence, and improvisation. Classes incorporate songs and dances from many traditions, including rounds, canons, and American Sign Language. Through melodic and rhythmic exercises, students gain confidence to sing alone in front of others and learn to write basic rhythm patterns. Solfege singing is practiced with the simultaneous use of the Kodaly/Curwen hand gestures, increasing the cognitive areas of multi-sensory engagement in the brain by combining attentive listening with singing, verbalization, memory, and hand-eye coordination. Increasingly complex notation symbols are introduced, including clefs, measures, meters, dynamics, articulations, and key signatures. Musical instruments from around the world are introduced in hands-on lessons, which include principles of instrument construction and sound production. Third-year (grade) students learn rudiments of wind instruments, using Baroque recorders and Irish tin whistles. First through third year (grade) students may also participate in an after school musical, and third year (grade) students may join the Oak Meadow Concert Choir.
Lower Elementary students continue building their practical life skills through service to the community. Students learn to understand and accept their responsibilities as members of a greater community. Students work together cooperatively, build upon, and share their knowledge with each other. Kindness and respect modeled by adults provide a template for each child’s social interactions. Lessons in grace and courtesy continue in Lower Elementary where students learn the importance of peaceful interactions within the community.
Comprehension, grammar, spelling, reading, and group discussion skills are further developed at the Lower Elementary level. Simple research reports give students an opportunity to practice their composition skills, and essay writing is introduced. In grammar lessons, students learn the parts of speech and later perform sentence analysis to identify the parts of a sentence to break down increasingly complex sentences as they become fluent with the function of words. Reading fluency is addressed with the Wilson Fundations Program, which provides the tools for phonetic decoding, reading, and spelling, while complementing the Montessori curriculum. Students also participate in weekly guided reading groups to learn and strengthen reading comprehension strategies, literature groups to explore different genres of literature, and writing workshops to learn the writing process and practice different writing styles including expository, descriptive, persuasive, and narrative.
Social and emotional learning includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision- making and relationships skills. The development of these skills helps to promote pro-social behavior, reduce violence and bullying behaviors, and increase ability to learn and achieve in the school environment. Lower Elementary students explore developmentally appropriate concepts of social and emotional learning. Topics may include mentoring, friendship, bullying, conflict resolution, kindness, self-esteem, diversity, and more. Classes are facilitated in both small groups by grade level, and in large groups by class. Lessons are taught through role-playing activities, stories, hands-on activities, visual cues, and guided discussions.
Lower Elementary students attend physical education classes by grade twice a week. Students are introduced to the importance of muscular development through gross and fine motor skills. Students participate in team and group games, which emphasize balancing , body awareness and movement exploration. Students are introduced to simple team games and cooperative games, with an emphasis on good sportsmanship and working together.
Students participate in a variety of adventures, exploring Oak Meadow’s dynamic outdoor classroom. As much as possible, the nature program follows the seasons guided by the 13 Native American moons of the turtle’s back, integrating Native American wisdom with a Three Sisters garden, snowshoeing, and vernal pool exploration. In the fall, children are guided by the harvest moon in activities such as working in the garden, digging potatoes and carrots, and harvesting corn. As the leaves change, we move toward the forest to study seed dispersal and the transition to winter. Students learn to appreciate the magical rhythm of nature. Like the seasons, nature-based learning is a sophisticated mix of the expected and the unexpected.
Cultural studies in the Lower Elementary program are comprised of geography, history, and science. The cross-curricular nature of topics appeals to students in a manner that capitalizes on their interests and learning styles. The broad scope of the curriculum cultivates students who are culturally aware and have a true appreciation for the diversity and interest in the world around them. Students begin to gain an understanding of time and history with an overview of human history through storytelling and colorful timelines. Through research and experimentation they gain a basic knowledge of the political, physical, and economic geography of the continents.
Lower Elementary science lessons incorporate biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences. Through storytelling, hands-on experiments, exploration, and research, students gain a knowledge of the basic land and water formations, longitude and latitude, the use of a compass, and the study of different flora and fauna. Students also learn about the families of the animal kingdom, including vertebrates and invertebrates, their classification, their basic characteristics, and the way they function to survive. The scientific method is taught at the elementary level, and students in the third year (grade) of Lower Elementary and older are given an opportunity to test their skills at the Oak Meadow Science Fair each spring.
Lower Elementary students attend art classes by grade level once a week. Students explore a wide range of materials and processes as they begin to develop a deeper understanding of how art materials can be used and manipulated to create unique, personal expressions of their creativity. Experimentation with mixed mediums and exploration of original ideas is encouraged. The teacher provides a framework in which students work independently on projects of their choosing. Awareness of art history and art as an expression of culture is emphasized through focused projects on specific artists, styles, periods, or methods.
Field trips are an important part of the Lower Elementary curriculum and allow students to learn through their experiences outside of the school. Each grade level has the opportunity to experience an off-site field trip each year. Field trips are chosen to compliment the curriculum that students are learning in the classroom. Students have visited The Discovery Museum in Acton, Drumlin Farms in Lincoln, the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, and the Boott Cotton Mills in Lowell. As a tradition, Third Year students visit Walden Pond to learn about Henry David Thoreau and relax on the shoreline as a graduating class.
Hands-on challenges that invite students to collaborate to solve real-world problems while applying the engineering design process, scientific method and academic knowledge are the vehicles by which students experience Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Students work in the laboratory weekly, where they use scientific equipment and their developing experience of the process to discover the world around them. STEM classes also support the yearly Oak Meadow Science Fair participation of all third grade students.