Aquinas & Old Town Montessori Schools
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ELEMENTARY PROGRAM

ELEMENTARY LEVEL: ages 6 to 12 at Aquinas Montessori School - Mount Vernon Campus

Welcome to our Elementary Program! Our staff is committed to providing an exciting and meaningful learning environment for your child. We invite you to become part of the Aquinas family, where you can enjoy your child's development and growth.
The Mount Vernon Campus has two lower elementary classrooms for students ages 6-9 and one upper elementary classroom for students ages 9-12. All classroom environments are designed and maintained according to AMI standards.
The campus is open Monday to Friday from 7:30 AM until 6:00 PM. School morning arrival for elementary students begins at 8:30 AM. Dismissal is at 3:00 PM. Before Care is available from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM and After Care is offered until 6:00 PM.
Our school year begins the day after Labor Day and ends after the first week in June. For school closings and delays, please refer to: Closings and Delays
Please enjoy getting to know the details of our program listed below.

Your Elementary Child

While the young primary child may ask the adult, "Help me to do it by myself," the older elementary child asks, "Help me to understand the world!"
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952), recognizing the insatiable thirst for knowledge of 6 to 12 year old children, gave them the whole universe to explore. Stories, impressionistic charts, and experiential materials invite children to use their imagination and discover large and small wonders, from the farthest cosmos to the tiniest detail of a flower.

Montessori argued for the child's dignity and autonomy. In her comprehensive educational system, children are respected for their work choices and variety of creative output. They are encouraged to use their reasoning power to "think outside of the box". Working in small groups, elementary children are able to test their growing social awareness and develop a collaborative spirit. Teachers act as facilitators to support children's moral urge for fairness. They help them develop problem-solving and decision-making skills. This holistic approach of education embraces all facets of human experience and nurtures the intellectual, social, and spiritual growth of each child. The Montessori elementary graduate emerges as a self-directed young citizen, prepared for a complex and fast changing world.

The Elementary Classroom

Our elementary program builds seamlessly on the rich environment provided by the primary program for children aged 3-6. Each classroom is guided by an AMI trained teacher who supervises all aspects of the learning environment and monitors the progress of every child individually. The teacher is assisted by a non-teaching adult who responds to specific needs of children and provides organization and care for the environment. Both adults foster each child's personality and are skillful in supporting the development of her full potential.

Mixed age grouping allows younger children to venture into more advanced topics, while older children can mentor the younger ones. All children are engaged in long work periods that allow them to master learning objectives at their own pace. Within this community of children, the Montessori teacher constantly weighs her hands-off approach against a need for intervention to help children make appropriate choices and become self-directed learners.

Under the guidance of the Montessori teacher, children self-manage their classroom community. They keep their environment clean and beautiful; they work collaboratively and learn to apply specific strategies to resolve conflicts; and they respect cultural differences and develop a sense of empathy for each other. Through the development of their interpersonal skills, students realize that they can be part of creating a peaceful world.

The Elementary Curriculum

Maria Montessori called her plan for the elementary child "Cosmic Education". Rather than studying facts of academic subjects in isolation, the child discovers natural connections between the parts and the whole, - the cosmos. From his studies of civilizations and world cultures the child derives an understanding of the unique qualities that are shared by all humans: a mind to think, hands to work, and a capacity to love.

At the beginning of each year, the five "Great Stories" reveal the history of the universe and the coming of life. They introduce the major disciplines to be explored. Following the stories, structured lessons in each topic inspire the child to make work choices that appeal to a large range of learning styles. As every element of knowledge is seen in its relation to the universe, learning becomes purposeful.

Areas of study:
     Mathematics
     Geometry
     Biology
     Language
     Latin
     Spanish
     Art
     Music & Movement
     Physical Education

Physical Science
The first Great Story about the history of the universe opens the door to scientific inquiry in geology and chemistry. Geological composition of the earth, plate tectonics, and earthquakes are explored. Children enjoy their hands-on experiments to examine states of matter and types of chemical reactions. Later on, molecule modeling and the table of elements are introduced.

Geography and Social Studies
Large colorful charts convey the formation of the universe. They help the child grasp how the structure of the solar system affects the interaction of heat, wind, and water and impacts climate, vegetation, and people's lives. In political geography children use special maps and nomenclature materials to learn names of countries, capitals, oceans and rivers, and mountain ranges. They build graphing skills in economic geography from gathering information about import and export, flow of trade, and money exchange, reinforcing the interdependence of human beings in society.

History
Children look at humans throughout the ages. Illustrated timelines demonstrate common basic needs and depict various methods of satisfying them. They realize that man's imagination, intellect, and work have effected changes that future generations have benefited from. A sense of gratitude to all those inventors - named and unnamed - makes children aware of possibilities for finding their own special place in life.

Mathematics
Elementary children having just transitioned from their primary class are already familiar with many of the unique Montessori materials. They are able to launch right away into more advanced work. Moving naturally from hands-on experience to abstract reasoning enables them to understand even complex mathematical concepts. Children progress from multiples, prime factors, fractions, algebraic laws of exponents, squaring and cubing polynomials, toward square and cube roots, non-decimal bases, solving equations, ratio and proportion, graphs and charts. While some of these topics are usually offered in higher grades of educational settings, children at Aquinas have the opportunity to work at this level while still elementary students.

Geometry
We prepare children for their thought process in geometry by linking them to historical events. For instance, area formulas were first developed in Ancient Egypt. They were used to measure acreage flooded by the Nile River. From the materials in the classroom, children learn to abstract concepts of equivalence, surface area, and volume. Deductive reasoning skills develop through analyzing and verbalizing geometric relationships of lines, angles, polygons, solids.

Biology
Studies in botany and zoology begin with exploring our beautiful school grounds and caring for the Children's Garden and classroom animals. All Aquinas students and teachers share in the experience of tracking the monarch butterfly migration to and from Mexico. They raise butterflies and study their life-cycle prior to releasing them at a special field day in October. In the classroom, children have access to specific materials to learn the process of biologic classification, while older children explore ecological interdependencies and microscopic organisms. Studying the functions of the human body systems help children understand their need for healthy habits.

Language
One of the five "Great Stories" presented in the beginning of the school year illustrates the human tendency to communicate through language, both to convey facts and express thoughts and feelings. Children learn about the power and moral implication of word usage and are guided to be responsible for what they say.

The mechanics of language are developed through word study and spelling, sentence analysis, syntax, cursive penmanship, and calligraphy. Children learn about the elements of style and choose topics from across the curriculum for expository and creative writing. Older children explore the personal perspectives of writing essays.

A natural entrance into literature occurs through writing and reciting poetry, interpretive reading, dramatic improvisation, and production of plays. All elementary children participate in the Junior Great Books discussion program, which exposes them to classic and modern world literature through the art of shared inquiry and exploration of meaning. Junior Great Books

Latin
In today's classroom, Latin as a non-spoken language is neutral and universal. Analyzing grammatical elements and evaluating their meaning creatively within the context of a Latin passage increases the student's problem solving skills and vocabulary. This is later reflected in higher verbal scores on tests such as SAT and ACT exams.

The Keepers of Alexandria is an interdisciplinary Latin program within the Montessori curriculum that begins in the third year of the lower elementary class and continues through the upper elementary years. Imaginative stories describe family life in the ancient city founded by Alexander the Great and reveal world-wide ideas and inventions that have become the foundation of current knowledge. Children begin their translations by putting word elements together like a puzzle. With the help of vocabulary lists and other hands-on materials children grasp a wide range of Latin grammar and syntax, enabling them to approach the study of other languages with an understanding of how language works.

Spanish
The intention of Aquinas' Spanish program is to expand the children's enthusiasm for learning a foreign language. Using joyful conversations, songs, books, games, Montessori and other written materials, children learn basic vocabulary and develop proper accents. Upon graduation, children are comfortable and familiar with the Spanish language. They are prepared and eager to continue their journey into other foreign languages.

Art
Children learn from their studies of early civilizations that artistic expression is a fundamental human need. Elements of art and principles of design are explored in context with every area of the curriculum. The use of various media and techniques and an appreciation of artistic styles throughout history inspire students to make illustrations and decorations part of their daily work. Families are involved with the school's creative output through seasonal projects, set and costume designs for drama presentations, and school-wide events.

Music and Movement
The music curriculum builds on the children's experience in the primary years where patterns of tonality, rhythm, and movement were explored in a sensorial approach. At the elementary level, students use the Montessori tone bars for improvising and corresponding materials for writing, reading, and composing music. With the complete structure of the western music system as a foundation, they venture into different rhythms and harmonies from around the world. In context with their studies in geography, history, and literature, multi-cultural music becomes part of the child's vocabulary. All art forms are brought together in our annual musical theater production that is shared with the wider Aquinas community. Drama Club

Physical Education
The extensive grounds and on-site swimming pool at Aquinas provide a safe environment for all students to participate. Our PE instructors are members of our staff and are available during daily recess periods to help children practice their basic skills. As certified swimming pool operators and life guards they conduct the spring and fall PE sessions at the pool. Children learn the basics of freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke and enjoy fun games, relays, and free water play.

During the remainder of the year, the weekly PE sessions focus on one sport per month. Children learn about the rules of each sport or game and practice the skills needed to participate with confidence. Some of the sports covered are soccer, basketball, flag football, baseball and cricket. Emphasis is placed on the students' ability to conduct their activities with a sense of cooperation, fairness, clear communication, and respect.

Assessment

The curriculum at Aquinas Montessori School follows Dr. Maria Montessori's vision of education, which encompasses the whole development of the child. Montessori teachers, therefore, assess physical, academic, social, emotional, and spiritual progress. These developments in a child are continuous and cannot always be measured with grades or tests at specifically set times.

Assessment in a Montessori classroom is formative. Together with the teacher's prepared lesson sequence, record keeping, and observations, verbal interaction with each student serves to create a culture of high expectations and accountability. The goal is to lead the child towards conscious awareness of his own skill set, instill useful procedures for time management and appropriate work choices, and guide him towards becoming a self-directed, life-long learner.

Assessment approaches that are integrated in Montessori education are observation, the Three-Period Lesson, and student self-reporting. Aquinas adds standardized testing toward the end of the school year.

Observation
Montessori teachers are trained to meticulously observe the class as a whole and each child individually. They keep records of students' facility with the materials, which may indicate a need for re-presentation of a lesson or readiness for the next level. They make notes on the depth of concentration and ease of collaboration with peers. They look for successful transfer of concepts to the environment beyond the use of learning materials.

The Three-Period Lesson
Three-period lessons are used throughout the Montessori environment to introduce new objects, qualities, or concepts. In the first period, the teacher names and points to the new material to be learned. The child explores the material and associates it with the names she hears. During the second and longest period, the teacher gives the name, and the child recognizes the appropriate object or concept. Through repetition, she becomes familiar with what is being presented and internalizes concepts. The third period is like a short test. The child is asked to recall the name of what is learned. This step verifies his knowledge. When special guidance is needed, the first two steps are repeated as often as necessary. In this way, each child can arrive at the final period in a natural way.

Student Self-Reporting
Lower elementary children learn early on to use work journals for recording their work choices and the lessons they have received. In the upper elementary class, students become directly accountable for their work and record how they have used their time for projects and daily independent work. They learn time management by agreeing to project deadlines and completing follow-up work.

Children have regular one-on-one conferences with the teacher. Together they review work journals, assess skills mastered, and talk about new lessons needed. These teacher/child conferences are intended to affirm the child's individuality within the group and are cherished opportunities to discuss concerns and special interests.

Lower elementary children keep selected work in a portfolio for review. At the end of the school year, they take the portfolio home and enjoy the progress they have made with their families. Upper elementary students turn in completed daily work for review and editing by the teacher. All work is taken home on a weekly basis.
After students have completed what is called "great work", they frequently present their project to the class and receive valuable feedback from their peers in the following group discussion. Throughout the year, elementary students make "appointments" for special visits in other classrooms and are excited to share their completed projects with friends of any age.

Testing
All upper elementary students and children in their second and third year of the lower elementary classes take the annual Stanford 10 Achievement Test While students and their teacher gain continuous insight from the assessment strategies that are in place in the Montessori environment, taking a test is helpful to the child as a practical life skill in today's society. Parents support their children's test preparation with materials sent home.

In addition, outside test results may be another piece of data to confirm an individual child's need for extra support. They may also point to strengths or a need for improvement in a specific learning environment of the school. The overall objective for standardized testing is to help our students feel comfortable as they adapt to the culture beyond Aquinas.


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