The Montessori method of teaching believes that children learn optimally through engaging the five senses. They are naturally inquisitive and therefore are provided with hands on, experiential materials with which they are able to learn about the world. Our classroom is divided amongst the following academic areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, Art, and Culture. Interwoven into these academic categories are lessons in peace education. The children choose work independently on academic shelves to do at tables or rugs. Each work area has a control of error so that the child is able to use the materials with autonomy. The aims of every material and lesson in the classroom are to develop concentration, coordination, order, and independence.
We follow a year-long, holistic scope and sequence that accommodates all ages and learners in the classroom. Each month we do an in-depth continent study that focuses on the geographical features of the continent, the flora and fauna, and the history and the cultures of the various peoples that live there. We also correlate our unit of study with the seasons and various times of the year to track weather, holidays and other unique features of the calendar. It is evident what we are studying each month because the cultural focus is found across the curriculum extending to all areas. We believe this holistic approach allows the children to better understand abstract concepts and have a deeper appreciation for the vast regions and beings of the world.
While we honor the detailed scope and sequence, we also believe inherently in following the child. When a child is interested in a particular topic, we nurture that curiosity and provide materials to allow for further exploration. Each child learns and develops at his or her own pace. We provide lessons to the children individually and in small groups when they are ready to receive them. The work of the teacher is to take careful observations of each child so that they maintain a love of learning while being supported toward their zone of proximal development.
Fostering a deeper connection to the natural world into our curriculum is what sets us apart from other Montessori schools. We extend empathy and compassion to all beings and the earth through sustainability, permaculture, and direct experiences in nature. Montessori said “establishing lasting peace is the work of education,” and we believe that peace begins by establishing a connection to the natural world and extending empathy and compassion to all beings.
Seasonal Permaculture Curriculum
Our permaculture curriculum takes place both onsite in the classroom as well as occasional offsite visits at a farm and sanctuary in Loveland. We also utilize Burnet Woods which is across the street from the school for deepening each student’s understanding of and connection to the natural world.
Fall is a time of transition and planning on for growing food. As the children acclimate to the daily routines and procedures of the classroom, they will begin to learn what it means to nurture the land. The children will take daily hikes and practice “sit spots” in nature. The children will learn how to use outdoor tools like shovels and trowels. The fall harvest is the focus of the fall curriculum. While children unearth vegetables like carrots, beets and parsnips, they will practice giving thanks to the Earth for providing the bounty. As the season goes on, the children will learn how to save and store seeds, transplant hardy annual flowers to overwinter, and plant garlic and cover crops. By touching the Earth every day and learning the ways of the land, the children will practice discipline, exercise their fine and gross motor skills, and most importantly, develop deep appreciation and love for nature.
From an outsider’s perspective, winter may seem like a lonely time for growing food. However, the children will understand that winter is as busy a time as ever! They will do experiments with decomposition and learn about the value of compost as a way to build healthy soil. On snowy days, the children will brave the cold to search for animal tracks and other signs of life. We will learn about the different ways animals and plants may hibernate and overwinter. Moreover, we will plant cover crops to increase the soil’s fertility for the spring season.
Spring represents rebirth, optimism, and infinite possibilities. The children have worked so hard throughout the year, and they have been waiting to see the fruits of their labors come to fruition. As we enter the spring months, the children will begin planting seeds outdoors. They will spread all the compost they have been nurturing to prepare cozy beds for new plants and they will transfer crops back to the fields. As the months grow warmer, the children will spend more time outdoors making compost tea and weeding and harvesting early crops like radishes, spring peas, and spring onions.
As the school year draws to an end, the children will experience the culmination of their year growing food. They will enjoy picking berries and playing in the tall grasses and wildflowers. They will continue with their responsibilities to the land by weeding, watering, and tending to the compost. The children will begin their late spring harvest and create delicious foods like jam, sun-dried tomatoes, and fruit pies. It is through this comprehensive, hands-on approach to learning that the children will harness their innate connection to the Earth and become lifelong stewards with a passion for learning from the land.
In addition to a focus on a connection to the natural world, this holistic curriculum embeds math, language, science, geography, music, art, sensorial, and practical life skills within lessons throughout the classroom. Throughout the school year, the children participate in detailed multicultural continent studies that incorporate these specific academic areas in the classroom as well as encourage empathy and compassion for all beings across the Earth. We also utilize our skilled “special” teachers to enrich our students’ academic experience by introducing them to studies in yoga, sign language, fine arts, music, Spanish, and permaculture. Heärt Montessori teaches the following main subjects specially crafted for children ages 3-6:
Practical Life: Practical Life exercises prepare the child to have the necessary abilities to interact in their environment. Children learn how to complete real-life projects, which result in better gross and fine motor skills, independence, and concentration. Some examples of these exercises include pouring, transferring, sorting, and growing food as well as personal hygiene such as hand washing and grooming plus maintaining the space around them such as dusting and sweeping.
Sensorial: Sensorial activities focus on developing the child’s five senses. Exercises in this subject assist a child to observe, compare, and make decisions. The children will sort objects by size, touch, color, weight, sound, and temperature as well as grade from dark to light and small to large. These objects allow the child to classify sensorial impressions in an orderly and scientific manner. Since these materials allow for individual work and repetition, it makes it possible for the child to abstract the concept made concrete in each piece of material, to name it and then to apply it to the environment.
Language: The Montessori language materials are unique in that they are designed to penetrate a child’s mind in a deliberate, orderly manner. The child progresses through thinking, viewing, speaking, visually representing, listening, and, eventually, reading and writing. Oral language and precision allow the sequence to be fruitful. The materials are all designed to begin from left to right and top to bottom to further ingrain the way humans read and write.
The sequence of materials is key to achieve these aims so that a child is not expected to do work for which he or she is not well prepared. The language materials begin with oral exercises that are simple and concrete so that a child maintains a strong foundation for language retention. The sandpaper letters are the first lesson introducing letters to the child. The child works with one to two letters at a time, mastering them through repetition. Then, the lessons become more complicated and abstract as the child makes greater strides toward language mastery. The movable alphabet is then introduced to give the child the opportunity to practice forming words with the sounds with which he or she is familiar. The various presentations with the movable alphabet progress in a sequential manner, moving from basic, concrete, simple presentations to more abstract, higher-level thinking tasks. As the child’s absorbent mind continues to develop, he or she is encouraged to explore language and practice putting ideas into words and sentences. The Language Area of the classroom is designed to aid the child in his or her full language acquisition. After completing their three-year cycle, children are emergent readers capable of blending sounds to form words and writing phonetically at a developmentally appropriate level.
Mathematics: Math assists with the child’s spiritual, cognitive, physical, and social growth because it is challenging and engaging, igniting a variety of new inquiries within. The indescribable feeling of completion, certainty and “correctness” that math provides gives the child a sense of fulfillment once he or she masters a lesson or concept. The child makes remarkable cognitive gains doing math activities because he or she is constantly pushing the limits of his or her understanding, strengthening that intellectual core and gaining new insights as to the possibilities of math.
All of the lessons in the math area are hands on materials that children are able to manipulate and correct for themselves. Though children do have a mathematical mind, they do not immediately have the ability to think abstractly. Thus, it is imperative that the lessons be given in sequence from simple to more complex concepts. Children in the Montessori classroom, by learning how to rote count, recognize numerals and their respective quantities, as well as understand one-to-one correspondence. Throughout their time in the classroom, children build upon these skills and will leave their third year capable of completing abstract four-digit operations such as addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division.
Art: Art is one of many ways children express themselves. It is a way for children to communicate their feelings and develop their fine motor skills. In the Montessori environment, we provide open-ended art activities that assist children with exploring and using their creativity. We use safe, sustainable and non-toxic art materials in the classroom, such as biodegradable crayons made from soy, paper from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, pencils made from sustainably harvested wood and recycled newspapers, and natural paints made from fruits, vegetables, and natural earth and mineral pigments.
Science: The science curriculum aims to instill children with a deep appreciation for the natural world. In this area of the classroom, the children learn about the behaviors and physiology of fellow animals we share the earth with, botany, and physical science, which includes subjects such as earth science and chemistry. Through learning about the various living and nonliving components of the universe, the children develop a more thorough understanding of how all beings are interconnected, which allows them to comprehend the importance of protecting the environment.
Geography and Culture: As part of the study of geography, children learn about culture as it relates to their own communities, as well as cultures across the world, so that they are able to manifest a broader worldview. Lessons in astronomy, history, music, art, movement, and sustainability are integrated into this academic area. The geography and culture component of the curriculum also encourages children to view the universe as a living entity. That is, all animals, plants and minerals are interconnected and essential to sustain the cosmic rhythm of our world.
“When we understand that the energies belong to an unconscious mind, which has to become conscious through work and through an experience of life gained in the world, we realize that the mind of the child in infancy is different from ours, that we cannot reach it by verbal instruction, nor intervene directly in the process of its passing from the unconscious to the conscious—the process of making human faculty—then the whole concept of education changes. It becomes a matter of giving help to the child’s life, the psychological development of man. No longer is it just an enforced task of retaining our words and ideas.” -Dr. Maria Montessori