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Maria Montessori believed that finding one’s place in the world, finding work that is meaningful and fulfilling, and developing the inner peace and depth of soul that allows us to love are the most important goals in life. A physician specialising in both paediatrics and psychiatry, Dr. Montessori realised that learning itself is a natural process. This idea and her belief that every child has vast potential sparked the basis for her educational philosophy and her life’s work. Today, Montessori schools the world over have as their foundation her deep respect for children as unique individuals and her profound concern for their social and emotional development.
She believed that children learn by doing. The classroom, where everything is just their size, is full of beautiful things. The concrete materials let children explore the world through their senses, through touch and motion, and by observing and engaging with others. Teachers guide students through the curriculum as children are ready for each new challenge, introducing lessons and then letting children practice what they have learned. As children grow, the classroom materials grow with them in the sense that older children use the materials to explore curriculum in new and deeper ways.
There is dynamic interaction between the various curriculum areas of the Montessori classroom. While each area emphasises specific skills, children’s developing skills and knowledge are relevant in exploring other areas of the curriculum as well. This connection between different areas of curriculum enhances children’s interest in and enthusiasm for learning new things.
Practical Life activities are central to the Montessori classroom and prepare the child for all other areas. The emphasis is on practicing skills – the process is more important than the product. Practical Life exercises give children the opportunity to refine their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, hand strength, balance, concentration and ability to do things for themselves. Through the repetition of Practical Life activities, children develop practical skills that will serve them all of their lives. Some of the Primary Practical Life exercises include Pouring, Lacing, Scooping, Flower Arranging, Food Preparation, Serving and Table Washing.
Language pervades the Montessori classroom and crosses all curriculum areas. Every child is introduced to the names of things, and sounds, and letters, while the older child may be beginning to read. Language materials are often tactile, taking advantage of the 3 and 4 year old’s sensitivity to learning through touch. Writing often comes early to the Montessori child through the use of concrete materials, like the pre-cut letters of the Moveable Alphabet, that allow him / her to express their knowledge without needing the precise control of a pencil. Language Materials include Sandpaper Letters, Language Objects for initial sounds practice, word and picture Matching Cards, a Farm activity to develop vocabulary and Early Reader books.
Sensorial materials are designed to help children learn about qualities like colour, size, shape, length, texture and sound. 3 – 6 year olds are increasingly able to make finer and finer discriminations of the many stimuli all around them. Sensorial activities assist children in refining this skill and becoming good observers of the world. Sensorial materials in the Primary classroom include Knobbed Cylinders for practice with dimension, Colour tablets, Rough and Smooth Boards, Geometric Solids, the Pink Tower and the Binomial Tube.
Concrete materials are used to introduce mathematical concepts in the Montessori classroom. Children build their abstract mathematical reasoning skills on these early concrete experiences. They learn how a numeral represents an amount. They manipulate objects to see concretely operations like addition and subtraction. These exercises cater to children’s developing sense of order, sequence, one-to-one correspondence and directionality. Primary Mathematical activities include Sandpaper Numerals, the Spindle Box for counting, Numerals and Counters, the Hundred Board, Bead Chains and Golden Beads to introduce the decimal system.
Geography is an important part of the Montessori curriculum. The curriculum begins with the two hemispheres of Earth and becomes more detailed as children learn about continents, and then countries. The very young child will use the wooden Puzzle Maps as puzzles, but the older child can use the pieces as a guide as he makes his own maps, labeled with his own handwriting when he is ready.
Children are introduced to many topics and learn to make predictions in their Science and Nature activities. The Land and Water work, introducing the concept of Lake and Island, is closely connected to the Geography curriculum. Children learn about Volcanoes, the layers of the Earth and the Solar System. They go on nature walks and then research the leaves, seed or flowers they have found. They learn to classify things, predict the results of experiments and test their predictions. The Science and Nature curriculum is designed not only to help children discover facts, but to honour the sense of wonder they have about the world. Activities include Sink or Float, Living or Non-Living, Magnetic or Non-Magnetic, Land and Water Forms, the Structure of the Earth and Botany.
In the Montessori classroom, children and adults take care to be gracious and courteous to one another. This area of the curriculum encourages respect for oneself, for other members of the community, for the living things in the classroom, and for the environment. Carrying things carefully, returning them to their place so others may use them, moving gracefully and carefully, using polite and respectful language, showing consideration to others, good table manners, properly introducing oneself, and interrupting politely are all part of the lessons in Grace and Courtesy.
The Montessori classroom includes an ever changing selection of art and creative activities for children. Fine motor practice, colour work, and imagination all come into play in the Art area. Lessons on great artists, matching activities with fine art prints, collage and glue, cutting with scissors, hole punching, markers, crayons, paint and our own playdough are all part of the Art curriculum.
Music is an important part of a child’s education. It can refine their listening skills, build on their concentration and can be used to relax or rest from work. The children have fun learning nursery rhymes and songs. They will learn about the different instruments and the four components of the orchestra. They will also be introduced to various types of music including Classical, Opera, Irish, Salsa, Jazz etc.
At St. Lawrence Montessori School we encourage the children to learn about the many different cultures and languages throughout the world. We will also teach them about the Irish culture and a basic vocabulary of Irish, thus preparing them for primary school.
Children from a very early age have the capability to absorb the basics of new languages with little or no difficulty. A basic introduction of Spanish (for example numbers, colours greetings etc.) will be given to all children.