The Curriculum

Introduction

The Beehive Montessori School is an educator of children and adolescents according to the Montessori Method with particular reference to the guidelines of the Association Montessori International (AMI). Further to this, the Beehive follows the Montessori National Curriculum, which has been recognised at both a national and state level as an alternate curriculum.

From this internationally recognised curriculum, Beehive has developed three year plans, which teachers then break down into semester or term programs which form the basis of their daily teaching practice.

The Montessori Curriculum is not simply a set of lessons however. To best understand the workings of any Montessori environment, it is important to understand the developmental basis from which all the lessons eventuate. The Montessori educational philosophy and curriculum is based on understanding what Dr Montessori describes as “The Four Planes of Development”, 0-6 years, 6-12 years, 12-18 years and 18-24 years.

The First Plane of Development

The first six years of life is a period of profound transformation, from apparently helpless newborn to capable, active and articulate six year old. This period of life lays down the foundation on which is built the future adult’s potential.

Between the ages of three to six years children continue the process of self-construction, consolidating, refining and adding to the skills and knowledge they accumulated before the age of three. From the age of three children become conscious of what they are learning through their own freely chosen activity, especially activity with their hands. Montessori environments prepared for this age group provide children with motives for activity through which they refine their perception, movement and language, and become independent in everyday life. The extensive repertoire of meticulously designed Montessori materials and exercises offered to the children represent a learning programme organised as an incremental progression of activities. Within this framework children are free to choose their own work, once they have been shown how to use the materials and how to do the exercises.

Characteristics of the First Plane of Development

The first plane of development spans the period from birth to approximately age six. During this stage children become functionally independent; they learn to control their movement, to communicate and to work with their hands. Children during this period are also sensory explorers. They use their senses to absorb every aspect of the environment, their language and culture, in the process constructing their own intellects.

Development during this plane is shaped by the special capacity children of this age have for learning and absorbing vast amounts of information, a capacity described by Montessori educators as the absorbent mind. The way young children learn is unique to this stage of life. During this plane of development, without being conscious they are learning, children ‘absorb’ impressions from the environment, impressions that construct their mind and intellect and enable them to adapt to their time and place in history.

Throughout this plane of development children experience periods during which they display heightened sensitivity to, or interest in, particular aspects of the environment. These periods, named sensitive periods by Montessori educators, represent windows of opportunity during which children’s intense interest, and the spontaneous activity this interest generates, enable children to learn the corresponding knowledge and skill with ease and enjoyment. Montessori educators observe children closely for signs of sensitive periods. They use these observations as a guide to help them choose the optimum time for offering children lessons and activities in, for example, social skills, the refinement of movement and sensory perception, language and mathematics.

Aligned with physical development is social and emotional development, development that is enhanced by nurturing, secure environments at home and in early childhood settings. Learning how to be social emerges naturally and spontaneously in the multi-age, mini-communities found in Montessori environments. In these communities older children have the opportunity to be sensitive to the needs of others, while younger children feel able to seek help at any time. In addition, lessons in grace and courtesy provide opportunities for young children to practice appropriate social behaviour in a fun and instructive way without public reprimand.

Children from birth to the age of six learn through their senses. Using their senses, they gain first impressions and understandings of the world, impressions and understandings that become woven into the fabric of their minds. This principle, first proposed by Aristotle, is traditionally summarised in the following way: ‘There is nothing in the mind that is not first in the senses.’


The Children’s House:
An Environment Prepared for Children Aged from Three to Six Years

The Montessori environment prepared for preschool children from three to six years of age is called the Children’s House. The Children’s House is prepared to be homelike, welcoming, aesthetically pleasing and orderly so children come to think of the setting as a ‘mini-community’ where they learn skills they can apply at home and in the wider community. Cooperation, rather than competition, is encouraged.

The ordered Children’s House environment provides children with structure and predictability, and helps them orient themselves both to the physical environment of the Children’s House and to the multi-age ‘mini-community’ within the environment. There is a strong emphasis on children developing the independence, cooperation and skills for daily living that enable each one to become a valued and independent member of the Children’s House community. The resources and activities in the Children’s House are designed to:

  • develop coordination of movement
  • develop independence
  • develop the ability to make informed decisions
  • lengthen the amount of time a child can engage in deep concentration
  • refine the use of the senses
  • encourage exploration
  • build social skills
  • develop oral communication skills
  • develop written communication and the foundations of joyful reading
  • develop an understanding of mathematical concepts

The materials in the Children’s House are displayed on open shelves, always accessible to the children. The children work with these materials during work sessions that are ideally a minimum of three hours in duration with no fixed breaks. In this way children are able to develop and follow their own natural rhythm of activity and rest without unnecessary interruptions.

The prepared environment of the Children’s House incorporates indoor and outdoor spaces. Both spaces complement each other and are available to the children at all times. The majority of Montessori educational materials are commonly displayed in the indoor environment but their use is not restricted to the indoor environment. Practical life activities are part of both the indoor and outdoor environments. Children may also choose to work with materials in the sensorial, mathematics or language areas in the outside environment as long as they are using the materials for the educational purpose for which they have been designed. In addition the outdoor environment includes gardens (both wild and planted), which children care for, and in which they develop a growing awareness of the importance of the natural environment to the well-being of all living things. Activities in the outdoor environment of the Children’s House develop in children an appreciation of the natural world and an awareness of its importance to the wellbeing of all living things including themselves, as well as a beginning understanding of the important role of human beings in caring for the natural environment.

For this age group lessons are usually given to individual children. Once children have been given a lesson, the activity is added to their repertoire of possible activities and they are free to choose that activity whenever they wish. Small group activities include games used to extend earlier lessons, and language games. Children are invited to join group activities, but are not required to participate. In a mixed age group, older children can validate their learning by becoming the ‘experts’ in the room. Peer teaching occurs when the older children share their knowledge and skills, take on the role of the caretakers of the classroom and provide role models for younger children. Younger children find a group of willing people ready to help them when help is required. They are also further inspired and motivated to learn as they see older children working on the next step in the progression of lessons.

Freedom of choice is a central feature of the Children’s House environment. Children learn that free choice carries with it responsibilities and consequences, understandings that become increasingly important as they move through the later school years towards adult life.

There is a strong emphasis in the Children’s House on the development of independence, cooperation and the skills for daily life that will enable each individual to become a valued and autonomous member of his or her community. For example, in the practical life area of the Children’s House, children can choose from activities such as preparing snacks for themselves and others, laying and clearing the table, and cleaning up. They learn, under strict adult supervision, to use child-sized tools, including knives and glassware, safely and effectively. In the sensorial area children fine-tune perception, discrimination and judgement. In the language and mathematics areas children are introduced to literacy and numeracy skills. As they work through the language activities, children extend emergent and beginning literacy skills leading to fluency in both writing and reading. Mathematics activities lead children from early counting and matching experiences towards increasing understanding of number patterns, the four operations, number facts and two- and three-dimensional shapes. In general teacher/child ratios are carefully planned in the Children’s House so there is just enough support for the children, but not too much interference from adults in the children’s activity. Children are encouraged to be self-reliant, or to solve problems with their peers with as little adult intervention as possible. In this way children develop self-assurance and self-esteem.

Incorporated into the four areas of the Children’s House curriculum are materials, activities and exercises that introduce children to visual arts, music, physical education, science, geography and history. Montessori educators sometimes say that the Children’s House is designed to bring the world to the child. For example, in the Children’s House children listen to stories and learn songs and dances from their own country and around the world, while participating in related visual arts activities. They also work with globes, maps, land and water forms, and collections of pictures of life in different cultures. Cultural studies of this type are interspersed within the four main areas of the Children’s House, particularly within the sensorial and language areas.

The Montessori Early Years Learning Programme Three to Six Years: The Children’s House

The scope and sequence of the Montessori Children’s House curriculum is embodied in the sets of materials displayed on open shelves at the children’s level in the Children’s House and in the sequence in which these materials are typically presented to the children. The resources and activities in the Children’s House are organised into four main areas:

  1. the exercises of practical life
  2. the exercises of the senses
  3. language
  4. mathematics

Also incorporated into these areas are resources and activities that introduce children to visual arts, music, physical education, science, geography and history.

1.     Practical Life Skills in the Children’s House

Learning fundamental life skills, or practical life, is the component of the Montessori Early Years Learning Programme that links the home environment and the Children’s House. Children love order, and they love to be independent, and this desire finds expression in the exercises of practical life. During these exercises children use a variety of materials and activities to support increased control and refinement of:

  • whole body equilibrium and coordination
  • fine motor skills
  • voluntary control of attention and the ability to concentrate
  • the ability to sequence the steps of a task in order to achieve a goal
  • everyday living skills.

To achieve the goal of a practical life exercise, children must use precise movements. As they strive for precision of movement, children develop their will, that is, they develop self-control, the ability to self-regulate, voluntary control over movement, as well as voluntary control over attention, the foundation of the ability to concentrate. If they are free to work at their own pace uninterrupted, children gradually extend the period of time they are able to concentrate. When they have completed a cycle of work, without being disturbed, children typically experience feelings of great satisfaction and increased confidence in their own abilities.

Practical life for children aged between three and six years in the Children’s House encompasses four main areas:

  • control of movement
  • care of person
  • care of environment
  • grace and courtesy/social relations.

In the Children’s House the skills needed to succeed at the exercises in these areas are developed initially in a series of ‘transitional’ exercises in which children practise ‘preliminary movements’.

2.     Development and Education of the Senses

Young children use their senses to explore their environment. Through sensory exploration they receive a myriad of sensory impressions from birth. From about the age of three, the developing human mind, together with the sensitive period of order, naturally strives to discriminate similarities and differences resulting in young children sorting, arranging and classifying the many sensory experiences they have collected so far. The inventory of sensory experience they construct at this age becomes a resource they use both for thinking and creating.

The Montessori materials children use to fine-tune sensory perception and discrimination, the sensorial materials, are some of the most distinctive and iconic of all the Montessori materials. The sensorial materials are sets of definitive or graded objects designed to precise specifications. Each set isolates one sensory quality only in regular and measurable ways. The qualities isolated by the Montessori sensorial materials include: texture, colour, shape, dimension, mass, taste, smell, temperature, pitch and intensity of sound. Children are taught a precise vocabulary to talk about the sensory qualities, and their variations, embodied in the materials. They learn these words in contrasting sets, for example, red/blue/yellow; loud/soft; long/short; rough/smooth; triangle/square/circle; cube/sphere. In addition, children are introduced to the superlative and comparative language for example longer/shorter, longest/shortest. This vocabulary then becomes a resource children can use to make more precise meanings about their world. Children use the sensorial materials in the exercises of the senses.

The exercises of the senses provide children with keys to exploring the world, as well as a means to refine perception and to construct a foundation for abstract thinking and creative expression. Initially, the exercises provide children with opportunities to use each sense to distinguish contrasting perceptions. Later, the children use the exercises to discriminate between increasingly fine variations in order to grade the objects in each set.

The Montessori exercises of the senses support and develop skills and dispositions such as exploration, observation, order, questioning and speculation. These exercises prepare for learning in school subject areas, including mathematics, language, science and geography. For example, exercises of the senses can be used as a foundation for the following Years K-2 Curriculum Focus described in Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Science (Commonwealth of Australia 2009: 7).

Curriculum focus: awareness of self and the local world

Young children have an intrinsic curiosity about their immediate world and a desire to explore and investigate things around them. Asking questions leads to speculation and the testing of ideas. Exploratory, purposeful play is a central feature of their investigations. Observation, using the senses in dynamic ways, is an important skill to be developed in these years. Observation leads into the idea of order that involves describing, comparing and sorting.

The exercises of the senses include exercises through which children learn to attend to their perceptions and to discriminate between finer and finer variation using the following senses:

  • visual (dimension, colour, shape)
  • tactile (texture, mass, temperature, stereognostic)
  • auditory (pitch, timbre, rhythm, style, intensity of sound)
  • olfactory (smell)
  • gustatory (taste)

The exercises of the senses help children order sensory impressions in a mental inventory, or classification system, accompanied by a precise vocabulary, which they can use as a resource for thinking and creative expression. These exercises complement children’s work with puzzles and construction materials. It culminates in the children’s ability to apply the skills they gain in sensory discrimination and judgement to phenomena in the wider environment. The use of the sensorial materials also develops children’s skill with the precise use of the hand in increasingly exact and controlled movement.

3.     Language

Dr Maria Montessori designed an early childhood language programme in which all the elements of spoken and written language are taught in an incremental, yet integrated, way. In the Children’s House the spoken language children have been developing since birth is further elaborated and refined through a variety of language enrichment activities that include songs, games, poems, stories and sets of classified picture cards. The multi-age grouping of children means younger children have many opportunities to watch and listen to older children reading both story and factual books.

The first, indirect preparation for mastering written language begins with the exercises of practical life and the exercises of the senses. The exercises of practical life develop fine motor skills and the exercises of the senses prepare children to distinguish between the different sounds of the language and the different shapes of the letters.

When children first work with the letters of the alphabet, they use sandpaper letters as part of activities in which they simultaneously hear the sounds of the letters, and see and trace the shape of the letters. When children know enough letters, they are introduced to a movable alphabet made out of wooden or cardboard letters. Children use the letters to compose and write down their own words, phrases, sentences and finally stories. Because children are using their own language to compose with the movable alphabet, they may discover that they can read their own writing, especially when the movable alphabet work is accompanied by activities that provide children with structured opportunities for decoding practice. They soon transfer their skills to reading books, both to themselves and others. They are later introduced to word study materials and materials for exploring spelling patterns. To increase reading fluency and comprehension, children work with materials that draw their attention to the grammar patterns of the language.

All elements of the Montessori language programme provide children with a platform for building self-confidence and using language creatively across a variety of modes of communication. Children also have the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of good quality and varied literature, as well as factual and reference books.

4.     Mathematics

The study of mathematics is a reflection of the human tendencies for investigation and orientation, for order and classification, for reasoning and making judgements, and for calculating and measuring. In the Montessori Children’s House, when mathematical concepts are first presented to children, they are embodied in concrete materials.

Mathematics in the Children’s House builds on and extends the exercises of practical life and the exercises of the senses, as well as the many mathematical experiences children encounter incidentally in their daily lives, including experiences with:

  • visual representation of mathematical concepts
  • pattern and order
  • problem solving
  • cardinal and ordinal numbers
  • place value
  • operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)
  • fractions
  • spatial relations e.g. placement of objects, spatial patterns, one-to-one correspondence of objects and two-dimensional shapes
  • measurement e.g. length, mass, time, temperature, volume, perimeter, area
  • word problems (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)

As they work with the exercises of the senses, children are making judgements in relation to distance, dimension, graduation, identity, similarity and sequence. Building on this foundation, the Montessori mathematics materials introduce children to:

  • counting (from 1 to 10, 10 to 90, linear 1 to 100 and 1000, and skip-counting as an introduction to multiplication)
  • place value to four digits
  • number operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division).

The base ten number system is represented for children in concrete form using golden beads organised so they vary simultaneously in quantity, size, mass and geometric shape. Children are also given the corresponding symbol for each quantity. In this way, children experience relations between the hierarchies of the system in multiple ways. Using this material in active and enjoyable games, children learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide. This material supports the heightened sensitivity for number children tend to experience around the age of four.

The progression of the Montessori mathematics curriculum in the Children’s House follows a five-step sequence:

  1. Introduction of Concrete Materials: (The quantity is presented in isolation). Concepts are presented in a concrete form children can manipulate. Children are given accurate language to talk about the concrete impressions. Only after they have experienced the concrete material are they given the symbolic mathematical notation.
  2. Introduction of Symbols: (the visually recognised symbols are offered in isolation). When the child is comfortable with the concrete representation and the oral language, mathematical symbols are introduced.
  3. Association of the Concrete with the Symbols: (Accurate language is the link). Only after the child has completed the first two steps are the concrete materials and symbols combined.
  4. Practice: After being presented with the new information children need the opportunity for repetition. Children are offered a way to practise using and remembering this new knowledge and integrating it with what is already known. They have the opportunity to build and consolidate the knowledge through use of the materials, until it becomes automatic.
  5. Self Assessment: Children are given exercises to affirm or verify their own understanding and knowledge, and to establish whether they are ready for the next exercise.

Cultural Subjects: Science, Geography and History

Children enter the Children’s House when their interest in observing natural and social phenomena is at its peak. They are in the process of building a framework for classifying the features of the world around them. The exercises of the senses develop and refine children’s powers of observation and sensory perception. Children learn to appreciate the natural world and social world through their senses.

Activities that provide children with experience of the natural and social world are presented in the same integrated way as all Montessori activities. Knowledge is presented to children in concrete form they can manipulate in purposeful ways. Activities allow for freedom of choice and repetition. Lessons can be given individually, or in small or large groups.

In this way the culture area includes elements of the nature of the earth and its people (geography) the classification of plants and animals (Biology) a sense of the progression of time and of current events (History)

A systematic approach to the study of nature and society in the Children’s House lays the foundation for Cosmic Education, which is the major focus of studies for children aged from six to twelve years.

 

Introduction to the Second Plane of Development

The first six years of life lay down the foundation for all future development of human beings. During these years children experience extraordinary development in all facets of their lives. Their physical development is phenomenal, as is the development of personality, sociability and spirituality. At the same time, they acquire both language and culture. The second six years of life build on all these developments and acquisitions as children continue the process of self-construction. The nature of this process, however, changes because the characteristics of children beyond the age of six are very different.

The distinguishing features of the Montessori approach continue to underpin the Montessori curriculum for children from six to twelve years. Children are given the freedom to learn through their own activity and exploration, and, in the process, to become increasingly independent. The curriculum aims to develop in children the qualities of self-confidence, self-direction, self-discipline and persistence, in tandem with the ability to concentrate, to move with coordination, to interact with others with grace and courtesy and to take responsibility for the order of the environment and for their own learning. The preparation of the learning environment, and the resources and activities offered to the children, however, are matched to the characteristics of the second plane of development.

Characteristics of the Second Plane of Development

While the first plane of development is one of rapid physical growth and transformation, the second plane of development is characterised by physical stability and steady growth. Because less energy is being used for physical growth, children in the second plane of development have increased stamina. These stronger, healthier children are more adventurous and daring, often willing to try physically challenging things, and to ignore scrapes and bruises in order to demonstrate their increasing strength and toughness. This increase in physical stamina can also manifest itself as a capacity for sustained intellectual work. Children in this plane of development are more receptive to intellectual learning than at any other time in their lives.

In the Montessori tradition children in the first plane are said to have an absorbent mind, because they absorb, unconsciously, every aspect of their environment, language and culture. Before the age of six children are interested in the phenomena around them, both what phenomena are and where they are located, physically, socially and mentally. From about the age of six, however, the mind loses the ability to absorb the environment unconsciously. Instead children begin to use reason and logic to learn about their world consciously. Typical questions asked by children of this age include why, how and when. This is a time when children are developing great intellectual power.

In the second plane of development, just as in the first plane, children first learn about the world through the senses. In the Montessori curriculum for the second plane of development, wherever possible, concrete materials continue to be used to introduce new concepts. For example, children experience in concrete form the regular increase in three dimensions of a graded tower of cubes, or the concrete representation of square root and cube root. The opportunity to manipulate concrete representations of abstract concepts helps children build images of these concepts in their minds. These images, gained initially through sensory experience with concrete materials, help children in the second plane of development to understand and work with, for example, patterns, sequences, algorithms and theorems. In other words, these images become tools for thinking, enabling children to use, and strengthen, their powers of logical reasoning across the discipline areas of the curriculum.

An important task for children in the first plane of development is to learn to recognise what is real and what is not. For this reason, in the Montessori Children’s House, children are presented with true information about real things, for example, plants, animals and geographical features. Beyond the age of six, however, the imagination becomes an important intellectual tool. Children in the second plane of development use their imaginations to learn.

The imagination becomes the basis for abstraction, a mental tool developed by children during the second plane of development. The ability to abstract is the ability to retain an image of a sensory experience in the imagination so it can be recalled at any time, even when that experience is no longer physically present.

During the second plane of development children broaden their horizons beyond the confines of the family and into the wider society, most specifically into a new level of social life with their peers. They exhibit a great loyalty to their peer group and the evaluation of the group becomes paramount. During this time children are beginning the process of becoming independent from the family, a step they must take if they are eventually to make mature attachments beyond the family.

Children in the second plane of development are intrigued by the unusual and the extraordinary. They also look up to those they perceive to be heroes. These potential role models inspire children to stretch themselves and better themselves in some way. At the same time children of this age are developing and honing their conscience, their ability to tell right from wrong. Where young children might tend to accept what their parents tell them about right and wrong, beyond the age of six children want to work this out for themselves. They earnestly want to know what is right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair, but they also want to know why.

Montessori Prepared Environment for the Second Plane of Development

The preparation of the Montessori learning environment for the second plane of development and the design of the resources and activities offered to these children are based on the Montessori understanding of the distinctive characteristics of children of this age.

The Montessori environment for the second plane of development is designed for a mini-community of peers. As children begin to disengage from the family, they strive to ‘belong’ to, and become accepted by, a new community, this time of peers. Membership of this new community supports children as they become increasingly independent of the family, an independence that enables them to do things by themselves, and for themselves and others. A social environment of this type enables children, over time, to mature socially. In a community of peers, the first question children ask is, ‘Can we work together?’ In the Montessori learning environment this community provides them with the opportunity to collaborate on research projects and to share information.

In the Montessori Children’s House, children usually choose to work with the Montessori materials on their own. For this reason, most lessons are given to one child at a time. One of the first signs that children are psychologically making a transition to the second plane of development is that they begin to prefer working with other children. This way of working, characteristic of the second plane, is not simply working next to another child using a different material. Instead, it is working with another child, or a small group of children, cooperatively on the same task to achieve a shared goal. For this reason, lessons in the environment prepared for children in the second plane of development are given to small groups of children. Children who have had the same lesson are then able to follow up the work together.

Cosmic Education: A Curriculum for Children aged from Six to Twelve  Years

The curriculum offered in the Montessori environment prepared for the second plane of development is called, by Montessori educators, Cosmic Education. This curriculum presents children with a full range of educational disciplines, including mathematics and language, as well as the arts, sciences and social sciences. The materials and exercises for each discipline area help children build a conceptual order, and classification materials associated with each discipline help children construct a mental order. The educational disciplines, however, are not presented to children as discrete areas in defined blocks of time, but in the form of an interconnected, interrelated and open-ended curriculum. The children are shown how each topic is related to other topics in the same subject area and to other subject areas. The interconnections between the disciplines happen at different points of time and in different ways for different children. In this way, the curriculum is experienced as a coherent whole, individualised to each child’s interests and learning style, rather than as an assortment of unrelated pieces of information. This approach can be adjusted to match the learning styles of both global and linear thinkers and helps individual children to relate their predominant style of thinking to the thinking styles of others. The range of the Cosmic Education curriculum is very broad, and covers topics not always offered in primary school.

Pedagogy

The Montessori curriculum for children in the second plane of development has evolved over the past one hundred years as, first, Dr Montessori, and later, educators within the Montessori movement, experimented and observed:

  • what children of this age want to learn
  • when they want to learn it
  • how they want to learn it
  • what materials and activities can best help them to learn.

In the Montessori environment prepared for children in this plane of development, most lessons are given to small groups of children. Children spend a great deal of time working with others. Individual children, nevertheless, progress at their own rate.

The are two main types of lessons:

  • great lessons
  • key lessons

The great lessons are fable-like stories that provide children with an expansive and imaginative overview of a whole area of the curriculum. Key lessons are brief lessons that provide students with just enough information about a certain area of knowledge, or a skill, principle or technique they need to master in order for them to explore independently an area of interest emerging from a great lesson.

Careful records are kept of all lessons each child receives and the work that each child does. Children participate in regular, individual conferences with the teacher. These conferences are conducted so that children learn to evaluate their own level of mastery of materials and activities presented in previous lessons and their readiness for new lessons. In this way they become co-evaluators of their own work with the teacher. At the end of each conference the teacher asks if there are any lessons the child would like to receive that have not yet been mentioned. This helps the children take ownership of their own learning. Information collected at individual conferences is added to the record of lessons for each child. The teacher uses these records to plan future lessons, and groupings of children for these lessons. Occasionally a child needs to repeat a lesson. In this case the child may join the next group of children to be given the lesson or the child may receive an individual lesson if no one else needs the lesson at that time.

The Great Lessons

Dr Montessori observed that children in the second plane of development ask questions about the universe, the earth, life that has evolved on earth, and their place in this universe. In response to their questions she developed five great stories, or great lessons, that set the stage for an integrated approach to the curriculum offered to answer those questions. The first three great lessons introduce children to:

  1. the formation of the Universe, the Solar System and the Earth
  2. the evolution of life on Earth
  3. the coming of human beings to the Earth.

The fourth and fifth great lessons are about the two great human inventions around which the curriculum is structured:

  • communication through signs, in particular the alphabet
  • development of numbers

These five great lessons create a whole view, or overview, of the curriculum, into which details, provided by subsequent lessons, may be placed in relation to the whole and to one another. In this way, education becomes a coherent, interrelated whole rather than an assortment of unrelated pieces of information.

The Cosmic Education curriculum begins with the great lessons. Instead of giving children tiny, disconnected details, these stories give children the broad vision their expanding intellectual power demands. They become the framework for all subsequent lessons and activities, ensuring the coherence of the curriculum. In response to the children’s interests sparked by the great lessons the teacher prepares lessons to harness those interests. The environment is designed to provide children with space and uninterrupted time to follow these interests, for example, in a great work.

Great Work

Because children in the second plane of development like to exert maximum effort, they often initiate a great work, in other words, a work that completely absorbs them for an extended period of time. During such work children develop their ability to cooperate with others as well as to concentrate for longer periods of time.

The follow-up work children complete after each lesson does not take the form of work sheets because, when children come to the end of a worksheet, psychologically they perceive the work as finished. Without the arbitrary limit set by a worksheet, children become very inventive in designing ways to work with the information or to practise the skill. Through invention of this sort, the information becomes their own, or the skill is mastered. When children are free to work in this way, they become completely absorbed in large endeavours. Exerting maximum effort and being creative become habits. This phenomenon has been observed in Montessori environments for children of this age so frequently that it has been named great work. For this reason, the Montessori environment prepared for children of this age provides both the space and the uninterrupted time for this kind of activity to occur.

During a great work children build and expand their understanding, repeating the original lesson in a variety of ways. With each new understanding children appear to enjoy ‘flexing their mental muscles’, and often strive to exercise that understanding in a big way. An important aspect of this type of work is the opportunity to talk with their peers. Children of this age love to share and discuss ideas with their friends. This talk is important because it helps children develop their reasoning, the reasoning mind being a distinguishing characteristic of this plane of development. Children of this age want to know the reasons for things. When they are investigating a particular topic, they research and discuss using questions such as: Why is this like this? How did this happen?

The Environment

In the Montessori curriculum for children in the second plane of development two environments are offered to the children. The first environment is the classroom and the second is the world outside the classroom. The two environments together are used to:

  • deliver the Cosmic Education curriculum
  • give children the opportunity to engage actively with the curriculum.

The Cosmic Education curriculum follows the principle of ‘just enough’. This means that environment provides ‘just enough’ in the way of lessons, materials and information to equip children to proceed on their own. It is not the responsibility of the Montessori teacher to satisfy the vast curiosity children of this age have to know and to learn. Instead the teacher’s responsibility is to supply just enough information so the children will be eager to know more and to search for that knowledge and skill independently. The teacher helps them learn how to find out more on their own as well as how to interact with the material, information or skill in order to make it their own.

In summary, the Montessori environment for this age group is not designed to contain all the answers to the children’s questions. In fact Dr Montessori warned that offering children too much in the learning environment can be as detrimental as offering too little. Instead the environment provides reasons for children to go out into the world in order to learn more. This is why the second environment for primary children is the world outside of the classroom. The world is made part of children’s environment through the going out programme.

Going Out

While occasional field trips planned by the teacher and involving the whole class are one element of the Montessori Cosmic Education curriculum, the going out programme is something different. Going out is initiated, planned and carried out by the children themselves. This generally involves small groups of children who have a common interest. Activities of this kind begin simply and then grow in complexity over the primary years. If the class has a fish tank, for example, younger children may arrange for a trip to the pet shop to buy fish food. Initially, the teacher helps children with the planning process and shows them how to find out when the shop is open and how to get to and from the shop. By the time the children are older, they engage in a more complex process that includes:

  • establishing that they have a need to go out
  • deciding what kind of outing would serve their purpose
  • obtaining the necessary information
  • finding out where to go
  • finding out how to get there
  • researching the costs involved
  • establishing the amount of time needed
  • planning what needs to be taken on the outing
  • inviting chaperones.

The prepared environment includes a range of resources for children to use as they plan an excursion beyond the classroom. These might include:

  • brochures and other information about places to go for particular kinds of experiences
  • phone books and a telephone
  • maps and a street directory
  • email and Internet access

To help children prepare for going out, they are given how to lessons, including:

  • how to telephone for information or to make appointments
  • how to read a map or street directory,
  • how to search for information on the Internet
  • how to use email
  • how to use public transport
  • how to conduct interviews
  • how to take notes
  • how to write letters of inquiry and thank you notes.

At no time do children leave the school unaccompanied; one or more adults always accompany children when they go out. The role of the adult/s is to ensure the children come to no harm. The children themselves take responsibility for all aspects of the trip.

Abstraction and Imagination

The resources and activities in the Montessori learning environment for this plane of development are designed to aid the progression to abstraction. Many Montessori materials represent abstract concepts in concrete form. Children manipulate these materials to discover the concepts, working with the materials for as long as they need. They cease using the materials when they can manipulate the concepts abstractly. The ability to abstract is interwoven with the ability to imagine. With their imagination children of this age can experience and learn about all aspects of our universe, whether phenomena far out in space, places on the other side of the world, or particles too small for the human eye to see. When, for example, children of this age have seen a lake and understand what a lake is, they can imagine lakes anywhere in the world. If they have experienced snow, they can imagine the South Pole. Imagination also gives them the power to go backwards in time and imagine what life must have been like before there were grocery shops, a time when human beings had to find all their own food in order to survive. The Montessori learning environment for this age offers children an extensive array of images of this type in the form of stories, charts and experiments.

Social and Ethical Development

The learning environment also accommodates the hero worship so common to this age group by telling true stories of people from diverse times and places, stories that reveal the characteristics of these people, what they have done and the service they have given. Such stories inspire a sense of gratitude in the children for the contribution of others and may show them ways of contributing to the community and serving humanity themselves.

At the same time, children of this age are developing a sense of right and wrong, a sense of morality. This area of development is supported in the Montessori learning environment where children are free to make their own choices and to choose their own workspace and work companions. This freedom carries with it responsibilities. Socialising and working within a community of peers teaches children how to live and work together. Lessons in grace and courtesy provide the knowledge and support children need to succeed in social interactions. At the same time, the great story of the formation of the universe introduces children to the laws of physics that operate in the universe. The story demonstrates how these laws preserve and protect the earth and make it possible for life to exist. Children also learn about past civilisations and how they developed laws that enabled them to live together. Through these stories, and the work that follows, children come to understand the benefit of laws and rules in all contexts, natural and social.

Children at this age have a heightened sense of justice and want everything to be fair. They practise negotiation and mediation skills among their own society of peers. There are regular class meetings for children of this age. Topics discussed at these meetings often include the concept of fairness along with issues of right and wrong. The interest children of this age have in understanding morality often leads to a deep sense of justice, as well as compassion for less assertive or younger children and people everywhere who are in need of help.

The Cosmic Education curriculum reveals to children the gifts they have received from the natural environment and from human society. The curriculum is designed to develop a sense of gratitude and of responsibility in relation to the care of the earth and to the care of people on the earth. Through their engagement with this curriculum some children may discover their own life’s vocation, for example, preserving the natural environment, or attending to the needs of others. As children increasingly understand how richly they are blessed both by the natural world and the work of other humans, their response is often an ambition to offer service of their own.

The Montessori environment prepared for the second plane of development prepares children for adolescence by fostering self-regulation, social and intellectual skills and a vision of the place of humanity in the universe. This approach provides a framework that supports young people when they are faced with critical choices in the future.


Cosmic Education: An Overview

The Cosmic Education curriculum for the second plane of development covers the following interrelated discipline areas:

  • Language
  • Mathematics, with Geometry and Measurement as distinct areas of study
  • History and Geography
  • Science, with Biology as a distinct area of study
  • Creative Arts
  • Physical Education
  • Languages other than English

The way the discipline areas of Montessori Cosmic Education are interwoven to create an integrated curriculum for children in the second plane of development is represented in the following diagram.

 

The Cosmic Education curriculum has its origins in ideas Dr Montessori proposed a century ago, ideas that have continued to be implemented and developed to the present day in classrooms all over the world. The integrated design of the curriculum offers students a view of whole domains of knowledge, and shows students how these domains are interrelated. Manipulable materials reveal to children the underlying structure of each domain of knowledge enabling them to follow their interests and to pursue detailed studies of particular topics while retaining a sense of the whole and its interconnections. This approach to curriculum has provided Montessori teachers over the decades with a base from which they can incorporate, in principled ways, extra topics and skills as required, for example, new discoveries (e.g. the discovery of DNA), changed understandings (e.g. no longer considering Pluto to be a planet), technological innovation (e.g. in information and communications technology) as well as specific requirements of local authorities not yet addressed in the Montessori curriculum (e.g. new approaches to problem-solving, changing technical terms).

The main content areas of the Montessori curriculum are outlined briefly below.

Language

Language is the ability to symbolise in an abstract form objects, ideas, emotions, and events, taking them out of the immediate context, and holding them in the mind. Language work in the Montessori environment prepared for children in the second plane of development is an exploration of a great human achievement that has made possible the creation of culture and the continuation of societies. Children in the second plane of development strive to put language in context, to explore the reasons for a variety of phenomena, and to use language beyond its literal use. The study of language must therefore be presented very imaginatively; it must appeal to imagination and reason, rather than to surface reality alone.

Areas of study in the Montessori language curriculum include:

  • spoken and written language
  • the history of language (symbols, etymology and spelling)
  • the functions of words (grammar)
  • effective communication (listening and speaking, reading and writing).

Using stories, pictures, books and technology children trace the development of language through the ages. Presentations, activities and resources help them understand:

  • how humans have named everything found or made and that this process continues
  • how and why language constantly changes
  • how language is used to express the creative impulse of humanity.

Studying the origins and historical development of words fascinates children of this age. This study becomes a foundation for spelling knowledge and contributes to understanding the history of cultures. The learning environment is a place where children continue to learn to read, to write creatively and to perfect the art of handwriting.

Mathematics

The power of the human mathematical mind is its ability to quantify with precision and to reason through logic and abstract pattern. The versatility of the mathematical mind is as great as its potential to order and understand. Since the mathematical mind is universal, it belongs to every child as a birthright, and mathematics is part of our human heritage. In addition, human beings have a tremendous capacity for reason. Children who are learning to reason need, therefore, a larger quantity of information about which to reason.

The Montessori learning environment for children in the second plane of development offers new mathematical challenges beyond those found in the Children’s House. Children in the second plane of development do not want to be tied to concrete materials. They strive for the freedom to work at the level of abstraction. While the Montessori mathematics materials are concrete representations of abstract mathematical concepts, in this environment they are used as stepping-stones, as keys only. In the presentation of these materials difficulties are isolated and, in the more complex activities, concepts are synthesised. In this way children are guided towards abstraction, but the actual transition to abstraction itself is achieved by children independently. When children work abstractly without prior concrete experience they can face obstacles to comprehension. The Montessori approach allows children to grasp mathematical concepts by first experiencing and manipulating them in concrete form. Children are given as much time as they need to learn from their successes and their mistakes, while also discovering the rewards of perseverance.

Children of this age love to reach back into history with their imaginations to reconstruct the creation of knowledge systems. Mathematics is a language used to explore and manipulate, to create and measure real objects in a real world. Children learn that mathematics has evolved from a practical need, for example, graphs and fractions as tools for recording and measuring, and algebra for problem solving. Children are encouraged to invent their own problems—especially real-life story problems—for themselves and for their friends, in order to apply and practise their mathematical understanding in practical ways.

When children work with the Montessori mathematics materials, they are presented with concrete images of abstract concepts and processes. Children use the materials to undertake quite complex mathematical processes, for example, long division or square root, much earlier than if the work were introduced using paper and pencil only. As they manipulate the concrete materials, children internalise mathematical concepts, processes and rules embodied in the materials. These are concepts, processes and rules they might otherwise have to learn by rote but without the depth of understanding developed while working with the Montessori materials.

When presenting children with new material, a Montessori teacher first orients children to the material and what it represents. The teacher then guides the children through a sequence of steps or exercises, progressing gradually, one small step at a time, from highly concrete to completely abstract representations. The exercises are sequenced in a manner that introduces a variation in use, or an additional detail, with each step. These new variations and details hold the children’s interest.

At some point in the process, each child comes to the realisation that the same steps can be completed much more efficiently without the material, that is they can be completed abstractly, using only numbers, and other mathematical symbols, on paper, to find the answer. Montessori educators call this transition the passage to abstraction. In this way each child arrives at abstraction precisely when they are prepared for it. In many cases children come to the realisation on their own and inform the teacher; in other cases the teacher assists a child by asking questions that lead to the realisation. By allowing abstraction to ‘arrive’ for each child, in the child’s own time, the teacher can be assured that the knowledge is now stored in long-term memory, rather than being temporarily memorised, and can be understood and explained by the child.

Geometry and Measurement

Children first encounter the study of geometry in the Children’s House during the exercises of the senses. In the Children’s House they are given as much language to talk about geometric shapes as possible. This prepares them for the next level of geometry study they encounter in the environment prepared for children in the second plane of development. In this new environment the study of geometry gives children the tools to explore, understand and measure the world.

In the Montessori geometry curriculum children follow the historical development of the discipline of geometry. Because geometry emerged from concrete experience, with abstractions following at a later time, children study geometry by following the same sequence. Students’ initial ideas about shapes and space are based on activity with concrete objects.The work uses the guided discovery approach so that the children discover the relationships, theorems and formulae for themselves.

The field of geometry provides opportunities for both inductive and deductive learning. As the children make their own discoveries, they are interested in learning about the people who first made these discoveries. Throughout the geometry curriculum they are told stories about, and are given opportunities to research, the people behind the geometry we use today. In addition to the enjoyment children exhibit in studying geometry, this work also provides them with a stimulus for intellectual development by giving them experience with logical reasoning, deduction, classification and abstract concepts.

Creative expression in art through geometry is also an integral part of its study. The Montessori geometry materials foster creative activity that involves construction of various two- and three-dimensional forms, artistic drawings and decoration.

The study of measurement in learning environments prepared for six to twelve year olds also has its origins in the exercises of the senses in the Children’s House, specifically, in the discrimination, judgement and precision children apply as they contrast, compare and grade differences and similarities in, for example, size, shape, volume and mass isolated in the sensorial materials. When children begin the study of measurement in the environment prepared for six to nine year olds, they learn to attach a number of ‘units’ to concrete objects, first non-standard and ancient units of measurement based on the parts of the body, and later the standard units of the International Metric System.

History, Geography and Science

Because the Montessori approach integrates the study of history, geography and science, including biology and technology, these subject areas comprise one area of the Cosmic Education curriculum.

History

The Montessori history curriculum begins with the ‘big picture’, from the development of the universe, the solar system and the earth, to the evolution of life on earth and the coming of human beings, early civilisations and recorded history. The long labour of humans to accomplish all that is here for us to enjoy in the present is revealed to the children. The history curriculum provides a chronological framework that orders the information presented in the companion areas of study: geology, biology and science. In fact, history is considered to be the foundation of the Cosmic Education curriculum. Studies of geography, science and all the related disciplines flow naturally from the study of history. The starting point in any educational discipline extends back in time, and in this way can be linked to any other discipline area, in this interdisciplinary approach.

Geography

The Montessori geography curriculum is designed to show how the physical configuration of the earth contributes to the history of all people. The study of physical geography (including geology) is the basis for the study of economic geography, which reveals the interdependence of all nations and people. Geography study comprises several interconnecting areas, including:

  • physical geography
  • scientific understanding of geological formations/geology
  • economic geography
  • political geography
  • mapping and graphing

Biology

The Montessori biology curriculum includes both botany and zoology. In this study children are given the means to classify plants and animals, and to understand the reasons behind the classification. The study of biology reveals that the classification of living things follows the path of evolution. The ultimate aim of this area of the curriculum is to develop an ecological understanding of the web of life, and a sense of responsibility for the natural environment. Learning systems for classifying plant and animal life also provide children with intellectual tools for ordering and relating information.

Science and Technology

In the Cosmic Education curriculum the study of science and technology is interwoven into the study of history, geography and biology.

When children study geology and geography, they are also discovering how the universe and the earth were formed. During this study children build foundation knowledge in the fields of physics and chemistry.

When children explore biology, they are also discovering the history of life on earth.

The history of human progress is a history of scientific discovery and technological development.

All these areas of study are accompanied by relevant demonstrations, including science experiments, and the use of impressionistic charts and timelines to generate discussion and create mental pictures.

 

The Adolescent Programme: A Curriculum for Adolescents Aged from Twelve to Fifteen Curriculum Overview

The Montessori adolescent curriculum is divided into three main domains. These are intellectual development, creative expression and preparation for adult life. These three domains are closely interwoven across the curriculum, with the intellectual development and creative expression domains having a particularly strong cross-curricular orientation.

Intellectual Development

The domain of intellectual development is made up subjects that comprise the knowledge students need in order to make a contribution to society. This domain has a cross-curricular orientation, traversing all areas of the curriculum.

First, this domain covers an area of study, which in the Montessori context, is called moral development, and which focuses on the study of civility, citizenship, civil society and community life. This area of study includes opportunities for students to participate in, and contribute to, the immediate community. Through these activities, students have the chance to extend the domain of grace and courtesy into learning how to engage with members of their own and the wider community, in everyday interactions, financial interactions, problem-solving, debate and discussion with civility and a concern for the needs, dignity and well-being of all involved. Through their community participation students develop a social conscience and a sense of social responsibility, as well as opportunities to develop independence, leadership skills and skills related to making ethical and wise choices.

Second, in order to make a positive contribution to society, citizens must be numerate and literate. For this reason, studies in mathematics and English language are included in this domain. As part of their civic responsibility, students also are expected to become familiar with the content and standards of the mandated curriculum that all students in the state or country are required to study and achieve.

The subjects studied in this domain are:

  • civility, citizenship, civics and community life (civil society and moral development)
  • mathematics, including arithmetic, geometry, algebra and measurement
  • language, English language, as well as at least one language other than English

In this domain English and mathematics are studied in discrete lessons, as a means of building and consolidating foundation knowledge and skills. These subjects are also embedded in all areas of the curriculum, wherever language and mathematical skills are needed to engage productively with curriculum content.

Creative Expression

The domain of creative expression is made up of subjects oriented to personal expression, specifically linguistic, artistic and imaginative expression. This domain also has a cross-curricular orientation in the Montessori adolescent program, because creative expression of all kinds can become the means adolescents use to represent knowledge and skills gained in any area of the curriculum.

The three subjects in this domain of the curriculum are:

  • language for creative expression
  • music
  • visual arts

As students study in the domain of creative expression, they are taught skills in all areas of the arts, including literature and creative writing, visual arts, crafts, music and performance. They are then given opportunities to use these skills to demonstrate and display knowledge and understanding gained in any area of the curriculum. For example, to display what they have learned while undertaking a research project on ancient Alexandria, a group of students might present a dramatic representation of the character of Socrates, another might create artworks relevant to the historical time in which Socrates lived, while another might perform a musical recital that relates to that time.

Preparation for Adult Life and Contemporary Culture

The domain of the Montessori adolescent curriculum that prepares students for adult life and contemporary culture includes the subjects of science and history. It also includes the occupations, the work of the adolescent community.

In the Montessori adolescent community the Science curriculum is organised under two headings.

The study of the physical universe, the Earth and living things, incorporating studies in:

  • Earth and space sciences: cosmology, including astronomy; geology and physical geography, including the geology and geography of prehistoric periods
  • Biological sciences: biology, including studies in botany, zoology, ecology, physiology, comparative anatomy and health sciences (including nutrition and exercise science)

The study of human progress and civilisation, incorporating studies in:

  • Physical sciences: physics and chemistry
  • Contemporary sciences: mechanics and engineering, history of science and technology, including genetics

The study of human progress incorporates engagement with machines and instruments collected in the museum of machinery. In this museum students have the opportunity to explore and engage with a variety of machines, instruments and inventions that have made human civilisation possible (Montessori 1976 [1948]: Appendix B). These include manual, mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment, from the past and the present, including, for example, microscopes, radios, engines, computers, cars, televisions and mobile phones. In the museum, with the support of experts, students have the opportunity to explore the parts of machines, to discover how they work and to reassemble and modify the machines for specific purposes. Again, echoing the learning style of the child in the first plane of development, the ability of the adolescent to focus, to lengthen periods of concentration and to be concerned with accuracy and precision is enhanced if the activity they are engaged in requires exact and challenging work with the hands.

In the Montessori adolescent community, history is studied with the broader context of the humanities, which include geography, anthropology, politics and economics. This study is organised under two headings:

  • The study of humanity
  • The study of the building of human civilisation

Through the study of history and the humanities adolescents can understand how humans have progressed though time. For this reason, students study in depth the history of particular historical periods, and are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture, including an exploration through visual and dramatic arts, music, food, culture and daily life of these periods of time. In this way they engage with the knowledge both emotionally and cognitively. This area of study includes the following topics:

  • geographical exploration
  • relation of humans to the environment
  • contact between different peoples
  • war, religion and the love of one’s country and culture
  • a detailed study of an historical period
  • a detailed study of one person’s life
  • a detailed study of the present day
  • a detailed study of our nation
  • law and government in our nation and other nations
  • literature

The occupations, or work of the adolescent community includes:

  • practical daily life tasks, including maintenance of the community environment
  • working the land, including, for example, care of the natural environment, horticulture, agriculture and animal husbandry
  • contributing to the micro-enterprises of the community

This work is undertaken collaboratively. From the Montessori point of view, work of this type does not hinder a student’s study; instead, it enhances the quality of the study as students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge to solve problems and to contribute to the community. The occupations enable students to build independence, to the point where they experience what it means to be economically independent in society. While working collaboratively on occupations that contribute to the life of the community, students are also learning to discipline themselves, and to work towards shared goals.

The three areas of this domain of the curriculum together achieve the aim of fostering in adolescents an admiration, for and understanding of, the life and work of humanity.

In this domain students also study English and mathematics wherever these subjects intersect with the study of science and history, and with the occupations. In other words, students learn the English and mathematical skills needed to study productively in this domain.

Curriculum Summary

Intellectual Development (cross-curricular):

  • civility, citizenship, civics and community life (civil society and moral development)
  • mathematics, including arithmetic, geometry, algebra and measurement
  • language, English language, as well as at least one language other than English

Creative Expression (cross-curricular):

  • language for creative expression
  • music
  • visual arts

 

Preparation for adult life and contemporary culture

Science curriculum

The study of the Earth and living things, incorporating studies in:

  • Earth and space sciences: cosmology, including astronomy; geology and physical geography, including the geology and geography of prehistoric periods
  • Biological sciences: biology, including studies in botany, zoology, ecology, physiology, comparative anatomy and health sciences
  • the study of human progress and civilisation, incorporating studies in:
  • Physical sciences: physics and chemistry
  • Contemporary sciences: mechanics and engineering, history of science and technology, including genetics

 

History and the humanities curriculum

  • the study of humanity
  • the study of the building of human civilisation
  • These studies incorporate studies in geography, anthropology, politics and economics.

Occupations

  • practical daily life tasks, including maintenance of the community environment
  • working the land, including care of the natural environment, horticulture, agriculture and animal husbandry
  • participating in the micro-enterprises of the adolescent community

 

Pedagogy

The themes that govern the approach to pedagogy implemented in the Montessori adolescent community are synthesis and integration. First, the characteristics of the adolescent student, in the third plane of development, are considered by Montessori educators to be a synthesis of the characteristics of both the first plane child and the second plane child. For this reason, Montessori adolescent pedagogy integrates concrete and active learning experiences with opportunities for reflective and contemplative study of increasingly abstract concepts and ideas. Second, the pedagogy integrates intellectual and ethical development, creative expression and the academic disciplines, giving students the opportunity to apply discipline knowledge, judgement and creative skills to problem solving in projects that require physical activity, ethical choices, self-expression and abstract application of interdisciplinary knowledge. The focus of the pedagogy is the adolescent’s civic, ethical and social development as well as the adolescent’s adaptation to the demands of the changing natural and human world.

To facilitate the interdisciplinary approach, teachers who work with the students in the adolescent community are qualified to teach across a group of related subjects, and are experts in these areas. The students also work with teachers who are experts in practical and specialised skills. These specialised teachers work on their own projects, giving the students opportunities to work alongside them to achieve practical and real world goals that are meaningful in the adult world. There are also teachers with expertise in Montessori education, as well as adults with expertise in adolescent physiology, health and psychology.

Learning experiences include opportunities to address individual learning needs through individual and small group tutoring, as well as opportunities for collaborative learning through group work, project-based learning, seminars, workshops, discussion groups, book groups, research tasks, practical projects and community work. In summary, the pedagogy can be described as expansive. It combines both active and reflective approaches to learning through interdisciplinary studies in the context of collaborative projects in which adolescents work alongside specialists to achieve socially and economically meaningful goals.

The expansive nature of the curriculum, and the pedagogy used to implement the curriculum, ensures that the curriculum can be adjusted to accommodate knowledge, skills and understandings required by the Australian Curriculum and the demands of external examinations. Students become active participants with teachers in the task of identifying individual learning needs and, where needed, to design individualised learning programmes to meet these requirements and demands. The goal is to hand over to students increasing responsibility for planning and managing their own learning as one aspect of the overall aim of the Montessori learning environment prepared for adolescents: to prepare students for social and economic independence.


 Co-curricular Activities

In addition to the Montessori curriculum outlined above, the Beehive Montessori School also incorporates:

 

Language other than English

Italian is the chosen second language at The Beehive Montessori School, as it is a language in our surrounding community as well as a connection to our founder, Dr Maria Montessori. All full time students are offered tuition in Italian, initially at a simple word level in Junior Primary and progressing to conversation and written work in the older age groups. The year 9 students undertake a 3 week trip to Italy, with a focus on history, cultural appreciation and language use.

 

Protective Behaviours

The Protective Behaviours programme provides important strategies and life skills for children. It has 2 major themes:

  • “We all have the right to feel safe at all times.”
  • “We can talk with someone about anything, no matter what it is.”Through these themes the child is helped to understand their rights and responsibilities, effective ways of responding to conflict, bullying, and various other social pressures. The programme aims:
  • To give children and adults permission to talk about problem situations they face;
  • To empower people with the right to feel safe and act to keep themselves safe;
  • Allows and teaches people to acknowledge their ‘feelings’ and act on them; and
  • To provide a safe method of addressing the specific areas of child abuse and domestic violence.The protective Behaviours programme is included as part of the health programme throughout the School.The Virtues Project

    As part of the Montessori focus on the whole child, the Virtues Project was adopted by the School as an additional formalized way to address the emotional and social development of the child. It aims to provide empowering strategies that inspire the practice of virtues in everyday life.

     

    There are 52 virtues examined (eg. Love, Kindness,Justice and Service) which have been drawn from all faiths and cultures and identified as universally valued by people. Using The Five Strategies of the Virtues Project children are encouraged to display integrity and compassion, develop a culture of character in our schools, and inspire excellence and service in their workplace. These strategies build foundations for safe and caring communities.

  • Speak the Language of the Virtues
  • Recognize Teachable Moments
  • Set Clear Boundaries
  • Honor the Spirit
  • Offer Spiritual CompanioningMeditation and RelaxationAfter returning to the classroom following their playtime, children spend 10-15 minutes in meditation (relaxation). Teachers vary in their individual interpretations of this practice from class to class, but the overall idea is that various meditation methods such as creative visualization, breathing techniques, and so on are modeled and shared, encouraging peaceful contemplation and providing children with valuable skills in stress relief.Music & Art

    Music and art are both valued aspects of the curriculum which are continuously integrated throughout the other curriculum areas as outlined above. In addition to this, all classes receive weekly specialist tuition in music and learn various art techniques in class and through visiting artists in residence.

     

    Physical Education

    Healthy eating and enjoyable physical activities are important at Beehive, and we provide opportunities for outdoor and sporting activities for all ages. The focus is on fitness, enjoyment, and collaboration rather than competition.

     

    Sustainability: Waterwise & Wastewise

     

    The concept of sustainability is integral to The Beehive Montessori School ethos. Beehive has been an accredited Waterwise school since 2006, and Wastewise school since 2008.

    We integrate the Waterwise & Wastewise philosophies across all learning areas by delivering an education program to give the students the skills, knowledge and values to empower them to make responsible choices regarding water &waste management. Many of these principles are already imbedded within the Montessori curriculum within the strands of geography, history and biology. In addition to this we;

     

  • Involve children in a range of Waterwise & Wastewise activities
  • Access specialist knowledge in the community in the form of incursions and excursions
  • Actively raise awareness of Waterwise & Wastewise practices within the school and wider community through the school newsletter, fundraising efforts, and parent evenings
  • Role model Waterwise & Wastewise practices through the ongoing building and improvement of infrastructure (e.g. installed rainwater tanks, dual flush toilets, recycling and compost bins)  Indigenous Programs 

An integral part of Beehive’s philosophy is to embed meaningful classroom lessons which inform children of our indigenous Australian heritage. These lessons fall within the existing Montessori curriculum, within culture lessons in junior primary, the history & geography strands of the cosmic curriculum in the primary school, and in distinct humanities projects in the adolescent programme. Since the adoption of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in 2012, this area has been given extra focus with the development of Indigenous units of study, the creation of classroom materials, and excursions and incursions directly relating to the Whadjuk Nyungar people, the traditional custodians of the land on which Beehive sits.

 

Further information about the curriculum can be obtained from the Principal.