Montessori National Curriculum
Here at the Beehive Montessori School we believe that education is a lifelong process of self-discovery, that learning should be a joyful experience, and that Montessori pedagogy is the most effective and successful model of education available today to meet this end. Dr Maria Montessori revolutionised the concept of education by devising a system that put the student at the centre of learning, as opposed to the historical industrial model of education, which focused on the role of the teacher.
This is the beauty of a Montessori education. It is a sophisticated and ingenious method of responding to the developmental needs of children, in order to make education a joyful, effortless and meaningful experience.
“We must help the child to act for himself, [sic]
will for himself, think for himself;
this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.”
Maria Montessori, Education for a New World, p. 69
PLANES OF DEVELOPMENT
Dr Montessori observed that every child moves to adulthood through a series of developmental periods which she called the ‘Planes of Development’. Each of these periods is different but built upon the foundation of the preceding one, with the Montessori environment and approach tailored to meet the child’s needs at each stage. While Dr Montessori created this chart back in 1954, modern science and neurological understanding in particular, continues to support the observations she made about children, all those years ago.
“If “the formation of man” becomes the basis of education, then the coordination of all schools from infancy to maturity, from nursery to university, arises as a first necessity: for man is a unity, an individuality that passes through interdependent phases of development. Each preceding phase prepares the one that follows, forms its base, nurtures the energies that urge towards the succeeding period of life. ”
Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence, p. 84
Montessori deliberately made these planes of development stylised and geometric to highlight the idea that this development was not linear, but rather occurs in a cyclical fashion. The first and third planes are represented in red, to highlight the immense growth and hormonal changes that occur at this time. Children and young adults in these planes are typically less emotionally stable, and less physically robust. In contrast, the second and third planes are represented in blue, to convey the relatively calm phases of inform growth, where the individual enjoys a period of physical and emotional stability, and strength.
In the first plane, from birth to six, the child is characterised by what Montessori labelled an ‘absorbent mind’. At this stage of development, children effortlessly take in all aspects of the environment that they are born into; its language, beliefs, and all other aspects of their culture. Montessori drew this plane in red to reflect the intense physical and hormonal growth that occurs at this time. Dr Montessori recognised that the main drive of children this age is to acquire physical independence.
In the second plane, from around six to twelve, the child develops a ‘reasoning mind’, capable of more abstract and creative thought, enabling them to explore their world with their new found imagination. As this is a calmer plane of development with less energy put into physical and hormonal growth than in the preceding plane, the child is therefore more robust both physically and mentally. This allows greater scope for intellectual growth and endeavour of the individual.
“Knowledge can be best given where there is eagerness to learn, so this is the period (age 6 to 12) when the seed of everything can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture. ”
Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential, p. 4
It is very easy to underestimate the abilities of the child at this age, and it is important that we do not limit their access to information or understanding through our own limits, but spend time teaching them how to learn, so that there is no limit set by us.
In the third plane, from around twelve to eighteen, the adolescent is characterised by a ‘humanistic mind’, eager to understand humanity and the contribution he or she might make toward the society of which they are a part. Once again this is shown as red, to highlight the immense period of hormonal and physical growth the individual undertakes at this time. A lot of energy is now spent in the process of sexual maturation, and becoming an adult, and this is not stable or linear as in the second plane.
In the last plane of development, from age eighteen to twenty four, the adult explores the world with a ‘specialist mind’, taking his or her place in the world, driven by their individual interests and passions. Maria Montessori believed that if education followed the natural development of the child, society would move toward a higher level of co-operation, peace and harmony.
THE MONTESSORI ENVIRONMENT
Walk into our Montessori classrooms and you will invariably see happy, busy children working purposefully. The classrooms are beautiful and enticing. Great care is taken to create a learning environment that will reinforce the child’s independence and natural drive towards self-development. This is achieved in three ways: beauty, order and accessibility. Montessori materials are displayed on low open shelves. Every piece of material has a specific purpose and is presented to the children in order for them to practice with it, to direct their own learning.
The Montessori materials are tools to stimulate the child into logical thought and discovery. Each piece of material presents one concept at a time, and many have a ‘control of error’. This means that if the child has done something incorrect it will be self-evident. The geometric shape, for example, will not fit in the hole; the water will spill on the table or the last label will not match the last picture. In this way, children learn to work with increasing independence, and take control and responsibility for their own learning.
The Montessori classroom is not only a space for individual learning. It is a vibrant community of children where the child learns to interact socially in a variety of ways. The three-year age range enables older children to teach the younger children, learning much themselves from this experience, while the younger children are inspired to more complex work by observing the older ones. With such a variety of levels in the classroom, each child is free to work at his or her own pace, unhindered by competition, encouraged by cooperation.
By remaining in a classroom for a 3-year cycle, the child is also able to develop a stronger connection with their classmates as well as their classroom teachers, who have ample time to observe and meet the needs of the individuals within their care.
In a Montessori classroom the role of the teacher does not look the same as that in a traditional teacher, and are often referred to as directors or directresses, to make this distinction. Montessori teachers have traditional teaching qualifications, as well as a further Montessori education diploma. The teacher in a Montessori classroom is a guide or facilitator whose task is to support the child in their process of self-development. First and foremost, they must be an observer, unobtrusively monitoring each child’s development, recognising and interpreting each child’s needs.
The teacher in a Montessori environment provides the link between the child and the prepared environment, introducing the child to each piece of equipment when they are ready, in a clear, precise and enticing way. The teacher also provides a link between the classroom and the parent, and meets with each parent regularly to discuss the child’s progress.
Maria Montessori believed that the first three years of life are the most fundamental in the development of human beings and their potential. In her own words “Our work as adults does not consist in teaching, but in helping the infant mind in its work of development.” ~ Maria Montessori
During the first three years of life the child’s intelligence is formed. They acquire the culture and language into which they have been born. It is a period when the core of personality and the social being are developed ~ Montessori Australia Foundation.
It is during this period that a child’s brain absorbs more information from the environment than at any other part of his or her lifetime. Thus the environment and stimuli that we provide for young children to interact with are fundamental for their development, particularly with regard to independence, motor skills and language acquisition.
The Montessori approach for children under three years has a strong emphasis on parent education, on recognition of the parent as prime educator, and preparation of the home environment.
Our Montessori playgroup provides an opportunity for children and their parents to come together in a specially prepared environment suited to the developmental needs of young children. This nurturing environment with specially designed materials and equipment is calm, ordered and enticing to children to explore and assist them in realising their full potential.
The prepared environment is an inviting space furnished with child-sized furniture, a reading nook complete with language enrichment activities, books, a chair for breastfeeding and a parent resource library. A smaller area has been set up for the younger child that includes a movement mat, mirror and climbing equipment.
The focus of our program is to help children experience the joy of learning by facilitating their need for independence, order, movement, language and understanding of the world. Through the support and guidance of a facilitator, parents will increase their awareness of their child’s capabilities and need for independence. Parents will grow in their role as nurturing caregivers as they gain valuable parenting knowledge about Montessori principles including what experiences they can offer their child in the home environment.
Children delight in opportunities to master movements and experience independence. The environment supports the child’s need for purposeful activity. There are many carefully prepared materials set out on low shelving to meet the child’s natural interests.
Children are able to choose and use materials with minimal adult assistance. Parents are made aware of the importance of allowing their child to complete and repeat tasks without interruption or interference. In this way, the child builds up their concentration span and sense of accomplishment.
Children are able to engage in a wide range of age appropriate activities. A facilitator will provide guidance and support as needed.
The range of activities includes:
• Materials to aid sensory motor development
• Materials to aid eye-hand co-ordination and equilibrium
• Materials to aid refinement of hand movement
• Language development and enrichment
• Practical Life activities and the development of independence
• Art, Music and movement activities
JUNIOR PRIMARY (3-6 year olds)
Children between birth and six possess what Montessori described as ‘an absorbent mind‘. The child learns more in this time period than in any other time of their life.
In our junior primary, classrooms are equipped with a rich variety of Montessori teaching materials, each especially designed to meet the developmental needs of the child at this age. These materials can be grouped into five areas;
The young child strives for physical independence and wants to take part in activities they see around them. Practical life activities allow children to do just that- do things for themselves. Activities which allow students to care for themselves (buttoning, lacing, combing), care for the environment (gardening, cleaning, sweeping) and develop positive social relations (greeting, serving, accepting, thanking etc) are all explored.
Children at this age have a particular sensitivity to sensorial stimulus; size, colour, shape, form and sound. The sensorial activities help children classify and order their world, and build meaning out of their experiences. Each piece of equipment offers a set of objects which isolate a fundamental quality perceived by the senses. Precise language is given to the child in relation to the materials, providing further tools for exploration and learning.
Language- from spoken to written
Children at this age absorb language effortlessly, and so demonstrate a hunger for the names of objects around them. In our junior primary rooms, we provide a rich source of vocabulary for the child through cultural studies, as well as oral language activities such as songs, games, stories and language cards. Early written language Montessori materials meet the child’s developmental needs, such as the sandpaper letters, which offer a very kinaesthetic experience of the symbols of the alphabet. Materials progress very deliberately through skill sets to build on one another. The practical life and sensorial materials indirectly prepare the child’s fine motor skills for writing, and thus reading and writing occur as a joyful explosion into language, as all the required skills merge.
Mathematics is a language for understanding and expressing our relationship and understanding of the world. The young child has a naturally ‘Mathematical Mind’ and a capacity to reason, measure, calculate and estimate. Sensorial activities introduce many aspects of geometry and sequence, and the Montessori materials for mathematics introduces the functions and operations of numbers. Concrete tools such as rods, chains, counters, and beads help the child to understand mathematical concepts. Like all Montessori materials, the presentation of these materials in lessons build on each other, increasing in complexity so that the child discovers concepts for themselves in a natural, joyful progression.
PRIMARY (6-12 year olds)
Education of the primary aged child develops to meet their changing needs in the second plane of development. This is the age of reason, mental activity and abstract thought. Primary children typically develop a strong moral and social orientation and unlimited energy for research and exploration. Here students begin to ask the big questions of ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ In response to these developmental needs, students now work in small collaborative groups and embark on a rich curriculum which includes History, Geography, Geometry, Grammar and Algebra. They move from concrete understanding with materials, through practice and discovery to the abstract, greatly expanding their field of knowledge.
All subjects presented form a part of an integrated curriculum. While lessons are presented in individual subject areas, activities from all the areas are presented parallel to each other. This continues in an age appropriate sequence with all of the subject areas together. In this way students see the interrelationships between all areas of study, providing the child with a more holistic or systems thinking view of the world in which they live.
“If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him [sic] than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying. The child’s mind will then no longer wander, but becomes fixed and can work. The knowledge he acquires is organised and systematic; his intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him, and his interest spreads to all, for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which his mind is centred. ”
Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential, p. 6
Beginning with the Story of the Universe, the child is exposed to a number of great stories which unveil the interrelationship of all things on Earth. This provides context for the study of details. Stories move from the greatest whole – the beginnings of the universe, to the details of local history, taking in the evolution of life, the emergence of humans, the invention of the alphabet & our system of numeration, agricultural and technological revolutions along the way.
The Primary years are a great period of expansion, consolidation and intellectual growth. Having acquired the basics in Junior Primary, students launch into their studies with great enthusiasm and by 12 years of age have often been introduced to many areas of study usually reserved for secondary school or even university!
This area begins with a review of the development of language in the child. Vocabulary development, further extensions in reading and language exercises suited to the ‘sensitivities’ of the child of this age group lead to reading with understanding. Further content includes the story of language, the history of writing, word study, spelling, grammar boxes and related classification along with analysis of simple, compound and complex sentences. Writing proceeds from short stories to composition, understanding the structure of paragraphs and various genres, and appreciation and development of style, along with a history and study of literature.
Mathematics: Arithmetic and Algebra
Students move into the primary classrooms with a wealth of mathematical understanding from their time in Junior Primary. Now they open their mathematical lessons with the story of numbers, a historical look at where our decimal number system began. This parallels ongoing lessons which form a continuation of the previous work from the 3-6 classrooms which look at the hierarchy of numbers, linear counting, long multiplication and long division, laws of operations, multiples, factors, divisibility, group division, fractions (both common and decimal and their related operations), squares and cubes of numbers, powers of numbers, number bases (other than 10), squaring and square root, cubing and cube root, signed numbers, measurement, ratio and proportion, beginning algebra and word problems.
Arithmetic, Geometry and Algebra are intertwined in Mathematics in a way that provides more meaning and understanding than if one takes the branches of Mathematics separately. Particular contributions from Geometry include the concepts of equal, similar and equivalent; exploration with constructive triangles; a study of polygons along with circle/ angles/lines in all their details; equivalence of plane figures; area and related formulae; and volume, from equivalency to calculation of volume and formulae
Geography is explored through the use of stories, experiments, charts and children’s activities. Geography study has two main sections: natural geography and human geography. Natural geography includes: creation of the earth, composition of the earth, laws that elements must follow, movements of the earth and their consequences along with the work of air and water. Human geography includes how people have met their needs while living in different zones on the Earth, the interdependence of humans in society and economic geography.
Biology is explored through the use of stories, experiments, charts and children’s activities. The study of biology includes two main areas: botany and zoology. Botany begins with The Story of Plants and then proceeds to look at the needs of plants, the function of leaves, roots, stems, flowers, fruits and seeds as well as their varieties and their classification. Zoology includes story material about animals, examination of body functions and classification. Botany and zoology are united in a study of ecology.
History stories, time lines and charts aid in the presentation of both natural history and human history. Natural history includes geology and the changes in the Earth over time along with the coming of life on Earth. Human history includes the coming of human beings, the fundamental needs of humans, the hunting and gathering of food, the development of agriculture, the growth of urban ways of living, the development of civilizations, migrations, the growth of culture … to the present day. Children move from telling time on a clock to a linear representation of time that enables them to grasp the length of time that it has taken for all of the above to happen.
Adolescence marks the beginning of the transition from childhood to adulthood, and this is challenging process of physical and mental maturation. Physically this is a time of rapid change, and intellectually this is an age of great social development, when the adolescent seeks to find their place in society, and understand what their contribution to this might be. It is a time for critical thinking and re—evaluation, and a period of self-reflection. The Beehive Montessori Adolescent Program provides a learning environment that meets these needs; real life experiences and practical work that brings the curriculum to life. Students study all the curriculum as required by state and national bodies including English, Mathematics, Humanities, Science, Economics, Languages, The Arts and Health, but within an alternate learning framework with a focus on active learning through doing.
Small Scale farm
Students study Science by interacting with the small-scale urban farm environment on site. The farm includes a chicken coop, beehives, an aquaponics system, organic vegetable garden and a bike shed.
Business & Entrepreneurship
Students learn the basics of economics and marketing through running their own small-scale business, called ‘Coastal’. This sells honey and wax products, as well as running a Café for the community. Students create and revisit their business model, marketing strategies and launch new products or services as they see fit. This also provides students with purposeful ways to use technology and social media as a marketing tool.
We provide a wide range of activities to meet the adolescent need for self- expression. Students take part in an annual drama production, have ongoing music theory and ensemble opportunities, and engage with a variety of visual artists from the local community.
At Beehive, the focus of physical activity is to expose students to a variety of activities they might like to pursue further as part of living a healthy lifestyle, rather than having an emphasis on competitive sport. This is also an opportunity to create links with professionals from the wider, local community. These activities vary widely and include; surfing, golf, tennis, fencing, floorball, trampolining, rock climbing, water polo and yoga.
“It is absolutely certain that the secret of future human power lies hidden within humanity as it develops within young people”
Maria Montessori, Education and Peace
In addition to the Montessori curriculum outlined above, the Beehive Montessori School also incorporates the following co-curricular subjects:
Italian is our chosen second language at Beehive. A native speaking Italian teacher offers weekly lessons in all areas of the school, initially working with 3-6 year olds at a word level, moving through to conversation, grammar and written work in the older age groups.
The Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum is an evidence based child safety curriculum that teaches children and young people to recognise abuse, tell a trusted adult, understand what is appropriate and inappropriate touching and ways of keeping themselves safe.
Music & Art
Music and art are both valued aspects of the curriculum which are continuously integrated throughout the other curriculum areas as outlined above.
Beehive has a specialist music teacher who provides weekly music lessons in all areas of the school. In addition to this, we also have bands and a choir on offer as extra-curricular activities.
Physical Education is 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. Specialist sport teachers come in for the primary and adolescent program school students so that students are exposed to many different sports. In addition to this, adolescent program students often travel off site to make use of specialist sporting environments.
Our goal is to promote reconciliation and to strengthen students’ knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, with a particular focus on the Whadjuk people of the Nyungar nation.