Next in our series on the “three keys,” we’ll see what has been happening in our three Elementary classrooms:
In the Elementary classrooms, the guides have been sharing some of the most exciting lessons of the year: the Great Stories. The Great Stories are a part of the Montessori concept of Cosmic Education, which emphasizes the interconnectedness of the universe, its components, and the child within it all. Each of the five Stories provides a narrative for the most tremendous events across time, from The Story of the Universe to the Story of Numbers. These profound lessons set the framework for the children’s work through the rest of the year and encourage them to dig deeply into the part of the event that captures their interest the most. The Great Stories cater to a developmental phase in which children are highly social, research-oriented, and curious about the operations of the world around them.
The Elementary prepared environment encourages the child’s exploration of concepts presented in the Great Stories. At the end of each lesson, children are given the opportunity to pursue an area of interest. The materials used for the presentation of the Story remain available for perusal; if, instead, the children want to create or research something on their own, the materials they need are also accessible throughout the space. The tables are set for small groups, appropriate for the social tendencies and collaborative group work characteristic of the Elementary environment. And, even though they may work in groups, children are free to pursue projects individually, tracking their own efforts in their work journals.
Though such stories can seem grand and distant, the hands-on opportunities offered to the Elementary children provide direct application of concepts in physics, geology, history, biology, language, and more. Children can spread the vast timelines across the floor, build a functional volcano, or develop their own projects. A group of Elementary girls produced their own game about homophones after hearing the Story of Communication in Signs, the fourth Great Story. These captivating stories are told each year so that both new and old students can encounter the pivotal moments of our universe and find something else that stirs their interest with every retelling.