How is Montessori elementary different from a traditional elementary class?
A Montessori elementary class applies the same philosophy and methods to the changing developmental needs of the 6-12 year old. In the Montessori elementary class the child’s own questions and interests provide the basis for exploring and learning about the world. Because these questions are nurtured, encouraged and heeded, the child connects with knowledge in meaningful and practical ways. Subject matter, then, is made relevant to the child’s personal quest, and provides an inner motivation for continued learning. The elementary child is awed by the universe and wants to know everything, and do everything. Therefore the expansive nature of the Montessori elementary 'Cosmic Curriculum,' which is an integrated approach to each subject area, excites the child’s imagination in a way that the traditional linear, sequential approach simply cannot do. A Montessori elementary education does not give the child a collection of trivial facts, but rather offers a vision of interrelated knowledge and inspires a real love of learning. Children develop a deeper understanding of processes and concepts rather than learning by rote.
Children continue to discover and explore their own innate interests within the framework of a broad 'cosmic' exploration of the universe while they continue to build specific academic and affective skills necessary for success in the society in which they live. Rather than relying on the teacher to direct and guide their daily learning in segmented unrelated subject areas, children in the elementary Montessori classroom see how knowledge relates across various disciplines, learn to solve problems, and engage in inquiry as part of their own independent and creative learning process. Montessori elementary students are urged to do their own research, critically examine what they have discovered, and come to their own conclusions comparing them to the broader conclusions made by others. Children’s deep desire for social connection is met within an intentional classroom community. Children in a Montessori elementary classroom are encouraged to collaborate, work together, and assist each other in all aspects of their learning. Rather than being asked to sit more passively and do only what the teacher directs them to do, they are active and held responsible for their own learning process.