Excursions, Arts & After-School Programs
Art often is woven into the very work children do in language arts, science, geography or history. Lower elementary children make maps—and paint them with watercolors, or shade their elevations carefully with colored pencils. They draw prehistoric animals on timelines of life. They paint the sabre-tooth tiger they are researching on large-scale paper, after they write down their research on the animal in their best cursive handwriting. Depending on the children’s interest, and their teachers’ own inclinations, you may see them knitting or crocheting while a teacher reads a story to a group of children. By Upper Elementary, children also get introduced to more structured art lessons. Teachers use a structured art program, developed specifically for the Montessori classroom, to introduce students to a wide variety of art styles and design principles.
Music in Lower Elementary is often centered around singing. Teachers may teach a variety of songs, or may even work with their class to put on short musical performances. The Montessori Tone Bar materials take the work begun in Montessori Primary with the Bells further: children can learn about scales and musical notations. By learning about rhythmic and melodic notation on a variety of instruments, interested students can learn to compose their own songs, and may even put on performances in small ensembles. Being able to not just play existing music, but create their own plays to the interests and strength of the nine- to twelve-year-old child, is a good addition to any instrument or voice lesson he or she may have outside of class.
“When the child was very small it was enough to call him by name for him to turn around. Now we must appeal to his soul. To speak to him is not enough for this; it is necessary to interest him. What he learns must be interesting, must be fascinating. We must give him grandeur. …. Instruction becomes a living thing. Instead of being illustrated, it is brought to life. In a word, the outing is a new key for the intensification of instruction ordinarily given in the school. There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest.”
Field Trips and Going Outs
Going beyond the school walls in their quest for learning becomes increasingly important in the elementary years. While the Primary child was content in the carefully-prepared classroom and its familiar, secure community, elementary children are eager and ready to take on the world.
In our Elementary program, going beyond the school takes two forms:
These adult-led trips are a good opportunity to build the community, to deepen friendships, and to get to know the local destinations in our cities. They also often tie into subject matter the children have been studying—such as looking for habitats during a stroll in the woods or on the dunes or around tidepool areas, or learning about prehistory during a museum visit.
Teachers prepare students for these trips by providing resources and planning tools, setting clear standards, and ensuring children know the proper etiquette for behaving on public transport, in museums or symphony halls. Teachers assess students’ readiness: only children who consistently demonstrate their maturity and responsibility—e.g., by paying attention in class, by following through on assignments consistently, by treating teachers and other students respectfully, by following school rules and being trustworthy—show that they are ready to handle the responsibility that comes with Going Out.
At our larger schools, where many students are staying on beyond the end of the academic day, paid after-school enrichment programs may be offered. These programs are tailored to the needs and interests of each school community. Examples of programs offered range from rock band to violin, from Java programming and chess to drawing, from boot camp to introductory golf.
Montessori children stand out for their initiative and can-do attitude. This was evident at one of our schools by flyers covering hallway walls! One student had started a Rubik’s cube club, which met once a week during after-school hours. Inspired by this initiative, other clubs—organized by students, for students—soon followed: geography club, comic book club, even free math tutoring offered by a junior high student to younger peers!
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