Parents’ Elementary Questions
Below are some real answers to real parent questions:
1. I know that science is integrated into the lesson themes (which is great).How often is there a specific science activity? Do the kids do hands on experiments, and, if so, how often?
Our curriculum is so integrated, it’s difficult to separate subjects completely. We cover many specific concepts within larger units of study, although we do have materials and simple experiments on the shelf for children to choose independently. For example, after we discuss the history of the universe, we follow that with lessons on the layers of the earth, volcanoes, the rock cycle, land and water formations, the rotation and revolving of the earth and thus the seasons and timelines of a year, etc… Meanwhile, on the shelf we have a a scale that allows the students to independently experiment with measurement and estimation, a simple lesson on gravitational pull and another work that allowsthem to work with magnetic fields. So it would be hard to say with what frequency a specific child works with specific science materials.
2. At the end of the end of the third year, are there any gaps that would need to be closed if a student went to a public school? What about the Montessori math as compared to the math in curriculum 2.0. Would that be a hard transition? How about language arts?
Our feedback indicates that there have not been many difficult transitions. Historically, we have not found there to be much of an academic transition issue. However, as with any transition, children do need to deal with making new friends and figuring out the new school’s social system. We do work very closely with parents to minimize any potentially problematic transitions. We are very aware which schools each of our 3rd years plan to attend. We help the students prepare for non-Montessori systems as well as other Montessori schools. In the language area, we track their reading closely so that we can provide parents and new schools with an accurate assessment of their reading level. We vary their reading content, encouraging students to choose books to read aloud to a teacher at least twice a week. We also prepare independent reading packets that the children complete on their own. These packets incorporate comprehension questions and a variety of language skill follow up. We also incorporate a lot of writing into our curriculum, which gives the students three years to prepare for any potential pencil and paper based curriculums. In the math area, we have integrated several elements which both complement the Montessori math curriculum and prepare them for other approaches. For example, each morning every student completes a word problem. These problems allow them to see how the math concepts we are learning apply to real life situations, encourages them to begin to work abstractly on concepts they have mastered, and exposes them to a wide variety of mathematical vocabulary which will help them in any testing situations they will be exposed to later. The weekly board math problems are heavily focused on encouraging the students to know how to interpret problems in order to identify what operation or concept is needed to solve the problems. Once they identify what is being asked, they can use Montessori materials to solve the problems until they are able to solve them abstractly.
3. We love the de-emphasis on testing, however, that is going to be the reality wherever my child ends up. Is there any prep in the third year to learn how to take tests?
Many of the elements we mentioned above also help to prepare the students for testing without creating stressful situations. The word problems and independent reading packets are created to mimic the appearance of testing papers. We have also added a weekly reading group using Scholastic News. Scholastic News are developmentally appropriate magazines which cover seasonal or current events of interest to the children. Within the colorful pictures and text, they also address elements such as reading for comprehension, inference, and logical conclusions. They have added mini lessons on literary elements such as paragraphs, captions, headlines etc.. The follow up lessons require “fill in the circle” answers that familiarize students with standardized test formats.
4. How often do you go on field trips? What opportunities are there for parent volunteers?
We go on several field trips a year with the children. We use them both as capstones to our curriculum studies (art museum after a 2 month “imaginary journey” through Europe meeting artists and trying out their styles), as well as stand alone events (kidsMuseum makerspace). We encourage parents to be an active part of our Elementary community, both through traditional field trip chaperones, but also in other ways. The Elementary hosts a monthly “Morning Mingle”, which operates like an open house. The parents are encouraged to stop by for a few minutes or for the entire 45 minutes. We serve coffee, and the parents can work with their children on daily assignments, see what we have been covering in the class as a whole or chat with other parents. We have almost 100% attendance each month! We also reach out to the parents for our imaginary journeys. For example, during this imaginary journey through Europe, we reached out to the parents to “sponsor” cafés. 6 different parents volunteered, and as we pretended to visit each country on our trip, they would provide culturally appropriate snacks so the children could experience foods from those countries. I think they enjoyed providing it as much as the kids did eating it! (We also used this as another fun writing opportunity, as the kids pretended to be restaurant critics and would rate the cafés as they visited!)
5. How many elementary kids are in Eday and/or participate in the after school activities?
This varies from year to year, of course. This year most of our class attends Eday. A large percentage of them also participate in some of the after school activities.
6. What do you think are the biggest challenges of the elementary program?
Most children are nervous about making the transition to first grade, whether within Evergreen or not! They wonder about the unknown, wonder if they will make friends, wonder if it will be too hard..etc.. Once they make the transition, and make a friend, they can breathe easier! Within an elementary program, the children will have some developmental challenges. It’s a gradual learning curve towards becoming more independent and taking on more personal responsibility. We help them make this transition incrementally: supporting them more heavily in the beginning, and gradually increasing the expectations, while maintaining a safety net! This is also a time of social developmental changes. The children are looking to see “who they are” in society. They have developed strong loving relationships within their family, and now are looking to see what their role is outside of that. They will feel the ups and downs of friendships intensely. What their friends think about things will start to become increasingly important. They may even try out a few different “roles” among their friends as the begin to define themselves. We have a lot of class discussions about kindness, acceptance, friendship, honesty and compassion to support this vital time of development. This social and moral time of growth is just as important to us as their academic development!
7. How does Spanish progress in the elementary level?
The students attend Spanish twice a week. This year we have begun incorporating Rosetta Stone into the program. Once a week they take a turn on the iPad to work through it independently. The other day they participate in group instruction.
8. Can you share about how many kids you are expecting to move up from primary? How many kids are returning?
This year, we expect that all of our Elementary students will return. (Aside from our graduating 3rd years, that is!) While all of the parents of eligible Primary students are currently finalizing their decisions, we do expect to have most of them with us next year.