Elementary Community

Education between the age of six and twelve is not a direct continuation of that which has gone before, though it is built upon that basis. Psychologically there is a decided change in personality, and we recognise that nature has made this a period for the acquisition of culture, just as the former was for the absorption of environment… Knowledge can best be given where there is eagerness to learn, so this is the period 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… Interest will no longer be there if the seed be sown too late, but at six years of age all items of culture are received enthusiastically, and later these seeds will expand and grow.… But to give the whole of modern culture has become an impossibility and so a need arises for a special method, whereby all factors of culture may be introduced to the six-year-old; not in a syllabus to be imposed on him, or with exactitude of detail, but in the broadcasting of the maximum number of seeds of interest. These will be held lightly in the mind, but will be capable of later germination, as the will becomes more directive, and thus he may become an individual suited to these expansive times.

Dr. Maria Montessori

The elementary child from 6 to 12 years of age:

  • a moral-intellectual explorer.
  • needs a dual environment, inside school and out in nature and society.
  • is developing reason and imagination.
  • is learning to be an individual in a social context.
  • worships heroes.
  • is capable of non-literal thinking.
  • searches for truth: why and how of nature and society?
  • can use imagination to travel in space and time.
  • is attracted by extraordinary.
  • Sowing the seed for lofe-long learning Nurturing children’s curiosity, exploration and discovery.
  • Creating an educational environment that supports imagination, reasoning mind and independent thinking, and promotes mastery of academic knowledge and building a strong foundation for lifelong responsibility, decision making, teamwork, problem solving, critical and creative thinking.
  • Supporting the development of the child as an individual in a social context.
  • Empowering the natural development of the child, enabling children to become transforming elements of society, leading to a more harmonious and better world.
  • Providing a welcoming atmosphere, based on positive relationships, where everyone contributes, is respected and valued as a unique personality.
Interdependent community

Curriculum planning at the elementary level considers that the student is entering a new plane of development characterised by tremendous imagination, critical thinking, questioning, a strong sense of morality and justice, and a strong need for peer relationships.

Enduring intellectual capabilities

Individually-paced academic progress allows students to explore their interests and acquire the mastery of basic skills and knowledge, including basics such as: numeracy and math facts, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, sentence analysis, creative and expository writing, and using technology for research and communication. Through the integrated curriculum, students work collaboratively while studying mathematics, geometry, language, geography, history, biology, art and music. The Elementary community program sparks natural curiosity and encourages the children to follow their interests and personal passion by developing their talents and turning them into enviable academic knowledge, leadership skills, self-discipline, responsibility, independence and initiative. Through the integrated curriculum, students work collaboratively while studying mathematics, geometry, language, geography, history, biology, art and music.

Innovative Learning Environment

Learning environment offers activities that provide deeper educational experiences in the areas of: Mathematics (including Geometry and Algebra), Biology and Physical Sciences, Technology, Language Arts and Literature, History, Physical and Political World Geography, Civics, Entrepreneurship, Anthropology, Peace and Cosmic Education, and areas of Art, Music, World Languages, and Physical Education. As a recognition for the outstanding learning environment, in 2017 Otkrivatel Montessori School is licensed as an Innovative School by Bulgarian Council of Ministers and is a show case for Montessori elementary program in Bulgaria.

Students Engagement

Students have opportunities to plan, monitor and assess their own work, thereby enhancing their independence and responsibility for their own actions. The learning environment is student-centered and designed to promote the development of organisational and time management skills, conflict resolution skills, concentration, independence, cooperation, and collaboration.

Collaborative Community

Encourages the student’s spontaneous activity, provides community building and leadership opportunities appropriate to each level, allows for a balance of self-directed and collaborative teaching.

The elementary child continues his exploration, but now he does it in relation to the larger context. Elementary children are very social and interested in issues such as cooperation, fairness, and decision-making. The reasoning mind of the elementary child such that it searches beyond the surface of things: plans, analyses, predicts and reflects. The imagination enables him to travel in time and space.

The child is interested in the reasons for things. The elementary-age child no longer simply wants to know “What is that?” He now needs to know “Why?” and “How?” He wants to understand the interdependencies. He is capable of using both reason and imagination to go beyond the concrete and explore the abstract. The child acquires culture, extends knowledge, explores society and must try to understand his place in the group. The child explores the universe of objects and ideas in time.

The child has a need to be active in using their skills for others and society. We give a focus and purpose to the child’s natural desire to group. Group lessons, work and discussions are important components of the learning process. Various social skills are necessary to make collaboration work. Children learn skills and tools that encourage cooperation, a chance to govern themselves as a class, and solve common challenges.

A Place That Builds On The Foundation Built In The Children’s House

The child who arrives in the Elementary classroom is a different one to the one who entered the Primary classroom. He has a mind that thinks and works in a different way. Gone are the days when he just absorbed information without noticing, now he is actively involved in wanting to find things out for himself. In the Primary classroom he was interested in ‘what’ things are. Now he wants to know ‘why’ and ‘how’. He has built up the capacity to reason about things, to concentrate on a task and persevere to its conclusion and now he is able to put these skills to good use in finding the answers to all of his questions.

Place Where Community Thrives

In the Primary classroom the child developed ways of being with others. He learnt how to respect others time and space and how to work cooperatively with others. Now he is really interested in testing his understanding to find out how this works in real life. The mixed-age community of Otkrivatel elementary classroom facilitates this exploration for him. The children group themselves spontaneously in groups for much of his day, sharing responsibilities and allocating tasks on a particular project. The children decide through group discussions which rules work good for the community. They decide in the same way what should happen when someone steps outside of these parameters or something is not working. AMI trained teachers model a way of resolving conflicts so that when these arise the children are able to find a way of solving them for themselves. They are given the possibilities to test out what makes a community thrive and reject the things that make it difficult to work fairly and productively together. In the same way they get the opportunity to find out for themselves what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’, not by being told these things by the teacher but through testing them out with their peer group and living the consequences for themselves so that their moral compass is developed from within rather than being imposed from above.

A Place Where The Child’s Imagination Is Sparked

This is the time when the child no longer needs to hold things in his hands to understand them. He can imagine what something may look like even though it is on the other side of the world, or because it happened long ago in time or it is so small that he cannot see it with the naked eye. In the elementary classroom the imagination is sparked by storytelling. These are stories of the truth, cosmic fables; they are told in an imaginative, dramatic and impressionistic way; they offer a vision of the whole of life. The story of creation, the story of the coming of life, the story of humans, numerals and written signs and many more sow the seeds and act as a spark for further exploration and discovery, excite understanding the interdependencies, gratitude to the humanity and compassion.

A Place Where Children Explore The Universe

At this time when the child’s intellect is strong and he wants to know the answers to everything we need to find a way to satisfy this thirst for knowledge. Children need to start on their long quest for knowledge by starting with the things that they are most interested in and this cannot be dictated by the adult idea of what they should know. In the same way that in the Primary classroom they were able to follow their own developmental needs now they follow their conscious interests. The cosmic vision gives answers to the wonderment, understanding of the interdependencies, order in the nature, harmony, work, cooperation, dynamic balance. The child is excited to explore working by himself or in a group, moving from one concept to another, testing is it true and is it always true to fill out the learnings of the ‘big picture’.

A Place Where Children Explore Beyond The Classroom

If the child is to find out about the whole world and indeed the universe, it is clear that this information cannot all reside in the stories, the materials and the books in his classroom. So ‘going out’, as it is called, is an important part of Otkrivatel elementary child’s life. But this is not the kind of school trip that happens in traditional schools where the teacher decides what to go and see and everyone goes whether they have an interest in the chosen topic or not. In Otkrivatel elementary children organise their trips for themselves. The excitement for the going out always comes from something they want to find out about, as part of their research projects. The children organise the trip for themselves, finding out where to go to find out the required information, how to get there, what kind of resources they need, how long it will take to get there and what food and refreshments they will need. On the day of the trip they are accompanied by an adult, but the adult knows that his role is not to manage the going out and if the children run out of money or get on the wrong bus the adult is not there to correct them. The adult allows the children to make the mistake and learn from it.

A Place Where Children Are Responsible For Their Own Learning

A common fear for parents is founded around whether they can be sure that children will learn anything at all in a classroom where children are free to follow their own interests and choose what they do. This might be valid if it were not for the fact that each child also has an individual plan they are required to fulfil; awareness of the state educational requirements as a minimum; journal and weekly meeting with the classroom teacher. Lessons in all subject areas are scheduled each week by the teacher who plans individual and group lessons for each child based on the scientific observation of the child’s needs to progress. Children are responsible to take these lessons and to carry out the follow on work that comes from them. The difference to a traditional approach is that they can choose when they do these things. Different learning styles are acknowledged and each child can spend as long as he needs to master a particular challenge before moving on. Because children are working on different things they are not all required to make the same progress at the same time. They progress at their own rate and the mixed age range ensures that they do not find themselves in a situation where they are competing with others. Every week the child has a meeting with the teacher to discuss their progress and if there are any things that they should have done which they have not they make a plan for completing it – it is not that they will be told what to do by the teacher, instead they will be encouraged to take responsibility for their own actions and this is a skill that will serve them well in adult life.

Curriculum

At the lower elementary level, lessons are presented through the use of Montessori materials and exercises in all subject areas are in both Bulgarian and English language. The transition to more abstract thinking and the reliance on books and other research materials begins at this level and continues throughout the elementary program. The Upper Elementary program continues to focus on language for communication, mathematics, geometry, history and science. Although grammar is never taught in isolation, students are introduced to more complex language structures, which prepare them for middle and high school language programs. The curriculum is inter-disciplinary; no subject is taught in isolation.

Mathematics and Geometry

Students focus on basic operations, the decimal system, the function of the categories i numbers and how they collaborate. Basic concepts of algebra, such as squaring, cubing and powers of numbers are introduced. Exploration of order in decimal system and advanced concepts through the Montessori materials forms the foundation for a smooth transition from concrete to abstract thinking. Elementary students are introduced into seed of life and flower of life, geometric constructions, important dimensions. They explore, classify and compare geometric shapes. They work from sensorial level through reasoning level to making predictions, discovering and deriving the formula.

Language arts

The learning environment emphasises writing as a way to communicate and self-express. The grammar and sentence analysis work help children to explore the function and order of words and how they collaborate to become a text. Reading skills acquired at the primary level are continually enhanced through literature, poetry and book discussion groups. The students enlarge their creative writing skills, editing and explore variety of tools for engaging the auditory. They create their songs, poems and stories, enthusiasts by a theme in math, geography, biology and history. The elementary children are introduced to literature and genres, and study the voice and tone, elements and what they are really about.

Geography, Science and Biology

The Montessori classroom offers deep exploration of phenomenons in nature, Sun and Earth, Solar system, work of the elements, evolution of life and how life experiments and adapts. The elementary children study economic geography and how humans, animals and plants overcome challenges and adapt for satisfying their fundamental needs. They follow the path of the scientists who lived before us to investigate the classification of life, ecology and interdependencies.

History

The work in history give a room for exploration and questioning – “Who are we?”, “What are our needs and gifts and how have we used them?”, “Who are the artisans before us?” – the writers, mathematicians, scientists, the living and non-living agents of creation? Charts and timelines emphasise human’s place and role in the world as a creator of supranatura. The elementary children deep dive their understanding about linear time, explore early human societies and great ancient civilisations starting from the fundamental human needs. They explore and study the history of their own country, known and unknown heroes. As in all subject areas, storytelling and impressionistic approach create impressions and nurture the curios child’s mind to explore.

Arts and Music

Our elementary art program reflects the Montessori philosophy of respect for the child’s innate desire to learn and create. Observation, memory, imagination, innovation, interaction, reflection, problem-solving, and independent thinking are all involved when a child is engaged in the process of making his or her own images and forms. Making art provides a child with tools for interpreting life experience, builds identity and self-worth, and provides a form of non-verbal communication for expressing ideas and emotions. Student artwork is displayed regularly throughout the school year as a dynamic and visual celebration of the creativity and diversity within our community. The goal of the elementary music program is to guide young people to respond to the expressiveness of music, to teach them about musical concepts, and to introduce them to specific musical works and instruments. The music is an integral part of all subject areas and students write and compose music, sing, dance, and play melodic and percussion instruments. They improvise melodies, rhythms and creative movement and practice reading and writing standard music notation. Working primarily with melodies and rhythm patterns, they build a working vocabulary of solfege (do, re, mi, etc.) and rhythm language which they use in a conversational manner to create their own music.