The Primary program is for children from 3 to 6 years. In this mixed-age environment children spend three years in the same classroom getting to know each other and their teachers well. The continuity of returning to the same room each year makes for a strong classroom community, for children and parents alike.
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) developed a philosophy of education, which helps children to develop and learn naturally, through spontaneous, self-directed activities. Dr. Montessori referred to the first stage in human development (birth to age 6) as the time of the absorbent mind. They are exposed to a variety of materials for sensory learning and experiences. The child uses all five senses - touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing - to understand and absorb information about his or her environment. Dr. Montessori also recognized that during the first six years of life, children experience a series of "sensitive periods". We take advantage of these “sensitive periods” by helping the children refine their senses and assisting them in perfecting these natural learning tools.
Primary children learn by doing. The concrete materials in the classroom allow the children explore the world through their senses, through touch and motion, and by observing and engaging with others. One main feature of Montessori education is its hands-on approach to learning. Students work with specially designed materials, manipulating and investigating until they master the lesson inside. Teachers guide students through the curriculum as children are ready for each new challenge, introducing lessons and then letting children practice what they have learned. As children grow, the classroom materials grow with them in the sense that older children use the materials to explore curriculum in new and deeper ways.
The 3-6 year old goes through an intense period of change, including the transition to cooperative play and more complex social interactions, a language explosion leading to beginning skills in writing and reading, the emergence of number sense and the foundations of math, and great changes in physical development. The Montessori teacher responds to these changes in social and emotional, cognitive, and physical development with appropriate lessons to support each child’s growth and emerging capabilities. Primary children come to school five days a week, and may choose to stay for mornings-only or a full day. Kindergarteners enjoy a full day of school.
The Kindergarten Year
Kindergarten, the culminating year of the Primary cycle, provides an extraordinary opportunity for 5 and 6 year olds to develop their leadership skills. Kindergarteners act as positive peer models for their younger classmates, assuming positions of responsibility that further strengthen their own capabilities and self-esteem. Everything that children have learned in previous years comes together in Kindergarten, giving children a readiness to meet new challenges.
Kindergarten children visit the Elementary school often, meeting with their older reading buddies, participating in Physical Education, or attending presentations of Elementary students’ work. Some other special activities include Kindergarten specialty classes for Art, Music, & Spanish as well as Kindergarten Graduation.