Greensboro Montessori School Environmental Education Curriculum
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Students at GMS will have a deeper understanding of their education because they use it, feel it, and touch it during their experiences in our three extensive organic permaculture gardens and at the Land Laboratory in Oak Ridge. Our students form extraordinary bonds with each other and nature as they become self-reliant citizens of the world and stewards of the Earth.
Maria Montessori observed that children thrive on direct experience and that their hands are their primary teachers. This principle is woven into our classrooms through concrete, hands-on materials. Through direct interaction with the materials, children come to understand a concept using their own senses. They enjoy learning and are fulfilled by learning. They draw on this primary experience later when they begin to understand and explore concepts abstractly. The same is true in the natural world. Children, and all people, require direct personal experience to fully understand the world around them. Nature’s materials awaken a child’s senses in ways that even our classroom materials cannot. Nature demands the integration and use of all the senses.
Curiosity is Key
The freedom to make choices and the insight learned from mistakes leads to a greater curiosity about the world. Montessori classrooms offer children a supportive environment in which they can explore their curiosities.
As in the classroom, children must feel secure in the natural world in order to make choices and learn from their triumphs and mistakes. Guidelines and role models are essential to a child’s learning experience in the gardens and at the Land Laboratory. Students actively participate in weekly classes and activities focused on ecological education. They learn to prepare, plant, weed, water and maintain the gardens and experience the joy and satisfaction of harvesting what they have grown. Our students learn where food comes from and the importance of the natural plant cycle. This, in turn, instills a sense of intrinsic enjoyment and satisfaction when a child connects with nature. A sense of calm and peacefulness can overcome someone who is immersed in the natural world. The experience grounds us and brings us down to Earth. Literally.
Nature also benefits from the people who enjoy it. Children who learn from the natural world and enjoy their relationship with it, also come to understand the needs of the natural world and their impact on it. They often become stewards of the Earth and ambassadors for it. They truly become responsible, global citizens.
Greensboro Montessori School
Middle School Curriculum
Ages 11 to 14 years
(Sixth through eighth grade)
The middle school years are characterized by significant growth and change cognitively, socially, emotionally and physiologically. At The Greensboro Montessori School, the sixth, seventh and eighth grade Middle School curriculum is based on Montessori principles, incorporates state educational guidelines, and reflects current research being done on adolescent development and learning. A core team of four full-time and three part-time teachers plans and implements a rigorous curriculum that is integrated thematically across all subject areas and provides a culmination to the early childhood and elementary Montessori classroom experience. The emphasis on interdisciplinary studies is heightened through regular work on small team and individual research projects. Students are challenged according to their unique academic ability and are given the opportunity to advance at their own pace. On a regular basis, class time is devoted to helping students develop strong organizational, study, and computer skills.
In addition to the core academic curriculum of language arts, science, mathematics and history, GMS offers a full range of Liberal Arts courses including; performing arts and visual arts, Spanish language and culture, and computer skills. A unique aspect of the performance and production program offered to Middle School students includes the exploration of music recording, sound engineering and filmmaking.
Students continue their study of the Spanish language and culture, taking classes four times per week. By 9th grade, most students are ready to study advanced level Spanish.
The Middle School program is specifically designed to support students academically, personally and socially during their transition into adolescence. In response to current research on adolescent development, GMS has incorporated numerous programs that focus on practical life skills, which are central to Montessori education at each age level. Students participate in environmental education through gardening and permaculture activities on-campus and at our 40-acre outdoor Land Lab facility in Oak Ridge, NC.
They are active in the operation of all aspects of a student-run restaurant program for approximately 50 people including menu selection, food preparation, kitchen sanitation, and budgeting.
Three-year Adolescent Transitions and Wellness Program based on the work of Joseph Campbell to meet the needs of young people as they undergo major life changes to adulthood:
A Brave New World for 6th level students addresses the transition from Upper Elementary to Middle School
Heroic Journey for 7th level students addresses familial, societal and peer related pressures adolescents face
Vision Quest for 8th level students addresses issues face as they transition to new schools and prepare for their lives as independent and responsible citizens.
Students meet to achieve mutual goals in a spirit of peace and respect while practicing democratic governance and leadership skills.
Students meet every week with a middle school faculty member in a small group setting where emotional and academic support and guidance is offered.
Students work in the classrooms of younger students to assist teachers and provide mentoring and role modeling opportunities.
Students research and choose a group service project and volunteer in the Greensboro community.
Students participate in Culinary Arts, Technology, Community Service and Yearbook rotations throughout the year.
Extended Annual Field Trips
In addition to numerous day-long field trips, middle school students participate in five to ten day trips each year:
6th levels travel to Washington D.C. visiting sites pertaining to their studies of history, science and the arts.
7th levels travel to Tucson, AZ visiting sites pertaining to their studies of the Westward expansion
8th levels culminate their studies with a 10 day trip to Costa Rica where they visit wildlife preserves, volunteer at a turtle hatchery, zip line through the rain forest with students from GMS’s sister Montessori school in San Jose.
Open participation in team sports with the Independent School League is another vital element to the Middle School program at GMS. Emphasis is placed on positive, cooperative team play rather than competition. Boys and girls play on teams together and effort is made to give equal playing time. Middle school sports include volleyball, cross-country, basketball, flag football and soccer, but may differ from year to year as determined by the coaches of the participating independent schools.
Quotes from GMS Middle School students:
"I like that we have opportunities to explore and don't have to follow a set path."
"I like how we can learn at our own pace and choose our own work."
"We are encouraged to challenge ourselves."
"The teachers are welcoming and understanding."
"Nothing is a lecture. It's a discussion."
Greensboro Montessori School
Lower Elementary Curriculum
Ages 6 to 9 years
(First through third grade)
Children 6 to 9 years of age are inquisitive about the world around them and they are ready to develop and refine the skills necessary for inquiry. The Lower Elementary children at The Greensboro Montessori School study an integrated curriculum which builds skills in the core areas of reading, writing, and math as they explore cultural subjects such as physical science, biology, geography, history, social studies and Spanish. Manipulative materials support learning in all subject areas. Students also have the opportunity to meet weekly for classes in Physical Education, Art, and Music.
The Five Great Lessons form the foundation of the Lower Elementary Curriculum and give the children an impressionistic understanding of the world in which they live. These introductory lessons point the children toward further learning through hands-on experiments, reading, writing, calculation, and presentation. Additionally, the children use and expand the practical life skills they need in order to become independent learners.
Children of this age are hungry for knowledge and continuously ask questions about the “how” and “why” of their world. In a Montessori elementary classroom, all subjects are integrated to give the children an understanding of the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. Children are allowed to explore and research the answers to their questions, which ultimately leads to more questions. Children view their world in a way that is not fragmented, but as an integrated whole. They acquire an idea of the vastness of the universe as well as an understanding of how each small aspect of nature is crucial to the whole. They come to realize just how short a time human beings have existed on the earth and how written language has existed for an even shorter time.
Students have many opportunities to enrich their studies through field trips. First level students enjoy day long excursions to science and history museums. Second and Third year students have the opportunity to attend a 3 day, 2 night field trip to Sound to Sea at Trinity Center on Salter Path, NC. This program helps our students understand how and why we are tied to the earth. To recognize the ecological communities across the island and investigate the creatures that live there.
Many key subject areas are included in our Lower Elementary curriculum: Botany, biology, physical science, environmental studies, history, geography, reading, writing, math, cultural studies, Spanish, world music, physical education, and art.
Extensive use of the School’s gardens and Land campus in Oak Ridge, in connection with the science and environmental studies, provide students with hands-on learning opportunities for understanding the delicate balances within nature. Plant and animal life cycles and systems, biome studies, and physical science studies are enriched by the possibilities for experiential learning.
As in the Primary classrooms, children are supported in resolving their own conflicts with each other. The lower elementary classrooms provide children with a Peace Table to come to for working out their disagreements.
Greensboro Montessori School
Upper Elementary Curriculum
Ages 9 to 11 years
(Fourth and fifth grades)
The Upper Elementary Curriculum builds upon and expands upon the Lower Elementary Curriculum. Children in the upper elementary grades are still inquisitive, community oriented, and universally aware. They continue to question all aspects of the world in which they live, and use their minds to reason and to conduct research; however, their reasoning may also become more abstract and their research more specific. In accordance, the curriculum allows for an exploration of a range of topics with opportunities for depth of study. Students may participate in lessons that include the history of mathematics, the physics of flight, mineralogy, chemistry, algebra, geometry, and literature, to name a few. Lessons on note taking and test taking are an integral part of the curriculum in preparation for Middle School.
Key components of the Upper Elementary curriculum include:
Consists of three main components: grammar, writing, and reading. The children complete an in-depth course in narrative and research writing and are exposed to a variety of novels, short stories, poems and essays, which prepares them for the more intensive research and writing that will be required in Middle School.
Math is taught using a variety of didactic materials and presented individually or to small groups of children, depending on the individual student's needs.
Explores The Montessori Timeline of Life: with specific attention to the Timeline of Early Humans, Ancient Civilizations, the Middle Ages, the Age of Exploration, and the early American Revolution. Integrated with these timelines, students study the five kingdoms of living things as well as Physical Science and an introduction to Chemistry in conjunction with the Science curriculum.
Students participate in a number of individual and group projects in order to further integrate their skill development in language and math with their study of history, science, the arts and other cultural subjects. Examples include:
Students create an “invented character” as a precursor to creating an “invented country." They invent a person and include in their creation specific physical attributes, the social climate in which the person lives, where the person lives, personal history, family history, personality profile, blueprint of his/her house, and a “day in the life” of their character. Similarly, students invent a country using knowledge they have gained about physical, social, political, and cultural aspects of geography. With each of these projects, the children illustrate the character and country, write a report and make a presentation to their classmates.
Science curriculum is integrated into the History timelines – the five kingdoms of living things. Students also study Physical Science and receive and introduction to Chemistry.
Science and Environmental Studies are enhanced by using the School’s gardens and the GMS Land Lab campus for research and exploration. The experiential learning the children do on the Land whets their interest for the extended experiences they will have on the Land in Middle School.
The schedule for Upper Elementary is flexible, providing time for individual and small group study as needed. Some students may require more time than others to master a concept of complete a project effectively. In addition to the work/study time devoted to integrated work, set times for study in the Liberal Arts includes:
Spanish – 2 times a week for 50 minutes
Art – once a week for 50 minutes
Music – 2 times a week for 50 minutes
Physical Education – 2 times a week for 50 minutes
GMS’s dedication to supporting children in becoming effective communicators and resolving conflicts peacefully continues throughout the Upper Elementary grades. Faculty support students by devoting the time that is needed to involve the students in using their own ideas and decisions in order to come to peaceful resolutions of difficult social situations.
Community Service is an important component is the Upper Elementary Curriculum. Students take responsibility for maintaining the environment:
Greensboro Montessori School
Ages eighteen months to three years
The Toddler environment encourages freedom of movement, an atmosphere of respect, and the growth of independence. The routine for the classroom is orderly and simple to support the child's strong need for order and predictability. The classroom is organized with shelves holding activities for the different areas of the curriculum- Practical Life, Sensorial, Language Development, Art, Puzzles and manipulative materials and a self-serve snack area. All furniture and shelves are child-sized so that the child can choose and access work independently. Based on continual observation by the teachers, materials are rotated to meet the children's ever-changing developmental needs. All of the materials relate to a specific skill or task and possess a control of error.
Children are encouraged to choose work freely. At the beginning of the year, the main focus of the program is to help children establish a feeling of trust that will allow them to separate from their parents with ease. Parents play an important part in this process and may be encouraged to stay in the classroom until the child has formed a bond with the teacher. Home visits prior to the start of school are also an important first step in this process.
Toddlers are at a period of learning languages, which Maria Montessori called “the sensitive period.” Researchers today call it a “window of opportunity.” Children from birth through age 6 are wired to absorb any language, as well as absorbing multiple languages concurrently.
Communication skills are an integral part of the GMS curriculum. As the children’s verbal skills increase, our teachers encourage the children to use words to express their needs and feelings to each other. It is not unusual to hear a toddler say to another toddler, “I don’t like that. Stop!” or, “My work,” when one child is doing something the other child does not like. It is also typical to hear “it’s so good to see you today,” from one toddler to another. Communication is an important part of the GMS curriculum – especially learning how to communicate appropriately in difficult situations- and is more easily learned at the beginning of language learning.
Movement is as important to toddlers as eating, so each day our toddlers spend time outside developing their large motor skills. Our toddler playground features various climbing apparatuses, a large covered sandbox, and a track for riding scooters, tricycles, and foot propelled cars. As in each of the other divisions, toddlers have access to gardens for planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting. Having unstructured time to explore nature is vital for a child’s development so, once the children are acclimated to their new class and playground environments, they enjoy taking walks and exploring the wooded areas on the school campus.