The Montessori classroom is characteristically unique because there is a distinctive order to the room and a structure to how things are arranged on the shelf. The “prepared environment” is divided into areas for practical life, sensorial, language, math, and cultural (art, music, geography, history, and science). The materials are arranged in a logical order that moves from the simple to the complex, and from the concrete to the abstract. Developmentally, preschool children are very responsive to such order and consistency. Montessori materials are so beautifully designed that children are naturally drawn to them as they work at their own pace and learn through hands-on experience and investigation. As a result, they become confident and independent learners who are actively engaged in their studies.
The Montessori curriculum may be viewed as a spiral in which separate disciplines are presented in an integrated approach through the course of studies of the universe, nature, and the human experience. At the preschool level, lessons are introduced in simple, concrete terms which can then be revisited in later years in greater abstraction and complexity as the children’s thirst to deepen and enhance their knowledge becomes an incredible driving force.
A snapshot of the components of a rich, Montessori education follows:
The skills for everyday life are learned here. Example tasks include pouring, spooning, arranging flowers, taking care of plants, polishing wood, learning to button, snap, zip, and the tying of shoelaces.
By engaging in these purposeful exercises, children are learning to take care of themselves and their environment. By helping to take care of the classroom community, the children grow in self confidence and independence as they learn to follow a complex sequence of steps through, for example, the washing and the setting of a table.
From birth, children interact with their world through the senses. How many parents can recall the moment their child was able to pick up an object off the floor and how a sense of curiosity prompted him/her to explore further by feeling for roughness, banging it for durability, or popping it into the mouth to determine the taste.
The sensorial curriculum is designed to help children focus their attention on the environment as they use their senses to observe and engage with the physical world. In the classroom, children use beautifully created materials to learn to discriminate among different qualities such as size, shape, colour, texture, weight, and pitch.
The focus in language is how to help children develop the sophisticated skills required for communication as they learn how to work and play together with others.
Oral, listening, writing, and reading skills are developed through naming exercises (e.g. labeling the nouns in a classroom); kinesthetic tracing of sandpaper letters as children see then feel the shape and how it is formed, and then hear the teacher pronounce the sound; different letter sound games (e.g. can you find things in the classroom that start with the “mmm” sound?); using a moveable alphabet, a large box with compartments containing plastic letters, to create words matching a small object or a picture by sounding out the word one letter at a time, selecting, and laying down the letter that makes that sound; and the use of a phonetic approach to develop and prime reading and writing skills.
Renown for her didactic math materials, Montessori created them to eliminate the mystery behind the abstract concepts. Children use the hands-on learning materials to make the abstract concepts clear and concrete as they can literally see, for example, two groups of three objects, being laid out on a board to allow the children to count to six. These materials develop the mathematical mind in relating “real” quantities with graphical symbols. This approach to teaching mathematics provides a clear understanding and helps children develop a sound and solid foundation. In preschool, children are introduced to linear counting exercises and the introduction of the numbers to ten, then through the teens, multiples of ten, counting to one hundred and subsequently 1000, fractions, and leading to experiences with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
The study of history and the world is the cornerstone of the Montessori curriculum as she envisioned that children would develop a global perspective through such studies.
Early on, the young preschooler is introduced to the names of the continents, countries and their flags, and geographic forms such as strait, cape, or isthmus. The Montessori cultural area cultivates children’s fascination with the universe and the physical world. They are encouraged to observe, predict, classify, and experiment as they learn about native plants and animals in different biomes and the relationship between living things and their environment. Throughout the year, children also have the opportunity to learn, appreciate, and honour people from around the world through an exploration of food, clothing, music, and a celebration of holidays and cultural traditions.
In our preschool, the fine arts is an integral part of the curriculum. ORFF classes with the children develops musicianship in a joyful way through singing, movement, rhythm, and instrument.
Our classes use rhythm and the singing of children’s songs to develop and focus on concepts and themes such as days of the week, months of the years, the four seasons and different types of weather, and friendship.
French and Mandarin
Research clearly indicates that the optimal window for learning a second language is when a child is young, and as a result, our preschool wants to provide children with an opportunity to learn another language. Our native speaking teachers use an interactive program emphasizing oral expression and comprehension, and parents will often have a chance to see their children use their newly acquired language skills in a short skit or play.
As part of the Ministry of Education's mandate to promote programs encouraging a healthy lifestyle through active living, our school integrates yoga as part of our curriculum. Our yoga program follows activities that are used in the B.C. "Action Schools" program, one that is also widely used in elementary schools throughout the Lower Mainland. The benefits of yoga to young children are numerous, and the children's learning experience in school is enhanced.