“There is in the child a special kind of sensitivity which leads him to absorb everything about him, and it is this work of observing and absorbing that alone enables him to adapt himself to life.”
—Dr. Maria Montessori, From The Absorbent Mind
Children's House Curriculum
The Sensorial area in the Montessori classroom is alive with materials that call out to the child: "Look at me." "Touch me." "Hold me." "Listen to me." These materials are designed for the development and refinement of the ability to observe, compare, discriminate, differentiate, reason, decide, and solve problems. The child is urged by what she sees to explore the materials with her hands. A child engaged with the Sensorial works expresses joy and amazement as her hand is connected with the development of the mind.
The child who has been given the gift of sensori-motor learning—the opportunity to construct a visual image from the manipulation of a physical object—has been allowed to develop a secure foundation for her intellectual growth and activity.
Language development is one of the young child's greatest works. The entirety of the Montessori curriculum, therefore, is designed and sequenced to engage children in activities that encourage and promote the growth of skills required for the acquisition of oral and written language. The child's language development is respected and nourished through spontaneous conversation, group discussion, oral games, and listening games.
Oral Language is carefully nourished and guided in its expansion. Stories read on circle and listened to on tape provide rich literature experiences. The child engages in matching works: matching object to object, object to picture, and eventually three part matching. Sandpaper letter lessons and initial sound card games lead to work with the Movable Alphabet with which letters and letter sounds are identified, generated and eventually blended to form words. The desire to share these words with family and friends motivates the child to write these words to create a book. This in turn promotes an awareness of how both the written and spoken word carry a message: It is power to communicate.
Math is a never-ending activity for the young, wondrous mind. There is always a next step to move toward. Dr. Montessori believed, "Wherever there is real education we will find that the children will be led to greater mathematical understanding and whenever there is mathematical understanding it will lead to much greater all round education and knowledge of the world!"
The direct aims of the Montessori math curriculum are to develop the mathematical mind through ordering and concentration. Students also learn coordination through precise placement of materials and independence by working alone and trusting oneself. Predictability, exactness, and understanding are learned through the consistent fixed quantities of the concrete materials. The child works with base ten, uses visual discrimination and association of size, color, and form, and thus learns to grade, sort, match, and recognize differences and similarities, and familiarity with quantities.
The child is prepared for the four operation of math—addition, subtraction, multiplication and division—through the pre-math areas of the classroom. Works designed to stimulate one to one correspondence, concrete positioning of objects, abstract place value of numbers, sorting, matching, eye and hand coordination and the relationship of a whole and its parts lay the foundations for future mathematical inquiry.
GEOGRAPHY & CULTURE
Geography is the study of the Earth and its features and of the distribution of life thereon, including human life and the impact of human activity.
The Primary Geography curriculum includes the studies of air, land and water, land and water forms, continent globes and maps, mapping, flags, and time. When a child works with these materials and these important topics she learns to respect the world in which she is an intrinsic part. Most important, she learns that everyone and every country has something important and vital to offer and that they must take care of one another in order to live in peace and harmony.
A Quest for Coordination, Concentration, Independence, and Order
A child possesses the innate ability to absorb incredible amounts of information. This absorbent mind is a stage of development in which the child observes everything, absorbing it all equally, and then later assembling the absorbed impressions. The Practical Life area of a Montessori classroom is designed to provide experiences that enable the child to work to create himself. These experiences, or exercises, contain the very essence of Dr. Montessori's teachings. They guide the child's efforts toward a central goal: the conquest of independence.
Practical Life attends to the development of a child's physical skills, care of the person, care of the environment, and grace and courtesy. Each of these focal points provides for the development of order, concentration, coordination, and independent functioning, in turn, building self-confidence and a positive self-image. These Practical Life exercises are the backbone of the entire Montessori curriculum.
“Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core.”
—Dr. Maria Montessori
Lower Elementary Curriculum
Work and Social
The academic and social mission of the Lower Elementary is to respond to the six to nine year olds' changing needs, abilities, and sensitivities at this profoundly new and dynamic stage of development. The presence of age old tendencies to explore, to orient oneself, to order the environment, to imagine, to think in abstract terms, to be exact, to communicate, and to work with the hands all suggest inherent movement towards both social and intellectual independence. Consequently, the boundaries of the Lower Elementary child's environment are expanded to accommodate the great strides being made toward the ability to reason, both cognitively and morally, as well as the irresistible pull to seek another's company and form groups of all kinds. Students develop self-esteem and learn to think for themselves by becoming fully engaged in the process of their own learning: through the nurturing of lasting individual and community-oriented habits of heart and mind.
Mathematics in the Lower Elementary is presented in a scope and sequence prepared to match the developing abilities of the six to nine year old. Initially, the elementary child builds upon the vocabulary of math and the understanding of numeration, counting, size, and shape introduced in the primary classroom. Familiarity with the four basic operations -- addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division -- is also methodically expanded through the use of a progression of manipulatives. Through extensive practice, the maturing lower elementary student develops the ability to perform arithmetic abstractions independent of the materials. In turn, mathematical learning at this level concerns the acquisition of facts and the facilitation of numbers, but more importantly, the preparation for abstract reasoning and calculation at the Upper Elementary level.
Montessori education uses a holistic approach to reading. The 6 - 9 year old classroom is a language rich environment in which literacy is developed through phonemic awareness, cultural studies, reading groups, and the research process. Reading instruction takes place in small groups or on an independent basis. Strategies for comprehension are emphasized and imparted across the curriculum. Writing development includes direct attention to the writing process as practiced through journaling, research writing, and creative writing in all its forms.
In the Lower Elementary program the child is given a cosmic vision of the origin and interdependence of life, of partnership and cooperation, and of each part of creation possessing its unique and critically important task. While being introduced to, and developing an appreciation for, the vast array of human differences -- cultural, geographic, political, and economic - the six to nine year old also comes to see that humanity is rooted in a common set of fundamental needs. The Montessori cultural curriculum strives to nurture reverence and instill a sense of wonder for the grandeur and mystery of life, and assist the child in gaining an appreciation for his or her special role therein.
The goals of the lower elementary art program are to foster visual awareness, aesthetic appreciation, creative expression, and imaginative thinking. Students learn technical skills while they create unique and personal works of art. They learn the language of visual design (line, shape, color, etc.) to help them develop fluency of expression. Art is also an integral part of the academic program, with projects deigned to enhance classroom studies. The art program also includes the exposure to and discussion of reproductions of works of art, and an annual visit to the Brattleboro Museum. These activities help students connect their own art making to wider social and historical context. Finally, the art classes implicitly and explicitly promote awareness of the natural work as a source of imagery and inspiration, establishing a bridge to issues of environmental protection.
In Lower Elementary music class the primary focuses is singing, dancing and movement, listening, singing and rhythm games, percussion and improvisation. Simple rhythm instruments are used to accompany songs, experience ensemble playing, and develop rhythmic skills. Weekly "sustained silent listening" helps students understand different styles, instrumentation, and improvisation in recorded music. The goal of the class is to combine musical skills building with elements of spontaneity, improvisation and creativity. In addition to the general classes, third graders also participate in a recorder class. Here students develop skills in small group musical interaction, improvisation, ensemble playing and musical reading. This allows for stronger connections with individual students, and better assessment of the students' progress, strengths and weaknesses.
The Physical Education program at Hilltop is guided by the seven components of physical fitness: speed, agility, strength, power, endurance, flexibility and coordination. Within the scope of a semester all P.E. activities address one or more of these components. Careful focus on attaining competency in all areas over time will ensure that a student is successful in achieving a healthy fitness level. For as fitness improves so does the level of skill development. For the 6-9 year olds these skills include tumbling, dancing, ball skills and manipulating a wide variety of small equipment.
“The first duty of an education is to stir up life, but leave it free to develop.”
—Dr. Maria Montessori
Upper Elementary Curriculum
Work and Social
It is the great work of the Elementary child to develop a strong self-concept and find a place in the community. Therefore, as in the Lower Elementary, the academic and social mission of the Upper Elementary program inspires a dual sense of responsibility in which students learn to take care of their own needs while growing in sensitivity and responsiveness to the greater good. The result is an atmosphere dominated by an expectation of caring for oneself, for each other, and for the communal physical environment. In such an atmosphere of mutual respect the student's own inner clock of development sets the pace and direction of their social and intellectual movement towards independence. Consequently, the boundaries of the Upper Elementary child's environment expand in response to the continuing strides being made toward the ability to reason, both cognitively and morally, as well as the irresistible pull to seek one another's company and form groups of all kinds in search of lasting individual and community-oriented habits of heart, mind, and hands.
At the Upper Elementary level the child continues in the development of a cosmic vision of the origin and interdependence of life, of partnership and cooperation, and of each part of creation possessing its unique and critically important task. In short, the Upper Elementary curriculum extends the exploration of and appreciation for the vast array of human differences -- cultural, geographic, political, and economic. The nine to twelve year old at this new stage of intellectual and social awareness and ability is able to more fully comprehend, and act upon, through study and service, the guiding premise that humanity is rooted in a common set of fundamental needs. The Montessori cultural curriculum, through its integrated historic, scientific, and geographic progression, carries forth the story of life to focus on the coming of humans and the ensuing rise of civilizations. It strives to nurture reverence and instill a lifelong sense of wonder for the grandeur and mystery of life, and, most importantly to assist the child in gaining an appreciation for his or her special role therein.
In the Upper Elementary, language is the holistic thread that binds the Montessori curriculum and ignites the imagination. Throughout the three-year learning cycle, students develop essential skills and strategies common to all proficient communicators. They are guided toward awareness, and ultimately a self-monitoring, of their own thought processes when engaging the spoken or written word as it relates to their own depth of comprehension or that of their very own audience. As these habits of mind take root through introduction to, practice with, and internalization of the rules governing the use of language, the writing process, oral expression, literary analysis and dialogue, and the research process, students begin to experience the active creation and absorption of language as meaningful, sophisticated, and relevant tools for growth.
Mathematics in the Upper Elementary is presented in a scope and sequence prepared to stimulate the constantly developing abilities of the nine to twelve year old. The Upper Elementary student possesses a mind that has the ability to judge, decipher, deduct, and reason: thus, to think abstractly. This is a blossoming critical thinker for whom the journey from the concrete experiences in the Lower Elementary to abstract reasoning and calculation in the Upper Elementary leads to the exploration and grasp of complex mathematical and geometric concepts. Through the manipulation of familiar and more advanced materials, students continue to move at their own pace in a step-by-step progression toward more abstract operations and relationships. It is precisely these gifts of time and materials, along with the practical integration of math into the broader curriculum, that help students better appreciate the language of numbers and their functions while providing a leg up in the climb to abstraction in preparation for the next level of reasoning and calculation contained in the initial studies of Algebra.
In music, the primary areas of focus are singing, dancing and movement, listening, singing and rhythm games, composition and improvisation. The goal is to combine musical skill building with the elements of spontaneity, improvisation, and creativity. In addition to the general music classes, there are a variety of ensemble groups to choose from, including recorder, percussion, and jazz/pop classes. Here students develop skills in small group musical interaction, improvisation, ensemble playing, and music reading. Musical work in the UE also plays a significant role in the classes annual performance, at all school gatherings, the community dinner, and "sharing" performances for the lower el and primary classes.
The goals of the Upper Elementary Art program are to strengthen visual awareness, aesthetic appreciation, creative expression, and imaginative thinking. Students refine technical skills and make in-depth explorations with elements and principles of visual design. Structured lessons are designed to promote individual initiative and the development of a personal style. Art is also an integral part of the academic program, with projects designed to enhance classroom studies.
The art program also includes the exposure to. and discussion of, reproductions of works of art, and an annual visit to the Brattleboro Museum. These activities help students connect their art making to a wider social and historical context. Finally, the art classes implicitly and explicitly promote awareness of the natural work as a source of imagery and inspiration, establishing a bridge to issues of environmental protection. Outdoor art expeditions to farm, river and orchard reinforce this idea.
The Physical Education program at Hilltop is guided by the seven components of physical fitness: speed, agility, strength, power, endurance, flexibility and coordination. Within the scope of a semester all P.E. activities address one or more of these components. Careful focus on attaining competency in all areas over time will ensure that a student is successful in achieving a healthy fitness level. For as fitness improves so does the level of skill development.
For the 9-12 year olds these skills include Ultimate Frisbee, soccer, track and field, volleyball, tumbling, badminton, pilo polo, dance, circus skills, lacrosse, softball and mile run training.
“Schools as they are today are adapted neither to the needs of adolescence nor to the time in which we live.”
—Dr. Maria Montessori
Middle School Curriculum
Work Habits & Social Development
At the middle school level students are expected to accept and maintain significantly higher degrees of responsibility for the management and organization of their personal time and materials as well as for their overall preparedness (physically and mentally) for learning. In addition, the creation and nurturing of a classroom community is vital to the success of the program. Students, therefore, must strive to possess and promote a genuine attitude of respect for one another, the staff, and the environment.
Humanities: Rights, Revolution, and Reform
The Montessori curriculum's Humanities strand responds directly to the needs, tasks, and sensitivities of the adolescent. Given the emerging interest in the workings of society, it is only proper that the adolescent be provided opportunities for learning the ways of the world: ways that give rise to establishing bridges of understanding and purpose between adolescent desires-for independence, self-expression, community, and to simply be of use-and the world about them. Such growth transpires as a result of being placed at the center of one's own learning; it is here that knowledge of one's own capacities, of one's self-worth, is forged. The adolescent's experience, therefore, must revolve around the historic and contemporary workings of society, its obligations and its structures, with a keen sense of responsibility toward a more peaceful future for all humanity.
Language Arts at HMMS attends to the advanced development of a student's ability to access information, use discernment, and communicate understanding effectively, be it in oral or written form. During the two year program, students are required to demonstrate a conscious capacity to write expressively, comprehensively, and coherently in a variety of academic and creative modes; to speak publicly and present ideas and information formally in a clear, organized, and articulate manner; and, to partake in literature seminar by preparing for and engaging thoughtfully in the creation of shared meaning through dialogue. These skills are furthered through constant practice with short and extended essays, research outlines and papers, individual and collaborative project presentations, and close readings and analysis of sophisticated works of fiction. The students crown their efforts at HMMS with a study of oratory that culminates in the creation and delivery of a farewell address. It is the overarching goal of the program to cultivate each student's voice so that it resonates with clarity in both the written and spoken word.
Middle school mathematics is approached as a two-year continuum, which will ultimately prepare students for high school level math. It is designed to engage the adolescent's blossoming critical reasoning skills and further their abstract thinking. It is at this point in the math sequence where numbers turn into variables, two dimensional objects take on a third dimension, and algorithms give way to complex functions. Accompanying these higher-level cognitive skills is the understanding of how to solve problems beyond routine formulae, which lays the groundwork for comparing and analyzing data, and ultimately, solving real-world problems.
The middle school science curriculum furthers the growth of the adolescent through expanding the world view. It is designed to foster a sense of stewardship - for one's own health and body, for interpersonal relationships, and for the greater community. It accomplishes this by encouraging the student to think critically, ask good questions, increase powers of awareness and observation, and recognize the symbiotic nature of humans and the earth. Ultimately, the adolescent uses science to make choices, disseminate information, and as one framework for viewing the natural world. The goal is to carry critical thinking as far as possible to enable this way of viewing and to further expand the student's natural sense of wonder.
Art in the Middle School is a search for each student's creativity, an active cultivation of visual awareness, and a call to be responsible for the process and patience that is inherent in honest expression. Students are exposed to many media in both two and three dimensions. The need for technique is honored, but is taught as this need naturally arises in their art. This allows students to work at many different levels and in many styles with a focus on growth within their own personal art making process while making sure they have the techniques required to achieve their goals. Creativity must be actively sought while at the same time students must allow themselves to be open and surprised by what they experience.
The Physical Education program at Hilltop is guided by the seven components of physical fitness: speed, agility, strength, power, endurance, flexibility and coordination. Within the scope of a semester all P.E. activities address one or more of these components. Careful focus on attaining competency in all areas over time will ensure that a student is successful in achieving a healthy fitness level. For as fitness improves so does the level of skill development. For the 12-15 year olds these skills include Ultimate Frisbee, soccer, individualized fitness program, volleyball, tumbling, badminton, pilo polo, dance, circus skills, lacrosse, softball and mile run training.