Lower Elementary (Ages 6 to 9) and Upper Elementary (Ages 9 to 12) are companion environments defined by non-interference in the learning process; they are a continuum designed to accommodate the full range of possibility and potential and wonder of each child throughout this expansive plane of development (the age of fairness and justice and exploration) as well as a freedom of movement during the work cycle; it is a “cosmic age” of looking outward to the universe, backward to the dawn of time, and inward to one’s own role and sense of purpose; therefore, the classrooms provide students prepared and inspiring access to the necessary tools, materials, adults, technology, the outdoors, and one another so as to meet their imagination and thirsts head-on. These too are hands-on spaces that thrive on attention to order and care; most importantly, they are where students come to construct their own learning and, in turn, themselves.
Work and Social – the Peace Curriculum
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 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.
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 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.