At the elementary level, children are entering a period of great physical and intellectual change. This period is also characterized by great curiosity; children are no longer satisfied with basic information. They want to know “why.” They are fascinated by the immensely huge and the infinitesimal.
The Montessori elementary curriculum begins to present the universe and the whole of history. These large concepts spark the child’s imagination and help motivate further research. The elementary classroom creates an even larger focus on the children by making itself a community of children. Students assist one another in asking questions and searching for answers, while they pursue purposeful work in small groups, with partners, or independently. They help establish the rules of the class, maintain the classroom, and act in leadership roles. The lower elementary is composed of 1st graders to 3rd graders.
Montessori students do not just memorize facts and figures. They learn about and focus on the “hows,” “whens,” and “whys,” ensuring that learning takes place on a deep and fundamental level. Specially designed learning materials that use real objects and actions to translate abstract ideas into concrete form support them in this learning. Teachers introduce materials to students according to their level of development and readiness. Students then work with the materials to make exciting discoveries: an example of this is why, when dividing fractions, we invert and multiply. Inherent in the use of Montessori materials is the understanding of the power of discovering answers on one’s own.