The Drive to Explore
The Casa or “Children’s House” for students between the ages of 3 – 6 years is a sensory-rich environment of discovery designed to promote a love of learning and deep concentration. The multi-age group provides opportunities for peer learning and mentorship, both in the classroom and on the playground. Children are given a careful balance between guidance and freedom for exploration of the five curriculum areas of Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, and Culture, through engaging hands-on activities, as well as participating in weekly physical education classes.
The Practical Life area is composed of exercises of everyday life such as pouring, cutting, and sweeping. As children at this age continue to adapt to activities of the home and family environment these exercises draw them in to an understanding of how things work. With activities for care of the self, care of the environment, and lessons in grace and courtesy, the Practical Life area is the foundation for all the other subjects in the classroom. These exercises aid the child in control and coordination of their movements, concentration, independence, self-esteem, and responsibility.
Dr. Montessori developed the Sensorial materials to train and refine the senses of a child to better observe and receive information from the world around them. Exercises for the visual, tactile, auditory, gustatory, olfactory, baric, thermic, and stereognostic senses allow children to work with abstract ideas such as colour, length, volume, and temperature in the form of concrete activities. Through this work, children also learn the corresponding language for what they are discovering.
The Language area focuses on the enrichment of spoken language, as well as the development of writing and reading. Children are presented with a broad and varied vocabulary applied to all areas of the curriculum, and encouraged to develop their conversational skills in both English and French. The French-speaking assistant provides material-based vocabulary lessons, as well as using music and song to encourage second language acquisition. Children are given the keys to express themselves in writing through classic Montessori materials such as the Sandpaper Letters and Moveable Alphabet, and then progress to reading.
Manipulative materials are utilised in the Mathematics curriculum to provide independent, hands-on experience with mathematical principles. These materials assist the children in developing number sense and awareness of quantity in relation to numeric symbols, as well as a deep understanding of the decimal system and place value. Work is also undertaken to solve equations in all four operations, as well the memorization of addition/subtraction and multiplication/division tables. Children are also introduced to work with fractions.
Elements of the Culture curriculum are found within each of the four core subjects, introducing young students to customs, visual art, and music from around the world. The Montessori Bells are a foundation material for the children’s study of music in developing their ear and an understanding of intervals of sound through the C Major scale. Other Culture materials develop the children’s interest in physical and social geography, as well as providing an introduction to the study of botany and zoology.