Upper Elementary (Fourth - Sixth Grade)
The goal of Montessori education is to cultivate the child’s own desire to learn. Maria Montessori believed that no human being is educated by another person. Rather, the child experiences intense periods of learning based on the prepared environment and the child’s interest combined with a capacity to learn. “The hand is the chief teacher of the child,” and so learning is driven by hands-on, conceptual activity. Further, concepts are presented from the “whole to part” perspective, working with natural order.
In the upper elementary classroom (fourth through sixth grade, or ages nine to 12), content is not presented in “course subject” form; instead, ideas and concepts are explored across the breadth and to the depth demanded by the child. For example, flowers are not just observed in books or through the window. The flower (possibly cultivated by the child) is brought into the environment, touched, named, identified by parts, compared and contrasted with other plants (temporally and historically), reviewed within its life cycle, located in the world, etc. Thus, education is more about experiencing and relationships than dissemination of isolated facts from a pre-selected course of study. The senses are engaged whenever possible, aiding in the child’s natural capacity to learn.
In the natural order of development, the child is now more capable of understanding the abstract and visionary elements of life. Thus, in the upper elementary, the child is further transitioning from concrete to abstract appreciation of life. The educational process continues to follow the child through its inherent flexibility and adaptability. The teacher remains the facilitator or guide, assessing and then challenging the child’s natural curiosity.
Social development takes on a more prominent development at this age. Individual morals and values are further established, particularly within the framework of peers. The sense of self is expanded beyond personal experience. Abstract experiencing through literature, arts, etc. further develops and can modify the child’s sense of self. Decision-making skills and problem-solving skills are self-tested, and success is qualified as learning from both the positive and negative experiences of life.