The Upper Elementary program challenges students academically while promoting confidence and independence.
Children learn to problem solve, to synthesize information, to work collaboratively, to think critically and analytically, and to effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas both verbally, in writing, and through project-based work. Prior attendance at a Montessori school is not a prerequisite for admission.
The school day begins with an uninterrupted work period allowing students to concentrate on math and language skills and move at their own pace. Lessons, using an extensive array of Montessori materials, are given to one child or to small groups of children, allowing for individualized attention with immediate feedback between students and teacher. Science, history, geography, literature groups, art, music, physical education, drama, Spanish, nature and social skills classes are scheduled throughout the week.
In addition, each week, students travel to the Middle School where they participate in a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) lab experience with Middle School science and math teachers. The purpose of the lab is to provide students the opportunity to further develop and apply their math and science skills by actively engaging in inquiry-based activities as they move through the process of scientific method.
Areas of Learning
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The math curriculum in the Upper Elementary program includes arithmetic, geometry, and pre-algebra. Upper Elementary teachers observe and assess each student’s skill level to determine where the student will begin in the curriculum. Students learn basic operations, math facts, fractions, decimals, word problems, measurement, ratio and proportion, percents, graphing tables and charts, rounding and averaging, as well as geometry and pre-algebra. Students improve upon their problem solving skills by working collaboratively. The Upper Elementary math curriculum is built to ensure that all students are challenged appropriately, while progressing toward higher mathematical thinking. Sixth grade students attend a weekly science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) lab in our Middle School with Middle School math and science teachers. This experience further develops each student’s math and science skills through active engagement in inquiry-based activities.
The Upper Elementary language curriculum fosters the growth and development of receptive and expressive language. Emphasis is placed on essay writing, stylistic writing, research and report writing, creative writing, and analytical and critical thinking. Sentence analysis and diagramming using manipulative grammar materials continues through the language curriculum. Choices of literature complement other areas of the Upper Elementary curriculum including history, cultural studies, and social skills. Comprehension, reading aloud, and group discussion skills are reinforced, and techniques for literary criticism are introduced. Each student completes an in depth research project on a topic of personal interest that culminates in a written report and presentation to the community.
The Upper Elementary history curriculum is a three year cycle which covers each of the seven continents and consists of three basic units:
– Creation of the universe, humans, migration and ancient civilizations
– Civilization, exploration and early colonization of North and South America
– Colonization beyond Jamestown leading to creation of the United States, and early challenges of becoming independent nation.
The Upper Elementary science curriculum is a three year cycle that is designed to provide an overview for students of chemistry, botany, zoology, human biology, earth and physical sciences, which will be explored in more depth in Middle School:
– Chemistry explores elements and the use of periodic table and the relationship between atoms, molecules and compounds
– Botany explores plant anatomy and cell structure and function
– Zoology explores Kingdoms of Life, animal classification, cell structure and function, and animal relationships
– Human Biology explores interconnected human systems, health and nutrition
– Earth Science explores solar system/astronomy, weather and interconnected systems and cycles
– Physical Science explores simple machines, the Laws of Motion, light and magnetism
Upper Elementary students use their knowledge of the scientific method to design their own experiments and present at the Oak Meadow Science Fair held each spring. In addition, interested sixth grade students may continue to the regional and Massachusetts state science fairs.
The Upper Elementary geography curriculum is a three year cycle which covers each of the seven continents and consists of three basic units:
– Economic geography explores natural resources, their use and the interdependency of humans
– Physical geography explores Earth’s composition and its relationship with the sun, advanced land and water forms, biomes, continents and countries
– Cultural geography explores regions, cultures and the Fundamental Needs of Humans
The Upper Elementary Spanish curriculum expands upon the four basic skills of language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Students continue to practice their conversation skills through skits and interactions with each other, and with the teacher. Card games, Lotería, and customized theme board games serve as a fun way to reinforce vocabulary and dialogue. Classes meet twice a week. The curriculum is guided by a monthly theme that may include vocabulary, reading and writing assignments, and cultural units, which include exploration of regional food and dance.
Beginning in the sixth grade, regular homework and project assignments are given. Students also begin to take quizzes to prepare them for middle school. In addition to the expansion of vocabulary, students learn to conjugate regular verbs in the present tense, and learn to form the simple future. They also learn the irregular verbs ir and ser and the correct use of estar. Reading in the target language is supported in the classroom and assigned at home. Writing extends to include creating flash cards, making regular entries in a personal reference journal, practicing translation skills, and completing grammar reinforcing exercises.
The Upper Elementary Music curriculum for Fourth and Fifth Years begins with an extended Band Unit in the Fall Term, with students learning wind instruments of their choice. Fourth Years then have a Spring unit in Caribbean music, playing and writing music for steel pan drums from Trinidad, and learning syncopation through Calypso, Reggae and Soca styles. Fifth Year Music introduces a Spring Drama Unit, in which students perform a fully staged African folk tale play in conjunction with a Musical Composition Unit that centers around understanding modal systems, with each individual writing original music on the kalimba, a type of African thumb piano.
Sixth Years participate with Middle Schoolers in a quarterly Electives curriculum, choosing two Music courses per year taught intensively in double-block periods. Elective choices vary each year, depending upon student interest, and can include Musical Theater Scenes Workshop, Music Instrument Building, Music Technology and Composition, Group Guitar and Keyboard Classes, and Oakapellas, the school’s long-standing a cappella vocal ensemble.
In addition to weekly classes, Upper Elementary students have various musical opportunities during the before- and after-school hours, including Concert Band and Concert Choir, a fully-staged musical theater production, and lessons in vocal performance and a wide variety of instruments.
Upper Elementary students attend art classes by grade level once a week. Students continue to develop a deep understanding of materials and processes in order to independently pursue projects of their own design, as well as achieve competency while working on class projects. The teacher provides a foundation in which students work independently on projects of their choosing. Studio Habits of Mind (HGSE) are used as a framework for further investigation and collaboration. Awareness of art history and art as an expression of culture continues to be important at this level.
Upper Elementary students attend physical education classes by grade twice a week. As in Lower Elementary, students at this level continue to refine simple locomotor skills. Emphasis is placed on improving knowledge and specific sport skills needed to perform in individual, group, and team sports. Students continue to develop greater muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardio-respiratory endurance, which prepares them for physical fitness testing. Sixth year (grade) students participate in health education classes led by Oak Meadow’s physical education faculty.
Upper Elementary Fifth Year includes a Spring Drama Unit, in which students perform a fully staged African folk tale play in conjunction with a Musical Composition Unit that centers around understanding modal systems, with each individual writing original music on the kalimba, a type of African thumb piano.
Sixth Years participate in an intensive double-block Drama Class for half of each year, together with Middle Schoolers. The curriculum combines acting training, improvisational theater exercises, and opportunities to gain experience in theater tech areas like props, scenery, and costuming. Each term culminates in the production of a full-scale play. Selections range from historical classics like Shakespeare and Commedia dell’Arte, to quite modern 21st-century repertoire, including an emphasis on works by female playwrights. In addition, Drama students stage Reader’s Theater performances for very young audiences of the school’s younger grades, based on well-known picture books. The variety of plays gives students added opportunities each year to tackle more than one role, and thereby to expand their range as actors.
Upper Elementary students in Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Year have an optional afterschool opportunity to participate in a full-scale musical theater production, together with Lower Elementary and Middle Schoolers. Recent shows have included Frozen, Seussical, Peter Pan, Madagascar, Alice in Wonderland, Charlotte’s Web, The Aristocats, and many more.
Hands-on challenges that invite students to collaborate to solve real-world problems while applying the engineering design process, scientific method and their academic knowledge are the vehicles for which students experience Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM). Students work in the laboratory weekly, where they use scientific equipment and their developing experience of the process to discover the world around them.
The Upper Elementary Science/STEM classes integrate nature-based learning into their curriculum. Students participate in monthly adventures, in all kinds of weather, exploring local conservation land (Cobb), focusing on forest and vernal pool ecology, animal tracking and more. Nature-based learning experiences, from one program level to the next, allow students to understand and appreciate the outdoors and to develop a sense of place within the natural environment.
Field trips are an integral part of the Upper Elementary curriculum and allow students to learn through their experiences at Nature’s Classroom and trips to area locations. Sixth year (grade) students participate in a three-day Art-focused trip to New York City in the spring, visiting several of the many museums there. During their visit, students take a Circle Line tour of the city, and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge as an introduction to the cultural richness of an urban setting.
Social and emotional learning as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision- making and relationship skills. The development of these skills helps to promote pro-social behavior, reduce violence and bullying behaviors, and increase ability to learn and achieve in the school environment. Upper Elementary students explore developmentally appropriate concepts of social and emotional learning. Topics may include cooperation, responsibility, teamwork, community, kindness, impulse control, self-care, acceptance, and more. Lessons are taught in small groups by classroom, grade level or include the entire Upper Elementary program, and are taught through projects, role-playing, experiential learning, visual cues, and guided discussions.
Service to the community as a practical life concept takes on an increasingly important role in Upper Elementary. As lessons in grace and courtesy continue, so too does an emphasis on community service. This focus helps students understand and accept their responsibilities as members of a greater community, as well as to develop a clear sense of values. Community Service within the school and outside community allow for opportunities to make a difference. Upper Elementary students continually take care of their learning environments through daily chores and responsibilities. Students also learn to manage their time by completing homework and long-term projects such as book reports, Year-Long Projects, and preparing for the Science Fair. Students use planners to keep track of their daily schoolwork. Finally, while students do not participate in standardized testing for the sake of scores, they are exposed to test-taking skills and strategies to prepare them for high school and beyond.