Elementary Update, March 2013

Your children are off and running in 100 different directions! I thought I would give you a little “taste” of what is happening in Elementary this early Spring. The first through third graders went to the library to kick-off their Egyptian studies. Many of the children have been combing through the books our class checked out and several children. They brainstormed questions they want to know the answer to. Here’s what they came up with:

Did the Egyptians have a numerical system? What was their writing like? Did the children go to school? Why did they build pyramids? What did Egyptians eat? What kind of crops did they plant? What kinds of clothes did the Egyptians wear? Did they make art? What kind? What kinds of tools did they use? Did the Egyptians play games? Who were the Pharaohs? Did they have pets? What kinds of homes did they live in? Why was the Sphinx built? Who is King Tut? What is the Valley of the Kings?

And this is an abbreviated list! As you can see – many of their questions come from our Fundamental Needs study – the overarching framework that drives our cultural and historical studies. Realistically, will we cover all these topics in reports? We might not. An interesting phenomenon has occurred, however. Our Elders, (numbering 5), want “in” on this study. Several of them remember their Ancient Egypt study from years past and want to do another one. Remember now, this is in addition to all their other independent works in progress.

Our solution: A “Who’s Who” Guide to Ancient Egypt. We will produce a class-compiled study of various characters on the never-ending stage of ancient Egypt. Younger children therefore will be writing two papers under their own guidance and with elder and teacher assist. I love when things like this happen!

In other news: Country Village has taken the unprecedented approach to allowing computers in the classroom. That’s right, our elders, and ONLY our elders, are learning keyboarding skills under the tutorage of Mr. Jim. This will aid and assist them in future report writing and research as well as have them function better with their IXL and any other Math apps Mr. Jim cares to use.

The computer is under controlled time and usage and does not interfere with the rest of the functioning of the class. Mr. Jim is monitoring at all times. Right now, they are only using it for keyboarding and math. The children have reacted very positively to its addition. Remember to have them get on at home to practice their math.

Ms. Monica is concluding a study of money with booklets the children are making. They may start on their Geometry Dictionaries soon!

I’ll share one of the Great Lessons of Dr. Montessori, namely: The History of Writing. This year, we are taking the study a bit more slowly and breaking it apart so as to dramatize the majesty of our writing system. We have incorporated various Art projects along the way. So far your children have been treated to the viewing of the cave drawings in Lascaux, France (which is no longer opened to the public), pictographs from Mesoamerica, and Sumerian Clay Tablets. Along the way we made faux cave drawings by wrinkling up a paper bag and using charcoal to copy or produce an original Lascaux-like image. We experimented with real pieces of charcoal from a fire and charcoal pencils from Michael’s. Then we interpreted pictographs, looked at symbols, and devised our own, using suggested symbols or those of our own making.  We made Mesopotamian Clay Tablets using a variety of stylus’ also courtesy of Michael’s. All the while discussing how these “art” forms are steps in our history of writing. These impressionistic lessons and their follow-ons are the hallmark of Montessori Education.

Future lessons will be on the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Paper Making, St. Patrick, Middle Ages, Monks, Illumination, and Modern Technology (Printing Press etc.).

I’ll conclude with thoughts from a book I’m reading by Tony Wagner, entitled, Creating Innovators.   I loved his message as it speaks to what we are cultivating in our classrooms every day! He says we need to grow an innovation economy with more people solving problems of all kinds. Wagner lists about core competencies/ skills needed for life. They are:

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills – the ability to ask really good questions
  2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading By Influence
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  7. Curiosity and Imagination

Wagner posits, we were all born curious, how do we get people to be innovators? My takeaway from his talk was that one way to cultivate innovators is to keep the fires of curiosity burning in our schools.

Claire, Sue, Monika, and Jim