Primary Program (ages 3-6)
The goal of the Primary Program at Stonecreek Montessori Academy is to help the child develop independence and discipline from within, while learning new academic and life skills. Children explore basic concepts and discover their own uniqueness in a carefully prepared classroom environment that provides developmentally appropriate materials and activities, along with the right balance of freedom and limits. Well-trained teachers observe children individually in order to see which areas of the classroom they are drawn to and what their interests are. The teachers keep careful records of each child’s activities, so they may plan lessons accordingly to meet the child’s sensitive periods for learning.
Our inviting classrooms contain the materials scientifically developed by Maria Montessori. Children work with these materials in the areas of practical life, sensory exploration, language development, and mathematical understanding.
Practical life activities are the foundation for the child’s learning in the Montessori classroom. These exercises fall into several categories. For example, the children engage in daily life tasks such as washing dishes, arranging flowers, and polishing beautiful objects. This gives children the opportunity to perform and master—using tools of the right size for small hands—the purposeful tasks that they often admire adults performing in their daily routines. Children also engage in activities relating to the care of oneself, the environment, and others. These exercises lay the groundwork for independence, help develop concentration, and further refine coordination.
Grace and courtesy lessons, which aid with communication skills and social development, teach the child respect for herself or himself, others, and the environment. Such exercises include lessons in table setting, carrying objects, making requests, and table manners. Through these and other activities, children develop poise, coordination, and self-confidence.
At Stonecreek, we offer children opportunities to take care of their own needs, such as making their own snacks, and to take care of the needs of their classroom environment, such as watering plants, dusting, and sweeping. Learning how to manage these practical life skills bridges the gap between home life and life at school, and helps build the child’s self-esteem. Carrying out these activities also builds the child’s concentration, coordination of movement, sense of order, and ability to complete a task, and aids the development of will. These qualities are key to the child’s success as he or she grows older and develops more academic interests.
Sensorial Materials include hands-on, manipulative materials that stimulate sensory discrimination, observation, and descriptive language. Exercises with these materials involve training and developing children’s sense of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. Such activities aid the child in organizing and categorizing the sensory impressions she or he receives from the outside world. Through these practices, children sharpen their ability to differentiate between various shapes, sounds, smells, colors, textures and tastes.
The result is increased awareness of the physical environment and heightened powers of observation that are so useful for future academic explorations. Also, abstract mathematical qualities are introduced through the use of concrete materials, so, in many ways, sensorial materials help lay the foundation for introduction to mathematical concepts.
The foundation for math actually begins in the areas of Practical Life and Sensorial Exploration. Work with the meticulously designed Montessori sensorial and math materials ranges from simply learning to count and recognize numerals to hands-on work with the decimal system and hierarchies of numbers (units, tens, hundreds, thousands, etc.). This lays the foundation for the child’s subsequent understanding of geometry and algebra. With these materials, children also learn the processes of addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division, and math facts are acquired with ease. Through manipulative materials, the child experience concepts in isolation, which prepares him or her for abstract reasoning and problem–solving.
Stonecreek’s curriculum builds on children’s remarkable natural capacity for language development. Learning in this area begins from the moment the child enters the class. Beginning with phonetic sound recognition, the child learns to read and write by connecting the letter symbol(s) to each sound, de-coding and rebuilding words using movable letters of the alphabet, and by developing the coordination of the hand and wrist with specifically designed materials. Exercises in the classroom move logically from left to right, and top to bottom, and various activities develop the hand coordination necessary for writing.
Children in the Montessori classroom are also exposed to a rich vocabulary as they explore the many opportunities for naming objects. For example, through learning the parts of a flower, the countries of the world, and the various species of trees, children gain much more than factual knowledge. They gain an appreciation of the power and descriptive ability of language.
Various activities in the classroom prepare the child for progression from spoken to written language. As recognition of sounds leads to reading words, phrases, and sentences, children are eager to continue to gain ability in reading. The experience of watching older children engaged in writing and reading activities, interests the younger children and encourages them to join in these lessons, too. This makes learning to read and write a natural process of acquisition. Grammar, spelling, and sentence analysis work further develops the older children’s understanding of the written word.
Stonecreek’s primary classroom presents opportunities to learn about geography and various cultures, including other countries, animals, time, history, music, movement, science, and art. In keeping with Maria Montessori’s inspiring vision of world peace, these cultural activities help children respect differences by showing the basic similarities of human beings and other living things. These various disciplines are interconnected in complementary ways, as music, art, and movement education all form part of this integrated cultural curriculum.
Young children are fascinated with nature. Providing a child the time for unstructured play in nature, studies have shown, increases the child’s concentration and observation abilities. Children at Stonecreek have many opportunities to play in the School’s playground and gardens. They create garden beds, and they also plant, weed, water, harvest, and prepare food from the gardens. Children gain an understanding of the life cycle of plants, the seasons and the source of the fruits and vegetables they eat. Spending time with nature, children at this age gain an appreciation for the natural world and, later in their development, are ready to work to preserve it.
Learning to communicate with others in conflict situations is an important life skill and is taken seriously at Stonecreek. As toddlers, the children learn how to express their feelings and needs to each other. When the children enter the Primary level at the age of three, they are guided by the teachers or older classmates to use a conflict resolution model when a conflict with their peers arises. By the time a child is five years old, he or she is usually able to go through the conflict resolution process independently, without a teacher’s help.