Lower Elementary Grades 1-3
Often at about age 6, children begin to ponder life’s big questions: Where did the world come from? How did I get here? Why am I here? Khalsa’s lower-elementary program acknowledges this curiosity and uses it to draw students into work that is suited to their developmental stage and that addresses Arizona standards.
The heart of this program is a series of five stories told in the oral storytelling tradition and fondly referred to as The Great Lessons. The stories tell of the formation of the universe, the beginning of life on Earth, the coming of human beings, the history of math and the development of writing. They draw on the most widely accepted scientific theories, including The Big Bang and evolution, and also honor the mysteries of life.
After hearing the Great Lessons – and watching them, for they are visually dramatic as well – students have continual opportunities to individually explore questions the stories raise for them. This exploration comes in the form of scientific experiments, book research and work with enticing materials on classroom shelves. It gives great purpose to the study of reading, writing and math.
Math is another treasure in the 6-9 program. It’s hard to imagine walking into a lower-elementary classroom without noticing the beautiful math materials. Crafted mostly of wood, they give students a hands-on way to discover the inner workings of numbers – for example, what it means to have a thousand of something, why you call it squaring when you multiply a number by itself, and what you’re actually doing in all those math problems when you “borrow” a one.
All Montessori work is designed to nurture independence. At the lower-elementary level, students not only choose what work they will do and where they will do it, they also keep records of their work. With freedom comes responsibility, and each student enjoys the amount of freedom he or she has demonstrated readiness to handle.
In the big picture, this is how the lower-elementary curriculum works: Students revisit materials to which they were introduced in primary, this time working with them at more advanced levels. They also work with new materials in a sequence designed to take them from the concrete to the abstract. The increasing focus on abstract prepares students for upper elementary work.