The Lower Elementary (Acorns) class is led by Brigid Fox and Janna Carlson. The teaching philosophy in this class is organic and open. The Montessori methods are used as a foundation when topics are introduced, following our 3-year curriculum and yearly lesson goals. The children are able to lead the lessons by their curiosity and interests, and group and individual projects make room for individualization within the bigger lessons.
A foundation to the Acorn classroom is community. Our behaviors and choices are often checked by the question “is this helping the community?” Individual strength is developed and celebrated by the interactions with the larger group.
The Mountain Sun Community School Elementary Curriculum guides students through themes and threads on a 3-year rotation. Each year, skills and objectives are taught, discovered, and addressed through lenses which inspire the child to expand on her interests through depth and attention. Above all, each child continues to be honored as a unique person.
Each school year begins with the Great Lessons of the Montessori Curriculum and the Acorns follow the three-year curriculum cycle that is used by the whole school. Our academics are referenced through the common core and Montessori learning goals.
Students have shelf works, daily rhythm and a multi-aged classroom where all subject areas are explored through Montessori materials. With work plans and and a quiet work environment, the children practice and develop independence and time management skills.
Each day starts with centering where one of the students sets an intention for the day (peacefulness, friendship, honesty, etc.). Throughout the day we practice mindfulness by being in nature, reading literature, and using other academic resources. Periodically, we take opportunities to read, observe, meditate, or journal outside.
The Acorns go on one campout in the Fall and another in the Spring. The campouts include forest adventures, stream investigation, community exploration and camping with family members at an established camp site. In addition to these campouts they go to the county Library for events and research opportunities, they have also traveled to the Porter Center and the Orange Peel for music and cultural events. They have explored geology with Duck Pond Pottery and Brevard College’s Geology Professor. The Acorns seek out local resources during specific academic units, such as visiting our local newspaper when learning about our community, and the fire and police stations when they are studying heroes.
Exploring the natural world comes through literature circle, camping trips, adventures on the beautiful campus, and science. The natural world also frequently serves as a metaphor for conversations about life, like learning how to “go with the flow.” The children have a “hands on” expectation rather than setting their time up with limits, teachers discuss and observe hazards then encourage safe and natural exploration.
The Acorns started growing a variety of fruits and vegetables from seeds to learn about growing in the natural world. They have outdoor education weekly, which allows the students to work with younger students and grow as leaders in and outside of the natural world. As part of all of their hikes, the children are asked to be mindful of things they notice, such as new trees and old trees and things growing differently in order to fill its needs. They are also given the opportunity to experience the cycle of life when they have a classroom pet or an observed animal in the wild that experiences challenges in life.
In the Acorn class creation is found in many ways. Literature circle is the time for the students to create daily: they get to doodle, make origami, and use other creative materials as the teacher reads aloud.
Creative expression is also incorporated during work period. Observing our individual learners often leads toward opening doors for the child to express his/her creativity through daily expression.
Watercolors, small weaving looms, origami and other art supplies are always available in the classroom. They also have a weekly art class and are encouraged to create during their outdoor time. Bringing in local craftspeople to introduce a skill and inspire the children is another way we open avenues for the Acorns to explore their own creativity.
During work period there is music playing for the students, but they also have access to musical instruments like the lap harp and drums. These instruments can be used during their work period. They also have music class weekly. Singing and dancing together is an important part of our community building. It is used as an illustration of the beauty of togetherness in conjunction with the beauty of independence.
The Acorns work on collaboration in a few ways. They have Service Learning Projects (SLP) which requires them to collaborate with the greater community and in class, we encourage students to work together whether that be the same project or assisting another student with their work.
They also collaborate with the greater community through SLP’s, picking up trash while on a hike and providing leadership to their younger peers, along with other things. Through the second and third grade Service Learning Project (SLP), students are given the chance to make a difference in the outside community. Some of these projects include nature education classes, collecting books for the Library, collecting clothing during the Winter to donate to the Sharing House and more.
As a class group, they are often touched by an event or tragedy, they focus on how to be a helper and find ways to serve the group. One year the Acorns helped the school collect needs for firefighters during the wildfires that were in our area. They also annually participate in Heifer International’s Read to Feed Program.
When a conflict occurs in the Acorn class the students convene at the peace table in the classroom. On the table sits a list of steps of a peace talk, and every year the students do a group project to discuss those steps. The students are encouraged to use peace talks to deal with conflict. Conflicts are presented as opportunities for growth and given time and space to be fully resolved.
By participating in the outer community and learning how to coexist peacefully, the Acorn class becomes a place of belonging and acceptance.