The Upper Elementary (Monarch) Class is guided by teachers Becky Langerman and Kim Skeen.
Between the ages of 9-12, children use imagination and move from concrete representation to abstract thinking as they seek to bring order to the various disconnected facts and ideas they encounter in the world. While experiencing great growth both physically and mentally, children in the later second plane of development are drawn to more social interactions and are learning about social relationships within their environment. They are genuinely interested in the thoughts, feelings, and treatment of others. When confronted with moral issues, the Upper Elementary student desires to imagine and develop possible solutions.
In the daily life of the classroom, students are provided with the structure to learn time management skills and accountability balanced with independence to allow for mistakes and, therefore, growth. They are responsible for their work plans and accountable for due dates in class and at home. Homework responsibility includes two Service Learning Projects designed to integrate meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience and teach civic responsibility. Students are responsible for nightly reading and rote practice of math facts, in addition to book reports and other project requirements that are assigned throughout the year. Students may also need to complete class work at home if they are in need of extra practice need to catch up on work.
The Mountain Sun Community School Upper 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.
The Upper Elementary environment is intentionally prepared to nurture the later second plane of development (ages 9 to 12). There are tables, floorspace, and individual spots for them to work. In addition, the classroom culture is one of peace and mutual respect, two core components of Montessori philosophy. At the beginning of the year, the Monarchs agree as a community to respect each other, themselves, the classroom environment, and the natural world.
The teacher, traditionally called a guide in a Montessori classroom, is not the central figure in the room. Rather, children are encouraged to problem-solve independently as well as learn from each other. It is the role of the Montessori teacher to provide the tools and the space to nurture and develop skills that foster independence and responsibility.
The Monarchs participate in group centering every morning. They choose a word or a reading to reflect on and have some moments of silence and stillness. Once a week, they have Morning Watch, a time allocated for them to find a place on campus in which center themselves and be in nature. On field experiences, they incorporate silent hikes and solo times to allow time for personal reflection and sensorial practice while in the natural world. The Monarchs practice Yoga weekly with the intention of incorporating asanas and mindfulness into their everyday lives.
The Monarch students participate in various field experiences throughout the year. The trips are intentionally planned to complement the current area of study, as well as respond to their natural curiosities and incorporate teachable moments. The class goes on four camping trips per year, including Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center every Fall. At Buffalo Cove, students engage in lessons and activities that correlate with their history study, as well as in primitive outdoor survival skills, such as a one-match fire and knife safety. Another yearly field experience is an overnight backpacking trip to Big Bald Banding Station, where they work with biologists to learn about migratory songbirds and raptors and study their migration patterns.
Day trips are an integral part of the curriculum, as they provide the students with an experiential component outside the classroom with experts in diverse fields of study. “Going Out” is a Montessori concept that defines the necessity for students of this age to leave the classroom and explore the universe. While the class normally travels together due to the smaller class size, it is permissible for small groups of students to find a field of study that interests them and leave the classroom to extend their study on a day trip. Students then report back to the class to share what they’ve learned.
Students are involved in all aspects of trip preparation, especially the overnight trips. They plan, research, and help raise money for their field experiences. It is common for students to plan bake sales, hold raffles, or sponsor a parents’ night out to supplement the cost of their trips. Prior to camping trips, students become experts on types of flora and fauna, which they then identify and teach the others about along the trail. Giving students the opportunity to prepare in the classroom through reading and research allows them to put their knowledge into context outside of the classroom.
The Upper Elementary environment provides opportunities for creative expressions that naturally occur within their work in the classroom. Whether it is creating an accurate illustration of an animal for a field guide, or doing handwork such a knitting or crochet, students are exposed to various forms of media. Visual art lessons are given as a group once a week and students are provided time to work on their projects to practice new skills. In their weekly music class, students are given lessons on an instrument such as the recorder or the ukulele. All music and art lessons are integrated into the daily classroom environment. Teachers work together to integrate the theme or unit of study and students are guided through those themes through creative expression.
Creating a sense of belonging is integral to this age group as they maneuver this important stage of growth. Children of this age wish to express and feel belonging within their school community and their larger communities. The begin to see and understand the world in a more complex way, which sparks empathy and a desire to help.
Collaboration is an integral component of the Upper Elementary curriculum. Learning to cooperate and work with each other’s strengths and challenges offers opportunities to grow individually and as a community. Students may work together on in-depth projects, or even daily works such as math or language.
Upper Elementary students have practiced peace talks for several years, and when the need to resolve a conflict arises, peace talks arise organically. The group participates in a Healthy Relationships class for six weeks where they learn how to communicate as their relationships become more complex and the prepare for adolescence. During class meetings, students may discuss group issues or help classmates work out an ongoing conflict.
Service Learning Projects are designed to promote independence while spending time or raising awareness with family in their community. Two individual SLP’s are required per school year and is culminated with a presentation to the class. Throughout the school year, class service projects are integrated into the curriculum. Each year the Monarch Class leads service projects for the school such as Trick or Treat for UNICEF, and collecting donations for The Sharing House during the winter holiday time.
About Mountain Sun
299 Andante Lane Brevard, NC 28712
Mountain Sun Community School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national or ethnic origin, sexual identity, gender identity or religion in its educational, admissions, governance and hiring policies and practices.