Upper elementary includes children from 9 to 12 years of age. Again, at this level we must provide an environment suited to the age of the children who bear precious energies that tend to manifest themselves with irrepressible force. The children of upper elementary continue to be characterized by a reasoning mind, a great imagination, and desire for social interaction. To call forth the spiritual natures of these children, we continue to present the majesties and the mysteries of the universe with a particular emphasis given to humanity and gratitude and admiration towards the prodigious humanity, the most powerful cosmic agent, the most self organized, and the most creative.
To discover what the human mind and spirit are capable of doing and to engage in this research together is the hallmark of this age. Children learn to appreciate humanity also through the study of the emergence of the ancient civilizations and the universal needs of humankind throughout prehistory and history. Children nine through 12 enjoy each other’s company, learn to work together like an extended family. To complete complex tasks, they work as committees, building research skills. The purpose of their research is to answer their own questions.
They are veritable detectives in search of truth. The subjects weave in and out of each other. Studies come alive and complement each other through a host of hands on projects and activities. More formal elements of biology are taught particularly in the upper elementary levels. Systematic knowledge gives children a new level of awareness and sensitivity in their observation and study of life. They key word is interest. The magic word is, I wonder. To awaken the natural inclination to learn, the Montessori directress does not need to waste her energies in trying to motivate the child. She can be sure to be on the right path when she shares the child’s interests deeply and passionately.
Once the children are enthralled and excited about the work, they collaborate to accomplish it. Elementary students also learn a wide range of important basic concepts of physics and chemistry, such as the structure of atoms and molecules, the difference between elements and compounds, mixtures and chemical reactions. Intellectual investigation and discovery takes place every time the child explores topics that capture their imagination by gathering information, assembling reports, teaching what they have learned to their friends and experimenting. From the great lesson of communication in signs spring forth all language studies and the inspiration to appreciate the wonderful power of being able to read, understand and write in order to communicate.
Students are asked to write continuously, and in the process learn the beauty and potential of language. The advanced elementary Montessori materials move on to more complex and abstract concepts in math, geometry and pre-algebra. In a Montessori classroom, these three subjects perfectly interrelate. The goal is to lead the child away from a dependency on concrete towards the ability to solve problems with pen and paper only. Concrete material is used to make the abstraction real and help children visualize the abstraction.