Our Primary Programme (Grades 1, 2 and 3) is built on the philosophy and pedagogy of Maria Montessori, which takes into consideration the growing and developmental needs of children of this age group. These needs include their voracious appetite for facts and hunger for knowledge, their desire to assert a claim for mental independence and their vivid use of imagination. The mixed age group in each environment (ages 6 to 9 approximately) provides opportunities for wider social interaction, the development of essential life skills such as cooperating with others, turn-taking, understanding the dynamics of a group, and accepting responsibility for one's decisions and actions. Individual, natural learning are respected and supported and children can learn at their own pace working with younger or older children. Groups of children work on different concepts, unlike in a traditional classroom where every child is doing the same thing.
As you enter a Primary environment you see a space that emanates calm and yet is buzzing with activity. Children are meaningfully engaged in different ways - some doing mathematics or language, some arranging flowers or working on a science experiment; others may be writing a poem; some could be collecting the tomatoes they have grown in their classroom garden, after planting the seeds and watching them grow, and finally taking them to the school kitchen to become part of a meal shared by everyone. The community is vibrant and engaged.
The educator is a guide and facilitator, not a dominant force; she or he presents concepts and shares ideas, gauging learners’ strengths and the areas in which they need support, but ensuring that children are learning for and by themselves.
Our Primary educators are trained in Montessori pedagogy and practices and each environment of 25 children is cared for by a Montessori teacher and one support teacher.
One of the fundamental ideas behind such an environment is that all knowledge is interconnected. The time is not broken up into a structured timetable with a stipulated period for each subject. There is a work cycle in which a particular concept can be studied in depth or lead to a connection with another area-history to language, botany to geography, mathematics to physics.
Montessori believed that education must encompass social and emotional development, alongside academic development. Mathematics, History, Geography, Botany, Zoology, Science and Art are presented to children without the divides of a timetable; they are all part of the entire ’whole’.
The conviction that life is a combined whole and that knowledge is interlinked is beautifully described by Montessori. She says:
“The stars, earth, stones, life of all kinds form a whole in relation with each other, and so close is this relation that we cannot understand a stone without some understanding of the great sun! No matter what we touch, an atom, or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the wide universe.” - From Childhood to Adolescence, 1948
The above words highlight the connectivity between all knowledge and how important it is that children get an understanding of the entire vision of the universe. They need to hear the cosmic story of the beginning of the world, the origin of the sun and planets, the formation of the stars and the structure of the earth. All have great relevance to them and their own place in the universe. This ‘grand vision’ provides the basis for study of subjects in a connected way. Development of sensitivity to the fundamental needs and interdependence of humans and all living things are emphasized.
While the daily and cultural concerns of the Pre-Primary child are related largely to the world in which he/she lives – the family, and the immediate environment – the Primary child yearns for a detailed examination of the world, and he/she moves beyond this world into the vastness of the universe. Montessori calls this Cosmic Education.
In this period, children evolve from the sensorial plane to an intellectual one, understanding things in abstraction. They also begin to show a genuine interest in others, whether it is within our local community or with a deeper awareness of global circumstances and issues.
There is a ‘joy’ in numbers! Montessori materials share the excitement of numerical relationships, which motivate a child to develop computational skills as well as an understanding of money, time, measurement, geometry and algebra. A study of the combinations and special laws of the decimal system lead to exploration of other base systems. Children then progress to more abstract problem solving. Maths is a language too and we use mathematical terms all the time. Here is something our children put together: a story using algebraic, geometric and mathematical terms.
We were scaling a triangular shaped mountain vertically. One team member complained of an acute headache and lay down horizontally on the diagonal path. The medical assistant was so obtuse that she prescribed the wrong quantity of circular tablets. The headache was ten on a scale of one is to ten, ten being the worst. This was in the highest percentile and could be negative for the team, who were keen to score a high average speed and reach the apex with all our members. Being minus one member and losing even the fraction of a second would be harmful in this equation. We saw a tree whose branches resembled a right-angled scalene triangle. The team member with the headache was hoisted up to the top most branch, made to lie parallel to the other branches and with her arm perpendicular to her body, she touched the top of the mountain as we were ascending. No one could deduct anything from our achievement; in fact our joy multiplied and the result could not be defined in finite terms.
Our planet offers a variety of beautiful and fascinating landscapes and natural features. Some are untouched by humans; others have been modified, worked on or even destroyed. Children are introduced to the wonders of nature and also made aware of our role in either preserving or damaging them. Beginning with simple identification of landforms, bodies of water, continents, countries and capitals, they then progress to map reading and discussion of geopolitical concepts. As with all concepts, children have different and unique responses to a unit of learning. For example, after a presentation on mountains, their follow-up activities are independently selected. Some may label an outline map of the mountains of India, some may spend more time on looking at models or pictures of mountains, while others may start a research project about the Himalayas or a mountain range that exists in their part of the country.
Starting with the classifications of plant and animal life, children move on to the more complex concepts of structure, function and interrelationships of living organisms. Studies of plants and animals and physical sciences are integrated with the study of the solar system and the earth’s place within it. Simple experiments demonstrate electricity, magnetism, gravity, light and other principles of physics and chemistry.
Language comes into all subjects! Children of this age have a great interest in the structure of language and need to express themselves through creative writing. Independent and group reading, comprehension exercises, creative composition and research writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation and handwriting are daily activities. Having said that, we do believe that language is expression and expression finds its outlet in many connected ways - through art, theatre, dance and so much more!
Grades 1 to 3 (Primary Montessori School)
Our Primary Programme (Grades 1, 2 and 3) is built on the philosophy and pedagogy of Maria Montessori, which takes into consideration the growing and developmental needs of children of this age group. The mixed age group in each environment (ages 6 to 9 approximately) provides opportunities for wider social interaction, the development of essential life skills such as cooperating with others, turn-taking, understanding the dynamics of a group, and accepting responsibility for one's decisions and actions. Groups of children work on different concepts, unlike in a traditional classroom where every child is doing the same thing.
After spending time in the Primary Montessori environment, children are ready to move to a single aged group from Grade 4 onwards. Our philosophy and practices remain in place, while learners gradually adapt to a more structured timetable. Our Middle School programme is more about a curriculum and not so much about a syllabus. This includes learners’ own unique experiences, and opportunities are given to discover their own potential.
At the end of Grade 8, our educators discuss the road ahead jointly with the children and their parents. We offer both the ICSE and the IGCSE for Grade 10, and the ISC, AS & A Levels for Grade 12. Students may choose one of these boards based on their future plans and requirements. Emphasis is on preparing for future education and the steps to be taken towards entering undergraduate and later, graduate programmes.