Children’s House of Hershey’s Montessori preschool program is designed as a three year curriculum. It is a comprehensive curriculum entirely composed of hands-on activities available for the concrete-operational, preschool child to explore at all times during their class day. The curriculum areas found in each Montessori classroom are:
The heart of the Montessori educational approach, comprised of daily living exercises designed to help the child’s fine and gross motor skills while, at the same time, improving coordination, concentration, confidence and independence. Food preparation activities; i.e., cooking, baking and serving fresh fruits or vegetables, help the child learn the proper use of kitchen utensils while also learning good nutrition, sanitation practices and practicing grace and courtesy lessons through sharing with others.
Most sensorial materials were designed by Maria Montessori. Still relevant today, these beautiful materials “call” to the child’s natural desire to explore and discover. The sensorial materials improve the child’s ability to recognize differences and similarities while stimulating new vocabulary as well as all five senses. Beginning with simple gradation and sequencing activities the materials become more challenging and complex.
The language arts curriculum begins with vocabulary enrichment activities. Later phonetic awareness activities lead to 3 and 4 letter word building with the use of the moveable alphabet. Once reading begins, the children continue working with materials to build their phonemic awareness, sight word vocabulary, and grammar. Early writing is encouraged through an in-class post office and illustrating and dictating original stories to a teacher for writing. Graphic language work often begins with learning to write your own name. Later work with the metal inset templates helps the child develop writing strokes. Once letters are formed from memory, inventive spelling is encouraged as another form of self-expression. A “soft corner,” or library, in a quiet corner of the room encourages children to talk or look at books together. A reference library, for those children interested in learning facts about their world, is available as well.
Throughout the Montessori curriculum children are introduced to first the concrete before the abstract. In math, this means the children will count objects prior to being expected to recognize and associate the numeral that represents the quantity. Math materials, in the Montessori classroom, are extensive, ranging from beginning numeration activities (0-10) to base ten materials providing opportunities to work with all the functions of math, including squaring and cubing.
The geography curriculum develops an awareness of the Universe, our solar system, our earth, it’s continents, countries and oceans, along with people and their cultural differences. After working with the world puzzle map and the continent drawers containing real items (clothing, art, money, etc.), representational of each continent, children are then able to make their own world map. Often children choose to make additional maps of the other continents, with some children choosing to make a map of every continent (divided internally by countries) during their three years in the environment. This growing geographical awareness stimulates many children to make flags of the different countries; learn about ten different land and water forms; the earth elements and layers of the earth. Extending the geography curriculum with whole class cultural celebrations, i.e., Chinese New Year; provides for exciting interdisciplinary learning experiences while encouraging appreciation for an interest in a different culture.
The passage of time encompasses learning to tell time with the use of the Montessori clock materials; learning the seasons, day of the week, months of the year, dinosaurs and US Presidents. Living history experiences are provided by in class plays on topics such as Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln or settling the New World.
Earth science activities begin with samples of rocks, minerals and fossils for handling and examining. Later, classifying activities help the young child begin to differentiate types of rocks and minerals. Work with the volcano materials encourages learning the parts of a volcano and their definitions, but always with the goal to make a working volcano model.
Developing an awareness of and an appreciation for life begins with recognizing the differences between living and non-living things and later the differences between plants and animals. Additional botany and zoology materials help children learn the parts and functions of, i.e., the flower, the horse, etc. Later work with the overview of the animal kingdom helps the young child begin to understand further classification of vertebrates and invertebrates. Human anatomy and physiology materials include learning about our internal organs, our skeleton and nutrition. Physical science “experiments,” such as magnetism, states of matter, simple machines, etc., are brought into the environment on a rotating basis.
Art, like language, is another form of self-expression. Our goal is to help the children develop the skills they will need to be able to express themselves visually through the use of scissors, glue, a variety of clays, paints and open-ended construction activities. Whenever a special art project is brought in for the children’s experimentation, our goal is to provide the children not only with new tools to master, but with many choices from which they can choose in order to create their own, unique, one-of-a-kind piece.
Perceptual Motor Development involves large muscle coordination through in-class and outdoor exercises, activities and games. At times these are teacher-directed activities, such as: balancing; learning to control your body in space; yoga, rhythms, gymnastics or “silence,” (a Montessori bio-feedback technique). PMD is also developed on the playground, through the spontaneous play found in climbing, swinging, running, jumping rope, playing games, learning to use the monkey bars, woodworking or gardening.