The CMH Junior program builds progressively and naturally upon the Montessori pre-primary program. Children blossom academically during these formative years as they begin to focus more on the world outside of their own classroom, and to ask all-encompassing questions about their world, their universe and about the very nature of human existence. Curiosity is the norm in the Junior classroom and the Junior teachers foster this curiosity both by introducing a wealth of information to their students, as well as by encouraging active, independent research in all areas of the curriculum.
Every year, formal group lessons in the Junior classroom begin with Montessori's "Five Great Lessons". The Great Lessons introduce five key areas of interconnected studies in the form of inspiring and dramatic stories. These lessons include the story of how the world came to be, the development of life on Earth, the story of humankind, the development of language and writing, and the development of mathematics. These stories provide the basis for further studies of the history of the universe, the Earth and early man. Many of the Montessori lessons on astronomy and physical geography originate in these first "great" lessons.
In the Junior classroom, learning continues to be a hands-on experience, students learn by trial, error and discovery. Montessori manipulatives are designed to visually represent abstract concepts. Hands-on materials specific to the Montessori classroom are used in most areas of the curriculum, in conjunction with some paperwork intended to back up experiential lessons.
In mathematics, students are introduced to number concept, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and word problems using Montessori manipulatives in their very first year. Gradually, during the three-year period, children internalize and abstract information so that by the time they leave the Junior program, they are working largely in the abstract on paper. Junior students also study time, money, measurement and geometry within the context of the mathematics curriculum.
The Junior language arts curriculum is broad and far-reaching. The elementary Montessori language arts program places great stress on the development of strong skills in composition and creative writing. Students are asked to write continuously, emphasizing at first a love for writing and self-expression, and later, the use of correct grammar and spelling. Formal grammar, spelling, and sentence analysis are taught systematically within the framework of the language arts program.
Children in the Junior classroom are required to read independently for a period of time each day and extensive classroom libraries are maintained by the teachers in each of the classrooms. In addition, students have weekly visits to the school's library where they are taught how to find books using the Dewey Decimal System, and where they have access to a larger selection of books. Third year students work in "Day Books" in which they are required to read and respond to a variety of literary genres.
The cultural areas of the Montessori curriculum are heavily stressed in the Junior classroom. Children typically study the physical geography of a particular continent and then choose to report on one country or culture within that continent after studying the political geography of the region. They are taught to access information on their topics from many sources including encyclopedias, library books, classroom materials and the internet. Children are also introduced to the five kingdom method of classifying living things, then go on to study botany and zoology in more depth. They are given a sophisticated and technical vocabulary that often goes beyond that of most adults. The physical sciences are introduced at this age, but formal studies of physics, chemistry, mineralogy and meteorology generally begin in the 9-12 or Senior classroom.
In addition to the academic course of study, the Junior classroom also incorporates lessons in music, fine arts, drama, physical education, health and kitchen science into the core curriculum. These areas of study are often integrated into the rest of the curriculum. Walls become cave walls for cave paintings, the classroom becomes an ocean full of floating cnidarians (jelly fish) digesting small fish in their tentacles, or a tee pee is set up with small handlooms inside for weaving projects. Field trips are integrated into the Junior curriculum and are often chosen to correlate with current areas of study.
Lastly, but by no means least important, our Junior program places a heavy emphasis on "character education". Children are treated fairly and with respect by their teacher, and they are expected to treat each other and their environment with the same level of respect they are shown. Children begin each school year by creating their own list of classroom rules, which is then copied onto poster board, signed by all of the students and placed in a prominent position in the classroom. This list is referred to frequently during the school year. If altercations arise, children are taught to use "I" statements and to jointly find peaceful solutions to their differences.