CASA Montessori (3-6 year olds)
Our Casa Montessori program (pk3-Kindergarten) serves 3 to 6 year olds. At Del Mar Academy, each child is allowed the freedom to safely experience the excitement of learning at his/her own pace, by his/her own choice, and in an environment that appeals to his/her inner needs. “Our educational aim must be to aid the spontaneous development of the mental, spiritual and physical personality, and not to make of the child a cultured individual in the commonly accepted use of the term.”
In a Montessori classroom, children learn the phonetic sounds of the letters before they learn the alphabetical names in a sequence. The phonetic sounds are given first because these are the sounds they hear in words that they need to be able to read. Grammar is also introduced to the children (when they show readiness) with different activities and games that show them nouns are the names of things, adjectives describe nouns, and verbs are action words. These activities are enjoyable to the children, and enhance their understanding of language. The children also build their language and vocabulary through songs, listening to stories and playing sound games.
Dr. Montessori demonstrated that if children have access to mathematical equipment in their early years, they could easily and joyfully assimilate many facts and skills of arithmetic. After observing how interesting numerals became to children when they could manipulate materials, Dr. Montessori designed concrete materials to represent all types of mathematical quantities. By combining, separating, sharing, counting, and comparing this equipment, children demonstrate to themselves the basic operations of mathematics.
Science & Environmental Studies
The children are encouraged to strengthen their connection with nature and the environment as a foundation for a lifelong interest in the sciences. Science is an integral part of our curriculum and incorporates topics from botany, zoology, physical science, astronomy, geology, ecology, earth science, weather and the medical sciences. It is an investigative process that, among other things, represents a way of life: a clear thinking approach to gathering information and problem solving.
Geography and Culture
Large wooden map puzzles of different continents are available for the children to manipulate. At first, the children simply put these puzzles together, but eventually they learn the names of different countries as well as various facts about each one. The maps illustrate many geographical facts concretely. Children also learn the common land formations.
The children gain an awareness of the world around them by exploring other countries, their customs, food, music, climate, language and animals. This helps to raise their consciousness about other people, to gain an understanding and tolerance and, therefore, compassion for all the people in their world.
The children develop an appreciation of the “human” story and how the past shapes the present. Through hands-on experience (the building of models, ceremonial masks and the recreation of a variety of artifacts) the children develop a sense of the ‘living’ history found in the pages of books. We also use the children’s personal histories to introduce timelines to them.
Practical Life/Life Management Skills
For young children, there is something special about tasks that an adult considers ordinary– washing dishes, paring vegetables, polishing shoes, etc. These are exciting to children because they allow them to act like their role models, the adults and older children in their lives. During the early years, imitation is one of the child’s strongest urges.
In this area of the classroom, children perfect their coordination and refine their motor control; continue to learn grace and courtesy, and care for themselves and their environment; lengthen their span of concentration; pay attention to details; learn good working habits as they finish each task and put away all the materials before beginning another activity.
The Sensorial Materials help children to distinguish, categorize and relate new information to what they already know. Dr. Montessori believed that this process is the beginning of conscious knowledge, and is brought about by the intelligence working in a concentrated way on the impressions given by the senses.
Physical Education, Health & Athletics
We want our students to understand, appreciate, and adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, a proper diet, and intelligent choices regarding personal health and hygiene, and stress reduction. We provide students with the opportunity to facilitate motor development, balance and flexibility, which are important elements in reaching these goals.
Peace education is as vital an element in our curriculum as mathematics and science, and incorporates human relations and conflict resolution skills, nonviolence, leadership training and cooperative teamwork and communication skills.
Lower Montessori (6-9 year olds)
The Lower Primary Montessori (Grades 1-3 )offers a continuum that is built on the Casa Montessori experience. The integrated studies of the arts, geography, history, and the sciences become the core of the curriculum with the intention of engaging the imagination of the child in developing a global perspective.
The materials for language, grammar and math further expand and deepen the child’s understanding of the concepts in their movement towards abstraction. There is an emphasis on the six traits of writing, research with primary sources, grammar and sentence analysis, spelling and oral expression/speech. In math, the materials work to help the child discover the correlation between arithmetic, geometry and algebra.
Current research emphasizes the importance of not just feeding children countless amounts of information (which is easily accessible at the touch of a button), but instead, giving them the life skills needed to help prepare them for, and aid in, their success in our ever-changing future. Children today need to be knowledgeable in research, good citizenship, values, adaptability, compassion, time management, tolerance of differences and interpersonal relationships. Maria Montessori was ahead of her time. Almost 100 years ago, she believed that these skills should be a basis for every child’s learning and that every child should have the opportunity to learn these pertinent skills.
The Elementary Program provides a full expression of the Montessori principles of self-directed, individualized learning in a truly integrated curriculum. By building on the basic skills acquired in the Casa Program, the elementary child now transitions from concrete to abstract reasoning. The academic curriculum of Del Mar Academy’s Lower Elementary Program is highly enriched and challenging, focusing on three key elements: 1.mastery of the fundamental skills and basic core knowledge, 2. the ‘Great Lessons’, and 3. individually chosen research.
1. Mastery of the Fundamental Skills and Basic Core Knowledge
In this fully integrated curriculum, the student explores language arts studies, mathematics, science, social sciences, life skills, economics and money management skills, community involvement and service, and peace education.
- English and Spanish Language Arts Studies: The world of language is expanded upon at the Lower Elementary level as the students have the opportunity to explore the intricacies of the English and Spanish languages. On a daily basis, students read and express themselves through various forms of language, such as written, spoken and visual. By developing the student’s ability to use these languages, we strengthen their self-esteem and enhance their ability to express their thoughts and feelings more effectively. Spelling, word study, writing mechanics, and research and reference skills are also developed. Language is the window of knowledge in all disciplines. It provides the foundation for all of our math, science, and social learning. The goal of the program is to create passionate readers and writers who enjoy the world of language.
- Mathematics: The Lower Elementary math curriculum continues to work from the concrete to the abstract to create a greater understanding of mathematical concepts. Students enjoy practical application of these concepts with the use of the materials to solve real problems.
- Science: Our planet and universe are fascinating places! Students are actively involved in discovering the secrets they have to share with us. They are given the opportunity to observe, analyze, measure, classify, experiment, predict and make conclusions about what is probably true, and what is probably not. Science is an integral element of our curriculum and incorporates topics from botany, zoology, physical science, astronomy, geology, ecology, earth science, weather, and the medical sciences.
- Social Sciences: At the Lower Elementary level, students learn about world geography (physical, cultural, political and economic), culture (including zoology, botany, music, languages and religions of various countries) and major world religions (traditions and basic beliefs). Lower Elementary students also learn about the past and how it shapes the present. They build models of ancient structures, make ceremonial masks and recreate a variety of artifacts of every day life of various historical eras. The Del Mar Academy’s Lower Elementary students also learn about their surrounding culture and history via an extensive and yearlong Costa Rica country study.
- Life Skills: The Lower Elementary classroom has an abundance of opportunities for the children to develop life skills. Students have opportunities to care for their environment, themselves and other living things (such as plants and animals), use grace and courtesy and prepare snacks and meals.
- Economics and Money Management Skills: Students learn about the basic principles of economic freedom as well as financial and business matters. Students have opportunities to organize their own sales and track their revenue.
- Community Involvement and Service: Students are actively involved in the community. They come to the realization that the responsibility to change our world for the better lies within and that service needs to be an accepted part of everyday life if we are to achieve this goal.
- Peace Education: Peace Education is as vital an element in our curriculum as mathematics, language and science. It incorporates human relations and conflict resolution skills, non-violence, leadership training, cooperative teamwork skills, and communication skills.
2. The ‘Great Lessons’
‘The ‘Great 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. They serve as the core to an explosion of knowledge across disciplines. The lessons, studies and projects surrounding each ‘Great Lesson’ normally spans many months.’ (The Montessori Way). This will allow for an in-depth, thorough study of each area.
3. Individually Chosen Research
Rather than having students memorize facts mindlessly, they will learn mindfully and develop great skill in the process of doing investigations and research using the library, Internet, public records and primary and secondary source materials. During a school year, the Elementary students are given the opportunity to choose topics of interest to them, related to the current theme of study. They are taught the skills to research in order to answer specific questions, write about and make models on the topic, and finally, to present their efforts to their peers.