Orientation to the Universe
A long, long time ago, people gazed up at the stars and wondered, where did all this come from…? This is the beginning of the first ‘great story’ in the Elementary Classroom. An elementary aged child is curious about her place in the universe so we use storytelling, about the formation of the universe, the history and development of language and mathematics and other great stories. We then go on a journey of introducing as many topics as possible to the children, giving them a chance to experience a wide range of information. When a topic piques a child’s interest, that child is given the freedom to pursue that topic as deeply as desired, almost always bringing every other subject or discipline into his/her follow-up work.
Society as a Tool for Learning
An Elementary aged child is ready to see beyond their family and school communities. A child at this developmental stage has a keen interest in the greater society and has a genuine need to expand their horizons. The Elementary classroom is purposefully prepared to only encompass the initial stages of research – with the rest of the information left to be found “outside” the classroom. We call this ‘going out.’ A child who may have heard the story of the ‘work of the flower’ may get very interested in bees and through research, might find out that the Oakland Museum has an exhibit on bees and a Entomologist on staff to answer questions. The child would make all the arrangements, including transportation, chaperones, admittance fees, and setting up the appointment. They would then prepare a report or project based on what they learned, to share with the class. In this way, the children pursue their learning by using the tools and resources within society, they learn how to navigate the greater society and are able to enrich their classroom community with the new information they learned.
A Reasoning Mind and Imagination
Before about age six, children are sensorial learners who need to wrap their hands around something to understand it. An Elementary child relies less on the sensorial and more on the development of their reasoning mind. An Elementary child now must wrap their mind around something to understand it. Their reasoning mind makes way for the child’s imagination to help construct their learning. The Elementary classroom is designed to honor this change. Concrete materials are still used to introduce many of the topics covered, but the goal is for the children to work abstractly as soon as they are able.
The Elementary classroom is a mixed age classroom whose ages range from 6-12 years. In a multi-age classroom, there is an opportunity to talk to someone who knows more than you or someone who knows less than you. A child can be the student or the teacher in any subject area depending on their level of knowledge and experience. The Elementary classroom honors the child’s need to connect within a group and children are therefore given the freedom of movement and communication. Both of these freedoms allow for the development of their social being as they communicate freely with different groups, work together or apart, and freely move around the classroom making different choices throughout their day. They are able to resolve conflicts, share resources and knowledge and support each other.