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Ferndale Lower Elementary Montessori, a multi-age educational model for self-guided learners

Ferndale Lower Elementary Montessori

As part of our committment to innovation and quality programming that serves all the children of our community, from preschool through graduation, Ferndale Schools is now offering a 1st-3rd grade Montessori classroom at Ferndale Upper Elementary School.

"Montessori is a revolutionary method of observing and supporting the natural development of children. Montessori educational practice helps children develop creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and time-management skills, care of the environment and each other, and prepares them to contribute to society and to become fulfilled persons. The basis of Montessori practice in the classroom is mixed age group, individual choice of research and work, and uninterrupted concentration. Group lessons are seldom found in a Montessori classroom, but learning abounds, and because it is enjoyed, children remember what they learn."

from www.montessori.edu

The Ferndale Elementary Montessori Child

The Ferndale Montessori program is designed to meet the academic, social, developmental, and emotional needs of 6-9 year old children. In a Montessori classroom, children are grouped according to what Maria Montessori called "planes of development." The three-grade-level grouping allows for the older children to exercise leadership and solidify their own learning by teaching their younger classmates while the younger children are supported in their learning and motivated to excel.

As children grow into the 2nd plane of development, they experience many changes. They develop a strong sense of imagination that is rooted in reality. Whereas a younger child is looking to have the things in their world labeled, the older child wants to know the "why" of things. They are very curious. They also begin to look for social connections outside of their family; friendships are tremendously important. A Montessori environment works to meet all needs of the child, leading to enthusiastic learning and healthy peer relationships.

The Teacher's Role

Within the classroom, the teacher acts as a guide or facilitator. She works with children in small groups and individually. She is a link between the child, environment, and the hands-on manipulatives. The materials are designed to lead the children to learning through discovery. The teacher aids in the revealing of concepts and promotes a safe, respectful learning community.

The Ferndale Elementary Montessori Curriculum

The Ferndale Montessori Elementary curriculum is designed around what Dr. Montessori termed Cosmic Education. Cosmic Education is the intellectual and social/emotional work of the child during this plane of development. All subject areas are intertwined, resulting in cross-curricular connections and integration. The children are given five big impressionistic stories (The Five Great Lessons) at the beginning of the year, and all of their curriculum studies stem from these lessons. Building relationships between content areas creates meaningful learning for the children and increases motivation.

There are 3 main areas of the Ferndale Elementary Montessori Curriculum. They are Language, Mathematics, and Culture. Culture includes the sciences, history, and geography. Children are also taught life skills through practical life work, grace and courtesy lessons, and peace education/conflict resolution. Additionally, Ferndale Upper Elementary School offers physical education, art, media/technology, library, and music classes. The arts and technology are also used to aid in further exploration of language, math, and cultural concepts.


A great emphasis is placed in the importance of reading and writing so that children can use these skills to explore other content areas. Language work also focuses on grammar, sentence analysis, word study, handwriting, and writing mechanics.


The classroom is full of beautiful mathematical materials that help children understand mathematical concepts in a very hands-on, concrete way. As children gain an understanding of the math concepts they are working on, they move through a series of materials that become less and less literal until they are no longer needed. Children have a strong understanding of the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and place value. They also work on building skills having to do with fractions, money, measurement, number relationships, and geometry.


Cultural studies are rooted in gratitude and respect for the earth's processes, all living things, and all cultures throughout history. Children develop a strong understanding of time and relationships of cause and effect through the study of different timelines. Children begin their studies with an understanding of the universe and move on to global and historical cultural studies. Areas covered include history, geography, physical science, zoology, and botany.


Dr. Montessori recognized that it is not enough to teach to the child's academic mind. A child's emotional and social growth must be taken into account too. For this reason, a Montessori classroom is enriched with learning opportunities in the areas of practical life, grace and courtesy, and peace education.

Children are taught to care for themselves and their environment. They are responsible for restoring the environment at the end of the day and keeping the room neat and orderly. Children also work on skills that aid in their ever-growing independence, such as cooking, sewing, and other real-world works. These works also foster the ability to increase concentration and focus as well as independence and confidence.

Grace and Courtesy lessons refer to the direct instruction of positive character choices. This leads into Peace Education. Children learn conflict resolution strategies. They are also guided to behave with integrity and respect to others and to themselves.


Expert Testimonial

Dr. Adele Diamond, is one of the world's leading researchers on the development of cognitive function and a supporter of Montessori education.

"Programs that address the whole child (cognitive, emotional, social and physical needs) are the most successful at improving any single aspect - for good reason. For example, if you want to help children with academic development, you will not realize the best results if you focus only on academic achievement (though at first glance doing that might seem the most efficient strategy); Counter intuitively, the most efficient and effective strategy for advancing academic achievement is to also nurture children's social, emotional, and physical needs." 

Characteristics of a Montessori Education

  1. Active Individualized learning through stimulating, multi-sensory teaching materials.
  2. Ungraded class is a natural social environment that includes a wide range of ages and fosters self motivation. Students enjoy working for their own sense of accomplishment.
  3. Freedom of choice involves decision making. Students select work according to interest with guidance from teacher. A long period of Independent work time is provided daily.
  4. Child works at his or her own pace for long periods without interruption. True engagement in activities with a specific purpose.
  5. Integrated education that balances freedom of movement and harmony. Physical, social-emotional, and cognitive activities are inter-related between subjects.
  6. A sense of independence is fostered by a classroom that is uniquely designed to encourage maximum potential.
  7. Students learn to self evaluate through the use of self correcting teacher materials, individual work with the teacher, and as they grow older personal reflection activities.
  8. Reality-oriented education which means the day is organized with concrete, first hand experience.
  9. There is a close teacher-student interaction that enables complete and precise evaluation of students progress in all areas of development. As students stay with the same teacher for up to 3 years. Relationships are essential.
  10. The environment of the room is important and is thought of as the '3rd teacher' The room is organized to support each child's learning, development, and needs. Montessori classrooms are peaceful, calming, and promote a natural homey feeling.

The Ferndale Elementary Montessori Program is housed at Ferndale Upper Elementary School focused on students ages 6-9.


For more information on the Ferndale Elementary Montessori Program please contact our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Mrs. Dina Rocheleau at 248-586-8666 or email her at dina.rocheleau@ferndaleschools.org.