Elementary Environment

The Prepared Environment is an essential aspect of our pedagogy and curriculum at every level, specifically designed to meet the changing needs of your student as he grows and matures.

THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENTS

In both Lower and Upper Elementary classrooms, natural lighting, natural colors, and vibrant but orderly spaces set the stage for focused activity, everything designed to both structure and inspire self-directed, collaborative work. Every space is arranged to support the natural flow of learning and geared for all the different kinds of engagement students require. Learning materials are displayed on student-accessible shelves and the room is divided in “curriculum areas” with activities sequenced by type and complexity. Every classroom has quiet, serene corners for reading or thinking as well as direct access to the outside, where each class manages its own outdoor nature space. Students help plant, monitor the growth of their garden, and observe insects, flowers, seeds, and soil up close—the perfect way to introduce responsibility and the wonder of growing things.

Our teachers ensure each classroom is prepared for learning every day, taking each student’s unfolding process and progress into consideration. They look ahead, design, organize, and plan, anticipating ways to create welcoming spaces that are inviting, inspiring, and full of possibility for pursuing each student’s next fascination.

THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

Your child doesn’t just need safe, engaging, and kid-friendly physical spaces for optimal learning, he needs social spaces with these selfsame qualities to support his academic and emotional growth.

During Elementary School, your child is captivated by relationships and issues of fairness. To meet this interest and develop his social sophistication, we engage him in a range of collaborative situations and practice habits of healthy social and intellectual interdependence: showing empathy, communicating effectively, expressing their own feelings and ideas while remaining open and respectful to the feelings and ideas of others, respecting boundaries, regulating emotions, and resolving conflict. In the classroom, students share work and check each other’s progress, learning to engage effectively in a range of collaborative situations, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own. Group meetings—an essential component of the Montessori learning community at every age, but especially in Elementary School—provide a format for students to solve problems on the premise of fairness and communicate about various issues (e.g., clarifying expectations, brainstorming around interpersonal conflicts, updating each other on events and news, and any other business that should be handled as a group). Everyone has a role and a voice.

Naturally, misunderstandings arise—as they do in adult life. At MSR, with teachers as expert facilitators, your child learns to work it out—to negotiate, compromise, and resolve conflict—in a fair and reasonable fashion.

The social, emotional, and practical life skills that your child develops through group meetings and other collaborative activities are not a diversion from academic learning at MSR. Rather, practicing the healthy social interdependence (that we know is a necessary precursor to success and happiness in life!) is a fully integrated component of your child’s intellectual development.

THE INTANGIBLE ENVIRONMENT

Perhaps the most vital aspect of our learning environment, palpable the moment you arrive, might also be the most difficult to describe. It’s not something you can easily point to: a place, a program, a policy. Rather, it’s a mindset—a community-wide belief in the capacity of our students to take responsibility for themselves and their work; make meaningful, independent choices; both fail and succeed spectacularly and safely; and thus learn lessons so deeply that they inform their lives forever.

Over time in this environment, through both practice and osmosis, your child develops the MSR mindset, too. She learns to approach every challenge first with the assumption that she can do it (whatever “it” is): plan an overnight camping trip, perform a solo in front of the whole school, score a game-winning goal.

She may not know how yet, but she’s learning from experience that—with a little guidance from others and persistence from within—she’s capable of learning how to do anything. In the process, she’s developing an ever growing sense of who she is, what her strengths are, and how she learns best.