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The Montessori Curriculum

9 to 12 years old

MCA small leaf icon This program is offered at our Short Hills Campus

The Upper Elementary curriculum as established by The Montessori Children’s Academy builds and expands on the foundation the child has received during his or her primary years. We seek to inspire our students to become independent learners, even as our teachers assist with the social development of our students through the use of the school’s “Interactive Community” program.

The goal of the MCA curriculum is to meet or exceed the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards. In preparing the curriculum, our staff has carefully reviewed the curriculum standards for the public schools in districts that our students may one day attend, to ensure that our educational ideology advances the school’s objective of leading, and not just following, the goals established by the rest of the community.

Our teachers focus on helping each child to develop his or her maximum potential through the use of a wide range of specialized learning materials. These materials have been developed in the Montessori context over many years with the goal of helping each student move from a comprehension of the concrete to an understanding of the abstract.

Language Arts

For Montessori children, writing precedes reading. In the primary classroom, children develop cursive skills, and these, combined with the desire to communicate, lead to many varieties of written composition in the MCA Elementary Program.

In addition to the story of written language, stories about oral language, such as “The Story of Human Speech” and “The History of the English Language,” are presented. MCA teachers use storytelling across the curriculum to convey information and to model the power of the spoken language. Children are encouraged to discuss and share their ideas with each other, the teachers, and in groups. At times, they may choose to present their reports orally, recite a poem, tell a fascinating story, intrigue the other students with a clever riddle, or even develop a short play.

Reading skills are further developed as both fiction and nonfiction works expand the children’s knowledge and awareness. Children read orally and silently throughout the day, as they develop a natural love of literature. They discuss shared readings of stories and books using a seminar format. The many books available at each of our campuses are supplemented by regular trips to the local library -- just one of many language explorations the children will experience beyond the classroom.

The study of grammar in Montessori is unique. Having been introduced to the “function of words” during the primary years, elementary children study the Parts of Speech in more detail. Each part of speech has a distinctive, colorful symbol. Children place these symbols above the words of a poem or a prose passage to see its grammatical structure. Later, they begin to analyze the style of different writers using the grammar symbols.


Mathematics is a human innovation, and one in which no other animal engages. The “Story of Numbers” helps children understand the power of mathematics and motivates them to continue to explore.

Progression through the Montessori Math curriculum is not strictly linear. Instead, Dr. Montessori envisioned elementary math as consisting of three component parts. The first is made up of the basic numbers to ten, place value, and the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The second tier is dedicated to learning and understanding math facts, and the third level is where the children study the hierarchy of mathematics.

Montessori places great emphasis on the study of geometry, and all the math materials have a geometric aspect. In the Upper Elementary curriculum, the children will use boxes of cubes and prisms, which they previously manipulated in the primary classroom, to cube a binomial or trinomial. Through their studies, the students are able to discover abstract concepts of algebra, using materials that once were a part of their sensorial experiences.

The Upper Elementary children also take great delight in further study of different systems of numeration, both those used by ancient civilizations, and others used by different cultures.


Upper Elementary students approach their scientific investigations as authentic scientists, hypothesizing, testing ideas, and documenting conclusions. Students explore the scientific world using the inquiry method. Units in earth science, biology, physics, and chemistry are incorporated into their thematic studies. Among the topics investigated are plants and animals, heredity, ecology, and classification.

Plants and animals are an essential part of the elementary environment. Some reside in the classrooms, while others will visit. As children observe and care for these living things, they acquire the experiential basis for their future understanding and love of biology. They will further extend their knowledge by going out to wildlife sanctuaries, arboretums, and nature parks to view animals and plants in their natural habitats.

Although the plant and animal kingdoms receive the most attention, all five kingdoms of living organisms are introduced: Monera, Protista, Fungi, Plant, and Animal. Children study the anatomy, physiology, and classification of living things using classroom resources such as books, card material, and charts. They write reports, ranging in complexity from a simple study of one organism, to a more advanced study of several organisms.

Geography/Physical Science

Geography opens the door to the many pieces that make up the story of our index planet. It sets the stage for unfolding this drama from its inception to its present state.

We begin with the story of “The Creation of the Universe” to give a vision of the whole. Then we move to more detailed studies of Earth and its place in the universe. Geography is thus fully integrated with the physical sciences. In fact, as the children learn about the Earth and its place in the universe, they form an intellectual framework for all their studies. This will apply from the non-living world, to the succession of life forms, to human beings and the development of their unique abilities. The children will study all the sciences and humanities in relation to one another.

After geography lessons, the children’s questions are welcomed as they lead to conversation, experiments, and additional reading. Research and reports will typically follow, so as to help develop their interest and understanding. They actively engage in the study of the sciences, using the resources available within the classroom, around the school environment, and in the community. Children may initiate further studies beyond the classroom, such as a visit to a natural science museum or a visit from a guest who may bring a different perspective on the subject.


During the Upper Elementary years, the child’s personal sense of time is the starting point for the history curriculum. By noting the passage of days, months, and birthdays, the children develop this awareness of time. Children create personal and family timelines, which become a precursor to their work with timelines of human history.

We also develop an historical sense of time through the Timelines of Life and Early People, and then the B.C. /A.D. Timeline. These visual aids, presented with stories, specimens, and artifacts, help the children understand the evolution of life and development of civilizations. The students also learn about New Jersey history through independent projects and reports.


Technology complements the curriculum by providing alternative ways of exploring, completing, and presenting work. Technology skills are applied in subject-matter learning, enabling students to acquire expertise in context. Students master problem-solving, choosing tools most appropriate for accomplishing a task efficiently, online research, synthesis, and presentation skills using the latest technologies.

At the Upper Elementary level, MCA students use technology in the classroom for research, word processing, idea organization, and presentation. They work collaboratively with various software programs and continue to receive guided instruction on the appropriate use of the Internet.

During their daily classes, students use print and multimedia resources. They research topics of study and then use various technologies to present their ideas to their peers, teachers, and parents. They will learn to use PowerPoint® to enliven their presentations and projects.

Visual Arts

Art is a language that comes naturally to children, and the language of art is spoken from Early Childhood through the Upper Elementary years. Parents will be captivated by the student artwork on display. Lessons are designed to teach students artistic principles and techniques, and to allow students to connect their lives as artists to classroom themes and projects. The Visual Arts curriculum is enhanced with "art-focused" field trips, assemblies, exhibits, and guest artists.

The Upper Elementary students will explore the following topics:

  • Self-portraits
  • Mask construction based on Ancient Egyptian Art
  • Textile weaving projects
  • Drawing
  • Printmaking
  • Art history
  • Textile tapestries
  • Medieval art
  • Illustrated manuscripts
  • Painting
  • Watercolors
  • Sketch techniques
  • Native American beadwork
  • Mosaics
  • Sculpture


During weekly music classes, students explore varied performance genres, musical notation, and composition. Students study the lives and music of composers, world music, blues, and jazz. They also learn about character creation, public speaking skills, communication through singing, and group storytelling.

The MCA Music curriculum covers topics such as: music appreciation; production and response; and music theory.

Physical Education

We encourage our students to develop a love of physical learning and discovery. Our Physical Education program will use our onsite equipment and facilities to develop lifelong skills of fitness.

The Physical Education program in Upper Elementary begins with cooperative games that will focus on developing teamwork and social skills, promoting positive reinforcement, and working in small and larger groups towards a common goal. Cooperative learning skills support the development of practical life skills. Throughout the year, gym classes emphasize endurance, strength, flexibility, and overall fitness.

Health Education

As our students continue to develop an understanding of self and the human body, the Health curriculum expands to include a focus on the human body and wellness, both physiologically and emotionally. Students in Upper Elementary focus on the daily food guide pyramid and nutrition; the development of the human body; and the challenges and rewards of early adolescence.


Spanish language studies constitute a core part of the MCA curriculum, from the Early Childhood years through the Upper Elementary grades. Upper Elementary students continue their study of Spanish in age-specific groups. We introduce concepts and structures sequentially, from simple conversational forms to more complex grammatical constructs. Students explore culture, art, music, and the geography of Spanish-speaking nations. During their Upper Elementary years, students will be engaged in the study of Spanish, both in a dynamic and broad context, including:

  • Reading, writing, and reciting in Spanish
  • Cultural studies
  • Conducting conversations and making class presentations
  • Focusing on everyday objects involving family, friends, and travel
  • Practicing guided and spontaneous writing
  • Transitioning to learning Spanish through a textbook
  • Continuing the study of grammar and sentence structure
“Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.”
Maria Montessori