The Upper Level Curriculum

P1010407Practical Life

Students in Upper Level continue to refine their practical life skills as they become better able to care for themselves and their environments. With added maturity comes greater responsibility as students take on classroom governance by electing clan and class officers who in turn organize and run clan and class meetings. Students structure and facilitate their own group projects and collaborate to solve issues of community concern.

The Upper Level curriculum furthers the school-wide emphasis on public speaking skills as students regularly present their work, either as individuals or as part of a group. The culmination of a semester-long research project is each student’s formal oral presentation to the Upper Level parent community.

Students in Upper Level begin to develop skills in finance as they participate in two “enterprises”: the UNICEF Halloween Carnival and a weekly Pizza-Lunch program put on for the entire school community. (The enterprise curriculum is continued and expanded upon in Middle School). 


As the older child’s mind develops, so does his/her ability to think abstractly. The child’s imagination is used to understand what cannot be directly observed by the senses: ancient civilizations, atomic particles, viruses and bacteria. Teachers present ideas and introduce materials that allow the child to access the depth and breadth of the world’s knowledge. At this level the cultural subjects also serve as the means to further develop a variety of language skills including research, outlining, report writing and public presentation.

The Great Lessons continue as students understanding of the creation of the universe, the timeline of life, and the history of writing and mathematics are refined and broadened. Focus shifts to the development of civilization- from the early hominids to the building blocks of civilization. These studies are complemented by inquiry into more detailed geographical ideas such as mapping, economic geography and the mutual interaction between humans and their environments.

Students explore the physical science of light and sound, earth science concepts of land and water formation, and the life science of the organisms of the five kingdoms. Studies in biology continue as the internal functions of organisms and the human body are considered in more detail. The process of scientific inquiry and the scientific method are central to all work in the sciences.


Language Arts

Although Upper Level students continue to benefit from concrete experience with concepts in grammar and usage, their work in the cultural subjects is the primary mechanism for honing their expanding language skills.   The written and/or spoken follow-up work to lessons in history, science and geography involve the continual use of the imagination to grapple with ideas, the precise use of language to communicate effectively, and the increasingly prosaic ability to present topics of research in written format. The importance of the mechanics of writing such as editing, paraphrasing, proofreading, punctuation and spelling becomes clear as the students learn to use the skills they’ve practiced to improve the quality and clarity of their writing.

In the Upper Level students have moved away from learning to read and are using their reading ability to acquire knowledge. Work with vocabulary and word study provide a depth to their comprehension of more advanced texts. Students work with morphology, word origins and more complex methods of analyzing language. The study of literature and poetry provide a counterpoint to factual research.  Students are given ample opportunity to nurture their creative side in their written work as well, as they craft their own short stories and poems. 


Math and Geometry

The use of mathematics arose thousands of years ago as a tool to meet a fundamental need for order and as a practical aid in daily life. Only later were rules discovered and applied. Students follow this paradigm by using materials to work from the concrete toward the abstract,  gradually deriving mathematical rules and formulas themselves. The rules are points of arrival, not departure. The Montessori approach to math thus differs from the traditional approach which starts with rules and follows with drills. In our math program, the student’s own efforts lead naturally to the internalization of abstract concepts.

At the Upper Level, students continue to explore the decimal system, basic operations with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and measurement.  Pre-algebra, squaring and cubing, percentages, probability and graphing are introduced. Problem solving is emphasized and students learn problem solving strategies and the Singapore method of model drawing to solve word problems.

Although sophisticated in content, geometry at the Upper level continues to be well-grounded in concrete experiences with manipulative materials. In this way, relationships and concepts are explored and researched, and the child’s own conclusions provide a basis for theorems and formulas.  Angles and their relationships and the advanced study of triangles, quadrilaterals, polygons and circles are focused on. Students explore the Pythagorean Theorem and learn compass use for basic constructions. The protractor becomes a tool for measuring angles. More advanced ideas of congruency, similarity and equivalence are also introduced as a means of deriving formulas for area and volume work.