Dr. Maria Montessori discovered a child’s "Sensitive Periods" through careful study and observation. These periods are essentially developmental time frames during which the acquisition of specific skills is optimum. Dr. Montessori designed her classrooms in three-year programs or cycles and Montessori teachers are specifically trained to meet their students' needs within the cycle.
The Montessori School of Raleigh meets those needs in group classroom settings. Teachers at each level are trained in a comprehensive curriculum, so the academic needs of all the children are met. In addition, teachers are knowledgeable about their group's developmental and social needs and support them daily.
Completing the three-year cycle at each level gives the child a chance to learn, practice, and master materials and concepts. The three-year cycle also allows for interaction between different age groups, deepening understanding of concepts, developing proficiency in various skills, and growing in confidence and responsibility. In addition, because students have the same teachers guiding their learning throughout the three-year period, students are well-known by their teachers who have a clear sense of each student’s strengths and areas for growth.
During the first three years of life, a child develops more rapidly than at any other time. During this phase, children are absorbing large amounts of information from the environment through observation and experiences. These are the years that lay the foundation for later learning—and the stronger the foundation, the more the child will be able to build upon it. (amshq.org) MSR's toddler program offers a curriculum for children ages 15-36 months. Based on daily observations and students' interests and skills, teachers introduce new materials and activities that pique curiosity and stimulate learning. Learning objectives for the toddler developmental cycle include building skills such as language, concentration, problem solving, visual discrimination, and physical coordination. Every-day-living routines are the foundation for the toddler program with activities that promote independence and coordination as well as support social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.
In Children’s House, for pre-K through kindergarten-aged children, the three-year cycle is focused on the first plane of development. At this time children have a conscious and absorbent mind—they know they want to learn, and the teacher shows them how. As sensory learners, Children’s House students enjoy a classroom filled with hands-on materials that require them to use their senses, like beads, shapes, and tubes. A child entering the first year of a Children’s House classroom learns what is expected and how to behave from the older children. Their interests are piqued as they watch year two and year three students use more sophisticated materials in new ways. In turn, the older children set the tone for the classroom and teach new children how to interact in a larger group, model social grace, and use their refined academic skills to assist younger classmates. This kind of peer mentorship is a hallmark of the three-year cycle that exists at all levels at MSR.
The three-year Montessori learning cycle divides elementary students into Lower Elementary, for students in grades one through three, and Upper Elementary, for students in grades four through six. Children in both Lower and Upper Elementary are in their second plane of development. The child now has a reasoning mind and is keen to learn about history and other cultures. They want to explore new ideas and concepts. The elementary curriculum allows students to explore and research topics of interest while ensuring their continued mastery of academic skills like writing and mathematics. As with Children’s House, elementary students benefit from the three-year cycle as younger students learn from older peers and older students model leadership, greater mastery of skills and concepts, and ways of collaborating for their younger classmates. As students begin to transition into early adolescence, having teachers who have known them for three years, means students get critical support and guidance from people they trust.
Middle and Upper School
As students move to the Middle and Upper Schools on the Brier Creek Campus at MSR, the three-year cycle expands to a learning model where students continue to learn from one another as different age groups combine and collaborate to achieve common goals. The close knit community at the Brier Creek Campus encourages cross-curricular and cross-grade level experiences that build student confidence, independence, and sense of self.
At every level, when a child completes the three-year cycle, he/she is able to embrace and fully realize their potential for that level of development. By the third year of any given cycle, you can see students becoming experts and meaningful contributors in their classrooms. Whether an older toddler is helping a younger peer fasten their slippers, or a younger student listens to a kindergartner read a book aloud, or a Lower Elementary student shares research tips with a younger student, the three-year cycle allows children to deepen their learning, master age-appropriate skills, and grow in confidence and independence.