Building on the journey of exploration and the search for knowledge, the elementary students now explore the depths of abstraction, using the creative forces of imagination tempered with their emerging sense of logic. Complex mathematical concepts found naturally in our world become the reality for embracing the beauty and redundant patterns of numerical equations. Language is analyzed, practiced and recognized as a vehicle not only for learning but for sharing information. Research becomes presented in both written and oral formats. The children embrace the responsibility of being an educated individual. This new knowledge only becomes wisdom when it is shared with another human being. Our students continue to mature into the leaders and thinkers of the world.
Our Aim: The word “education” comes from the root word educare which means “to care for the whole being.” The goal of nurturing the esteem of the student continues at every level at Tidewater. In elementary, our children are perfecting the skills of reading, writing and mathematics with the same content that is traditional for all children within our culture but our process is uniquely different. We believe that children are social beings and that the lessons they receive are best internalized when practiced and shared with peers. Communicating and sharing concepts allow knowledge to become wisdom and fuels the desire to seek even greater depths of reasoning.
Our Image of the Elementary Child: Maria Montessori called the period of 6 to 9 years the Age of Temperance. This name is so perfect in describing the construction of the child’s sense of self as he learns to negotiate, modifying or maintaining identity in relationship to others. Reasoning is moving toward greater abstraction, with great imagination tempered with logic. The child is now maturing into a student of the cosmic universe, seeking to understand how creation began and how one’s own life fits into this cosmos.
The Role of the Teacher: The elementary teacher is a constant but unobtrusive presence in the classroom. She presents directed lessons in math, reading, and the Great Lessons of the Universe which stimulate and facilitate the lessons of science, social studies, literature and culture. She must be an attentive listener as she becomes a vessel to receive the concerns of the child, allowing the child to vent about fairness, and then she gently pours this message back as a reflection to help guide the child in formulating an affirming position. Utilizing the excellent materials for academic instruction, the children transfer the lessons to real application to solve problems in the real world.
The teacher must be wise and observant, always assessing and providing an environment that meets the individual needs of the student within a dynamic community. The elementary child is frequently “off balance” and may appear to be “rude.” Part of that is due to the increased size and adjustment of the body in space. A large part of the perceived rudeness is the search for fairness and understanding of the rules of the world. Our teachers must learn not to react as much as to listen to the many “complaints” of the elementary aged child. In a more traditional setting, this has been called “tattling.” This behavior is really more of reporting to understand. Children do not want us to respond or solve the problem. They are orally expressing their thoughts to formulate their own meanings. We listen, reflect, and encourage.
How the Classroom Looks: The elementary room is full of materials that stimulate curiosity and provide answers to those questions. The shelves hold volumes of books, including both research and great literature; math manipulatives that carry the student from basic math operations to sophisticated geometric and algebraic challenges; language tools to perfect use of the complicated yet meaningful structure of English; maps of every continent; geographical landforms; biome materials to explore the ecology and culture of life on earth; and many other tools to guide the research to find answers to the endless pool of questions that evolve in our classrooms. There are tables, not desks, as we believe that human beings are social in nature. Sometimes we want to work solitary; other times, we need and want a friend. Sometimes, we may even prefer to work on the floor. Children are wise and can make the proper choice to regulate their bodies in space and complete the work that they are meant to do.
How We Create Curriculum: Our curriculum is well researched and carefully prepared. Our environment contains the most outstanding teaching tools and entices the students to want to question, analyze and delve further for greater knowledge and understanding. We use the materials to direct the content lessons, but we are always seeking to make certain that the lessons are purposeful and relevant to the life of the elementary child. For example, the students are presented with a challenge to re-create a motorized wagon using lego's. The task involves translating the dimensions from real life size to a size that will fit on a small table. They must calculate the measurements and recreate to scale this model. They then must calculate the relative size of a human being in order to fashion a modeled person to stand by the wagon. What will go in the wagon and how do you calculate volume? The lego wagon is then taken to the local fair for display as a model of the real wagon which is raffled for funds for expansion of the science materials at school. In addition, the class will now prepare the itinerary for a trip to Washington DC to visit the Building Museum. The lessons have been complex but real and will most likely be retained and transferred to even more involved learning as the student matures.
Why We Value Creative Play and the Outdoor Environment: As human beings, we are meant to move. Our physiological frame supports our ability to sit and sustain our attention. Exercise is important so each day, our students are outside running and playing. Some activities are structured, and some are self-directed. In his book, Playground Politics, Stanley Greenspan discusses the role of play in the elementary child. There is often intense discussion and sometimes, it appears that no play has taken place. That is because adults define play as movement and games. Play is minimized as not important and certainly not work. Tidewater does not accept this dichotomy. Play and work are closely related, if not often the same. That intense dialogue is the practice of negotiating the rules and establishing fairness. Believe it or not, playing the game is often not the goal at this age!
Both inside and outside, grace and courtesy along with respect of the environment and the people within them are values which are esteemed and cultivated.