- Updated: 07 November 2016
- Published: 31 October 2015
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“My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams… but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual”. (Dr. Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence,p. 1).
Welcome to our Elementary Program
Our Elementary program is for students from 1st grade through 3rd grade (what we call “Lower Elementary”), and from 4th grade through 6th grade (referred to as “Upper Elementary”).
Each of our Lower Elementary classrooms has three teachers and about 25 students. Our Upper Elementary classroom has four teachers and 25 students. Our low ratios help maintain our ability to ensure each student has an individualized learning plan based upon their unique strengths and challenges.
Our course of study encompasses the full substance of the traditional curriculum, and goes beyond to teach students how to think clearly, do their own research, express themselves well in writing and speech, and to put their knowledge to practical application.
We have organized our course of study as an inclined spiral plane of integrated studies, rather than a traditional model, in which the curriculum is compartmentalized into separate subjects with given topics considered only once at a given grade level. In Montessori, lessons are introduced simply and concretely in the early years, and are reintroduced several times over the years at increasing degrees of abstraction and complexity.
At the Elementary level, our goal is for each student to continue developing conversational skills, to learn to read and write in each language, and to continue deepening his appreciation for other cultures. Any student who enters our school environment at an elementary age will be afforded the opportunity to learn and acquire the languages in a functional manner, and at his or her own pace.
English, French and Spanish-speaking teachers are present in all of the classrooms.
There is an atmosphere of multilingualism and multiculturalism at The Renaissance International School. Our students enjoy learning multiple languages, and this is accompanied by a yearning to continue their study of history and cultural geography, promoting an international understanding and a sense of world citizenship. At this level as well, the students are provided an opportunity to extend their cultural literacy outside of the school environment through international travel.
In Montessori, we use hands-on learning materials that make abstract concepts clear and concrete. Students can literally see and explore what is going on. Our approach to teaching mathematics is based on the research of Drs. Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget. It offers a clear and logical strategy for helping students both understand and develop a sound foundation in mathematics and geometry.
The study of volume, area, and precise measurement in everyday applications around the school is introduced in the early years and continually reinforced and expanded.
Montessori mathematics climbs in sophistication through the higher levels. It includes a careful study of the practical application of mathematics in everyday life, such as measurement, handling finances, making economic comparisons, or in gathering data and statistical analysis.
Elementary level students continue to gain hands-on experience by applying math in a wide range of projects, activities and challenges. They prepare scale drawings, calculate area and volume, construct three-dimensional geometric models, and build scale models of historical devices and structures.
Precise measurement and comparison is a crucial application of mathematics, and our math students engage in all sorts of calculations: determining the amount of gas used by the family car, the electricity burned when our lights are left on overnight and the perimeter of buildings.
We begin to teach the function of words to students as young as kindergarteners, just as they are first learning how to put words together in writing to express themselves. This leads them to master these vital skills during a time in their lives when it is a delight, rather than a chore. Before long, they learn to write naturally and well.
During the elementary years, we increasingly focus on the development of research and composition skills. Our students write every day, learning to organize increasingly complex ideas and information into well-written stories, poems, reports, plays, and student publications.
Finally, and most importantly, the key to our language arts curriculum is the quality of the things we give our children to read. We introduce them from an early age to first-rate children’s books and fascinating works on science, history, geography, and the arts. Students begin the Junior Great Books program at the first grade level. Literary studies continue every year thereafter through graduation.
Our goal is to develop a global perspective, and the study of history and world cultures forms the cornerstone of our curriculum. We teach history and world cultures from age three through middle school graduation.
At the elementary level, students study world cultures in greater depth: the customs, housing, diet, government, industry, the arts, history, and dress. Keep in mind that our students go to school and grow up with children and teachers from all over the world. They learn to treasure the richness of their own cultural heritage and those of their friends
We try to present a sense of living history at every level through direct, hands-on experience. We build models of ancient tools and structures, prepare our own manuscripts, make ceremonial masks, and recreate all sorts of artifacts of the everyday life of a historical era. Students learn how to build shelters, cook over an open fire, or camp out in a log cabin. Experiences such as these make it much easier for our children to appreciate history.
Practical economics is another important element in our curriculum. One of our early lessons is how to use money and calculate change in a store. Students learn to recognize the value of a dollar: how long it takes to earn it and what it can buy.
As they grow older, students learn how to compute the cost of a meal for their family, plan a weekly budget, maintain a checkbook, prepare a basic tax return, and understand how to use a credit card wisely. We encourage our students to explore the world of work with their parents, relatives and family friends
Dr. Montessori passed a deep love for the world of nature on to thousands of students through a program of outdoor education, gardening, and camping experiences. We see this as the foundation of a lifelong interest in the sciences. The scope of our science curriculum includes a sound introduction to botany, zoology, ecology, chemistry, physics, geology, and astronomy.
Science is an integral element of our curriculum. Among other things, it represents a way of life: a clear thinking approach to gathering information and problem solving.
Our program is designed to cultivate our students’ curiosity and determination to discover the truth own their own. They learn how to observe patiently, analyze, and work at each problem. They eagerly engage in field trips and experiments, and respond with delight to the precision of measurement, gathering data, classification, and prediction.
Our campus is nestled against Dimond Park in Oakland-an ideal laboratory for first-hand nature study. Our students regularly visit Sausal Creek to study the creek itself and the ecology of the area. The Renaissance International School has adopted a part of the creek, giving our students firsthand experience in the monitoring and revitalizing of an urban creek. Our students study the water, the native flora and fauna, and help maintain a healthy and clean environment in the area. It is also an opportunity for our students to learn how they can enjoy and contribute to the preservation of our planet.
Our finest classes are taught outdoors in the fields and forests. Our elementary students often head for the mountains or seashore for several days of camping, hiking, kayaking, fossil digging, and ecological studies. Every year, The Renaissance International School sponsors a week-long environmental study trip at the elementary level. Our students spend four or five days exploring other areas of our state. Such outings have, for example, led us to Mono Lake to study its very unique ecology and geology. Another favorite is a trip to the coastal area between Santa Cruz and San Francisco for the study of marine biology. Elephant seals, tide pooling, and the rich marshes of the area provide an unforgettable experience in one of the best classrooms available to us.
Ever since the first human made a mark, visual expression has existed. A strong visual art education offers many extraordinary benefits to children. Improvement in critical thinking, problem solving, flexibility, coordination, creativity, self-direction, personal expression and communication are all contained in the goals of the studio art program at The Renaissance International School.
The artwork that comes out of the studio is a beautiful display of every child’s artistic accomplishments as well as the manifestation of the Montessori philosophy. We believe in every child’s ability, careful guidance, fostering individual intelligence and creativity; in educating of the whole child.
The elementary art program is aligned with the Montessori classroom as students spend uninterrupted work periods divided into three parts:
- Lesson work
- Independent projects
- Art history
Drawing is the foundation of the lesson work as students are asked to draw what they see, increasing their hand-eye coordination and control over their materials.
Foundation lessons are also given in line, shape, value, texture, composition, color and content in a variety of media. Students also spend time working on independent projects of their choice. It is here that they explore their own ideas and put to use their skills and understanding. The students are also exposed to the art of many cultures, the work of individual artists and defined periods in art history. They are also invited to take field trips to museums, contemporary art exhibitions and artist studios.
The elementary age child is generally more critical of their work than is the primary child. The work becomes more detailed, and their need for correct proportion and spatial relationships increase. These students make enormous progress when given instruction, guidance and encouragement. They are continually strengthening their understanding of visual design and create works where intention, content and the development of ideas are more fully discussed. The generous, non-judgmental voice of the teacher helps to create an environment where the children are free to follow through on their personal, artistic visions and develop skills.
The elementary art studio is commonly known to the children as a place where solutions are found for even the most impossible of idea
offers a comprehensive program that addresses the musical needs of children beginning in early childhood. The program is based upon the Kodály Method of teaching, founded in Hungary by Zoltán Kodály.
The philosophy behind our music program is to foster the child’s educational experience through sound ability, to utilize and control the first musical instrument known to mankind, the voice, and to develop a basis to stimulate and enhance learning in academics.
As the children develop their abilities, they advance to The Renaissance International School’s various ensembles, private lessons, and subjects within our music program. The current music program comprises several facets:
- Introductory small group lessons using the Kodály method
- Introductory choral ensemble for children who have learned to reproduce and identify notes with clarity and precision
- Introduction to performance etiquette
- Second level choral ensemble for those children who are ready to sing two-part music
- Third level choral ensemble for those children who are ready to sing multiple-part music
- Introduction to performance with non-parent audiences
- Private instrumental lessons including the piano and the recorder, to be followed by the flute, the violin and the classical guitar
- Music appreciation and music history.