Our Elementary program is appropriate for children ages 6 – 12 years old.
Classroom Model and Curriculum
The Elementary program is guided by individualized yet collaborative learning. Each child is a unique person with particular aptitudes and interests. The role of the Montessori teacher is to provoke questions and teach the children the skills to answer those questions. The teacher serves as a guide to each child in his or her own learning, exploring a diverse curriculum, and creating rich learning experiences as the child moves from concrete to abstract thinking. Our teachers match their instruction with each child’s learning style and natural talents, ensuring every child is engaged and invested in learning, and capable of achieving success.
The children in our Elementary classrooms learn to research information, write reports, and make presentations to the group. They design and carry out their own community service activities, write plays, build models of the universe, and study foreign languages. The range of topics is limitless and the curriculum is vast. Montessori has a proud history of offering excellent hands-on, concrete materials to teach abstract concepts in both science and math. Through both in-class and out-of-class activities, students develop strong skills in the STEM area. The children explore art, music, biology, chemistry, poetry, theater, engineering, and more.
Together, children and teachers create an inclusive environment that supports social and emotional development. Children help one another and come to feel that helping is part of living. The feeling in the room is more like that of an extended family, and the focus on respectful social interaction and problem solving cultivates a social maturity atypical of children of this age. The strength of these relationships allows the children to take risks, voice opinions, and creatively express themselves.
Sixth-Year Internship Program
Students in the sixth-year program incorporate learning through internships as well as on-campus curriculum. Each sixth-year student completes internships with local businesses, spending one day a week off-campus learning in a professional setting. Jocelyn Clark, the Upper Elementary teacher at The Montessori School since 1998, helps guide students’ internship choices, evaluate prospective businesses, and align interests within the sixth-year internship program.
Arts and Enrichments
Art: Students are able to choose to do art on a daily basis with lessons in drawing, painting, sculpture, art history, and more! Various mediums and tools are available for use on art projects or to extend other academic areas. Art is lead by Sierra Koon.
Music: Twice weekly, students build on skills in recorder, xylophone, body percussion, hand percussion instruments, and voice. A strong emphasis is placed on structured improvisation with instruments, the voice, and movement. Students learn about composers, their periods and styles, and families of instruments. They showcase their skills in two concerts each year. Music is lead by Hal Hobson.
Health and Wellness: This curriculum addresses a student’s physical, mental, and emotional health, which gives them necessary tools and skills as they explore different seasonal activities. Yoga and mindfulness, tennis instruction at the YMCA, anatomy and physiology, as well as nutrition lessons round out our wellness curriculum. The curriculum is designed to help students care for their own health over a lifetime. Health and Wellness is lead by Jessica Hagen.
Students participate in class field trips to camp, concerts, plays, and outdoor learning opportunities. Additionally, students plan their own “Going Out” trips to explore individual topic of interest and foster community engagement. Students are responsible for making all the arrangements and, in the case of larger trips, fundraising for each outing.
The Montessori philosophy embraces the lessons our natural environment can provide, and we have put much care into cultivating an outdoor space that facilitates this exploration. Our students enjoy planning and maintaining several garden beds. Currently we have a native wetland garden, two wildflower gardens — all of which are certified Monarch Waystations — and are in the process of planning a fourth butterfly garden.
Each year, students choose an environmental action project that interests them and also acts as a service learning project. Placed-based action projects allow the students to observe and experience the interconnectedness of all living things, including themselves. They serve as curricular extensions that raise ecological awareness within the child, meet their developmental needs and encourage them to explore and connect with the natural environment, both on campus and in the larger community.
Faculty and Staff
Jessica Hagen, Elementary & Licensing Coordinator | e-mail Jessica
Jessica has an A.A.S. in Early Childhood Education from Kellogg Community College and a B.S. in Child and Family Development from Western Michigan University. She is a certified Environmental Educator focused on place-based, experiential learning. Since joining TMS in 2016, she has shared her love of wetlands with students through local watershed study, focusing on Axtell Creek which flows near our schoolyard. She has also led the students in planting several native wildflower gardens and established food gardens at our elementary campus. She has formed community partnerships with the Kalamazoo Wild Ones, Kalamazoo River Watershed Council, Common Ground, and Inland Seas. Jessica enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, biking, gardening, stargazing, and camping.
Anne Wester, Willow Room Lead Guide | e-mail Anne
A Kalamazoo native, Anne graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She earned her masters in education from St. Catherine University (née- College of St. Catherine-Center for Contemporary Montessori Programs), and has an Elementary I and II certificate from the American Montessori Society. Anne taught at Northglade Montessori Magnet School from 1999-2010. She joined The Montessori School in 2016. Anne and her husband, Steve, have a daughter, Jane, who is a TMS alumna. The three of them enjoy an active lifestyle — camping, paddling, skiing, and biking. In fact, Anne just completed her 8th bike ride across the state of Iowa!
Jocelyn Clark, Maple Room Lead Guide | e-mail Jocelyn
Jocelyn has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts with a concentration in Sociology from Kalamazoo College. She started at the Montessori School in 1991 in a childcare position as a way to earn money while working on a Master’s degree in Criminology at Western Michigan University. She loved her work here so much she changed directions educationally and earned a Michigan Teaching Certificate after re-entering Kalamazoo College. She attended the Washington Montessori Institute to earn her AMI Montessori Certification and Loyola University in Baltimore for her Master’s in Education.
Hal Hobson, Music Specialist | e-mail Hal
Originally from Lansing, Hal graduated from WMU in 2000 with a BFA in Musical Theatre Performance and joined our staff as the music specialist in 2001. He has completed levels one through three certifications in Orff-Schulwerk, and has been a session presenter at local and regional Orff conferences.
Hal is very involved in Kalamazoo’s vibrant music scene, including directing community choirs, playing piano and recorder in ensembles, and teaching piano and voice. He composes original transition music for All Ears Theatre, a local radio drama troupe, and participates in theatre productions as an actor, director, and music director at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Farmer’s Alley Theatre, and other local stages. When not teaching or in rehearsal, Hal enjoys kayaking, gardening, and visiting Lake Michigan.
Sierra O’Connell-Koon, Art Specialist | e-mail Sierra
Sierra received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and a Minor in Graphic Design through Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids. She is very passionate about the outdoors, growing up hiking, camping, swimming and countless hours of volunteer work with the West Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club. Sierra and her husband have a very large garden and can be spotted at the Richland Farmers Market quite often. Canning, pickling, wine-making, camping, foraging, and kayaking are some of her favorite hobbies.
Sierra has two amazing bonus children; Austin and Ainsley age 10 and 8, and gave birth to her son Brantley in November of 2017. Sierra started out subbing for the Montessori School of Richland in 2015 and fell into a career that not only surprised her but continually keeps a smile on her face. She loves being able to work with the kids and seeing them grow throughout their time here at The Montessori School.
Anne Root | Reading Specialist | e-mail Anne
Anne Root received her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan-Flint. She trained at SLD Read, and has been a tutor with this organization since 1999. Her first tutoring experiences brought her to The Montessori School where she found the Montessori Method intriguing. She has been with the school now for 15 years. In 2013 she completed a 90 hour faith-based Montessori course for primary students. In her free time, she loves to tent camp, sew, and read.