At the lower primary level, children transition from using sensory exploration to answer the question ‘what is this’, to social exploration to answer the question ‘why is this like this’. They become interested in the ideas and contributions of others, working together in organised activities while seeking to understand the world around them and their role within it. Curiosity about the larger questions of life, such as, how we came to be how we are, justice and injustice, loyalty and disloyalty, good and evil, now directs studies in all areas of culture. The children start to think abstractly, extending their understanding beyond the work with sensorial materials. Their capacity to distinguish between reality and imagination now becomes clearer because of their developing reasoning, analysis, and classification skills. This stage of development marks the dawning of their intellectual independence as well as their moral conscience.
Lessons in the lower primary classroom are universal in scope and are often presented to small groups of students who are then encouraged to work collaboratively with their peers in order to practise building healthy social relationships. Students will now begin to organise their own field trips, expanding their sources of learning to include their greater community. These trips raise their awareness of the interrelationships in the world around them, enhance feelings of connectedness and provide a glimpse of their possible roles in society. Student run classroom meetings are introduced at this stage to strengthen the classroom community, provide a means to resolve outstanding issues and practise leadership skills.
The 5 Great lessons, a cornerstone of Montessori education, are presented for the first time in the lower primary classroom. They consist of a series of stories that expand children’s understanding of, and ignite excitement for, subjects ranging from man’s fulfillment of needs throughout time to the creation of the universe. These lessons branch out naturally into a multitude of related fields which the children can choose as projects where research, organisation and presentation skills are developed.
As children enter this intellectual period, they are presented with a rich academic curriculum that includes geography, science, botany, zoology, history, language, mathematics, science, music and art. They explore each area at their own unrestricted pace. Older children in the class help younger children to understand challenging lessons, thereby deepening their own understanding of the work, honing their skills as leaders and strengthening the classroom community. In this environment, Montessori trained guides are able to maintain their awareness of the strengths and challenges of each student and work one-to-one with children to maintain their continued advancement.