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Lower Elementary Ages 6-9


The Lower Elementary (1st -3rd grade) curriculum builds on the skills students have mastered by the end of kindergarten. Continuing work in mathematics and language arts is emphasized, in addition to geography, physics, zoology, botany, social science and history.

During this developmental phase, children want to understand how they fit into the big picture. Lessons about the origin of the universe, the different ages since the creation of the world, and evolution help them understand such concepts as the relatively small amount of time that human beings have been in existence.

In addition to academic development, the Lower Elementary classroom is a place where children learn to work together and to build strong social bonds. Conflict resolution skills are practiced on a regular basis, and children learn to mentor one another and to work as a team. Students also learn to develop self-discipline and strong work habits as they prepare for higher level work and greater independence in the Upper Elementary (9-12) classroom.

The Lower Elementary experience ends with a three-day trip to the Adirondack mountains where students work as a team to climb mountains, prepare meals, and go rock climbing together.

Elementary students can register for after school enrichment programs that vary throughout the year. Some of the workshops that have been offered are chess, weaving, soccer, cooking and track and field.

Excellent School. We’ve been to Montessori schools in different states and different countries. The Directress at this school is one of the kindest, caring leaders we’ve ever encountered. The Montessori materials are taught in true Montessori fashion and the children each learn at their individual pace.
—MSS Parent



Mathematics in the Lower Elementary classroom is an extension of the works students completed in the Primary classroom. By this point, most students are familiar with the teens (11 – 19), the decimal system (units, tens, hundreds, thousands) and basic operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The concrete Montessori materials make it possible for the child to see and understand, slowly internalizing each concept until it becomes fixed and clear in their mind. Step by step, the materials become less concrete and more symbolic. Montessori uses a wide range of parallel materials and exercises to help the child extend their knowledge and gradually memorize the basic math facts that every one of us is expected to know.

Students often work with numbers into the thousands, hundred thousands, and millions as they practice the basic Mathematical operations. Using such large numbers enhances their reasoning skills, memory and executive function skills, in addition to the completion of mathematical problems.


The subject of geometry is often not taught in public school until high school. In Montessori schools, students have been exposed to geometric concepts since the age of three. This exposure continues in the Lower Elementary classroom to include further work with the geometric solids, work with fractions, angles, triangles, quadrilaterals and other polygons including circles. There are many materials in the classroom that help students visualize these concepts, laying a strong foundation for the more advanced abstract work they will do in the Upper Elementary classroom, high school and college.

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Language Arts


As the child leaves the Primary classroom, he is usually reading and writing with some degree of fluency. During their years in the Lower Elementary classroom, they will continue to build on their basic competency. Reading is a continual process that builds over time, with assistance at school and support at home.


Students enter the Lower Elementary classroom with a wide variety of reading competence. Some students may be emergent readers while others may be able to read more independently. Once reading is mastered, the child expands into reading quality literature and poetry, and to self-expression through creative writing. There is a library in the classroom in addition to the school library, Nona’s Corner, which students visit on a regular basis.


Many students entering the Lower Elementary classroom have been writing for some time. If they have been Montessori students, they have mastered cursive writing. They will continue to develop their basic writing skills in the area of fine motor skills, penmanship, and the development of the writing process. Students will begin to move from inventive (phonetic) spelling, where the focus is on promoting a love of writing and the ability to communicate ideas, to a more refined use of spelling, grammar, sentence construction, punctuation, and capitalization. Children will learn to edit their own work, as well as that of their peers.

Great Books

The Great Books curriculum begins at second grade in the Lower Elementary classroom. This program provides students with the experience of reading for meaning. As they work through a series of short stories, students explore the meaning or greater questions underlying different elements of the story or its characters. There is no right or wrong answer in Great Books. The outcome is that children learn to develop their own answers, share them, and perhaps adapt their own point of view once they have heard from another perspective.

In the third grade, students complete a Hero Project as part of their Great Books experience. Within the context of a discussion about what it means to be a hero, each child chooses a person who they consider a hero. They then research this person, write a brief report, and present their project to the class.

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Cultural Studies


The study of sociology, geography, biology, geology, history, anthropology, astronomy, botany, chemistry, physics, and zoology are combined in the Lower Elementary classroom under the framework of Cultural Studies.

The Cultural Studies curriculum is focused on placing a child into the context of their world. This is done in many ways, using historical timelines, experiments, research, and stories, which include the Montessori Great Lessons. Students come to see themselves as part of a larger physical world, and as occupying a certain place in a larger historical context.

In the Primary classroom, the students worked with specially designed maps and began to learn the names of the world’s continents and countries, and this work continues at a deeper level in the Lower Elementary classroom with more complex maps and a study of the basic needs of humankind.

Physical geography begins in the first grade with a study of the formation of the Earth, the emergence of the oceans and atmosphere, and the evolution of life. Students learn about the world’s rivers, lakes, deserts, mountain ranges, and natural resources.

Each year the students study a different continent or world culture. This includes a physical understanding of the territory, an understanding of the people, culture and customs of the area, and exposure to the culture’s art and music. In the spring, students gather with their parents for the Cultural Festival, a celebration which includes dance, music, art and foods from many different world cultures, with an emphasis on the region the students have worked with all year.

The study of biology, botany, geology and chemistry are designed to give the child a means of classification so that they can better understand the world around them. The ultimate goal of these studies is an ecological view of life and a feeling of responsibility for the environment. This understanding helps to establish the idea of the interrelationship of all living things.

With the aid of the child’s imagination, the first science experiments are designed to give the child basic knowledge which will make possible the understanding of the development of the solar system, the Earth, life on Earth, and the needs of plants and animals.

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Nature Education


Increasingly in our society, children are deprived of the opportunity to develop a connection with the natural world. Research shows that time in nature is directly correlated with calmer and more centered students. Our Nature Education program provides students with regular access to the outdoor classroom both on campus and at the Land Laboratory. In addition, students who understand nature and feel comfortable in it will be better able to respect the Earth and all its life.

Approximately once a month, students will spend a full day at the school’s 50-acre Land Laboratory in Pompey. Here, they learn about the natural environment by participating in activities such as shelter building, compass use, cider making, animal track interpretation, and studying wetland biology.

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Specialty Subject Areas


Specialty subject areas are taught during the afternoon, after the 3-hour morning work block. Elementary students participate in a wide variety of activities, both on campus and at our Land Laboratory in Pompey.


Music in the elementary program consists of five related components: singing, music theory and ear training, instruments, composition, and performance (choral/instrumental).
Students in the Lower Elementary classroom are introduced to the treble clef and learn to play simple note combinations on Orff instruments and ukuleles. Throughout their years in lower elementary, students will progress at their own pace in mastering a wide variety of musical concepts on these instruments. They will also practice singing songs from around the world. They will also learn to be professional performers as they prepare for, and present, a spring recital each year.

World Languages

Our foreign language program emphasizes a conversational approach, supported by cultural exploration. Emphasis is placed on listening skills to expose students to a variety of vocabulary and contextualized language. Over time, students expand their vocabulary and are exposed to the written word.

First and Second grade students learn Mandarin while third through sixth level students learn French. In the coming years, the program will transition completely to Mandarin.


The fitness program includes opportunities for both individual physical fitness and group play to encourage the development of abilities to work as a part of a larger team. The students have exposure to traditional sports such as basketball, soccer, football, volleyball, and track & field, as well as instruction in dance, rock climbing, movement, gymnastics, yoga, and cooperative games. All these combine to allow the child to develop a positive relationship with physical activity and wellness.


The art program at MSS takes a choice-based approach, encouraging our students to explore various materials and develop their fine motor skills. Art class serves as a nurturing environment for social and emotional learning, where students can freely express their emotions, build self-confidence, and develop empathy through creative exploration. This program places emphasis on individual artistic exploration where students are given the freedom to experiment with different mediums, fostering creativity and allowing them to discover their unique artistic abilities. Students work on a variety of media including drawing, painting, ceramics, weaving, felting, textiles, woodworking, illustration, nature-based art, and sculpture. The students actively participate in projects that promote empathy, social responsibility, and community building, using their artistic talents to create meaningful contributions extending beyond the walls of our school.


Nona’s Corner is the main lending library at the Montessori School of Syracuse, and is available to students and their parents. Its primary goal is to provide up-to-date, high quality materials, both fiction and nonfiction, for our students to borrow. Elementary students have weekly visits to the library and the opportunity to borrow books. By maintaining Nona’s Corner, the Montessori School of Syracuse hopes to welcome children into the world of libraries and reading; to provide enticing and suitable materials which will foster a love of learning and excitement about the process of book selection and discovery.

If you are looking for a wonderful way to celebrate your student’s birthday or other special occasion, consider donating a book to our school library, Nona’s Corner. A book plate in the front of each book will recognize your student and the librarian will recognize them during a library class with the new book. Your donation will help build our collection as well as increase your student’s pride and ownership in their school library. Click here to see the MSS Wish List.

Adirondack Trip

As they reach the end of their third-grade year, students embark on a four-day trip to the Adirondack Mountains. This is an important rite of passage and team-building experience as the students prepare to move up to the Upper Elementary classroom. Teachers accompany the students to their home base at the Rock and River Lodge in Kenne, NY. The group spends their days climbing selected peaks and rock climbing with professional guides. This trip is a celebration of all that the students have accomplished during their time in the Lower Elementary classroom.

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