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Upper Elementary Ages 9-12


The Upper Elementary curriculum is highly integrated across subject areas, allowing for richer assignments that are more meaningful to the students.

The curriculum continues to focus on the areas of math, science, language arts and cultural studies. However, the student’s horizons are widened to include several additional skill sets including computer skills, research and report writing, time management and study skills. These will provide them with a strong foundation as they move onto middle and high school programs.

During the daily three-hour work block, students have small and large group lessons and work independently or in teams to complete assignments. After lunch and recess, students work in specialty subject areas including Art, Music, Tech Lab, Library, French, Fitness, Great Books, Community Service and the 6th Level Program.

Through individual assignments, small group presentations, science fair projects, hands-on experimentation, cooking, and many other classroom activities, students learn to be empowered, independent and responsible members of a larger learning community.

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.

Both of our children have been at MSS for 5 years so far and I can’t imagine a better learning environment for them. The Montessori philosophy of child-lead learning in multi-age classrooms, paired with the school’s focus on peace and inclusiveness, allows for a truly remarkable educational experience. Our children are not just learning factual knowledge and how to be independent thinkers, but also how to be good friends and good citizens of the world.
—MSS Parent



By the time students reach the Upper Elementary classroom, much of their math work is being done abstractly. However, some concepts such as area, perimeter, volume, and the Pythagorean theorem exercise are still presented using hands-on Montessori materials. The core of the math curriculum follows students through several workbooks covering basic subjects such as measurement (Metric and Customary units), fractions, decimals, percents, geometry and algebra. Students work through these books at their own pace, and meet in small groups with the teacher for “Bookwork Workshops” throughtout the year.


Geometry continues to be studied as a separate subject in the Upper Elementary classroom. The Montessori geometry curriculum continues to build on concepts and materials used in the Primary and Lower Elementary classrooms. Topics studied include geometry nomenclature, formulas for area, surface area, sum of interior angles of regular polygons and volume to name a few. With that, students prove formulas to themselves as true by conducting experiments with ahnds onmaterials like water, sand and our geometric prisms. Students also construct geometric figures using protractors and compasses in their geometry book series.


In addition to their regular curriculum in mathematics and geometry, sixth grade students participate in a weekly algebra seminar. Over the course of the year, they are exposed to concepts that are typically covered in seventh and ninth grade algebra. Using hands-on materials that represent untis, x and x^2, , students learn to multiply binomials to find trinomial products and how to factor trinomials as well. Throughout the year, students learn how to apply key algebraic concepts to solve multi-step equations. Algebra and geometry come togehter in this course too, challenging studeents to apply various formulae when solving for unknowns in a geometric setting. By the end of the year students work thorugh systems of equations with cubic functions and graph their solutions by hand without the use of a calculator. The students work individually or in small groups, often coaching one another.

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Language Arts


Students continue to hone their language arts skills in the Upper Elementary Classroom. At this age, students are learning to become critical readers, to write in a variety of subject areas, and to expand their vocabulary and knowledge of grammar and punctuation. In addition to regular Language Arts assignments, Willows students are in charge of writing the monthly classroom newsletter.


Reading in the Upper Elementary classroom shifts from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students are engaged in shared, guided, and independent reading as they discuss texts with other students. They develop reading fluency and comprehension strategies as they practice reading a wide variety of genres including poetry, non-fiction, fiction and biography. Students learn to develop their own understanding of the text, and to infer what is not explicitly written. Vocabulary is studied and discussed as it pertains to specific readings.


Students learn the process that writers go through to complete a finished piece and practice writing their own poems, biographies, autobiographies, research reports, interviews, essays, creative stories, and the classroom Newsletter. Students have ample time to think and compose written pieces with support and have opportunities to share what they have written. Students receive direct instruction in spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar.

Great Books

The Great Books curriculum focuses on works of classic literature that often have a philosophical or moral message. Students read, interpret, and discuss their ideas and how they pertain both to the reading and their own lives. They develop writing skills as they express their opinions regarding the text. Students learn to search within themselves, to help them decide how they feel about a topic, and how they will use the text to back up their ideas. Discussions teach the students to listen, think, and synthesize others’ opinions as well.

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Cultural Studies


In the course of a 3-year cycle, students explore topics from the beginning of recorded history to the present-day. Early civilizations, including the Fertile Crescent and Ancient Greece, are studied, as well as Medieval and Renaissance Europe, among others. After that, they concentrate on United States history, covering early colonization up to the 20th century. They study many cultures from a variety of perspectives, including how people met their basic needs and how the geography of the regions impacted the culture.

Students use primary source data from the time periods whenever possible, as well as timelines, resource books, and literature. Novels read in Great Books and in Language Arts often correspond to the time period that is currently being studied. Students complete projects of their own choosing, both independently and in small groups.


Students in the Upper Elementary classroom cover two branches of science – life sciences, such as biology, botany and environmental science, and physical sciences, such as physics, chemistry and earth science. There are both independent and group projects throughout the year, culminating in a major research project in the spring on the topic of their choice, which they then present to the class. Students use Montessori and scientific materials, and research scientific concepts to reinforce their understanding.

Students learn how to apply the scientific method, conduct experiments and record data in their science labs. They learn to hypothesize and adjust their thinking according to how their experiment plays out. They also learn to work and negotiate in small groups and listen to others’ opinions and ideas. Some typical experiments/demonstrations include building the Bohr model of an atom, river erosion, and momentum.

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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 Upper Elementary program builds on the skills students mastered in 1st – 3rd grade. Students enjoy singing, music theory and ear training, instruments, composition, and performance (choral/instrumental).

After having mastered the ukulele and Orff instruments, Upper Elementary students have the opportunity to add the recorder to their repertoire. Students begin with the soprano recorder and may move on to the alto, treble, bass or sopranino. They will continue to develop compositions and arrangements of their own, as well as learning songs and instrumental pieces from around the world, and presenting a spring recital each year.

World Languages

Students in the Upper Elementary classroom have been studying French since they were in the 3-6 classroom. At this level, students will begin to focus on grammar, verb conjugations, masculine and feminine, and continue with conversational French. Students learn about the various regions of France and about other French-speaking countries. When possible, at the end of the year, students enjoy making crepes in class or eating lunch at a local French speaking venue, where they will communicate entirely in French with the servers. To prepare for this experience, students study the menu and learn basic restaurant vocabulary, such as “may I have a napkin, please?” or “I would like the chocolate mousse, please.” These skills will come in handy when they visit Montreal as sixth graders!


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.

Tech Lab

Tech Lab is a special for the 9-12 students that gives them an introduction to computers and a chance to learn and practice programming skills. The students begin the year learning about the different parts that make up a computer, what computers do, how they work, and what software is. Then they build their own computer, learning about how computers work and the function of each component.

In the course of the school year, students learn to code, create art and music, and study the application of computational thinking using the Scratch coding curriculum developed at MIT. Students will work individually and in teams on projects, and will record ideas and discoveries in a journal throughout the year.

Maria Montessori’s thoughts on the written language align with the belief that coding is ‘the language necessary to the culture of our times’. By giving each 9-12 student the chance to create and program their own computer, we hope to equip our students with the skills they will need to navigate our increasingly technological world.


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.

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Sixth Grade Leadership Program


This program recognizes the fact that students in the sixth grade are quickly moving into adolescence, and as such have different physical, emotional, and cognitive needs. Students meet weekly to collaborate on several projects, such as community service projects, the planning of their year-end trip to Montreal, and a field trip to a working organic farm, for example.

Montreal Trip

The sixth grade year culminates in a trip to Montreal, Canada. Students begin fundraising in the fall, selling honey and running coat checks at school events, among other things. In addition to raising all the monies for this trip, they research, budget, and plan for all aspects of their trip, making it their own. Collaboration, consensus decision making and shared leadership are all components of the trip and the entire Sixth Grade Leadership Program.

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