Curriculum

CMCS excursion

At CMCS we believe that children's natural interests and talents should guide their education, not the constraints of a defined curriculum. While we make full use of Montessori materials and a "relaxed" Montessori method with the younger child, the older child is stimulated by a program driven by individual interest that offers space for exploration and maintains a foundation in the basics. Our teachers' commitment to a child's emotional well being in combination with multi-aged classrooms engenders an environment of mutual respect and understanding among the students. We approach the creativity of the whole child, taking his/her social, emotional, spiritual, academic and physical needs into consideration.

The core subjects offered by the classroom teachers are mathematics, reading, phonics, writing, spelling, grammar, social studies, science and technology. In learning these basics a great deal of room is allowed for personal creativity and individual learning styles and interests. Adding community activities, input in how their classrooms run, environmental involvement and an exciting mix of arts, French, physical education, music and much more, gives the child a unique recipe for educational success. We endeavour to provide the best possible individualized, interest-led, and self-directed educational experience.

In the classroom, the teacher acts as a facilitator, guide, and mentor. The educational experience is highly individualized and is as self-directed as the student is capable of handling. We recognize that not all children come to school with skills for self-directed learning already in place. Therefore, they need instruction in order to learn a variety of skills that lead to independence. We are committed to building a complex set of skills via the child's interests, and at a pace that meets them at their own level. One advantage that we have over a larger school system lies in the students' freedom to work at a level suitable to their current stage of educational development. For instance, a child who would be enrolled at a grade 4 level in public school might be working in our school at a grade 5 level in language arts and a grade 6 (or possibly a grade 3) level in mathematics. The possibilities are endless and very exciting.

Evaluation is cooperative and ongoing, involving self, peers, and teachers. Students are encouraged to open doors and explore life and the world around them. To encourage this unique learning experience, the class sizes are kept small with a maximum student to teacher ratio of approximately fifteen to one.

We trust the students to know what they need in order to learn and to excel in the educational experience. Time and again we see them come to love learning for the joy it brings!

"Everything invented by man, physical or mental, is the fruit of someone's imagination. In the study of history and geography we are helpless without imagination, and when we propose to introduce the universe to a child, what but imagination can be of use to us?"
Maria Montessori

Core Curriculum

  • Language and Mathematics
  • Content Areas: Science, Social Studies, French
  • Creative Arts
  • French
  • Physical and Emotional Education and Health
  • Outdoor Education

Language and Mathematics

Teachers at CMCS consult the Overall Expectations stated in the Ontario Curriculum in Language and Mathematics to guide content delivery. Expectations in Specific Areas are available for further clarification when necessary. The methodology for delivering the expectations is left to the discretion of the teachers to allow for providing interest led, individualized instruction that addresses the child's needs and pace of learning. The spiral nature of the provincial curriculum in which material is presented developmentally, with increasing degrees of complexity throughout the years, is a positive way to present content. It allows children to build new knowledge on to an established knowledge base. Frequently revisiting ideas builds confidence and self-awareness. Support and skill building for critical thinking and creativity in problem solving are essential complements to academic content learning. In addition to using Ontario Curriculum guidelines, Montessori materials and methods are employed particularly in the Junior level.

Content Areas: Science, Social Studies, French

The Ontario Curriculum can guide the content areas of Science, Social Studies, and French, where appropriate. Understanding concepts, research and communication skills, and applying skills in various contexts are the academic goals of these content areas. The specific topics presented, through which students learn these skills, will be determined by the student's interests, school-wide themes, and the teachers' strengths, interests, and background. Therefore students will be exposed to and experience the scientific method, analytic reading, synthesizing ideas, etc. but the chronology of when topics will be presented, for example, Native Communities, Simple Machines, Medieval Times etc. will be determined by teachers and children, rather than dictated by curriculum.

Creative Arts

The Creative Arts are presented both as specific areas of study (music, drama, art) and integrated into the curriculum. Creative expression and response is encouraged in all curricular areas, in order to deepen comprehension and broaden application of a wide spectrum of skills. For example, when children study animals in Science, they may write stories, make Habitat models, do creative movement to emulate how the animal moves, write poetry, create questions their research has answered, draw/paint/sculpt their animal etc. A child that is creatively engaged in the learning process is more motivated to learn. We recognize that the children's imagination is a precious resource that can be encouraged in the spontaneously imaginative child, and nurtured and promoted in the more reticent child. Full integration of the creative arts is therefore essential to the teaching/learning dynamic at CMCS.

French

The primary goal of the CMCS French program matches that of the province: "to increase, within realistic and well-defined parameters, a student's ability to communicate in French." In keeping with CMCS' philosophy, students are encouraged to learn according to their individual strengths and needs. Students will gain skills in all four interconnected strands addressed in the Ontario curriculum — listening, speaking, reading, and writing — with greater focus on the first two for the younger grades. Through the process of learning a second language, students will also learn about French-speaking communities and cultures, both in Canada and abroad, thus gaining valuable insights and increasing their intercultural awareness and understanding.

Physical and Emotional Education and Health

CMCS staff recognizes the important connection between a child's physical development and their social, cognitive, and emotional experiences while progressing through their elementary education. A physical education program is scheduled into each class, with a 'participatory' focus on developmentally appropriate movement skills, physical fitness and athletic skill building. In addition to the physical education classes, we aim to provide children with complementary physical experiences to enhance their learning and emotional development, such as relaxation/ balancing sessions and visualization, Brain Gym (educational kinesiology), focusing exercises, and play-based time in the CMCS schoolyard. Health and body awareness issues are dealt with in the classroom as they come up, either directly by teachers, or through the use of community resources.

Critical to the CMCS curriculum is the whole child's connection to their physical environment. Through integrating study areas and theme-based projects, volunteering, camping and field trips, children are supported and guided in their physical experience and connection to their environment within their classrooms, throughout the school, to the broader school community and to the local natural environment.

Outdoor Education

Over the last three years, we have increasingly focused on Outdoor Education as part of our curriculum. We have always gone camping, hiking, and otherwise spent lots of time outdoors, and we are now increasingly bringing the outdoors into the classroom. For example, in a past year our school wide theme was “Our Backyard”, in which each classroom planned projects that involved not only our own schoolyard, but each child’s own yards, in a process of exploration of the diversity that exists just outside our door.

"My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that certification... but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher [one], by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual."
Maria Montessori

Other Curriculum Components

  • School Ambience - Building a Healthy Community
  • Our Environmental Commitment
  • Our Commitment to Diversity
  • Brain Gym (Educational Kinesiology)
  • The Virtues Project

School Ambience - Building a Healthy Community

The staff of CMCS is committed to fostering principles identified by Maria Montessori as school ambience goals. These goals include such things as:

  • Promoting spontaneity and joy,
  • Developing social graces (waiting turns, apologizing etc.),
  • Respecting the environment, peers and student individuality,
  • Creating order and self discipline,
  • Developing a balance between freedom and structure,
  • Developing independence and initiative,
  • Learning to accept responsibility for actions, work and mistakes. All these qualities are very important in the process of developing the self-discipline and will that a child needs to succeed.

Part of the professional development of staff members at the school includes developing a thorough understanding of the Virtues Project that provides specific strategies and methodologies for promoting these school ambience goals in the classrooms. Likewise the children are directly involved in the promotion of these school ambience goals through the presentation (by the children themselves) of the 'virtue of the month’ during the weekly assembly.

Hence there is a concrete and school-wide practice of values that promote a healthy community, where our vision is put into holistic practice.

Everybody helps

Our Environmental Commitment

It is an important part of the CMCS curriculum to teach our students to respect the environment. As part of this commitment, we maintain a high degree of environmental awareness in all our classrooms especially emphasizing the need to reduce our consumption of non-recyclable materials and to do our best to reuse them. Composting, vermicomposting, and recycling are done throughout the school. Students are involved in clean up activities in the community. Environmental awareness is also fostered through certain aspects of the school such as encouraging a litter-less lunch. (Please see the ‘Lunches and Snacks’ section for more information)

Our Commitment to Diversity

Schools are not islands in themselves but rather they exist within an already functioning society. Whether we like to admit it or not, bias sometimes plays a role in that society, and as a school community we are working towards limiting (or reducing all together) the role that bias has to play in our school. We hold that every person is an individual and is entitled to the highest forms of dignity and respect regardless of race, colour, gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ability or age. Through our curriculum, we look for ways to promote equality, understand historical and systemic inequalities, and provide materials for our students that positively include all people.

Brain Gym (Educational Kinesiology)

Brain Gym or Educational Kinesiology is a system of gentle and enjoyable movement activities that directly enhance concentration, memory and physical coordination. These movements are extremely helpful to balance the right and left sides of the brain, encouraging the passage of information between the two hemispheres. They can help a child focus on a task, stay still and listen. They can help a child break through the learning equivalent of writers block. They teach a child awareness of the connection between mind and body. Babies and young children naturally perform what are known as developmental movements. The developers of Brain Gym discovered how to adapt these movements so that they can be used to stimulate the brain whether you are 3 or 83.

Whether as a warm up exercise before beginning an activity, or as a focusing exercise for a child having trouble concentrating, or as a revitalization exercise for the class, teachers use Brain Gym throughout the school from Casa to the Senior classroom. They have found it helpful for the intellectual, creative, athletic, and interpersonal development of both themselves and the children.

Each whole school gathering, for example assemblies, is begun with a number of these movements. Kids will volunteer to lead the school in the movements, providing a leadership opportunity for the one leading, and modeling for the others.

The Virtues Project

The Virtues Project is a simple and effective program with proven methods for creating a "culture of character" within the classroom. The subtitle to the book on the Virtues Project is "Finding the Depths Within." This subtitle captures our approach to children; they are inherently capable of making good decisions and socially responsible choices. The virtues guide uses "teachable moments" to help children become aware of their own capacity to use qualities such as honesty, truthfulness, justice, and self-discipline to solve their problems, peer mentor one another, and engage with teachers. For example, a 'teachable moment' may occur on the playground when two children are in conflict with one another. The teacher uses the moment to engage the children in identifying how the situation could be different if we used one of the virtues such as the quality of respect or courtesy.

By focusing on the best qualities in our students we can encourage them to be their best. The Virtues project strives for an environment where respect, patience, self-discipline, tolerance and joy for learning are among the virtues that our children master. It is a constructive approach to discipline and communication, which focuses on the positive aspects of behaviour and helps children to understand who they really are.

The virtues are reinforced throughout the school, and teachers use the virtues project as part of their classroom management life skill program. Once familiar with the virtues, a teacher can ask, for example, when leaving the room "What virtues could you practice to keep working on your activities while I am gone?" The children might answer self-discipline and trustworthiness. When returning to a quiet and productive classroom the teacher can then thank the children for their self-discipline and trustworthiness, reinforcing the children's sense of personal capacity.

Each month we introduce a new 'virtue' at the school assembly. The class presenting the virtue provides a description and sometimes enacts the virtue. Examples of the virtue in action are presented, as well as what it means for an individual child. The introduction at a school wide level of the virtues allows there to be a communal language for children to describe either a problem that they face, or a way that they want to be treated, or a way that they want to grow.