How a Theme-based Curriculum Brings Learning to Life
Our school has finely honed its annual, theme-based approach to learning since opening in 2009. A yearlong theme sparks interest, making the school’s curriculum immersive and memorable. The theme is threaded through all aspects of the Montessori curriculum: Math, Language, Cultural Studies, Practical Life, and Maria Montessori’s Great Lessons.
This year, Primary and Elementary students (ages 3 to 12) explore indigenous groups' life and customs from across the globe. Each classroom is assigned a region and explores “Who Came First?” The teachers reflect on what indigenous means—from the people to the native flora and fauna.
“We always choose a global theme that can be meaningful to each of the ages of our children and are segmented for each program,” said Gina Reeves, Director. “This theme is timely as we reflect on what is happening in our society with regards to social justice and stirs discussion with our older students about where we came from, where we are now, and where we may be going.”
When possible, teachers immerse our students in their study topics. So far, the elementary students have met a zoo-archeologist to discuss native American animals’ DNA and a ship captain from the Hudson River Clearwater Sloop to discuss the Hudson River region’s indigenous people. Meeting these experts shows our students the real-world connection to their studies.
Neurological and psychological research shows that learning is a process of integration. When students see how facts and ideas connect across subjects, they construct meaning. When they can communicate that meaning, it reinforces their understanding of the topic and makes theme-based learning effective.
Annually, the students’ yearlong learning culminates with a schoolwide Social Studies Fair, where each of the classrooms’ projects from throughout the year are on display as an interactive, immersive gallery as the academic year comes to a close.