Academic Overview

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Practical Life

Practical life activities are often found in the child's home and daily life, and can include learning how to dress themselves or pour water for younger grades to learning how to read a train timetable, cook a meal or plan a bike route as the child transitions to older grades. The purpose of these activities is to teach coordination, independence, concentration, care of self and environment, and control of movement.

Grace and Courtesy

As part of the practical life curriculum, Grace and Courtesy lessons teach children manners and how to be polite. In the younger grades, these lessons begin with learning to greet one another, tucking in one's chair, walking on a line, learning how to use objects in the classroom, waiting for your turn and being kind. As children transition to older grades, the lessons focuses on navigating social interactions. To supplement these lessons, Parkside uses the Second Step social emotional learning program. 


The primary and elementary classrooms immerse students in language. Students start by learning the letter sounds and matching them with objects. They then progress into learning to write with the movable alphabet. Vocabulary development exercises include daily work with Three Part Cards or teacher-guided Three-period Lessons. Once students are reading, they engage in word study to learn the parts of speech and how words, phrases, and sentences are created. At Parkside, we support language development in elementary classrooms with the Waseca reading program. 


In the primary and early elementary classroom, math starts with students working with concrete materials such as number rods, sandpaper numbers and beads to learn numbers, counting, and operations. As they progress further into elementary, students move from concrete materials to abstract ones. Instead of using beads to perform operations, students will use written numerals such as in the stamp game.  All recent research in math education has led to math that emulates Montessori’s methods. The Western standard algorithm is not taught, it is discovered and a child may find many other ways to solve problems with some more efficient others and they will choose the best for each situation. At Parkside, we use Montessori materials and common core aligned problem sets to allow students to develop multiple math approaches.  


Montessori’s approach to the teaching of Geography, History, Arts, and the Sciences is through three-year Cultural studies cycles. In the primary classroom, the lessons go from whole (the globe) to part (continents). This is contrary to a traditional education, which focuses on “my community” and works outward. In this way, students begin to think of themselves as a part of the whole and start to see how each part is interconnected. In Elementary,  the lessons continue in a three-year cycle but every year this cycle is hinged upon Montessori “Great Lessons”, which are stories told each year that awaken a child’s natural interests. Students are encouraged to follow up on their own “But Why?” questions. In Upper Elementary the cycles continue but focus more on human civilizations and the needs of man. Students start to ask, “Who am I, Where do I fit? The curriculum helps them answer these questions and develop a sense of stewardship for the world as a global citizen.


Dr. Montessori was a scientist and unlike her peers, she believed children should be exposed to more than “the three R’s” (reading, writing, and arithmetic).  She learned from observation and questioning and she saw children could learn that way too. The SMFCSD district implements the new Common Core science standards with the TWIG science curriculum. The science Common Core standards are often referred to as NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). The NGSS standards finally align with Montessori’s ideals of exposing all students to science and encouraging them to become careful observers, ask and answer their own questions, experiment with engineering, and connect science to their daily lives.