Our goal is to educate children for a life of self-direction, intellectual curiosity, and a healthy interdependence. Our mission is to develop the academic abilities and encourage the emerging social responsibilities of each child, from the very youngest in the nursery programs to the adolescents in our eighth grade. Each academic discipline contributes to this overall mission.
Academic CurriculumMontclair Cooperative School2018-04-12T09:06:16-05:00
A fundamental part of the Co-op’s mission is to instill in children a love of reading, a sense of pride in their written work, and demonstrated mastery in both these areas of language arts. Reading is central to every aspect of Co-op life. Along with a separate library, the school equips each classroom with a comprehensive, age-appropriate book collection which offers a wide variety of literature, ranging from Big Books and picture books to fiction, non-fiction, poetry, biography, and autobiography. At all grade levels the reading program forms a critical component of the themed curriculum. As one example, students in the upper school read (and perform) Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar within the context of their study of Ancient Rome. At MCS every child is encouraged to view him or herself as an author. At every grade level, the writing program is enriched by the class thematic study. For example, second graders who are studying animals host an Animal Fair for the entire school during which they each display their research reports, art work, and illustrated poems about their chosen critter. They also perform a play they’ve written and a dance they’ve choreographed. At each succeeding grade level, children delve more deeply into the writing process. They gain facility with the written word and become increasingly proficient at the mechanics of writing as they create, revise, edit and publish stories, poems, letters, essays, reports, and newspapers.
The Co-op math program is designed to give students both facility with mathematical problem solving as well as deep understanding of underlying mathematical concepts. The goal is for students to do more than get the “right” answer by memorizing a computational technique. The teacher also wants to know the students’ strategies for arriving at their answers, to ensure that children understand the fundamentals of numbers systems and geometry. Children work in whole-group settings, in small groups, and independently. As students progress through the upper school the curriculum has a problem-centered approach and every topic is explored from a variety of connected perspectives: graphs, tables, formulas, diagrams, models, and words.
Much of the infectious excitement found in the Co-op’s classrooms comes courtesy of social studies-based themes. Students at our school come to inhabit fully the study of history and culture; they design and build habitats from huts to hemispheres; they try on the roles and responsibilities of peoples as diverse as the African Masai and the Ancient Romans, experiencing what it feels like to be like them. Undertaking an in-depth study of world geography and global current events, our middle school students gain an understanding of the significant events occurring today and gain historical perspective of past world events and their immediate and long-term consequences. Students learn important research skills along the way. They learn how to investigate an historical topic and how to present their findings to others. Teachers emphasize resourcefulness, guiding students to the use of age-appropriate research tools such as books, newspaper articles, and the Internet. Students hone their organizational skills as they place their new knowledge into a logical format and present it, in written or oral form, to the class.
Questioning. Exploring. Discovering. Collecting. Constructing. Presenting. These are the bases of the Co-op science curriculum. Children are natural scientists. They learn best when their enthusiasm is tapped through hands-on exploration. The teacher’s role is not simply to expound but to guide the children as they make their own discoveries. At all grade levels, the science program emphasizes the natural world and instills in students a sense of responsibility to the environment. The scientific method is internalized as children learn to observe accurately, discuss and record information, look for patterns that allow for predictions and come to understand cause and effect. Science studies in the upper grades delve deeply into the scientific disciplines of earth science, life science, and physical science. Through formal laboratory work, various hands-on activities, long-term projects, and occasional field trips, students examine the foundational concepts of these fields.
Children begin to study Spanish as soon as they enter school. Three year olds naturally take in language and learn its structure. We weave Spanish into class meetings, at snack time, and in other routine parts of the day. Children also listen to songs, poems, and stories in Spanish. As children get older, their vocabulary builds. They learn Spanish for a number of situations (greetings, giving and getting directions, family members, in a restaurant, at the store). They speak in sentences and learn to read and write Spanish. By third grade, they have an extensive repertoire of nouns and verbs, they’re learning to conjugate verbs, and they know a number of songs in Spanish. In the Upper School, children study poems and prose in Spanish. Many leave the Co-op ready for level two Spanish.
In recent years, technology has been integrated into young people’s lives to an unprecedented degree. The goal of the Coop’s technology department is to give our students a thorough education in the use and meaning of the technology that surrounds them. The teaching of technology is integrated into the theme curriculum for each grade—specific computer skills are taught when appropriate. In the early grades, students are introduced to the world of computers in an informal manner. Every classroom has at least one computer station which is used mostly for research related to the curriculum. We begin the formal teaching of computer-related skills (including touch typing, word processing, internet skills and image and video creation) in the third grade. We use technology as a tool for collaborative problem solving and explore the social and ethical issues and responsibilities that the cyber revolution has raised, such as plagiarism of copyrighted materials.
Art permeates every classroom in the Co-op. Children of all ages are natural creators of art. Every new piece of work that children engage in and through which they express themselves is a form of art which reveals a piece of their thinking, technique, and view of the world. At the Co-op we cherish children’s natural artistry and, when they are ready, gradually teach them technique. The art children create here includes free-wheeling self-expression as well as projects that are often an outgrowth of the theme their class is studying. For instance, second graders learn to make masks of wolves; third graders create a Pilgrim settlement. In early childhood, artwork is done in the classroom, supervised (but not dictated) by the head teacher and assistant teacher. Our specialist art teacher often consults with the classroom teachers in order to help with the preparation of materials and teaching techniques. In the pre-kindergarten/kindergarten classes, the art specialist works in the classroom directly with children. Then, from first through eighth grades, children use our art studio and express themselves in a wide range of formats and mediums, including painting, collage, sculpture, video and animation.
Music in the early ages is experiential and an extension of daily classroom activities. Children in the nursery sing as they come to and begin their class meeting. The head teacher sings songs with the class throughout the day. A teacher who has been trained in Music Together methods visits early childhood classes twice a week and presents instruments and music for children to respond to. Children create their own sounds, melodies, and rhythms; this often results in children’s orchestrating their own pieces. Some of our children begin instrumental lessons early on. We offer an introductory Suzuki violin program for children who show a special interest and readiness. More formal music instruction begins in first grade and builds consistently throughout the children’s school career. The music program has a strong focus on the individual student musician’s expression, creative thinking, and exploration of a variety of instruments, media, and technology. The students learn to listen critically for key elements of music including rhythm, pitch, dynamics, tone color and form. In addition, the students learn to express emotions and feelings through their own compositions and improvisations and to recognize them in others. Performance is encouraged as a tool for self-confidence building and individual expression.
Our goal is to help students develop awareness of their physical abilities, develop positive inclinations toward regular physical activity, and broaden their experience of physical activity to increase their enjoyment. The curriculum is designed to help children develop flexibility, strength, endurance, balance, creativity, and spiritual awareness through a variety of games and activities. Throughout the curriculum, cooperation and mutual support are expected and promoted. At every grade level class begins with a warm up (jogging, aerobics, dancing, or agility drills) as well as stretching and strengthening exercises, followed by age-appropriate physical activities and learning experiences.