Hermosa’s elementary curriculum is organized into integrated studies. Rather than a traditional model in which the curriculum is compartmentalized into separate subjects, with given topics considered only once at a given grade level, lessons at Hermosa are introduced simply and concretely in the early years, and are reintroduced several times over the years at increasing degrees of abstraction and complexity. The Hermosa curriculum is an integrated thematic approach that ties the separate disciplines of the curriculum together. This integrated approach is one of Hermosa’s great strengths.
Language Arts in our classrooms encompasses all the traditional aspects of language instruction such as reading, grammar, written expression, creative and research writing, and oral presentation. Our language arts curriculum extends itself into all academic subjects. Hermosa students also participate in special language arts projects designed to develop intergenerational learning opportunities on a local and national platform.
Students in grades 1-3 receive instruction in order to acquire foundational skills. This includes lessons and materials that emphasize the five essential components of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Hermosa teaches the mechanics of handwriting in both print and cursive. Students also learn the components of written expression and reading which are: capitalization and punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, word usage, sentence and paragraph structure, automaticity or fluency, and understanding the various types of written material known as text structure. Unique Montessori materials illustrate the above mentioned components. Hermosa students use beautiful materials which allow them to have an understanding of parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives etc.) and to analyze their own writing at a very young age. Hermosa students learn to love reading which allows them to pursue the material that interests them.
As adults, we use math in a variety of ways in daily life. We pay bills, renovate or build homes, negotiate contracts and salaries, make budgets and more. Using math in daily life is the message Hermosa provides to our students. Learning mathematical concepts also helps develop the ability to think critically, precisely and logically. Math also helps us to organize, order, and structure our ideas. The math curriculum is based on the tradition of “Unified Math”, which introduces students to the study of the fundamentals of algebra, geometry, logic, and statistics, along with the principles of arithmetic. At Hermosa, our Montessori materials beautifully illustrate mathematical concepts. These materials help students move from understanding concepts using concrete materials to a “letting go” of these materials as they move into an abstract understanding of mathematical concepts. Math concepts from every math strand are woven together and connected throughout the year. Skills or concepts are reinforced throughout the years, helping students build a strong foundation of understanding.
At Hermosa, mathematics is taught using a “three prong approach.” First is the use of Montessori materials to illustrate concepts, next is the Saxon Math Curriculum which provides an incremental, distributed, and cumulative approach to mathematical consents. In addition, we use the ALEKS program, an artificially intelligent learning and assessment system that quickly and accurately determines each student’s precise knowledge of a concept and then helps the student work on the topics they are ready to learn.
Students learn place value ( the decimal system) counting, skip counting, and the four basic arithmetic operations. Students use concrete materials to set up and solve mathematical problems—a skill they will use throughout their lower elementary years.
The Four Operations of Arithmetic- into the millions.
Hermosa students practice the four operations into the millions—including long multiplication with multi-digit multipliers, and long division with three-digit divisors. Teachers introduce the basic laws of arithmetic; associative, commutative, and distributive properties, as well as multiples and factors. Hermosa students work with large numbers, which they love, using materials and paper and pencil. They use materials available in the classroom in which they learn to check their own work for accuracy, rather than always relying on the teacher to acknowledge accuracy or mistakes.
Fractions and Decimals.
Beginning in Lower Elementary, grades 1-3, Montessori materials illustrate the concept of fractions. After learning about fractions students then learn the concept of decimals. When students understand these concepts they then learn to work arithmetical problems with decimals and fractions abstractly, with paper and pencil and as part of applied work problems in Upper Elementary grades 4-6.
Math Fact Practice
Quicktables in ALEKS provides students with essential fact practice. The goal of fact practice is to enable our students to easily access a range of math facts without effort—so that they can instead focus on analyzing and solving complex math problems
Hermosa students are introduced to a vibrant and unique geometry curriculum. The concepts of sizes, shapes, positions, angles, dimensions, congruence, similarity, and equivalence are illustrated using Montessori materials. Hermosa students learn to draw, define, and describe lines, polygons, angles, circles, and geometric solids. They learn how to measure length and area—and apply those skills to the geometric shapes and solids. Students also use rulers, and compasses to acquire basic skills.
Science is an integral element of Hermosa’s curriculum. Science study represents a clear thinking approach to gathering information and problem solving. The scope of the Montessori science curriculum includes a sound introduction to botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, geology, and astronomy. The program is designed to cultivate students’ curiosity, not to require memorization of facts. With topics re-introduced during each developmental stage, students develop a deeper understanding of topics as they grow. Students consider the formation of the universe, the development of the planet Earth, the delicate relations between living things and their physical environment, and the balance within the web of life. These great lessons integrate astronomy, the earth sciences and biology with history and geography. One goal of the Montessori approach to science is to cultivate children’s fascination with the universe and to help them develop a lifelong interest in observing nature and discovering more about the physical world in which they live.
Students learn the language of science, how to conduct and write a “lab report,” how to generate and test a hypothesis, and then to think critically and create their own science project using SARSEF (Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation) guidelines. Students are welcome to enter their projects in the local SARSEF Science Fair and many have been chosen for local and regional awards.
The History curriculum is part of cultural studies. We begin with the largest ideas, and gradually focus on smaller details. We explore how humans have changed over time and what contributions various groups of people have made. These studies provide students opportunities to explore how the world began, the story of life, and development of people throughout history. Students learn about human ancient civilizations, early American history and World History. History is not textbook driven or the memorization of facts, but comes alive through primary sources, reader’s theater, plays, field trips to the Presidio to experience Arizona history, and during History’s Mysteries, in which students research a historical figure, and ultimately they “become” that historical figure in costume and presentation. A living museum event is produced and presented by our students.
Cooperation, Communication Skills, and Leadership
At Hermosa collaboration, peer tutoring, and presentation skills are built into the daily and weekly schedule. Just as in the “real world” when adults work together and learn from each other, at Hermosa students have this same opportunity. Students learn from each other and teach other students skills they have learned. We encourage collaboration and cooperation. Children learn to mentor others, and how to ask for help when necessary—either from an adult or another student who may be more experienced or advanced in a particular skill. Children often present their research to peers, other students and teachers, and at times during special events to parents.Hermosa students learn presentation and communication skills throughout their elementary school years.
Teachers keep daily and weekly records of each student’s individual progress. Teachers communicate this progress to parents in regularly scheduled conferences. As students achieve more time management, organizational, and leadership skills they discuss their progress with parents during conferences. Using this approach students learn to take ownership of their learning.
Art and Music Integrated Into the Curriculum
Creative expression is woven into the daily work children do in language arts, science, geography or history. Students create maps and paint them with watercolors. They paint or color books to illustrate the parts of a flower in a science lesson, or make colorful depictions of the land and water forms they study in geography.
Students learn basic elements of music, rhythm, pitch, dynamics, form, timbre and texture. They learn to identify orchestral instruments from musical families. First through third grade students enjoy an educational program and chamber concerts performed by members of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Students also have the opportunity to join the Hermosa choir. Weekly music lessons are integrated thematically with language arts, social studies, geography, history, and the virtues. Our music teachers are passionate music lovers, and bring their passion to our students