The Elementary Capstone Year

By Keturah Russell

At Montessori Community School sixth grade is the last year of the elementary program. Our accrediting agency, the American Montessori Society, endorses sixth grade as an important “capstone” year of developmental maturation.

The sixth elementary year at MCS is a special year, not to be missed. Sixth-year students enter a great synthesis period as they bring the academic and study skills they have developed during their elementary years into true application through Senior Explorations. Senior Explorations is a year-long seminar program in which students write an extensive research paper. This research is based on a student’s interests and involves a great deal of planning, exploring background information, diving deeper into advanced studies, connecting with experts in the field of study, and creating a personal project.

Throughout the year students develop their research and writing skills, create an outline and a bibliography, write drafts and complete revisions on their project until they have a final paper. Students then prepare to present their project at the end of the year to parents, staff and fellow students. Topics have ranged from the History and Inventions in the field of Espionage to Coral Reefs and to Electricity. Topics are chosen by the student, solely according to their interest.

In addition, as a group students plan and host several Parents Night Out events to raise funds for a sixth year spring trip to Washington D.C., where students tour museums and sites related to their research topic.

Every year in the late spring I look forward to the evening when students present their research knowledge in short speeches and an art project. The students display their amazing final papers.  For most, if not all, this is the longest research effort and the largest written report they have ever completed! There are also delicious treats to eat that the students have prepared to go along with their research theme: this is always a great surprise!

The work and these presentations truly show the independence and self-motivation of the sixth year students at MCS.