Southside Montessori Elementary School

Director: Lael Sheahan
Phone: 509-624-1316

Address Info:
physical location:
3220 S Grand Blvd
Spokane, WA 99203

mailing address:
PO Box 8379
Spokane, WA 99203

About Montessori


stimulates imagination
social concentration
shared learning
visual math
beginning abstraction
reports and poetry
global understanding
follow up
physical education
joy in learning
preparation for life

Also see: Montessori vs Traditional


Montessori education is based on the psychological characteristics and needs of the developing elementary child.  Recognizing the natural curiosity and enthusiasm of children this age, the Montessori environment is designed to stimulate the developing intellect through the use of the imagination.  Children this age desire to know the hows and whys of the world.  The classroom’s aim is to open fields of knowledge to the child’s eager exploration.  The environment offers information that tickles the mind and the opportunity to pursue this interest.

Dr. Montessori said that touch is to the young child what imagination is for the older child. If we tell the child that the sun is a medium sized star, then we have imparted a fact. If we say that if this medium sized star could be hollowed out, it would hold a million earths, then we tickle the imagination and desire to know more. We stimulate the child’s curiosity and awe in the universe. Montessori elementary learning is approached in this manner.


Along with the development of the intellect and the imagination, the elementary child is developing the social self. In an elementary class a community emerges as work is frequently done in groups. The classroom is composed of a multi-age span. There is less quiet than in the preschool Montessori class. There is more conversation, comparison and sharing of information and ideas. They learn communication skills and apply these skills in resolving issues in their community.


The classroom provides a calm environment where children can learn without interruptions and constantly changing activities. A child is allowed to delve into a subject for lengthy periods of time in the day. Children work at their own pace. Younger children are intrigued with the work of the older and are stimulated by it. The older children often lend their personal experience and expertise to the younger children. There is a mutual sharing and admiration.

Shared Learning

A couple of children may research a subject and share their findings with the class. Two children, for example, studied Egyptian life.  They wrote a report which they presented to the circle while in costume and with music playing. Their interests became contagious.


A variety of work is ongoing in the classroom during any work time. Math, Language, Geography, History, Botany, Sciences, the Arts, are studied side by side. There is a daily circle where children come together for a shared lesson or to share the fruits of their research and story writing.

Visual math

Montessori equipment and materials provide a very concrete approach to many subjects. The math materials provide the child with hands-on manipulatives that facilitate the child’s exploration. Children work with the fraction materials, for example, and discover equivalence first hand. The math materials demonstrate facts, concepts and relationships and intrigue the elementary child’s natural mathematical mind.

Beginning abstraction

Geometry is introduced with a variety of activities providing the child with the vocabulary to investigate the shapes and designs around us. Montessori Math materials lead the child in the investigation of properties, for example, of triangles, polygons, quadrilaterals, etc. Discovering the properties of the figures leads naturally to a comparison and an in-depth understanding of the figures. From such a concrete basis, the child launches into abstraction.

Reports and poetry

Language in the elementary classroom includes reading, writing, and research skills. Reading becomes a favorite pursuit. Reports, stories and poetry are spontaneous follow up activities by minds stimulated by a rich environment. As the children become adept with language, the parts of speech are identified in both prose and poetry. Worlds are experienced in a new way.

Global understanding

Montessori elementary education applies the global approach to learning. The whole of a subject is investigated, then its parts. When studying a geographic region, the region is introduced with notation of its geographic locations in the world. Tropical Rainforests, for example, are seen in relationship to the equator. The plants of the area are introduced showing the interrelationship between people, plants and animals. The children understand the concept of the world system. They clearly grasp the idea that an impact on one part affects the whole.

Montessori elementary education refers to the Cosmic Plan. It looks at the questions very natural to a curious young mind. It ponders the questions of the origins of life and the interrelatedness of all life. Various theories are considered.

Cultural geography is of great interest to children. How do people live? What is life like in other places? This stimulates a lot of searching and ultimately, a broad worldview, an appreciation of the people everywhere.

Art and Theater

Whatever subject is studied, art is a part of the follow-up work. A study of the ocean may inspire clay sea creatures.  A diorama or puppet may follow a book report.  Drawings illustrate reports.  Learning inspires the creative process.

Art project are ongoing in the classroom.  Children learn and apply skills through various projects directed by our resident artist, Mike McConkey.  A weekly theater class is followed with performance evenings for families and field trips to plays at the local children’s theater.

Enrichment from the Community

Guest speakers are invited for various topics. Presentations such as trunk shows from the Museum of Arts and Culture as well as visits from raptors from the West Valley Outdoor Learning Center are scheduled.  Additionally, parents, relatives and community members are invited to visit and present their profession, interests, travels etc. to the children. The children’s world is constantly expanding.

Physical Education

The physical body of the elementary child is developing muscle mass and refining the coordination of the lengthening arms and legs. There is a desire to learn, practice and develop skills. They are challenged when skills are applied in group games such as soccer.  A weekly PE program is provided by Stretch and Grow that includes movement, exercise, skills, games and pure fun!

Community Service

The children participate in community services.  Operation Christmas Child in an annual tradition.  There is ongoing support of Casa’s My Bag program.  Other projects, such as the collection of food for the local food banks receive enthusiastic support from the Southside families.  As a follow up to a study of the Savanna and the Masaii tribes that live there, the children illustrated savanna life with pastels and sold their artwork.  The money was donated to purchase animals for the Masaii in Africa.


Enthusiasm and a love of learning are apparent in the Southside Montessori classroom. Children support each other in their process of learning and growing. Supportive encouragement replaces competition. Respect for each other is fostered.

The children are prepared for the world in which we live, not by the memorization of facts, but an understanding of the interrelatedness of all subjects. They learn to think, to ask questions and to search for solutions. This brings about a joy in learning, a confidence in themselves and a sense of hope in an ever changing world.