Upper Elementary
(Ages 9 – 12 years) (Grades 4 – 6)

Montessori observed that children between the ages of nine and twelve are capable of more abstract thought, including the ability to think hypothetically. Upper Elementary is a time when children cross the bridge from using hands–on, manipulative materials to acquiring a fully abstract understanding of concepts. Whereas the child in Lower Elementary has been using three or four materials to compute multiplication problems, the older student transitions to paper and pencil. The Elementary guide (“teacher”) is a trained observer, watching carefully to find the exact moment when the child makes the leap to abstraction with a particular concept. The guide meets regularly with each student to support her in setting goals and self-assessment. Time management, organization, and setting reasonable, responsible goals (executive function skills) are a priority at this level.

An important component of the elementary program is what we call “Going Out.”  This occurs for a group of children when exploration of a topic exhausts the resources of the classroom. A “Going Out” is a planned undertaking by a small group of children.  They find a resource in the community, schedule the outing, arrange for their own transportation and supervision (by staff or parent volunteers), prepare themselves for the experience, conduct themselves with dignity while out in public, and return to share their research with the rest of the class.  Not only a research opportunity, each “Going Out” is an entire course of study on independence, responsibility, and good citizenship.

Upper Elementary students are honing their leadership skills. In addition to planning “Going Out” trips, students develop their own community service projects, fundraising efforts, and opportunities to mentor younger children.

Upper Elementary Faculty:


Michaella Story

Upper Elementary Teacher

Michaella was born in Arlington, Texas, but grew up in central Massachusetts before moving to St Petersburg to attend Eckerd College. She graduated in 2015 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Anthropology and Biology, and shortly after joined the Alegria family. During her time at Eckerd, she spent her summers volunteering with elementary-aged children and educating them about science and nature. Michaella enjoys hiking, camping, biking, rock climbing and other sports, especially running. Passionate about art, animals, and learning, Michaella has traveled to Costa Rica to study ecotourism and sustainable farming, and to Belize to study ethnobotony among the Maya.

Iain Goddard Upper Elem and Middle School Science Specialist

Iain has taught science at Alegria for several years and teaches as he wished he had been taught science while he was younger. He has his PhD from MIT in Engineering and focuses his classes on chemistry, mechanics and electricity, depending on the year. There are weekly labs that involve the students in hands on activities. This is a highly anticipated class as the children transition from lower to upper elem.