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Essential classes at Riverbend begin in the toddler community and continue through middle school.  The faculty includes essentialists in Art, Music, PE, World Language, and Technology/Design.  Essential classes are scheduled outside of the Montessori work cycle, so as not to compromise the School’s commitment to Montessori education.  That being said, for the past several years, there has been significant motivation on the part of the faculty to connect essential classes to the core curriculum.  This process has taken years, and is now gaining traction.  The special classes at Riverbend serve to complement the Montessori curriculum and offer students a broad range of opportunities for exploration, joyful learning, and success.


Earth art

At Riverbend, we infuse art into our curriculum wherever and whenever possible, at every level from Toddler through Middle School. All of our Kindergarten through Middle School students spend spend time each week in the Art studio, working in much the same way that studio artists do in real life. Various art materials are accessible in distinct, well-organized work areas at all times.

All of our work is based on the Elements and Principles of Design. Students are introduced to art concepts and techniques and are allowed to explore those skills creatively. Students work independently or collaboratively, just as they do in other classroom subjects, choosing the creative subject matter that inspire them, and using the individual time and space we give them to think and create. Riverbend students explore drawing, painting, design, drafting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, and more.


❝Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.❞ 
– Dr. Maria Montessori

At Riverbend, the Design curriculum embraces the multi-faceted and interdisciplinary nature of design. Through a project-based learning approach, students experience and understand design as a powerful tool to solve everyday problems and improve the way we live. With each project developed in the Maker Lab, students critically examine their surroundings, as they seek, develop, and test their solutions. Riverbend’s design curriculum values hands-on learning and places creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication at the core of each learning experience.


Riverbend offers a wonderful language program from Wilson Reading called Fundations to all students in K- 3rd grade.  A supplement to the already excellent Montessori Language materials students use during their work cycles, Fundations is a widely used and recognized program and a particularly good match with the Montessori method. 

As a recognized leader in multisensory, structured language programs, Wilson brings more than a decade of systematic and explicit instruction to the K-3 classroom.  Based on the Wilson Reading System® principles, Wilson Fundations® provides research-based materials and strategies essential to a comprehensive reading, spelling, and handwriting program. 

Wilson Fundations makes learning to read fun, while laying the groundwork for life-long literacy.  Students receive a systematic program in critical foundational skills, emphasizing phonemic awareness, phonics/word study, high-frequency word study, reading fluency, vocabulary, comprehension strategies, handwriting, and spelling.


Riverbend offers two world languages, including Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Toddler and Primary classes have Spanish lessons, and Upper School students (grades 1-8) have the choice of Mandarin or Spanish. One of the most important goals of our language programs is to develop a love of learning languages and to begin to appreciate the world from another perspective.

❝One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.❞ 
‒Frank Smith

Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese students showing their work

In the Mandarin program, students review the phonetic symbols and tones from the very beginning of the year, and continue to improve pronunciation and intonation of Chinese with reinforcement of pinyin practice. Listening and speaking skills are emphasized throughout the dialogues, questions and answers, and group and individual presentation practices. Students further their understanding of the Chinese character formation system. With the progress of learning and memorization of more radicals and simple characters, students will acquire the knowledge of how to analyze most of the compound characters and memorize new characters in a logical way.

Text and workbooks allow students to practice their language skills, and knowledge acquired previously will be reinforced and consolidated with new materials through games, arts and crafts, storytelling, presentations, etc.

Chinese culture is also introduced through the year and, in particular, by learning and celebrating some of the Chinese traditional holidays: Mid- Autumn Festival, Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, etc.


The Spanish program seeks to spark students’ curiosity towards this language. One of the most important characteristics of the curriculum is bringing theory into practice. Students learn Spanish through a hands-on approach that emphasizes practical vocabulary.

The program starts at the Toddler and Primary levels (ages 15 months – 6 years) by incorporating music and concrete materials, which are fundamental elements for teaching and acquiring the Spanish language at this age.

In the Elementary and Middle School programs, students begin to work on topics that allow them to learn vocabulary, grammar rules, develop reading comprehension, writing, and oral expression. They also explore the cultures and histories of the Spanish-speaking world with age-appropriate traditional games, literature, music, cuisine, and art projects.


Inspiring a lifelong love of music is our ultimate goal.

Toddler and Primary
Student playing bass guitar

The music curriculum for Toddlers is based on songs, simple circle games, and finger-plays. Children practice keeping a steady beat through bouncing, tapping, and clapping activities; finger-plays help to develop fine motor skills. Songs and rhymes are crucial components in the development of language. Programs meet with our Children’s House Music essentialist once a week. Toddler classes are held in their own classrooms, and Primary students travel to the Hickory Room.

Primary music classes incorporate many Dalcroze elements. Through rhythmic movement activities, students experience musical concepts in their bodies before receiving lessons in theory. This embodied approach to learning, where theory follows practice, is deeply compatible with Montessori principles.

Elementary & Middle School

Our Grade 1 – 8 students come to music class two times a week.  The students are exposed to a wide range of musical experiences all intended to build a lifelong love of music.  In the Lower Elementary we build skills through rhythm syllables, solfege, the use of traditional folk material, movement and singing games, and listening analysis.  The students use various percussion and pitched percussion instruments to heighten their musical learning.  The students participate in several performances throughout the year.  In the Upper Elementary the students continue to work with solfege and deepen their music theory skills.  Much of the work is modeled through singing but the students have many opportunities to play various instruments in class, work with technology, and grow according to their unique levels.  The Upper Elementary students also maintain a music listening journal, and have frequent performance opportunities during the school year.

Our Middle School students continue on the path of musicality with theory, ear training, song writing, technology, and full on band arrangements.  The students are able to investigate new instruments, and learn how to connect their theory knowledge to music making.  The Middle School students also have the chance to work with a full three-octave set of handbells which allow for a deeper understanding of theoretical concepts, while working as a musical ensemble.  Like the other grades, the Middle School students have several performance opportunities throughout the year.


Each learning opportunity in the Nature curriculum has been developed to connect with the seasonal environment making learning relevant, rich and meaningful for the children. Learning is based on the changes occurring in the natural world and in the backyard of Riverbend School. Toddler and Primary students have Nature class, participating in nature walks and observing nature in action. With a hands-on and inquiry-based approach, the lessons are child-centered. Nature lessons coincide with classroom themes, so that these skills are continuously reinforced. The goal is to learn science skills while gaining an appreciation and respect for the natural world. Activities include movement games, observation using all the senses, dancing, singing and exploring. Most lessons incorporate math and language to further practice in the classroom.

Forest Fridays is a weekly program for Kindergarten Primary students where students spend a three-hour block in nature study. The experience begins with lunch as a community of learners, a lesson focus, and then ample time for guided and free outdoor exploration. This area of study is a key element of Riverbend’s culminating year in the Children’s House.

Lower Elementary students gather for Nature class on a weekly rotation for the entire school year. The curriculum is similar to that which is offered in Children’s House, adjusted to meet the needs and capacities of older students.

Physical Education

At Riverbend the main focus of the physical education program is to create a foundation on which we can build a program that will reflect and advance our school’s athletic community. Throughout the year, students are exposed to numerous sports and activities that will spark excitement and a passion for physical education. This sets the groundwork for our school to build a wider range of enrichment programs, and gives our students a look at new sports that will foster enthusiasm for a healthy lifestyle.

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