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Introduction to Compass’ Authentic Montessori Programs

Compass’s authentic Montessori experience is rooted in the philosophy of educating the whole child. In multi-age classrooms, students determine a self-paced curriculum; teach and are taught by peers, which strengthens community bonding and skills; and foster a lifelong love of learning. Hands-on learning and small-group lessons engage and inspire students to apply knowledge and move towards more abstract concepts. Materials and stations throughout the classroom encourage movement, as well as independent work or group follow ups. Each classroom meets the needs of the child during that Plane of Development, and provides the foundation for the next. Compass strives to create an authentic Montessori learning experience to begin preparing the children for life outside the classroom.

CHILDREN'S HOUSE (PreK - Kindergarten) Overview

Children's House button sewing

Developmental Spotlight: early academics and fine motor skills; empathy and caring for themselves, their community, and their environment

First Plane: Infancy - Physical and Biological Independence, the Absorbent Mind

Compass’ authentic Montessori experience is rooted in the philosophy of educating the whole child. It begins with Children’s House and the First Plane of Development, and the alignment of the child’s absorbent mind and their will and intentions. Traditional Montessori materials coupled with hands-on Practical Life works develop both academic and fine motor skills. Literacy and math are introduced by learning to spell with wooden letters, sounding out simple words, counting on bead chains, stacking geometric blocks, and more. Students might also practice pouring water, spooning items from one dish to another, or crushing eggshells or herbs. They also begin to internalize appropriate social skills and cooperation in work and play. Art, music, P.E., and the occasional field trip round out their experience.  

Students in Children’s House primarily work independently, and occasionally in pairs. Teachers often give one-on-one lessons to ensure focus and that they are meeting the individual needs of each child. When not in a lesson, children select materials from designated areas, have a teacher review their completed work if appropriate, and replace the work the way they found it. During this First Plane of Development, the child’s abilities to care for themselves, others, and their environment is emphasized.

A typical day in the Children’s House begins with a community meeting which sets the tone for a successful day, and may include movement or meditation. After the morning meeting is the morning work period, where children move into their flow of activities like punching outlines of countries, matching pictures with words, manipulating wooden blocks, or counting colored beads. A group expression of gratitude opens lunchtime, and recess and a nap period or afternoon work period complete the day.

ELEMENTARY (Lower & Upper El includes 1st - 6th grades) Overview


Our authentic Montessori program consists of Lower Elementary (1st-3rd grades) and Upper Elementary (4th-6th grades). Children are in the Second Plane of Development, Childhood, where children explore their thirst for knowledge, collaboration, and social norms. Dr. Maria Montessori considered this Second Plane of Development an opportunity for children to explore the world around them, with freedom to discover their unique mental independence. 

LOWER ELEMENTARY (1st - 3rd grades)

Stamp Game

Developmental Spotlight: personal responsibility, independence and autonomy, leadership, and empathy and compassion

Second Plane: Childhood - Mental Independence

Lower Elementary Montessori classrooms build upon those skills learned in Children’s House. Students work with their teachers to create their own learning plans, which emphasizes their development of independence, self-advocacy, and skills to productively work with others. Lower Elementary materials isolate single concepts, and students are encouraged to expand and connect ideas in deeper and more abstract ways. 

A typical day in a Lower Elementary classroom starts with a morning work period, where students might research a biome or continent; explore math concepts with beads, wooden tiles, or metal shapes; or practice grammar, synonyms, or spelling with hands-on materials. A student may have a lesson or two in a small group, and then work independently or with a peer. Lunch and recess come next, followed by an afternoon work period that might include a read-aloud, P.E., art, music, or other special activity in addition to progress on unfinished works. At the end of the day, students clean and restore their work environment to be ready for the morning.

Day trips to a farm or ballet, or in-house experiences exploring culture or science, give students a chance to experience more of their communities and the world beyond. In addition, third graders have their first school overnight trip near the end of the school year. Third grade students from both campuses spend three days together hiking, studying flora and fauna, and playing team-building games that foster cooperation and communication which will help them transition into the Upper Elementary.

UPPER ELEMENTARY  (4th - 6th grades)

Upper El Work

Developmental Spotlight: Higher academic achievement, leadership, time management, self-regulation

Second Plane: Childhood - Mental Independence, continued

Upper Elementary builds on skills gained in Lower Elementary. Materials seen in the Lower Elementary sit alongside new and more sophisticated ones as students move towards more abstract thinking and complex concepts. Opportunities for independence, self-advocacy, planning, and critical thinking are built into day-to-day activities as the students strengthen self-confidence and skills.

“Going-Outs” become a key element in the Upper Elementary experience, where a student or group of students plan a mini field trip for themselves. From picking the location and the chaperone, to finalizing all necessary elements to a field trip such as transportation, expense, and time, students take pride in and ownership of their own learning experiences.

A typical day in the Upper Elementary looks quite similar to one in the Lower Elementary, with work periods in the morning and afternoon, broken up by lunch and recess. Specials such as Music, Art, and P.E. also take place in the afternoon. A significant addition to Upper Elementary curriculum is the Presentation of Learning, or POL, where students spend several weeks researching a topic and creating a report, a visual aid, and a presentation. The POL process gives students experience in research and public speaking, and prepares the students for their biggest project in sixth grade, Empowerment. Empowerment is a yearlong project that requires sixth graders to research, participate in an experience, and exhibit math and literacy skills in a presentation to the entire Upper Elementary, teachers, and invited guests.

The Upper Elementary also offers two overnight trips a year. The first, at the beginning of the year, is comparable to an outdoor lab program. For their second trip, students help decide and plan the logistical aspects including the location, food, expenses, and activities. These collaborative experiences help foster independence, community, and a sense of belonging.

FARM SCHOOL (7th - 9th grade)

farm school store

Developmental Spotlight: Real life experience, self-regulation, social-emotional growth

Third plane: Adolescence - Social Independence, Hormones, Puberty, Global Place in the World

The Elementary student’s authentic Montessori experiences facilitates their transition to Farm School. As they grow into the Third Plane of Development, they have the self-assurance, skills, and experience to face the demands of the next level.

Store, Farm, and Community and Kitchen (C&K) Occupations comprise the Farm School; students will spend one year in each Occupation to complete the three year cycle. Each Occupation has three guides, one each for Science, who is also the Occupation guide and stays with the Occupation; and English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, who stay with students for the entire three-year cycle. Every student has a lesson schedule for the semester that includes math, ELA, history, science, occupation work. Self-expressions are electives that run in six-week cycles and cover a wide range of interests such as Bob Ross painting, outdoor sports, Muggle Studies, D&D, Arduino programming, and croquet. During self-expressions and open work periods, students have the freedom to meet in the Commons or other Occupations for collaborative work. They may also create in the Maker Space, which is stocked with a vast array of woodworking tools, robotics/electronics equipment, art supplies, textiles, and other items for the resourceful and curious student.

A key objective in the Farm School is to prepare students for life beyond the classroom by creating real-life experiences. For example, C&K students help prepare lunch daily for the entire Golden campus, make food for occasions such as Harvest Fest, and set up for events in the Commons. Students in the Farm occupation will care for the chickens, alpacas, and goats; cultivate and harvest vegetables; and card, spin, and needle felt alpaca fibers. Students in the Store occupation spend the year developing a student business, including creating a business plan and logo, doing market research, and acquiring funding from the Microeconomy. Visitors can appreciate how this works at the Farm Stand, which sells vegetables and student-made crafts: C&K sets up the stand, and Store provides staffing and customer service. 

Money earned by Farm School businesses goes into the Farm School Microeconomy. The Microeconomy is run by a committee of students with at least one person from each grade from each occupation, so a total of nine students. Money goes into microeconomy from the Store/sales of product and services. Students can present a proposal for funding of their projects/business, which can come in the form of a loan to be repaid, or a grant. Students can also use money earned from their businesses towards other student-run businesses, school trips, and the like. 

A typical day at the Farm School echoes the pattern established in the Elementary program. It begins with an Occupation morning meeting, followed by a morning work period which may include lessons. Morning work period ends with a second group meeting. Lunch and recess are combined into a single period that includes all Farm School students; they can choose to eat, play active games, or just hang out with their friends.. Afternoon activities vary by the day, with either self-expressions or a work period, including monthly mental health activities. Like the other levels, the Farm School day ends with a restoration of their environment.

HIGH SCHOOL (10th - 12th grade)

high school science

Developmental Spotlight: Preparing for adulthood, independence, time management, academics


Third plane: Adolescence (continued) - Social Independence, Hormones, Puberty, Global Place in the World


At Compass Montessori High School, we lead with respect for our young people and guide them through 10th, 11th, and 12th grade as consultants to their self-driven enthusiasm for learning and ultimately supporting them in finding their passion in life. Preparation in the Farm School enables Montessori High School students to further direct their focus of learning and discovery. With the support of their Guides (teachers), students continue to self-assess their work and actions as they advance towards adulthood and independence. Students are also assigned a Guide to act as their Advisor upon beginning High School; Advisors facilitate small group meetings and are the primary person the student might consult regarding issues in their learning or development. Guides strive to foster curiosity as they present required lessons in Literacy, Mathematics, History, and Science; and electives in Foreign Language, AP or Honors classes, and Art. Students can also take Red Rocks Community College classes such as Chemistry or Calculus for college credit, or choose from a broad range of classes at Warren Tech like Outdoor Leadership, Welding, or Cosmetology.

Lessons in the core subjects mentioned above are offered multiple times throughout each week. The schedule is posted in the Commons, and students are responsible for knowing which lessons they need and when they can take them, similar to that of a small liberal arts college. If a student manages their time well, homework often can be completed during the day. Each week, the entire HS student body attends a Community Meeting in the auditorium (known colloquially as the “Pool”) for announcements and birthday celebrations, followed by Advisement Group Meetings where students can raise topics of concern, discuss recent events, and celebrate non-denominational holidays. 

High School students become more involved in the greater community with the addition of two experiences: Authentic World of Learning (AWOL) and On the Job Experience (OJE). During this time, students are expected either to volunteer their time in service or attend their job. For AWOL, students can take on roles such as assisting Compass staff, teaching self-expressions in the Farm School, volunteering at a non-profit, or crafting items for those in need. If a student has paid employment, OJE allows them to go to their job instead.

A typical day at the High School begins with a brief check-in with their Advisor and then the morning work period, which includes any lessons the student has scheduled. Lunch time follows, where they can stay on campus or go into Golden, to Tony Grampsas park, or ride at the Golden Bike Park. Electives, Red Rocks college courses, Warren Tech classes, AWOL, and OJE occur in the afternoon. Students who take classes off-campus do not come back to Compass in the afternoon, and those remaining on campus restore the environment to be ready for the next day.

Upon graduation from Compass Montessori, students are prepared for college, and have the authentic, real world experiences and skills for them to be successful no matter what path they take.

Highlights for Compass Montessori High School are as follows, but not limited to: 

  • AWOL (Authentic World of Learning) is an experience we are proud to offer students. Opportunities include community service, OJE (on-the-job experience), and internships at least once a week. In true Montessori fashion, this accomplishment is led by each student’s interest.
  • Trips - High School students are given the opportunity to travel within Colorado, to other states within the US, and internationally. Most students experience at least one extended trip of 10 -14 days away together. Previous adventures have included exploring Greece, Costa Rica, London, France, Germany, Russia, and Italy. All trips provide an extension of academic and community goals.
  • Freedom of movement in the classroom
  • Care of the environment - working as a true community
  • Seminar based (community college liberal arts)
  • Small on purpose - allows for more authentic opportunities and better communication. You can’t escape the conflict in small groups. More accountability for your community in a small group.

Compass Montessori High School follows the Colorado Department of Education, Higher Education Admission Requirements (H.E.A.R.), and JPS credit requirements for all graduating students, who ultimately graduate with a Jeffco high school diploma.

Compass students must participate in our custom 3-year cycle of studies. Students are required to complete 23 credits in specific content areas to receive their high school diploma.

The H.E.A.R. requirements include the following for students planning to attend college:

  • English (4 credits)
  • Math (4 credits)
  • Sciences (3 credits)
  • Social Sciences (3.5 credits)
  • Foreign Language (1 credit, but we advise at least 2)
  • Academic Electives (2 credits - Economics, Advanced Mathematics, creative writing, etc)
  • Other (6 credits - Community Service,  International Studies and Other Electives)

Meeting the higher education admission requirements and/or the admissions eligibility index does not guarantee admission to a four-year public institution. Colleges and universities generally have additional requirements.

  • High Expectation for grace and courtesy
  • The expectation that every student meets the Higher Education Admission Requirements (HEAR)
  • Small Community 
  • Scheduling is like a small liberal arts college
  • Unlimited opportunity
  • We encourage students to participate in college courses during their senior year. (We currently have a Red Rocks Scholarship Fund.)
  • Students can participate in Concurrent Enrollment
  • Many opportunities for student leadership and community service