A MONTESSORI EDUCATION
A Montessori Curriculum is based upon the work of Dr. Maria Montessori, a doctor and educator whose research into the ways children learn resulted in the development of the method, which bears her name. Dr. Montessori believed children possess an intrinsic desire to learn about themselves and their world through exploration and discovery. Children in Montessori classrooms learn through the use of manipulative materials, cooperative projects, and an interdisciplinary approach to studying the world around them.
Multi-age grouping reflects stages in children’s intellectual and emotional development and provides opportunities for cooperation between older and younger students. The curricular boundaries of traditional classrooms, which can be limiting for many young children, are not present. Learning is paced individually, enabling children to succeed as their abilities and interests allow.
Because a child usually has the same teacher for three years, faculty develop a clear understanding of a child’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to guide a child along a learning path which makes use of the child’s strengths. Learning is also interdisciplinary over these years so that concepts are repeated many times in many ways, just as they are experienced in the wider world.
In a Montessori Classroom the child’s natural curiosity is stimulated by the carefully prepared environment containing a variety of educational materials, which acquaint the child with a wide range of subject areas. The teacher in the Montessori classroom is a facilitator and a guide. The planes of development as developed by Maria Montessori were created by the observations of children’s tendencies in a prepared environment. Four planes evolved to describe and define the psychological and social development of children. The first plane is infancy, ages 0-6, and the second is childhood, ages 6-12. Each of the planes is different for each child but they reflect the natural tendencies evident for the age range.
A child in the first plane is self-absorbent and egocentric. Each child is absorbing their surroundings and sensorially exploring the environment. It is also a sensitive period for symbol and language acquisition. Because of the child’s egocentric thinking, they are able to work and play side by side with little interaction with their peers.
A child in the first plane of development also has a sense of order, paying close attention to details. The manipulation of the environment requires movement and repetition. The child’s reasoning is in the literal sense based on concrete ideas. They can only imagine what they have seen or experienced. As the child becomes more confident with their understanding of the world, they begin to have the need to search beyond their immediate realm. This leads to the second plane of development.
A child in the second plane develops the need for social interaction. They model and practice relationships with peers and that interaction become a major part of their world. There is also an emerging sense of fairness and moral correctness.
A child in the second plane also becomes more imaginative and creative. They interact with their environment with purpose as they are developing a cultural awareness of the world around them. Each child begins to think more abstractly. They come into their sense of humor, as they discover not all things are based on a literal sense.
The planes of development are the two stages by which a child makes sense of the world around him. The planes should be used to help construct the curriculum so the environment of the two age groups is set with respect to their differences. If this is done correctly, then both the social and psychological development is fostered and nurtured.