The Third Plane of Development: How Can I Apply What I Know?

Today, we continue our series on the Montessori Planes of Development with a look at the third plane, spanning from age twelve to age fifteen – the middle school years.

As Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, notes in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011), the third plane child (ages 12-15 years) is focused on society, as the adolescent is searching to find a place in the world. Hall explains that adolescents need to experience the world through work, through purposeful movements, and by using their hands.

Maria Montessori believed the concentration at this plane of development should be centered on economic pursuits so children are equipped to become productive members of society. Hall notes that this economic activity allows adolescents to gradually come to understand the role of work in the greater society. Work becomes an agent for the adolescent’s self-esteem; the objective is to contribute to the world in some meaningful way. By contributing to the community, they are fulfilling a need for themselves and for others.

Hall reports that Montessori saw the third plane as a time of rebirth and referred to adolescents as “social newborns,” and asserts that the questions of the adolescent go beyond the “what” of the very young child and the “why” of the elementary child: The adolescent asks, how I can apply what I know? How does this work relate to my life, my world? How can I save the world with my knowledge of the natural laws and the formulas I studied? Providing experiences such as internships allows opportunities to answer these reflective questions. Education focus during the third plane includes three categories: the opening up of ways of expression, fulfillment of fundamental needs, and the study of the earth and of living things.

Other posts in this series:

The Planes of Development: Developing the Joy of Learning

The Second Plane of Development: Why and How

The First Plane of Development: What