The Planes of Development: Developing the Joy of Learning

Today, we complete our series on the Montessori Planes of Development with an overview of the importance of developing the joy of learning across each stage.

The responsibility of Montessori educators, as defined by Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011), is to help children follow their interests and inspire them to move forward. The key is to take Montessori’s theory and move it into 21st century norms. Although exploration and following the child is considered best practice, competition and acquisition of knowledge cannot be under-represented due to societal pressures.

Today knowledge can be acquired with the click of button – memorization is obsolete. The greater value is developing the joy of learning through the sense of wonder. Promoting an individual’s desire to learn, through fostering intrinsic motivation, unlocks the secret to self-learning. Knowing how to be a self-learner aids in the development of creative thinking skills necessary for future leaders. The focus should not be on the product but on the process – how a child obtains the answer is more important than the answer itself. The planes of development, as prescribed by Montessori’s method, provide clarity on the needs of the individual learner and encourage each learner to reach his or her full potential.

Other posts in this series:

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

The Second Plane of Development: Why and How

The First Plane of Development: What

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

A Response to the Common Core Standards

The best schools are based on excellent classroom practices, have an established pedagogy, and focus on personalized teaching and learning. Montessori monitors the child’s progress throughout the year; it is not just about the end of the year assessment. Those opposed to the Common Core Standards refer to our children as the newest “guinea pigs” in education. In contrast, the first Montessori classroom was opened in 1907 and its philosophy has not changed. Currently there are over 30,000 Montessori school worldwide.

Diane Ravitch was the former Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander during the George W. Bush administration. She was responsible for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Dept. of Education. She led the the federal effort to promote voluntary state and national academic standards. Read her thoughts on the Common Core Standards.

The Second Plane of Development: Why and How

Today, we continue our series on the Montessori Planes of Development with a look at the second plane, spanning from age six to age twelve – the elementary years.

As a child moves into the second plane of development (ages 6-12 years) the focus is on “why” and “how.” The child seeks intellectual independence. 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) that the attitude of the child from birth to age six – “let me do it myself” – is replaced in the second plane of development with “let me find out for myself.” In her book To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori refers to the child’s mind as a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture. Reason and imagination are the keys to unlock learning during this phase. Logic and reasoning take hold, and a child is able to perceive complex concepts.

In addition, during this second plane of development, children have a fascination with the extraordinary. Due to this fascination, the subject of the universe appeals to the elementary child since it is vast, mysterious, and irresistible. For this reason, “cosmic education” along with the “great stories” becomes the main staple at the elementary level. As Hall describes, the goal is to fan the flame of imagination and to inspire the child into new paths of exploration. Cosmic education can best be defined as stressing the interrelatedness of everything. Examples of cosmic tasks include: coral removing calcium from the ocean, plants absorbing poisonous carbon dioxide and using it to produce oxygen, and bees pollinating plants. As Hall points out, Montessori believed that humans, as part of the universe, also must have cosmic tasks. The elementary child discovers and understands these cosmic tasks through research.

Other posts in this series:

The Planes of Development: Developing the Joy of Learning

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

The First Plane of Development: What

The First Plane of Development: What

Today, we continue our series on the Montessori Planes of Development with a look at the first plane, spanning from birth to age six.

The first plane can best be described as a time of exploration. As Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, points out in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011), developmental psychologists have called the infant the “the scientist in the crib.” As a child comes closer to the primary level (2.5–6 years), the need for psychological clarity and order develops. Children at this age are natural explorers who enjoy learning what. Their primary focus is on developing and testing how the world works.

Hall notes that modern science confirms what Montessori discovered over 100 years ago: the child from birth to six has extraordinary intellectual powers given to help in the task of creation. Montessori believed children have an absorbent mind and go through sensitive periods that are optimal times for learning. During the first plane, children have a love for the natural world, refining their skills through coordination activities that aid in the development of concentration. Independence becomes a priority, and they develop a keen sense of order.

Other posts in this series:

The Planes of Development: Developing the Joy of Learning

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

The Second Plane of Development: Why and How

Montessori Philosophy: What are the Montessori Planes of Development?

Montessori education is based upon three planes of development: birth to age six, age six to twelve, and age twelve to eighteen. As Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, described in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011), each plane is a distinctive psychological learning period characterized by the physical and psychological changes that take place during its span, as well as specific environmental needs to support development. The Montessori Method considers the unique needs of each age group by varying focus within each plane of development. In the first plane, the child focuses on the world and the facts. In the second plane, the child focuses on the universe and reason. In the third plane, the adolescent focuses on how to transform society.

Join us next over the next several Mondays as we discuss each Plane of Development and the importance of fostering the joy of learning.