In this article we will be exploring what comes after the Elementary program and this conversation will continue in January’s Parent meeting. When Montessori Elementary children finish their Montessori Elementary program, they transition to the third plane of development that Maria Montessori called “Erdkinder”, or “land-children”. We can also call this period “adolescence”. Maria Montessori and her son, Mario, in the text “From Childhood to Adolescence” a rich volume of their observations of the third plane of development are guidelines to best support the needs of adolescents (12-15 yrs) and young adults (15-18 yrs). Today there are more than 500 adolescent Montessori programs around the world and the number is rapidly growing.
Montessori Elementary students find themselves in an environment that indirectly prepares them to work in a collaborative, independent and orderly fashion, with freedom and responsibility. It begins with the design of the classroom workflow. The children daily schedule has two time blocks (the morning work period is 3 hours and in the afternoon 2-3 hours) in which they design individually, pair up with a partner or work in a group their work of the day. Together students pursue work according to their interest and they determine when they are complete and fully satisfied with their work.
Today’s instant global connection on the worldwide web provides fascinating prospects for our children to do some truly deep, great work. In this new era, one of our goals could be to assist them to take advantage of this opportunity and as parents and teachers to guide them away from getting sucked into the mundane, seemingly important details of the pop culture, latest fashion trends and coolest cars for example. This, for our children, is the difference between being empowered by technology and being dependent on it.
The role of the adult as viewed by Montessori Educators is to aid the child to life. Adults are the guide to the child’s discovery of the world and in the modern world of today of information and technology it is a great endeavor to keep up with the swift developments and the amount of information available. Today children are born into a digital world that requires the careful introduction by adults to aid the child in its navigation be it mobile devices, laptops, tablets, electronic readers, etc... Adults need to both instruct in the usage of the devices as well as the interpretation of what it is “to surf on the web”.
Children today are born into a world that is driven by information & technology and requires that adults take a conscious responsible look at how we are supporting children in the use of electronics and the balance of other activities to ensure a healthy wholistic development that grants the child preparation for life.
In understanding how freedom and responsibility play the roles in each individual’s self-construction we need to see the hierarchy the way Maria Montessori saw it. Everything starts with freedom, which Maria Montessori linked with independence, which, in turn, help develop will and self-discipline, and then, based on that foundation, responsibility kicks in to play its role.
Human beings are born with certain potentials, which respond to the environment in which individuals find themselves. Human beings can live and grow in any conditions that they find – Hot deserts, humid forests, and vast plains. Human beings are unique, because they are able to adapt to almost any situation.
The goal of going out is exploration. The lessons about all aspects of the universe are given in the classroom, although the universe itself doesn't fit into the classroom. The presentations become alive when experienced in the real world and then reflected upon.
The human tendencies are a driving force that allows for the natural development of the individual's personality and his adaptation into a person of his time, place and culture. Montessori education supports the expression of the human tendencies and takes them into account to create an environment in which the child can learn and develop in an optimal way.
To teach to the human potential in the Elementary environments, Maria Montessori utilized the study of the Earth in both its physical composition and the cultural development of man in relationship to geography. Montessori closely linked all living things as interdependent through the concrete work of experiments, observation, impressionistic charts and map exploration, and left open the possibilities of further study outside the classroom (Going Outs).
Towards the end of Dr. Montessori’s brilliant career, she turned her focus on the vital role of how her followers will continue the work of building a peaceful society. As a result of her efforts to create a vehicle to bringing Peace Education into all the classrooms in the world, Dr. Montessori was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize (1949, 1950 and 1951).
As the child becomes aware of his greater environment he can notice all that contributes to keep the balance of nature and the possibility of his or her survival and existence.
Peace Education is at the root of our work in the Elementary Classroom. All lessons lead to the coming together of the human being in his environment today, yesterday and in the future. Without reservation after over fifty years of methodic scientific research all over the world, with children of all walks of life, Maria Montessori came to several universal unsuspected truths about child development.
It is a valid wonder the question, Why does the Montessori Method present the learning concepts to the children concretely before they have the expectation for the child to work abstractly. There is always the question: When is it the right time for children to work mathematics abstractly (paper only) as presented in traditional schools and concerns if the children are not going to be able to perform in a traditional setting.
Cosmic Education is primarily dedicated to the child in the second plane of development. Dr. Maria Montessori and her son, Mario after years of observations, carefully designed this method. Dr. Maria Montessori used the term cosmic education for children ages 6 through 12 years.
We know when the child moves to the elementary classroom she is a different person. She has a different side of psychological characteristics operating so we must adapt our treatment of plants and animals.
As children approach the age of six, Montessori observed that children change physically and psychologically. The Absorbent Mind fades, the Sensitive Periods disappear and an interest in sensorial exploration of the immediate environment faded, but not disappeared. These children have what Montessori called "a hunger for knowledge and understanding." Exploration of the reasons for all of this surrounded them and became their new focus. These changes in the child necessitated a change in approach.
The center of Montessori pedagogy and the foundation upon which all is based, is the revelation of a nature of a child. She observed differently; the one the child had previously been known by a nature so different that journalists of long ago claimed the term "the new child".
Dr. Montessori stressed that our first and foremost goal is to assist the development of the child, which entails supporting each child's progress along the path of self-construction. She believed that one section of that path was mathematical, and she worked to bring mathematics to children in such a way that they could understand it, and so that they could appreciate and enjoy it.
Going out allows children to discover and satisfy their curiosity. Although we do plan lessons to spark interest and excitement, going out and classroom work must come from the questioning of the reasoning mind of the child. The children must be participating and experiencing society to some extent and this starts indoors: navigating and contributing to the classroom community.