“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.” ~ Dr. Maria Montessori
Students move from the lower elementary class and continue their work in a stress-free, ungraded environment. This environment contiues to move students toward mental work at an abstract level. In addition to perfecting math and reading skills, the Montessori elementary curriculum presents the opportunity to explore cultural subjects, history, geography, geometry, and the natural sciences.
Montessori Prepared Environment for the Second Plane of Development, 6 – 12 years
The preparation of the Montessori learning environment for the second plane of development and the design of the resources and activities offered to these children are based on the Montessori understanding of the distinctive characteristics of children of this age.
The Montessori environment for the second plane of development is designed for a mini-community of peers. As children begin to disengage from the family, they strive to ‘belong’ to, and become accepted by, a new community, this time of peers. Membership of this new community supports children as they become increasingly independent of the family, an independence that enables them to do things by themselves, and for themselves and others. A social environment of this type enables children, over time, to mature socially. In a community of peers, the first question children ask is, ‘Can we work together?’ In the Montessori learning environment this community provides them with the opportunity to collaborate on research projects and to share information.
For this reason, lessons in the environment prepared for children of elementary age are given not only individually, but also in small groups. Children who have had the same lesson are then able to follow up the work together.
Cosmic Education: A Curriculum for Children aged from Six to Twelve Years
The curriculum offered in the Montessori environment prepared for the second plane of development is called, by Montessori educators, Cosmic Education. This curriculum presents children with a full range of educational disciplines, including mathematics and language, as well as the arts, sciences and social sciences. The materials and exercises for each discipline area help children build a conceptual order, and classification materials associated with each discipline help children construct a mental order. The educational disciplines, however, are not presented to children as discrete areas in defined blocks of time, but in the form of an interconnected, interrelated and open-ended curriculum. The children are shown how each topic is related to other topics in the same subject area and to other subject areas. The interconnections between the disciplines happen at different points of time and in different ways for different children. In this way, the curriculum is experienced as a coherent whole, individualized to each child’s interests and learning style, rather than as an assortment of unrelated pieces of information. This approach can be adjusted to match the learning styles of both global and linear thinkers and helps individual children to relate their predominant style of thinking to the thinking styles of others.
Careful records are kept of all lessons each child receives and the work that each child does. Children participate in regular, individual conferences with the teacher. These conferences are conducted so that children learn to evaluate their own level of mastery of materials and activities presented in previous lessons and their readiness for new lessons. In this way they become co-evaluators of their own work with the teacher. At the end of each conference the teacher asks if there are any lessons the child would like to receive that have not yet been mentioned. This helps the children take ownership of their own learning. Information collected at individual conferences is added to the record of lessons for each child. The teacher uses these records to plan future lessons, and groupings of children for these lessons. Occasionally a child needs to repeat a lesson. In this case the child may join the next group of children to be given the lesson or the child may receive an individual lesson if no one else needs the lesson at that time.
In the Montessori curriculum for children in the second plane of development two environments are offered to the children. The first environment is the classroom and the second is the world outside the classroom.
The two environments together are used to:
- deliver the Cosmic Education curriculum
- give children the opportunity to engage actively with the curriculum.
Abstraction and Imagination
The resources and activities in the Montessori learning environment for this plane of development are designed to aid the progression to abstraction. Many Montessori materials represent abstract concepts in concrete form. Children manipulate these materials to discover the concepts, working with the materials for as long as they need. They cease using the materials when they can manipulate the concepts abstractly. The ability to abstract is interwoven with the ability to imagine. With their imagination children of this age can experience and learn about all aspects of our universe, whether phenomena far out in space, places on the other side of the world, or particles too small for the human eye to see. When, for example, children of this age have seen a lake and understand what a lake is, they can imagine lakes anywhere in the world. If they have experienced snow, they can imagine the South Pole. Imagination also gives them the power to go backwards in time and imagine what life must have been like before there were grocery shops, a time when human beings had to find all their own food in order to survive. The Montessori learning environment for this age offers children an extensive array of images of this type in the form of stories, charts and experiments.
Social and Ethical Development
The learning environment also accommodates the hero worship so common to this age group by telling true stories of people from diverse times and places, stories that reveal the characteristics of these people, what they have done and the service they have given. Such stories inspire a sense of gratitude in the children for the contribution of others and may show them ways of contributing to the community and serving humanity themselves.
At the same time, children of this age are developing a sense of right and wrong, a sense of morality. This area of development is supported in the Montessori learning environment where children are free to make their own choices and to choose their own workspace and work companions. This freedom carries with it responsibilities. Socializing and working within a community of peers teaches children how to live and work together. Lessons in grace and courtesy provide the knowledge and support children need to succeed in social interactions. Children learn about past civilizations and how they developed laws that enabled them to live together. Through these stories, and the work that follows, children come to understand the benefit of laws and rules in all contexts, natural and social.
Children at this age have a heightened sense of justice and want everything to be fair. They practice negotiation and mediation skills among their own society of peers. There are regular class meetings for children of this age. Topics discussed at these meetings often include the concept of fairness along with issues of right and wrong. The interest children of this age have in understanding morality often leads to a deep sense of justice, as well as compassion for less assertive or younger children and people everywhere who are in need of help.
The Cosmic Education curriculum reveals to children the gifts they have received from the natural environment and from human society. The curriculum is designed to develop a sense of gratitude and of responsibility in relation to the care of the earth and to the care of people on the earth. Through their engagement with this curriculum some children may discover their own life’s vocation, for example, preserving the natural environment, or attending to the needs of others. As children increasingly understand how richly they are blessed both by the natural world and the work of other humans, their response is often an ambition to offer service of their own.
The Montessori environment prepared for the second plane of development prepares children for adolescence by fostering self-regulation, social and intellectual skills and a vision of the place of humanity in the universe. This approach provides a framework that supports young people when they are faced with critical choices in the future.
Montessori Practice and Digital Technologies
As children pursue their research interests across the curriculum, they draw on a vast array of resources, including face-to-face contact with teachers and experts, planning and participating in excursions and going out activities, as well as using paper-based, digital and web-based technologies. As new digital technologies are developed, these are added to the resources available to children in Montessori classrooms in ways that match the children’s capacities and interests. Children use a range of technologies as research and production tools, including email, CDs and DVDs, Internet-based communication and computer programs that enable manipulation of words, images and sound. They develop skills in using the technology as they apply it to relevant areas of the curriculum. In this way digital technologies become part of a balanced program, without displacing paper-based skills, such as using reference books, finding books in a library, handwriting and technical drawing. It is also important that the use of digital technologies does not replace activities involving face-to-face communication and exact physical movement, for example, listening to guest speakers, preparing spoken presentations, interviewing experts, art work and model-making, visiting museums and field work.
The use of digital technologies across the curriculum incorporates development of the following skills:
- experience with a range of computer programs to achieve a variety of goals e.g. producing text, managing data, multimedia presentations, research
- combining text, sound and images to design presentations
- collecting, interpreting, evaluating and managing information gathered through a range of electronic resources
- developing an ethical approach to the use of information and communication technologies
- applying appropriate occupational, health and safety principles to computer use.
While computer guidance and instruction begins in lower elementary, research studies and creative writing becomes more prominent at the upper elementary level. By this time, the children’s thinking, reading, and writing abilities have a solid foundation. They are ready to make full use of the practical advantages of computers.
A brief orientation for parents will be held in August. Orientations days for new students are held the prior to the first week of school in August. The teachers’ and parents’ role is to guide and support the student in an increasing level of responsibility and independence. Additional family conferences are held in the fall, winter and spring or as needed.
It is important for older students to be empowered and intimately involved in problem solving strategies both in work and social dynamics. If a teacher has concerns regarding a student’s work or behavior, the teacher will engage with the student first. Further communication with parents will be discussed between teacher and student when necessary. Our goal is to encourage responsible communication by facilitating opportunities for the student to directly communicate with their teachers, peers and parents.
Collaboration and partnership between school and home are helpful during this time of development. Staff will reply to emails or return phone calls during breaks or after school.
Karin Jones joined the Sun Grove Montessori administrative team in 2015. She came with over 10 years of teaching experience in the public and private sector. She has experience as a classroom teacher, Math instructor, reading coach, technology integration specialist, and art instructor. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Northern Michigan University located in beautiful Marquette, Michigan. She moved to South Florida from Traverse City, Michigan with her husband. She completed her general education training and received her Florida teaching certificate (K-6) with ESOL endorsement in 2007. She is highly involved in integrating S.T.E.A.M education into the classroom and began her Montessori Training in the Summer of 2017. She also serves as the school’s IT specialist.