“Let us give the child a vision of the whole universe for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”
– Dr. Maria Montessori
Elementary children are entering into what is referred to by Dr. Montessori as the “Second Plane of Development.” These children are now leaving behind the “absorbent mind” of the first six years of life and are developing a more conscious mind. They are ready to abstract the concrete experiences they had in preschool and kindergarten for a deeper understanding. Independent work and lesson presentations tend to be more varied and less repetitive. Children at this age are more interested in interacting with their peers and understanding the inner workings of interpersonal relationships. This age is less a time for order, and more time for morality, justice, and imagination.
As the Elementary children are more sensitive to understanding their place in the world and are more able to use their imagination in a grander sense, Dr. Montessori developed a “Cosmic” curriculum to explore the idea of the interconnectedness of all beings. We begin each Elementary year with “The Great Lessons” to give children an impressionistic experience of the beginnings of the Universe, life on Earth, human beings, language, and numbers. These lessons provide the framework for the Elementary curriculum and inspire the work of the children in the classroom.
Through this curriculum, children gain an understanding of the fundamental needs of all humans across cultures and throughout history, and how each particle on Earth has a hand in the existence and development of others. As children explore these ideas, they begin to recognize who they are individually, as a member of the global community, and as a caretaker of the world.
21st Century Skills
Researchers have listed four 21st century skills as the most important skills for work, learning, and citizenship – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity (known as “The Four C’s”). These skills are naturally developed through meaningful experiences in the Elementary classroom.
Communication: Elementary children continue their “Grace and Courtesy” lessons in the Elementary classroom through conflict resolution and working with peers. Discussions during work leads to a variety of experiences with written and oral communication. At this age, students are encouraged to share their research and findings. They can introduce this information through skits, plays, and presentations in front of their peers.
Collaboration: The Montessori environment is naturally designed for collaboration by including multi-age classrooms. Children are able to learn from students older and younger than themselves and develop peer mentoring relationships. Group work is encouraged, allowing students to bring forth ideas and hear feedback from their peers as they continue through the process of completing a work or researching a topic.
Critical Thinking: Montessori materials are designed to focus on one set of skills and contain a control of error, encouraging children to continue working through a problem using critical thinking skills. The Montessori classroom inherently contains the tools needed for students to answer their own questions.
Creativity: The Montessori environment allows children the freedom to choose their own work and to explore the materials on their own. Children are encouraged to follow their interests and to use their questions as a guide. Lessons are presented in a way that sparks curiosity and imagination.