THE FOUR PLANES OF DEVELOPMENT

by Jim Fitzpatrick, AMI Elementary Director

The Four Planes of Education is a concept developed by Dr. Maria Montessori as a result of her observations of the "Sensitive Periods" during the development of the child.

These planes are in six year groupings:  0-6, 6-12, 12-18 and 18-24.  The first three years of each grouping is characterized by the greatest changes in that plane of development (physically, mentally, and spiritually), and the last three years in each plane is characterized by crystallization and continuation of the previously experienced growth.  Generally, the child experiences rapid growth and development for the first three years of each "plane," and then experiences an equal time of refinement and stability again followed by another period of growth, etc.

This comparative experience of growth and stability can be seen between each of the four planes of development.  0-6 is a period of great physical and emotional change, while 6-12 is its stable counterpart.  The years 12-18 are again years of great change, while 18-24 are more settled.

Following is a comparison of the first two planes of development, [so] you might have a general understanding of where your child has been and what he is moving toward [at MCDC].

THE FIRST PLANE OF DEVELOPMENT - "INFANCY" (0-6)

 The child of 0-3 (Period of the Unconscious Absorbent Mind)

At this time the child learns through his unconscious absorbent mind.  He takes in his immediate environment through his senses, and later with movement, without intentioned work.  This is a period of great physical and emotional growth and instability.  Basic faculties are created for later development.

The child of 3-6 (Period of Conscious Absorbent Mind)

The child may now bring into consciousness what his unconscious mind has taken in during the years of 0-3, through movement of his body, particularly the hands.  The child finds memory, but still experiences the joyful, effortless learning of his earlier years, through direct absorption of his environment, sensorially and factually.

HOW DO WE PREPARE THE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE CHILD OF THIS AGE?

  • Prepare a fruitful environment rich in materials that answer the child's many sensitive periods: sensitivity to sound, writing, language, color, etc.
  • Provide an orderly environment that the child can count on, orient himself to, that he might begin classifying his reality.
  • Encourage the child to speak and write his language, thereby encouraging independent functioning later.
  • Encourage the child to work in home-oriented activities to develop skills of self-worth.
  • Provide a wealth of sensorial and factual experiences for the child to explore.
  • Avoid directing or dictating adult wishes to the child, as this can hamper the child's natural evolvement as a child.

THE SECOND PLANE OF DEVELOPMENT -- "CHILDHOOD" (6-12)

This is a period of great stability, of calm and serenity, of growth without unsettling transformation.  Now the child comes to know his world through reason -- the intellect -- and the imagination, rather than through his senses.  The period of the absorbent mind is behind him -- the period that allows the child to learn without the use of the will, absorbing all that comes to him.  Now he must draw on his will and intention to learn about his environment.

PHYSICALLY:  The child's hands have become controlled, and he is able to direct them to minute movements.  His skeleton begins to calcify, milk-teeth fall out and are replaced with adult teeth, and the child is given some awareness of the adult body.

The following PHYSIOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS begin to evidence themselves:

  1. IMAGINATION: Imagination is at its peak.  He understands symbols and allegory.  Factual information is given as a basis for the child's imagination.
  2. EXPLORATION OF SOCIETY:  There is an inner urge to incarnate society of the group.  Special preferences are exhibited.  He is not as self-centered.  He reaches out socially beyond himself.  He becomes detached from the family.
  3. HERD INSTINCT:  A Montessori term for the phenomenon exhibited at this time.  The child is impelled to join and form a small society.
  4. MORALITY:  The child wants to know what is just and unjust.  Tattling takes place at this time.
  5. DEEP SENSE OF JUSTICE:  The sense of justice includes a compassion for the underdog and an admiration for the great.  The child learns best through his feelings.  Give him stories [that compare weak and strong].  Give reasons, not rules.
  6. INDEPENDENCE:  This takes two forms.
    1. Moves away from the family. Prefers his companions.  He loses gracious habits and exhibits tough behavior.
    2. Group work...In the classroom the group shares responsibilities in a project and therefore is given the opportunity to practice Society.
  7. NEED TO EVALUATE HIMSELF:  He measures his worth by his peers, the standard made by the group.  Self Evaluation and Self Assurance:  He has a need for appreciation.  He must know where he is in society.  He enjoys displaying his work for approval.
  8. GREGARIOUS TENDENCY:  The child needs a wider field of exploration; the classroom is not enough.  He needs a dual environment, School and the outside.  Sense of Adventure takes the child away from the home.
  9. NEEDS TO SEE WHAT HE CAN'T:  This Montessori term called the "hunting instinct."  He wants to know how and why things work.  He dissects things to find out what is inside.  He no longer accepts sensorially.
  10. EXTRAORDINARY:  The child is deeply affected by this so we should attach the wandering intellect to what is great, what is beyond our capacity.
  11. TENDENCY TOWARDS REALTY:  Wants to know if it "really" happened.
  12. HERO WORSHIP:  Because of the importance of the child's peers, hero-worshiping begins.  Supply the child with good biographies on the men and women who have contributed to man's development.
  13. GREATNESS OF CLARITY:  Tendency to work.  This is the most intelligent period of life.  The child learns through repetition and exactness, improved repetition, not the exact same thing.  The child prides himself on the amount of work he is suddenly able to perform during these years.
  14. ABSTRACTION:  This is the period of the ability for the child to abstract.  Give a complete picture to something and then from this move to an understanding.  This ability to abstract begins with the Sensorial Materials in the Primary.

 

 

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