The Montessori approach has revolutionized preschool and kindergarten education and brought joy to tiny-tots all over the world with its engaging and hands-on way of learning in the formative early years. However, it is not only in the early years that Montessori education can be applied. It can be extended up to high school and beyond and is a carefully researched approach with a scientific basis.
The amazing woman behind the Montessori approach of education is Maria Montessori. She was the first woman doctor of Italy and was born in 1870. She developed this approach while working with children with “learning challenges” and carefully observing how they interacted with the environment. Her approach was also based on her studies of the educational philosophies of eminent educators at that time including Froebel and Rousseau.
Maria Montessori believed that young children learnt best in a spirit of freedom within a carefully prepared and orderly environment. She found that they needed to feel a sense of security along with the freedom to explore.
Maria Montessori put forward the theory that children need to be nurtured according to the four planes of development based on age groups, 0 to 6, 6 to 12, 12 to 18 and 18 to 24. A brief description of the four planes of development as put forward by Dr. Maria Montessori is as follows:
1. First plane of development: This is the crucial formative stage (0 to 6 years) where the child’s psyche is developing. The child is a sensory explorer according to Montessori theory and is curious to explore the various visual, auditory and tactile stimuli around him/her. With this in mind, a carefully prepared and safe environment for the child to explore joyfully and freely along with special Montessori tools was designed. These learning tools include child-friendly blocks and strung beads for easy and comfortable learning of preschool and kindergarten level concepts.
2. Second plane of development: During the second plane of development (6 to 12), Montessori’s theory lays emphasis on socialization and group activities after careful observation of “peer” group interaction at that age group. In this stage, children gradually move from exploring the sensory world to understanding abstract concepts.
3. Third plane of development: This stage according to Maria Montessori is a period of turbulence as the adolescent tries to get a grip on reality. The educator needs to act as a mentor and empathetic guide during this period of potential turmoil.
4. Fourth plane of development: Maria Montessori did not go into detail regarding this stage. She emphasized a certain level of economic independence at this stage along with the development of life-long learning encompassing areas of interest.