Almost a century ago Maria Montessori created a developmental approach to education based on her understanding of children’s natural learning tendencies as they unfold in prepared environments.
Characteristics of the 6-12 year old child
The 6-12 year old child can be known as the ‘child of the imagination’. They are hungry for knowledge and there is an unusual demand from the child to know the reasons of things. Their questions no longer involve the word what but expand to involve the question why? This child is also concerned with social justice and fairness and distinguishing the good from the bad. This is the age of ‘telling on people’ and a period where they are no longer receptive to absorbing impressions from adults but instead want to understand for themselves! This age group has a need to associate themselves and work with others, they have an intense social interest and are constantly playing trial and error with different social graces and courtesies. This often includes experimentation with language and manners or appropriate behaviours.
The Montessori environment contains specially designed manipulative materials for development that invite children to engage in learning activites of their individual choice. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials, cultivating concentration, motivation, self-discipline and a true love for learning.
The prepared environment of a Montessori classroom contains many elements that suit the needs of the 6-12 child. With this newfound hunger for knowledge comes the extension of culture in the curriculum. Shelves housing activities in Mathematics, Language, Botany, Geography, Zoology and History help to germinate the seeds of interest that exist within children of this age. The materials on these shelves now move from the concrete concepts of early childhood to the more abstract to cater for the growth of their imagination. Many great stories about the history behind all of these wonderful subjects are also told with beautiful impressionistic charts to inspire and feed their intellect. These shelves however are intentionally limited. There is only one of each material and children are able to practice social graces such as sharing and taking turns. This helps children to experience delayed gratification and be thankful and treat the materials with respect when their turn finally arises.
To help with the development of social justice and fairness children also take part in class meetings. In class meetings children can discuss issues, appropriate and inappropriate behaviours and solve problems together collectively as a community.
To allow for children to practice working with others there is room within the enivioronment for movement and collaboration. One of the teacher’s roles is to help facilitate big works or research projects. Not everything that is needed for in these projects is contained within the classroom. This is to encourage the children to go out into the community for research, to practice their organisation skills within a group setting and develop their social skills.
Common Characteristics of Montessori Education
The Three Hour Work Cycle – Learning in Montessori classrooms is not dictated by set times for set subjects, children within a 3 hour work cycle are free to engage with activites for long periods of time to allow for a deeper understanding.
Multi Age Grouping – The Montessori classroom consists of 3 year age groupings ( 6-9 and 9-12). This community atmosphere allows for collaboration, role modelling and the learning of both social and moral behaviour.
The Montessori approach to life and learning combines freedom with responsibility, a more active role for the children in their learning and academic excellence based on each person’s potential contribution. It also provides for social awareness and moral development, as well as a vision of humanity’s relationship to the whole.