Today we pull from our archives to continue our series on Montessori Planes of Development with a look at the second plane, spanning from age six to twelve – the elementary years.
As a child moves into the second plane of development (ages 6-12 years) the focus is on “why” and “how”. The child seeks intellectual independence. Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, notes in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011), that the attitude of the child from birth to age six – “let me do it myself” – is replaced in the second plane of development with “let me find out for myself.”
In her book, To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori refers to the child’s mind as a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture. Reason and imagination are the keys to unlock learning during this phase. Logic and reasoning take hold, and a child is able to perceive complex concepts.
In addition, during this second plane of development, children have a fascination with the extraordinary. Due to this fascination, the subject of the universe appeals to the elementary child since it is vast, mysterious, and irresistible. For this reason, “cosmic education” along with the “great stories” becomes the main staple at the elementary level.
As Hall describes, the goal is to fan the flame of imagination and to inspire the child into new paths of exploration. Cosmic education can best be defined as stressing the interrelatedness of everything. Examples of cosmic tasks include: coral removing calcium from the ocean, plants absorbing poisonous carbon dioxide and using it to produce oxygen, and bees pollenating plats.
As Hall points out, Montessori believed that humans, as a part of the universe, also must have cosmic tasks. The elementary child discovers and understands these cosmic tasks through research.