First Plane of Development

Today we’re pulling from our archives to continue our series on the Montessori Planes of Development with a look at the first plane, spanning from birth to age six.

The first plane can be best described as a time of exploration. As Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, points out in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011), development psychologists have called the infant “the scientist in the crib. ” As a child comes closer to the primary level (2.5 – 6 years), the need for psychological clarity and order develops. Children at this age are natural explorers who enjoy learning what. Their primary focus is on developing and testing how the world works.

Hall notes that moderns science confirms what Montessori discovered over 100 years ago: the child from birth to six has extraordinary intellectual powers given to help in the task of creation. Montessori believed children have an absorbent mind and go through sensitive periods that are optimal times for learning. During the first plane, children hae a love for the natural world, refining their skills through coordination activities that aid in the development of concentration. Independence becomes a priority, and they develop a keen sense of order.

Montessori Planes of Development

Today we’re pulling from our archives to start a short series on Montessori’s Planes of Development. 

Montessori education is based upon three planes of development: birth to age six to twelve, and age twelve to eighteen. As Gretchen Hall, Director of Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England, described in her 2011 article How Science Fits Into the Whole Montessori Curriculum (The NAMT Journal, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 2011) each plane is a distinctive psychological learning period characterized by the physical and psychological changes that take place during it’s span, as well as specific environmental needs to support development.

The Montessori Method considers the unique needs of each age group varying focus within each plane of development. In the first plane, the child focuses on the world and facts. In the second plane, the focuses on the universe and reason. In the third place, the adolescent focuses on how to transform society.

Join us over the next several posts as we discuss each Plane of Development and the importance of fostering the joy of learning.

The Importance of the Outdoor Classroom

We impart a huge “thank you” and express our deepest gratitude to the FMS PTO, Park Landscaping, and all the families who participated in the 5K fundraiser in April 2014 that made the renovation of the outdoor classroom possible!

The Montessori outdoor classroom is an extension of the indoor classroom and offers students the opportunity to experience firsthand; the beauty, wonder and mystery of the natural world. At Foothills Montessori School, the outside classroom is available to each of the Primary children on a daily basis. During our work cycles, small groups of students from each of the four Primary classrooms rotate to spend time in the outside classroom. Many of the “jobs” set up outside offer the children the opportunity to delve deeper into the insect world, by using magnifying glasses to look closely at bugs, and then to look at books nearby that reference interesting features and facts about bugs. A brand new greenhouse will anchor the outside classroom experience by providing the children opportunities to work with soil and plants and immerse themselves in the growing cycles of flowers and vegetables.

The impact of an outdoor classroom on the children is both immediate and long term. During the work cycle it offers the students a chance to relax, to let go, be exposed to the fresh air, sunshine and the many birds and insects who visit the space. It also gives students from four different classes the opportunity to interact with each other as they explore the garden with hand held magnifying glasses, painting pictures using a standing easel, manipulating puzzles, manipulating blocks, and experimenting in the ever popular water table. All the while, grace and courtesy lessons are being directly applied to their interactions and the ever important lesson of sharing is always in play. Even the direction of leaving the outdoor classroom to return to their Primary classroom is a powerful lesson in compliance.

The long term impact of exposing our students to the wonder and mystery of nature is profound. We’ve seen over the past ten years a decrease in time children are spending outdoors and an increase of time children are entertaining themselves with technology and media. It is a shift from the spontaneity of making up games and “hanging out” outside with small groups of children to a more solitary and more predictable environment. Technology has its place and function in our children’s lives, but the creativity and variety of an outdoor experience cannot be replaced with a reality experienced in front of a screen.

Recent research has raised concerns about children’s lack of exposure to the natural world and the ramifications both to the individual child and to the collective society overall. “Lost Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Order” by Richard Louv, points out “that for a new generation, nature is more an abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear – to ignore.” Furthermore, Louv points out “as the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow physiologically and psychologically and this reduces the richness of human experience.”

At Foothills Montessori School, we are committed to creating an outdoor space infused with the beauty and variety of nature Our veteran teacher Ms. Val (Lead Teacher for the Outdoor Classroom) so aptly states, “As a teacher, I take my observations of learning from my students, as they explore the unpredictable and immensely, ever changing experience of the outdoor classroom. Together we embrace the elements and are inspired by nature and its ongoing life lessons it so generously imparts. It lifts my spirit to provide this opportunity for our students.” Richard Louv concurs with this sentiment as he says “spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and that one of the first windows to the wonder is the natural world.”


Practical Life – Part 3

Today we’re pulling from our archives for finish out our series on Practical Life.

One important aspect of the Practical Life environment is that all the materials used are real life life objects. Maria Montessori was a great believer in the “reality” principle – objects and tasks should reflect real life, with instruments adapted to a child’s size and potentiality. The Practical Life activities are naturally interesting exercises for the child since they are activities he/she seen grown-ups do.

The sequencing for Practical Life begins with scooping and spooning, rolling and folding, twisting, squeezing, grasping and controlling, stringing and lacing, pounding and pushing, care of the self, care of the environment, grace and courtesy, and ending with food preparation. Materials are sequenced according to the following progressions: using hands to use tools, large to small, left to right, top to bottom, gross motor to fine motor, no transfer to transfer, two handed to one handed to two handed in opposition, size and shape of medium used, dry materials to liquid, simple activities to complex, few materials to many short activities to long, skills in isolation to skills in combinations.

Children benefit from all aspects of Practical Life environment. They learn the direct aims of independence, concentration, coordination, and order, as well as the indirect aims of the actual skills being practiced. Practical Life is the foundation of the Montessori classroom and enables the child to become a well-adjusted individual.

Practical Life – Part 2

Today we continue our series exploring the Practical Life area of the Montessori classroom, focusing in this post on the ways in which Practical Life skills benefit other curriculum areas. 

Many of the exercises in the Practical Life area are preparation exercises of Sensorial works. The exercises help to fine tune the development of the child’s senses. Many uses of the five senses occur in the Practical Life area: sound, sight, and touch are used in equipment-bases activities, such as bean scooping; smelling and tasting are involved in the preparation of food.

Practical Life not only develops the child’s senses and teaches real life skills, but sets the basic foundation for other areas to come. For example, understanding size, weight, and equal distribution are skills which are vital when the child is introduced to the Math area of the classroom.

Perhaps the most significant is the development of the pincer grip, which allows the child to correctly grip a pencil and begin working in the Language area.

Practical Life – Part 1

We’re pulling from our archives for this helpful series on Practical Life.

In a Montessori classroom the Practical Life area is one of the first areas that a child explores. This section of the classroom provides the child with real-life materials that help to develop coordination, concentration, independence, and order.

Through the exercises of Practical Life, the child learns the skills that enable him to become an independent being. From birth, the child is striving for independence. As concerned adults, parents, and teachers, we should help him on his path by showing him the skills he needs to achieve this end.

Having been shown a skill, the child then needs freedom to practice and to perfect. In a Montessori classroom preschool children learn basic motor skills in the Practical Life area by teaching themselves and learning from other children rather than by specific adult instruction. As the child becomes absorbed in an interesting activity  he develops concentration. If the activity is appropriate and meets a need, it will be interesting for the child. The longer the child is absorbed by an activity the better for the development of concentration.

Through activity, the child learns to control his movements. The idea that the path to intellectual development occurs through the hands is a major theme in the Montessori Method. The exercises of Practical Life provide opportunities for the development of both gross motor and fine motor movements.

In addition, the child learns to keep the environment in a clean and ordered way, putting everything away in its right place. He is taught to approach new tasks in an ordered way, to carry it out carefully, to complete the activity, and finally, how to clean up and put the materials way. Engaging in this complete process encourages logical thinking.

Teaching Kids to Recognize and Label Their Emotions

Has your child ever been upset but didn’t have the vocabulary to describe his feelings? Want to help your children communicate with each other more clearly? This tutorial shows how you and your children can create a great “Emotions Book” together that will help your children recognize and label their emotions for better communication.

Ringing in the New School Year!

The new school year is off to a great start! We want to focus on having a great start to every morning this school year. These tips from Middleburg Montessori School in Middleburg, Virginia offer fantastic advice on ensuring that your children are set up for a wonderful successful day.

Have a BEAUTIFUL day!

What’s a Normal Daily Menu?

Today we are pulling from our archives to learn more about how to fill our preschoolers with good nutritional food. 

“My child isn’t eating,” is a common statement from parents of three-year-olds. At the end of a school day, parents are often surprised that the lunch they so lovingly prepared is barely touched. When teachers are asked, they often say they encouraged the child to eat but the chip simply was not hungry. So, what’s a parent to do?

One thing to consider is the amount of water the child has consumed during the day. Water is readily available in the classroom and on the playground. Children are encouraged especially on hot days to drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration. This high water consumption keeps them hydrated but also decreases their appetite.

Another factor in food intake can be distraction. During the third year of life, preschoolers are very active and mobile. Often at lunchtime, they are socializing with their friends, looking around the room – seemingly focusing on everything except eating.

Their appetite also begins to fluctuate greatly. Sometimes they get stuck on one food. These “only eating chicken nuggets” moments usually don’t last long if you don’t accommodate them. We recommend that you continue to serve a wide variety of nutritious foods.

A healthy child is most important. Speak with your child’s teacher about what foods are successful with other children. Many children like items that are easy to manage: finger foods, enriched drinks, and yogurts, for example. If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits, please contact your pediatrician.

Super Kids Nutrition, a nutrition education and healthy eating website for parents and kids, offers this Sample Daily Menu for the average Three-Year-Old child. This menu provides a good understanding of basic needs – often smaller in size than parents expect, though rich in nutrients – within the framework of your particular family’s preferences and appetites.

Benefits of a Montessori Environment

As we all get back into the rhythm of the new school year we are pulling from our archives to dive into some of the basics of Montessori. Today we are looking at the benefits of a Montessori environment. 

How does the Montessori method provide the most optimal environment for the development of the child?

• Montessori teachers are trained to have a clear understanding of attachment, exploration, self-help skills, empowerment, pro-social skills, problem solving skills, self-esteem, and resiliency.

• The Montessori method individualizes learning through children’s interactions with the materials as they proceed at their own rates of mastery.

• Individualized instruction provides opportunities for development of many skills, such as physical coordination, perception, attention, memory, language, logical thinking, and imagination.

• Multi-aged Montessori classroom (children are with their classmates and teacher for a three year span) provides a continuity of care, fostering attachments and promoting trust.

• Children learn virtue, empathy and kindness through social and emotional guidance during group meetings and through grace and courtesy lessons.

• Montessori materials are designed to foster concentration, coordination, independence, order, and a respect for all living things.

• Children in a Montessori environment are active learners and are productively engaged throughout their work time.

• Montessori lessons are designed to make the most of the critical early years for learning linguistically, cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically.