Planes of Development
Dr. Maria Montessori identified stages of growth, or “Planes of Development.” These planes of development are the basis for the age groupings found in Montessori schools.
The First Plane of Development: The Absorbent Mind
A child in the First Plane (birth to age six) effortlessly absorbs knowledge, language, and culture through his or her senses. Dr. Montessori explained how the cognitive foundation laid during this time physically becomes part of an individual’s brain and forms his or her personality. Modern science has confirmed how important sense stimulation is in children’s development.
The Second Plane of Development: Conscious Imagination
The elementary years (ages six to twelve) can be identified by three main characteristics: the move from concrete to abstract thinking, the development of reasoning ability, and a focus on social relationships. Throughout all three of these characteristics, the child is consciously taking charge of her learning, and directing her questions, explorations, and connections based on personal interests and desires.
The Third Plane of Development: New Identity
The period of adolescence (ages twelve to eighteen) marks the end of childhood. In early adolescence (ages 12 to 15), young adults are exploring and coming to terms with integrating different aspects of themselves. This is a period of rapid growth and early adolescents need enough food and sleep, as well as time to process and reorient. All Montessori classrooms nourish the whole child - academic, emotional, social - but the Adolescent Experience adds personal reflection and other exercises to particularly support the individuals and their growth.
The Fourth Plane of Development: Maturity
In this more stable period, it is now possible for the young adult to pursue studies that interest them this is known as the time of the “specialist mind.” This plane is marked by development of economic independence, and is the culmination of experiences to date, “the whole life of the adolescent should be organized in such a way that it will enable him, when the time comes, to make a triumphal entry into social life – not entering it debilitated, isolated, or humiliated, but with head high, assured of himself.” (Montessori, 1962)