The Prepared Environment
Learning is all around us. Home activities at five.

The Child in the Second Plane of Development

Caspar at five years and 10 months is nearing the second plane of development.
It feels like there is a lot of information about the child in the first plane of development the period of the absorbent mind - birth to six, but how about the child in the second plane - six to twelve? Caspar is entering the second plane so it's something I've been thinking about. What are the characteristics of the child in the second plane?

What she (Maria Montessori) noted is the elementary children between the ages of six and twelve years become interested in their peers, not from a self centered viewpoint of younger children, but from a genuine curiosity and desire to understand on a deeper level the thoughts and activities of others. Rather than being focused primarily on a sensorial exploration of the factual world about them, they now want to devote the main thrust of their energies to getting along with others and doing things together. They are transformed from essentially "sensorial explorers" to "social explorers". - Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen, Montessori from the Start. 

This child nearing age six or seven is passing beyond what is know as the sensory-motor developmental stage, when movement and exploration through the senses is a basic need in all learning. Now he will gradually move to a more cerebral exploration, giving up the manipulative materials according to his personal timetable. The years form 6-12 are relatively stable, and the main academic work can be done now. However it is important that the child continues to use his body as well as his mind, to get exercise, to begin to learn about and take responsibility for nutrition and health, and to continue practical work such as cooking, gardening, working with tools.  

At six, there is a great transformation in the child, like a new birth. The child wants to explore society and the world, to learn what is right and wrong, to think about meaningful roles in society. He wants to know how everything came to be, the history of the universe, the world, humans and why people behave the way they do. He asks the big questions and wants answers. It is the time to explore all areas of knowledge, to begin to conduct research, and to develop creative ways of processing, exploring, and expressing this knowledge. - Susan Mayclin Stephenson, Child of the World. 

  • The child is calm and happy. In a strong state of health and strength.  
  • The child's limbs elongate and the child loses their first set of teeth.
  • The child is interested in societal groupings. The child is interested in customs and laws, they seek to have someone in control who will govern the group and obedience is paramount. Children will organise themselves into groups and establish rules. Breaking the rules leads to other children seeking justice. Games will have rules and children will feel upset if the rules are not followed. However there may be some rebellion against adult imposed rules. Intense interest in issues of good, evil, justice and injustice, loyalty and disloyalty and the rules and rituals of a group. Identifies himself as being part of a social group. 
  • The age of six is a pivotal one, recognised in many of the world's cultures as an appropriate time to ask more of children, such as beginning formal schooling. Six is the age at with Piaget speculated children advance to being able to perform mental operations (for example, imagining addition and subtraction).
  • The child is capable of reasoning - albeit on a child's level, capable of distinguishing the real from the unreal based on his own power of reason and imagination.  
  • Montessori called it the Intellectual Period. Because of his consistent physical and mental strength, his great interest in life, and his grasp of abstract ideas, the child is an easy and pleasant companion for his parents during this period.
  • The child needs wider boundaries for social experiences. The child has a need to go out and explore the world. Interact in a more social way with others. Can develop an intense interest in culture.  
  • The child is genuinely interested in the ideas and contributions of others. Enter a stage of no longer working side by side but working together. Likes to mix with others not merely for the sake of company but in some sort of organised activity. 
  • The child is capable of abstract and imaginative thought. The child undergoes a passage from the sensorial, material level to the abstract. Instead of asking what they start to ask why. Asking for the reason for everything. The child seeks intellectual independence. Many people feel that Montessori did not value imagination however in this plane of development she clearly held human imagination as one of our highest powers. In Montessori Elementary the child beings to move back and forth from the materials to an abstract plane. 
  • The child reaches a new level of moral development, they are developing a conscience. 

The Four Planes of Development

Image from Greenspring Montessori School. 

This is a pretty brief recap of my readings. Please let me know if anyone has a child entering this age in Montessori as I'd love to write about Cosmic Education and what actually occurs in Montessori Elementary, if there is enough interest.  

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