The Montessori Approach and the Elementary Course
The Montessori Approach and

the Elementary Course

The course elucidates Dr. Montessori's concept of education, the experimental psychology to which her approach gave rise, and the teaching methodology which she found suitable for children from age six to twelve.

Dr. Montessori's initial success in working with learning disabled children led her to apply the basic principles of therapeutic education to a class of normal children. She had provided the abnormal children, whom she was helping and observing, with a prepared environment of sensorial materials which rendered abstract knowledge comprehensible to the child's mind through his hands. The resulting voluntary intellectual occupation and emotional balance which Dr. Montessori discovered in these children, convinced her that the educational principles of freedom of choice and movement, and individual active learning answered the needs of all children.

The result of Dr. Montessori's experiment of making the normal child the centre of education, and of devising and adapting a curriculum according to his observed interests and needs, was that children who had formerly been forced to study began to concentrate with enthusiasm and to achieve within the scope of their studies real and profound understanding. Moreover their intellectual achievements were always accompanied by emotional growth and the enlargement of their consciousness seemed to lead directly to the growth of moral awareness. The children became harmonious in their movements, self-sufficient in their work, and honest and helpful with one another.

Dr. Montessori discovered successive phases of growth, each with characteristic sensitivities which guide the child's physical and psychological development. These guides she called sensitive periods. They are outwardly recognizable by the intense interest which the child shows for certain sensorial or abstract experiences. Dr. Montessori inferred that these guiding sensitivities constitute needs in the child which demand fullfillment.

From birth to six years of age, the child seeks to exercise himself on a plane essentially sensorial and concrete; from age six through twelve, on the basis of the development already achieved, new needs evolve in the child, needs which guide the child to a wider and more abstract plane of activity. Having established a physical familiarity with his environment, the child grows curious about its structure. Dr. Montessori found that she could satisfy the child's intellectual curiosity by introducing him to scientific and cultural subjects which were normally reserved for the secondary school: physics, chemistry, biology, geography, history, literature and music.

Observing the unity of the child's interests, Dr. Montessori understood that the subjects must not be taught separately and that the teacher himself must be aware of the interrelationships between the subjects. Only then can the teacher organize the subjects around the child's vital interests at this age, around the child's desire to understand the nature of the physical and biological environment (geology, geography, physics, chemistry, etc.), and the workings of the human environment (economic geography, government and the humanities).

Thus, the Montessori course for elementary school consists of the study of psychological changes in children from 6 to 12 years of age, and the study of the attitudes and procedures through which the teacher may assist the child in the second period of his development.

© Copyright 2010 C.I.S.M.