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.
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.