Montessori’s Four Planes of Development

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Dr. Maria Montessori observed for many years that all children go through the same stages of growth, which she called “Planes of Development”. This means that all children start to pull up, crawl, walk and talk at approximately the same age regardless of their culture, or location in the world. She concluded that there are four different planes of development which are the basis of the multi-age groups found in a Montessori environment. Everybody must pass through the four planes on their way from birth to adulthood.

The first plane of development goes from birth to age six and it’s identified as the “The Absorbent Mind”. Children at this age have an absorbent mind that will allow them to absorb any stimuli available in the environment without any effort. Dr. Montessori believed that more learning takes place at this stage of life than during any other. This plane is marked by a tremendous physical and psychological growth; because of this the child has many emotional needs; she/he needs love, respect, acceptance, freedom, trust and the independence that she/he can handle (“Let me do it myself”). The cognitive foundation laid during these years becomes part of their brain and will form her/his personality.

The second plane of development is the “Conscious Imagination” and it goes from six years to twelve years old. At this stage, children move from concrete to abstract thinking; the Absorbent Mind transforms into a Reasoning Mind which can be reflected when they ask questions like “Why?” instead of “What?” like they used to do ask in previous years of their life. Children are now conscious of what they are learning and they direct their explorations making connections based on personal interests, experiences and desires (“Let me think it myself” ).During this plane, imagination takes place based on real experiences and children start to understand ‘The Cosmic Education’ that explains how the Universe is not a random place, but shows how each particle, substance and event has a specific contribution to the development of others and how we all have a “cosmic task” with a meaningful purpose.

The third plane of development is known as “New Identity”. This is the period of adolescence from age twelve to eighteen, marking the end of childhood. This is a stage where we will observe once again tremendous physical and psychological changes as in the first plane. Youth will come to terms with their new identity as adolescents and they will try to understand their place in society, developing a “social consciousness”. According to Dr. Montessori, this should not be a period where children dedicate time to academics only, but also, they should be exposed to a farm setting or community work to learn skills like building, cooking, creating and maintaining a budget (“Let me stand on my own”).

The last plane of development is “Adulthood”.  This starts at eighteen years, until they turn twenty-four. This plane is characterized by the construction of a spiritual self. They are in the process of judgment of the right or wrong. Economic independence is part of this period (“I will get it myself”). This is a culmination of their experiences to date, which along the way, would have provided them with a general purpose for life.

Within each plane the child undergoes a period of intense change followed by a period of assimilation.  All four planes encompass the human development on a holistic level, involving physical, moral, spiritual and emotional aspects of their being. The Montessori education encourages the development of the whole child and supports the path of every child’s journey to become people with maturity, imagination, love of learning and good moral character; Montessori supports not only academics but human development.

Jared Brasher