Montessori’s Developmental Approach - The 4 Planes of Human Development Dr. Maria Montessori, trained as a physician, used her scientific background to develop an innovative approach to understanding child development. This approach divides the child’s life into four six-year stages which together span birth to age twenty-four. Within each stage the first three years are a time of great change and growth for the child, followed by consolidation during the second three years. Through the first three stages the role of the adult is to observe the child in order to understand what support is needed and to ensure appropriate guidance and challenge. The fourth stage constitutes young adulthood. Our whole curriculum is organized to serve the first three of these planes of development. Children working in the same classroom are different ages but share the same characteristics and needs. Students proceed through the following curriculum but they do not do so in lock-step. Rather, each child experiences the acquisition of knowledge and skills as a natural, enjoyable experience that satisfies his or her inner drive to learn and grow. 1st plane | Toddler & Children’s House | ages 0 to 6 | grades through K From birth to age six children are soaking everything in, constructing an understanding of the world through their senses. So, the 1st plane of development is called the Absorbent Mind phase. During this phase children develop all the essential skills necessary for survival: to eat, to move and to communicate. They are driven to refine those skills to meet their needs independently. Through their strong desire to create order children are laying the foundations for language and math. We have two toddler communities (18 months – 36 months) and four Children’s House (30 months – 6 years) classrooms at Mountaintop. 2nd plane | Elementary | ages 6 to 12 | grades 1 to 6 From six to 12 years, children are hard at work making sense of the world around them. In this 2nd plane, we say they have a ‘Reasoning Mind.’ They are making connections, discovering reasons and starting to become familiar with the essentials of human knowledge. During this plane they are able to focus on the next set of essential skills: reading, writing, and mathematical concepts. Our interdisciplinary approach allows them to apply these skills in many contexts. The curriculum reflects the drive of children at this age to learn everything they can about the larger world. The elementary level at Mountaintop consists of two lower elementary (6 – 9 years) classrooms and one upper elementary (9 – 12 years). 3rd plane | Middle School | ages 12 to 15 | grades 7 to 9 The complicated years of 12 to 18 are a time of physical growth, intense emotions and refinement of beliefs and values. During these years, young people seek both independence and community. Adolescents practice the skills they need to participate in society and make themselves ready to contribute to the wider world as individual adults. At Mountaintop, we have one middle school class. 4