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Dr. Montessori referred to the young child (from birth to six) as having an absorbent mind, in that children literally absorb information of all kinds from their environment effortlessly, much like a sponge. Montessori believed that, to develop the full potential of a young child, one must appeal to his instinctive love of and need for purposeful activity. She determined that the role of the adult is to carefully prepare a beautiful, rich environment that would allow children to meet their natural needs for movement, language development, independence, order, security and discipline.
Her uniquely designed materials enable children to reinforce impressions through hands-on experience and employ all of their senses to investigate their surroundings. Her method is designed to help children with their task of inner construction as they grow from childhood to maturity. It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child.
"The goal of early childhood education should be to cultivate the child’s own desire to learn", Maria Montessori.
The Primary Montessori Classroom
In the primary Montessori program, children from 3-6 years of age all share the same classroom. While the younger children benefit from their older classmates who act as role models, the older children benefit from the opportunity to help their younger friends. Each child usually has the same teacher for three years.
In the Montessori classroom, the space is divided into several logical areas by low open shelves: practical life, sensorial, language, math, art, music, geography and science. The Montessori Curriculum is an integrated thematic approach that ties the separate disciplines together into studies of the physical universe, the world of nature, and the human experience. In this way, one lesson leads to many others. Each material isolates one concept or skill that has been specially designed in a way that children are naturally drawn to want to work with it with little or no nudging from adults. Each material has been also designed so that a child can normally check his own work; we call this a built-in “control of error.”
The intention of the materials is not to keep the children dependent on these artificial learning aids forever; they are used as tools to help children work and learn at their own pace and to see abstract ideas presented in a very concrete, three-dimensional way while helping them grasp and understand what they are working on.
The children’s innate passion for learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained adult. Children are free to choose any material to which they have been introduced, learning at their own pace and rhythm according to their individual capabilities in a non-competitive atmosphere. As children achieve success, they experience the pleasure of learning and develop concentration along with self-discipline.