By Sharon Udy – Totara Teacher, Primary
It’s been an interesting start to the year for me professionally as I moved from teaching in one of our 6-9 classes to working with 9-12 year olds. You may be aware of Montessori’s ‘Planes of Development’ – the six-year cycles she observed in human development. The second plane of ‘childhood’ is from approximately age six to twelve, so I am still working with children in the same ‘plane’, but there are some fascinating differences to get used to.
Montessori advised that in each ‘plane’ we are dealing with a new person – a new set of characteristics, needs and behaviours, but within each plane are two sub-phases of about three years each – a time of creation, followed by a time of development or “crystallization.” This is what I am seeing in the tamariki of Tōtara. They are reaching towards a point of completion, before they start their journey to adolescence.
In the second plane we share a Cosmic Curriculum – everything is interrelated and we make the connections clear to tamariki. We give them a picture of the whole, then give smaller parts and show how they are related to the whole. This approach appeals to their characteristics of imagination and their reasoning minds. We show that everyone and everything has a task. Tamariki come to appreciate everyone and everything, which has come before them, learning gratitude for the creative forces in the universe and for the human beings who have shaped our world.
We introduce cosmic education each year through ‘Great Lessons’. When ākonga hear these stories for the first time at six, they often respond with excitement – the goal is to stir the awe and wonder that resides within these tamariki. They don’t hear every detail, but receive a colourful first impression. They might remember the volcano or another visually impressive part of the story, i.e. just a few of the details.
By the time tamariki are in the 9-12 classes, they have heard these stories a few times. We tell slightly different versions each time, adding more detail to some parts. Tamariki look forward to their favourite stories, knowing most of what is coming and wondering what will be new this time. They become aware of details they had missed earlier and they are more ready to explore details independently. They ask more questions as their minds put together all the information they have heard throughout the years.
These tamariki are ready to make more, and different, connections than they did previously because of all the additional lessons and independent work they have done. They are ready for deeper exploration and in-depth studies. They now have the information and the skills required for these deeper investigations.
It has amazed me how just a brief conversation or a word mentioned in passing, can excite these older ākonga into independent research. They often don’t say what they are going to do, they just go and do it, then ‘report back’ to me with amazing detail and great understanding. I’m loving learning alongside these deep thinkers!