The Primary (Elementary) Child
Deepa, Nafisa, Nalini, Padmaja, Padmini, Sunitha, Mallaree, Uma
– Montessori Adults, Primary
An Elementary child is eager to explore the world with their imagination and reasoning skills. What can we offer and what will satisfy this bundle of energy whose questions about why, what, how, where, and when never seem to end?
“Since it has been seen to be necessary to give so much to the child, let us give him a vision of the whole universe. The universe is an imposing reality, and an answer to all questions. We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”
– Maria Montessori
A cosmic vision of the world helps children understand their importance in the wider scheme of things. Through this understanding, they prepare themselves to become valuable members of society. Everything and everyone is interconnected in some way or the other, and we are as much a part of ourselves as a part of the whole. We contribute in our own small way to the scheme of all things. This connect is called Cosmic Education. We offer the whole, in the form of Great Lessons, which help children become aware of the magnificence of life, and revere all things created. Children appreciate, love, and connect to the world around them.
In the Montessori Environment, we present the Story of Life and how life evolved over a period of time. During the course of the lesson children understand that each and every organism that came onto this earth had its own role to play, and contributed to the progress of life on Earth.
Children also realise that it was because of the continuous and tireless work of so many living animals and plants that the Earth was prepared to receive human beings. They are humbled when they go through the journey of life. They realise that they have to be more respectful and considerate towards the environment around them. The realisation has special significance.
As educators in a Montessori environment, our work is to introduce concepts that interest the child. They then learns new facts and are eager to explore and make their own discoveries. The new learning paves the way for further quests and newer discoveries.
While learning about the water cycle, a child asked, “Why does it not rain as much in deserts? Deserts have oases and evaporation happens there too.” It is this curiosity that needs to be nourished.
At Head Start, learning is not confined within the walls of a classroom. The garden is a very popular and enchanting place for children. They are always enthusiastic to plant, water, and watch their crops grow. Harvesting is yet another exciting time, when they get to touch and feel the fruit of their labour. They discover and arrive upon many facts of life in the process. On one occasion, while we were discussing earthworms, a child noted that the earthworms have a symbiotic relationship with nature.
The garden substitutes for a classroom in other ways too. Last year a group of children came up with the idea of having a Nature Club. They organised to go out and observe the insects, birds, and flowers in our garden. The next day they came to school equipped with binoculars and magnifying glasses. One child was particularly interested in bird watching and knew the names of the birds that visited. She could identify the male and female sun birds and the call of the bulbuls and the drongo. She got the other children interested as well, and spread the general enthusiasm to observe these visitors in our garden.
The direct consequence of these experiences is that children soon learn to live in close harmony with nature. This was evident when we spotted a beehive beginning to form on the roof of our class balcony. Instead of destroying it, the children decided to observe how bees function. They were respectful and did not make too much noise around the bees as that would disturb them. They found out more about how the bees work in their hierarchies. There were times when the bees seemed disturbed; but the children realised that if they kept away and let them carry on with their work, they would settle down very soon. As the children overcame the fear of these insects, they also learnt to live in harmony with them.
In the Primary environment, children also come to realise how areas such as Mathematics, Language, and Science do not exist in isolation. They too form parts of a whole. During a discussion about the Sun, the adult was trying to get a group of six-year-old children to understand that the Sun is 149,600,000 km away from the Earth. All of a sudden, one of the children pointed to the Million Cube material in the Environment and said, “Oh! One hundred and forty nine such cubes away!” Here the first number presentation was easily linked to Geography.
Similarly, when children were working on a project on cars, the word “horsepower” came up. They could draw the connection when they researched that the word ‘horse’ was compared to a machine. In earlier days, carriages were drawn by horses and the greater the number of horses, the higher the speed. Physics thus got integrated with History.
The Circle Time in our Montessori environment is an integral part of Cosmic Education. It is a time when the whole environment comes together as a community. Children identify themselves as members of this community––a part of the whole. As in every community, children learn to understand the importance of being respectful, follow a group etiquette, listen, and be heard. It is where solutions to problems faced are arrived at, discussions regarding various topics are carried out, and each child's activities and thoughts are presented and shared with friends. It is a pleasure to see physically active six, seven and eight-year-old children sit cross legged for as long as forty five minutes, waiting patiently for their turn to participate, listening to others, and asking questions. Circle Time thus helps to inculcate in children a sense of respect, empathy, and feeling of community.
Every child is special with their own unique potential and characteristics. We as educators aim at providing a secure and nourishing environment, helping in the development of human potential in each and every child. We try to nurture them so that they blossom into kind, empathetic, and caring individuals.
“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim, therefore, is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his inmost core.”
– Maria Montessori