What are the Montessori Four Planes of Development?

The Montessori Four Planes of Development

At the very heart of Montessori education are the Four Planes of Development and the characteristics, human tendencies, and distinct sensitive periods of learning that each child exhibits at each plane.  During each of these planes or sensitive periods, children will experience extreme developmental changes.  The Four Planes of Development to which Montessori holds true are:

The First Plane of Development: Birth to 6 Years

Dr. Maria Montessori often referred to children in this plane as possessing an “absorbent mind;” that children literally soak up everything that is necessary to develop from their environment.  Many students have a sustained focus on “self” and physical independence.  At this plane, children are sensitive to language and movement, as well as grace and courtesy, the use of sensory organs, and the need to engage in meaningful work.

The Second Plane of Development: Ages 6 to 12 Years

At the second plane of development, children are typically able to remain and engage in calm and peace, begin to learn from concrete learning to more abstract thinking, and develop their moral compass and conscience.  They enjoy engaging in “big works,” sometimes taking hours or even days to complete specifically designed, multi-step work, enriching their learning.  Often teachers at this level will focus much of their instruction towards the concept of “Cosmic Education” - allowing children to explore the concept of their place within the larger world and develop a respect and appreciation for the interconnectedness we share with all things.

The Third Plane of Development: Ages 12 to 18 Years

The third plane is marked by a child’s sensitivity to more abstract learning and intense critical thinking.  This plane encompasses Adolescence, a time of significant and rapid physical and emotional change.  Oftentimes, students need to encounter an extremely nurturing environment to be able to handle these rapid changes and their feelings while feeling secure in their own skin.  This plane is often marked by an instability not seen since their early years.

The Fourth Plane of Development: Ages 18 to 24 Years

The fourth and final plane sees the young adult begin to take personal responsibility for themselves.  They are discovering their place within a larger society and make contributions to support humanity.  They become productive citizens in their community and begin to evaluate various social aspects of the world around them.  

At St. Pius X Montessori School, our programs are designed to meet the needs of the students based on their specific plane of development and to provide them with the opportunities to grow and learn with these sensitive periods in mind.  Our school serves students in the first, second, and third planes (from PreK-3 through 8th grade).