“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world”
More than a century ago Maria Montessori developed her extraordinary and innovative education program. She recognized that the senses play a crucial role in the development of knowledge, and she reasoned that every child had to develop skill in acquiring knowledge through the senses. With her extraordinary wisdom, she concluded that perception and action were closely related. Perceptual learning refers to the extraction of meaningful information from the mass of information picked up from the environment. Thus, children in a Montessori environment will have the opportunities to: a) exercise observation and judgment in developing classification skills, b) exercise and refine visual discrimination of specific attributes, c) experience eye-hand and muscular coordination, d) order a series on the basis of a particular attribute, e) explore relationships of size and space through construction activity, f) obtain physical experiences as the basis for development of concepts and language, and g) use problem solving strategies to solve puzzles, etc.
Sensorial Experiences at the Toddler Level
In our toddler classrooms the children use all of their senses throughout the day. They may listen to the water sound as they realize a faucet needs tending to, or to the sound of a helicopter flying overhead. During the farm unit, the children had many opportunities to taste, smell, and feel food grown on a farm. Some tastes are familiar to them and others are new. Sometimes the same fruit can provide an opportunity to taste sweet and sour, as in the case of red and green apples. As we know toddlers love to touch things and these same fruits and vegetables that we have tasted also provide opportunities to compare textures – rough, smooth, bumpy, or fuzzy. We also have a bucket of rice in the classroom that provides daily opportunities for the children to explore using all of their senses as they touch, scoop and sift.
Sensorial Experiences at the Early Childhood Level
The sensorial area helps the child acquire the ability to separate and classify forms, colors, textures, and smells. The development of the senses precedes that of more formal intellectual activity. The sensorial materials help in the refinement of the senses and development of skills in thinking, judging, concentrating, comparing and sequencing. We have implemented smelling bottles to compare various odors and tasting bottles to differentiate salty, sour, sweet, and bitter. The children use materials in this area to develop the stereognostic sense (the ability to determine the shape and weight of an object by touching or lifting it), the chromatic (color) sense, sense of hearing, sense of touch, and discrimination of size and temperatures.
Sensorial at the Kindergarten Level
The sensorial area is a very popular place in the kindergarten classroom. One of the most exciting activities for the children is when they pair up (meeting the social need of 5- and 6-year olds) to create and build new patterns. They combine two materials, such as the pink tower and broad stair. Recently, the children initiated a classroom activity where each child/set of children created an elaborate pattern and had it photographed. It was then printed, mounted and laminated to become a new classroom work. The beautiful set of 24 cards is now on the shelf next to the pink tower and broad stair for all of the present and future classmates to enjoy!
Sensorial (Geometry) Experiences at the Lower Elementary Level (6- 9 year olds)
The children entering lower elementary have already often had many experiences with the exploration of the senses, including many geometric figures. It is now appropriate for the children to bring to the forefront the consciousness of those shapes and their composition. An object has several aspects: dimension, shape and color, to name a few. These aspects, at the lower elementary level are now called geometry. This study includes all of reality: mountains, flowers, leaves, and stones, etc. as well as shapes created by man. In the early elementary years children explore solids and plane shapes to familiarize themselves with the characteristics, for example a square has 4 equal sides. Then the children begin the detailed study of plane figures and their properties (such as a square has four equal sides and four equal angles)… ultimately leading to the study of parts, types, and relationships of lines and angles and observation of these properties in the world around them. Our classrooms are full of 2- and 3-dimensional creations that support our study of geometry.
Sensorial (Geometry) Experiences at the Upper Elementary Level (9-12 year olds)
The sensorial work at the upper elementary level consists of geometry studies. Students use tools such as protractors and compasses to draw and measure examples of the lines, angles, and shapes they’ve been learning about for years. Students enjoy artistic applications of their work including sculpture, drawing, and creating key graphs. Their studies of geometry also include calculations of perimeter, area, and volume, as well as graphing points and lines on a Cartesian grid.