Dr. Maria Montessori felt that children, even one hundred years ago, were confronted with so much stimuli that they needed help. To a child, overwhelming stimuli feels like chaos. Dr. Montessori included the Sensorial area — along with Practical Life, Language and Math — to help the child make sense out of that chaos.
E.M. Standing wrote about the Sensorial area of the Primary environment sharing that, "the function of the sensorial materials is not to present the child with new impressions (of size, shape, color and so forth) but to bring order and system into the myriad of impressions he has already received and is still receiving." Within the Sensorial area, we offer materials that aid the child in refining the visual, auditory, olfactory (smell) and tactile senses and also include in this area cultural aspects of the world.
Dr. Montessori also wrote of how the child's mind receives impressions, referring to it as the Absorbent Mind. This Absorbent Mind takes in everything, without a filter, just like the viewfinder in a camera. It is our goal to aid the child through the work with the materials in ordering and classifying these impressions, enlarging the field of perception, learning to abstract from concrete experiences, offering "keys to the world" and providing a foundation for further learning.
Ordering and Classifying Impressions
Our senses are the ready-made filing system for creating order from the impressions being received. The Sensorial Area provides materials to aid in the refinement of each of these senses. Through ordering and classifying the impressions the child is receiving, he is able to extract the essential qualities of the information and start to make sense of it all. The human tendencies for order, exactness and exploration aid the child in creating internal order through the chaos. Through work with the materials, the new information integrates with the old and begins to have meaning for the child.
Enlarging the Field of Perception
By working with the Sensorial materials and refining each of the five senses, the child's awareness of the greater environment becomes more heightened and attuned. The child becomes more conscious and able to identify specific sounds, colors, smells, textures, etc. A bird's song isn't just a song anymore, it's a chickadee or cardinal. A bell's sound isn't just a sound anymore, it's the A note. A shape isn't just a shape anymore, it's a rhombus or decagon. She is developing an entire mental capacity which appreciates the finest details.
Abstracting From Concrete Experiences
The child develops through the use of the hand aided by incessant curiosity and the desire to explore the environment and its qualities through direct manipulation in order to understand shape, size and form. Through the use of the hand with the materials, the child repeats experiences until finally the idea exists as a separate entity from the experience, as a mental, remembered image — a memory. Through this image, the child can abstract using memory as part of the experience. After having a variety of concrete experiences, the child learns to abstract color, pitch, temperature, smells, sounds and shapes.
Keys to the World
The child opens the door for more experiences through refinement of the senses. This is the beginning of exploration and we begin by simply offering the child a limited experience (isolating one sense per lesson) to enable the child to enhance the field. These concrete experiences give the child a tangible purpose for observing in the environment. We unlock this door so that discoveries can be made and then applied to the greater world. The Sensorial materials are like a window to that world. The child explores the world with greater joy, discovery and focus. When the child is given just enough, the result is profound.
Foundation for Further Learning
Since the images in the mind of the child are gradually becoming more organized, the child becomes incessantly fascinated with certain objects and qualities. The mental development of the child grows through this classification of impressions and prepares the child to receive more information in a more orderly fashion. The child is also indirectly prepared for other areas of the environment, like math and language and also areas outside the classroom environment.
"The senses are organs for the apprehension of images of the external world
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