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Planes of Development

The Montessori Planes of Development at MSR

Dr. Maria Montessori saw the growth of an individual from birth to age 24 in “Four Planes of Development”: 0 to 6, 7 to 12, 13 to 18, and 19 to 24 years of age. She developed a methodology and materials to respond to the evolving needs and characteristics of unique individuals as they mature through distinct stages of development. These Planes are at the very heart of the Montessori educational experience at MSR, specifically the first three:


EARLY LEARNING (15 months - 6 years)


ELEMENTARY (1st - 6th grade)


MIDDLE (7th - 8th grade)

UPPER (9th - 12th grade)

Each six-year Plane is divided into three-year cycles, with the third year in each sequence being a capstone year—a culminating experience academically, emotionally, socially, and developmentally. This means that Kindergarten, 3rd grade and 6th grade are pinnacle years for students at MSR, aligning intentionally with children’s developmental stages.

What’s happening for students during these transitional years that makes it so important to design our program differently from other schools?

Dr. Montessori observed that social and emotional growth is a hugely important part of the work students engage in at the end of each three-year cycle, and she believed that unless students’ social and emotional growth was addressed directly and effectively during these key periods, academic growth could suffer.

To ensure this, we make our 6 year-olds, 3rd graders, and 6th graders the oldest and most mature in their group, rather than the youngest. We give them age-appropriate responsibility and make them educational and civic leaders in our community, allowing the oldest children in each cycle to confidently share their knowledge and expertise with the younger students. Giving these lessons requires them to reduce complex concepts to their simplest elements and then convey them with clarity and understanding, ensuring the highest level of mastery and revealing any gaps in comprehension that teachers need to address before students progress.

* While Maria Montessori never officially designed a post-elementary educational curriculum, MSR’s Middle and Upper Schools build upon the thinking she shared about adolescents’ particular developmental needs, and embody the time-proven Montessori philosophy and values.