“We are the sowers – our children are those who reap. We labor so that future generations will be better and nobler than we are.” ~Dr. Maria Montessori
In the Elementary, there is a wonderful interdependencies lesson called “Where do we get our bread?” This is a lesson we give very early to new Elementary children. Like most Elementary lessons, the presentation begins with a short story. The Guide shares what he/she ate for breakfast that morning and invites the children to discuss what they had as well. The Guide emphasizes the bread products (toast, bagels, croissants, French Toast, cinnamon rolls, cereal, etc.) and asks the children where they think the items come from. Usually the children will say, “They are from the store!” The Guide then explains to the children, “Yes, your parents purchased the items from the store and brought them to your home so you could enjoy them, but that is not where bread comes from… Someone has to make that bread, and they need a special recipe to make it. The most important ingredient that goes into making bread is flour. Do you know where flour comes from? It all starts with the farmer. The farmer grows something called wheat. When the wheat seeds grow, eventually their green leaves change into beautiful golden stalks. This is how the farmer knows they’re ready to be harvested or picked. Once the farmer harvests the wheat, he/ she sends the wheat to another person called a miller. The miller grinds the wheat into a fine, white powder called flour. After the miller grinds the wheat into flour, he/she sends the flour to a baker. The baker bakes the bread and sends it to the grocery store. There were a lot of people involved in making the bread for our breakfast today! These people don’t all necessarily live next to each other. When the farmer has grown and harvested his/her wheat, a transporter has to send the wheat from the farmer to the miller. Once the miller grinds the wheat into flour, another transporter has to send the flour to the baker. Once the baker has baked the bread, yet another transporter has to send the bread to the grocery store shopkeeper. That is a lot of people who helped make the bread for our meals today!“
While this lesson is intended to present the interconnectivity of all professions and all members within the child’s community, it also reminds me of Dr. Maria Montessori‘s Four Planes of Development and the different processes children must go through in order to become sincere, successful adults in society. The First Plane is from birth to around age six (the Toddler and Primary years), the Second Plane is from around age 6 to around age 12 (the Elementary years), the Third Plane is from around age 12 to around age 18 (the Adolescent years), and the Fourth Plane is from around age 18 to around age 24 (early adulthood).
Unfortunately, confident, caring, contributing members of our community cannot just be purchased at a grocery store. Just like bread, it takes a long time and many different processes for the final product to be complete. If we think of the children as the bread, the parents are the farmers. The parents plant the seeds and care for the seedlings as they grow. The parents tend to the needs of their baby plants by making sure they have plenty of water and rich nutrients in the surrounding soil, and they harvest the plants when they’re ready by sending them off to school.
The Toddler and Primary Teachers are the millers. Once the children are ready, intricate lessons are given to help the children to help themselves and develop fine motor skills to prepare them for the great work to come.
The Elementary Guides are the bakers. They help transform the fine, white, powdery flour into dough. They combine the right ingredients at the correct time to ensure the dough has the proper consistency. The Elementary Teachers knead the dough, shape the dough, and prepare it for the oven. They preheat the oven to the appropriate temperature for each individual loaf of bread. It takes a full six years to bake the bread. If you pull the bread out too early, it won’t be ready. It could be too soft, or it won’t rise to its full potential. Sometimes parents are worried that their bread isn’t baking fast enough. Sometimes they take it out of the oven and try it in another oven. Rest assured, there’s nothing wrong with our oven. It’s been working well for over 112 years and has gone on to produce some of the most successful breads in the world. Each loaf is unique and will rise when it is ready to rise. After the six-year cycle is complete, the bread is ready to be packaged and sent off to the grocery store – the microeconomy of the Adolescent Program.
The Adolescent Guides are the shopkeepers of the grocery store. They help the bread to discover its worth and its place on the shelves. They help advertise, budget and manage the funds needed to do this last important work before the bread is ready to be purchased and sent out into the world.
Just as the bread has to go through all of its steps to be enjoyed, children must go through the first Three Planes to be ready for the Fourth Plane of adulthood. The parents grow the seeds and harvest the wheat. The Toddler and Primary Teachers transform the wheat into fine, delicate flour. The Elementary Guides bake the bread, and the Adolescent Guides sell the bread. For parents, having their children complete the first three Planes of Development in an authentic Montessori environment like CMS is a huge investment. Once the process is complete, the final product is nothing short of extraordinary (and worth every penny!).
Blog post written by: Tina Lavi, Elementary Directress at CMS