Every animal has given humans evolutionary gifts that enabled us to exist. Whether it is protozoa that gave us DNA, or amphibians that gave us the first ears and lungs, we have plenty to be thankful for. The gifts given to humans were the advanced brain and the hand. The advanced brain made possible concepts of language, mathematics, and love.
Montessori went into detail explaining how we must move from the concrete to abstract, and that our hands are instrumental in this process. If you read any of my previous articles on Montessori Physical Education and the Second Plane of Development (which you can find here, here, and here), you have read how I advocate that this plane of development needs an integrated physical education program. The student of the second plane does best when going from concrete to abstract, so playing a physical game that engages the hands may also engage the mind in a unique way. An integral component of game design is to make abstract themes more concrete. This is also one of the most challenging aspects to game design; the gameplay cannot be so convoluted that it then becomes abstract as well. The game is meant to simplify abstract concepts for the student, thereby making it easier to understand.
A complaint of traditional PE is that it feels too separate from the rest of school. Students see gym as another recess, and usually do not recognize any educational value to gym. This problem is solved through integration with the classroom curriculum. The students still practice motor skills, they get educational value by reinforcement of concepts from the class, and they still have fun. Even though there is integration, the gym (or an outside area) is still different from the classroom setting. This is like a mini “going out,” which is also important to the student in the second plane of development. Not all experiences can be learned in the classroom, so the students must venture out to experience more. Some lessons and concepts from the classroom may be learned the best through play, which is one of the goals of Montessori PE. There are also opportunities for “going outs” specifically for PE, whether it is to parks, sports arenas, gyms, or other places to learn more about physical education.
While the characteristics of the second plane of development are consistent, the future is not. Modern technology has consistently changed the way we live and communicate with each other. We know AI and technology will make many jobs in the future obsolete, so what skills will be necessary? One of the most important abilities for students in this modern world is to make connections between areas that seem not to have any. The ability to generate new ideas, to synthesize old ideas into new understandings, will be paramount in every scope imaginable. We should teach in this same manner that does not have boundaries of curriculum, but explore the relationships between all the curriculums. This is one of the strengths of the Great Lessons; the whole curriculum is encompassed in these five stories.
The child of the Second Plane is asking big questions and trying to find their place in the universe. One of the realizations of the child is the interconnectedness of life. In To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori says,
“We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”
Montessori emphasized the idea of connection, which is why I preach about the need for integration of physical education (and all other co-curriculars) with the classroom curriculum. The whole curriculum should be “connected with each other to form one whole unity” of one’s educational experience.