The Second Plane of Development and Montessori PE (Pt. 1)

During the Second Plane of Development, the child is transitioning from the Absorbent Mind to the Reasoning Mind. One of the limitations of the Reasoning Mind is that the child must actively work to learn new things. To make this transition less painful, the second plane directs the child to indeed want to learn new things. However, this does not guarantee that the child will find everything presented to them as interesting. As teachers, we balance between precision of language and performance art to capture the child’s attention. Luckily for us as teachers, physical education class has the advantage of “being a relative” to play, and children have a near infinite interest in play.


The child is exploring all the facets of independence, including how the child learns new things. When children are just told facts, or “this is the way it is,” they are either bored or incredulous. However, if a child can experience something for themselves, their learning becomes internalized, which fulfills this need for independence. It is even better when the experience is more authentic, and the outcome of the activity is not predetermined. Games and sports do not have predetermined outcomes; one of the reasons they are such an attractive activity. Not just the first but also in the second plane, play is still one of the best modes for children to learn. Some would even argue play is still very important for adults, but they forget this about themselves, usually because they don’t have enough time in daily life after fulfilling mandatory obligations. While I digress from my point, according to Maria Montessori, and later Fred Rogers, “Play is the work of the Child.”

Children are trying to put together their scope of the world, which put more simply is “culture.” Montessori believed that if the child were introduced to the biggest, grandest ideas on the nature of reality, science, math, history, music, and more, than the child’s inner desire to learn would be ignited. The child would be so inspired, that they would investigate further for themselves; propelled by their sensitive need for knowledge acquisition. This is the basis for how Cosmic Education is used with children of the Second Plane.

One of my favorite quotes from Montessori is,

“the child’s mind is like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture.”

Her simile continues as she explains what most farmers also understand, we must use lots of different seeds to create the best, most sustainable growth. When a child is not given the opportunity to learn many different things, it is like growing only one crop on a large farm. While the yield of that crop might be great for a while, it depletes the soil, and eventually the land will become barren. To use another metaphor, it is putting all of the eggs into one basket.

However, when lots of different things are grown on a farmland, there is better biodiversity, the soil becomes renewed, and process is self-sustainable. We can think of the land as the child’s mind; hyper focus can produce results in the area of focus, but it is at the expense of the child “burning out” later or having large gaps in their knowledge. This is especially true physically for the child. There are numerous studies that suggest specialization in young people with sport leads to chronic overuse injuries, and again, mental burnout. However, if we plant lots of seeds, which symbolize all the different areas of learning, we are providing the necessary foundation that allows the child’s mind to cultivate the areas of maximum interest. We cannot predict what the children’s interest will be until they are actually exposed to them. Therefore, by following the classroom curriculum in PE, the students are exposed to a myriad of concepts experienced through gameplay. As the PE instructor, in creating these games we strive to utilize as many game modalities and gross motor movement patterns as we can. We also take the time to teach sport from other cultures, and not only focus on our countries’ favorites. In this way we plant the maximum number of seeds, we provide the maximum variety of experience, and this will in turn stimulate the mind of the child in the Second Plane of Development.