Apple Montessori Schools believe in the proven benefits of multi-age classrooms for creating a stimulating, welcoming environment for children to learn a variety of life skills in the age groups of eighteen months to 3 years; 3-6 years old; 6-9 years old; and 9-12 years old.
Based on the study and practice of Dr. Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori philosophy of child education and development, mixed-age groups help foster leadership, team building, as well as academic, emotional, and social skills.
Dr. Montessori believed in distinct “planes of development,” for cognitive advancement in three-year periods. Starting with the infants’ absorbent mind and continuing through each plane, children learn individually as well as in group learning environments led by their elder peers and teachers.
Because students on the older side of the development plane are usually more advanced than their younger classmates, they are encouraged to share what they know with their younger peers. For the older students, taking on this “leadership” role teaches responsibility as well as exercises analytical thinking, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills. As a result, the older child gains self-esteem and confidence. In parallel, younger students enjoy the comradery of looking up to their elder classmates as role models to learn from and experience new activities and information.
There are many benefits to a dynamic, mixed-age classroom:
- Children learn proactively by observing and interacting with each other. Their absorbent minds take in the activities and interactions of a vibrant class.
- Exposure to a variety of activities engages and familiarizes children with many subjects at an early age.
- By assuming leadership and participating in peer-to-peer learning, powerful connections are made between the students and the content of materials. Older students are engaged in teaching and explaining what they know, and younger children are intensely focused on learning from their older classmates.
- By observing the model behavior of their peers, students achieve higher levels of cognitive and social skills.
- Creates a sense of community and flexibility in the classroom. Children can explore and select activities of their own personal interest, while understanding and respecting that every student is different and free to engage at their own pace.
- Builds self-confidence and independence—in a mixed-age group, students enjoy exploring activities first-hand, trying new things, and teaching others what they know responsibly and thoughtfully.
- Children remain with the same teacher and group for the 3 year cycle, allowing for each educator to better observe the unique needs of students and to more clearly understand and encourage the development of their individual learning style.
- It better prepares children for the “real world,” one which is rarely limited to experiences for their exact age group outside of school. Children get to interact with other children with a range of ages, experiences, and abilities.