The Sensorial materials were the first of the four types to be used by Montessori and arguably the most important, later the Exercises for Practical life were added as preparations for them and the Mathematics and Language materials further develop the abstract capacities developed by the sensorial materials.
The Exercises of Practical Life are given first because
- They build the foundations for all other areas
- Intelligent, consciously controlled movement is harnessed through meaningful work
- Willpower is developed as one of the highest expressions of the mind and is capable of directing movement
- Order and concentration feed the inner drive for the Polarisation of Attention
- The Exercises of Practical Life initiate order, clarity of ideas and concentration leading to organising and classifying of knowledge which creates mental discipline
- Independent thought and actions are fostered through the freedom to work giving knowledge through experience, understanding through effort and preparing him physically and mentally for the sensorial activities
The child continues to create herself though movement, language, the senses and freedoms to be independent as she interacts with her environment, through the ‘link of love’. Sounds, texture, colours, tastes, shape, weight all call her attention. Impressions acquired through the Exercises of Practical Life put her in touch with these qualities – the sound of a press stud, the colour of laces, bubbles when washing a tray are absorbed as fascinating details, as have all the experience she has had prior to the Children’s Home, now as the child enters the Sensitive Period for conscious movement and the refinement of the senses the child needs to find a means to attend to and organise all of there sensory experiences and incarnate these experiences into their mental processing. As adults we are accustomed to selecting, filtering and interpreting key sensorial information from what would be an overwhelming variety of impressions, this process is learnt. To do so the intellect must be engaged in an alive and stable Prepared Environment with activities which can capture the essence of reality and the precise vocabulary necessary to store, abstract and recall it. The child has an opportunity to rectify all of the impressions chaotically absorbed in her early life while the Mnene is still accessible. The more work completed now the more refined sensory experience will be for the adults and these experiences will effect the adults intelligence and personality.
The Exercises of Practical Life begin this rectification and help the child to adapt to the Children’s House, the social peer group, the Directress herself and receiving presentations from her and the physical environment and social norms which apply. She has developed the ability to concentrate and has refined her motor movements so that she can now begin to structure and classify her sensorial experiences. They offer an opportunity to reengage with the Prepared Environment which further stimulates her to act on her tendencies to explore, order, repeat and perfect. After the child has settled into the Children’s House and is able to receive individual presentations she is ready to begin the Cylinder Blocks which introduces her to the dimensions of large and small, shallow and deep, thick and thin and tall and short.
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The Role of the Senses
External stimuli calls on all things to enable survival, looking for a mate, finding food and caring for the offspring. Senses help humans to organise and classify information, informing purposeful action and helping adaptation to the environment, to use tools effectively and to experience ones own body, feelings and interaction with objects in the external world, they are the basis for understanding physical and metaphysical reality.. The memory stores sensorial experiences and the intelligence compares now information with past data to make decisions and to solve problems, so creative problem solving depends on the amount of details the intelligence can access.
The sensorial experience is one which we acquire, it takes active work to tune the senses to receive fine details. As part of the Central Nervous System it effects our reactions, particularly our adrenal (flight or fight) response alternately it can be used to induce the relaxation response, by effecting the metabolic rate in our cells.
The sense organs or receptors receive data which is analysed by the neural network and our brains can choose to store the information or respond to it. We can bring under conscious control much of what was previously seen to be unconscious, such as breathing, heart-rate and metabolism, but only if we are aware of the impressions our body is absorbing through the senses and the inner sensations in our bodies.
The senses include;
Montessori also describes these sensations;
- Baric (weight estimation)
- Kinaesthetic (Muscle Memory)
- Stereognostic (Muscular and Tactile to comprehend mass )