Scientific evidence for the sensitive periods that Montessori observed.

This chart is from Harvard University and is based on neurological research evidence that shows ‘sensitive periods’ for learning/refining specific abilities of the brain. In my work with parents, I often find myself explaining that the ‘evidence’ we see (observable behaviour) is only the end-point of a whole process – and that the child’s development is a long way ahead of this observable evidence.

Here is the chart from Harvard University: “Neural Connections for Difference Functions Develop Sequentially”.

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And here is a chart of the Montessori sensitive periods:

On the first chart, it shows the development of the structures of the brain related with those specific functions (Sensory pathways for hearing and vision, language and higher cognitive function).
On the second chart, someone’s representation of the Montessori sensitive periods (please tell me if you know the source) – this is the time when we consider the child to be most interested, sensitive to these specific areas, or by the end of that period, generally having acquired those things, at which point the interest wanes.
Do we observe and trust that the child’s natural interest should be the starting point of deciding at what age a specific material should be introduced ?
Our guest speakers, medical and neurological development experts, at the Montessori Days of Neuchatel today, definitely believe so (and they aren’t even Montessori teachers!)…. the child’s natural interest, tuning them in to the things they need to build the next areas/pathways of their brain, and building ‘highways’ of neurological connections, that will ensure permanent learning of skills…that will not be lost in the ‘pruning’ phase of the 6+ year old brain.

4 thoughts on “Scientific evidence for the sensitive periods that Montessori observed.

  1. Wonderful post Jessica! I We had that same chart (the first one) on a staff meeting a month ago. It was part of a lecture with Steve Hughes that can be found online somewhere. It was a really good one and very convincing. Perhaps you know it.


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