The 6-12 Year Old Learner
Children at the elementary school level have a whole new set of needs that call for the continued sensitivity of the teacher. The teacher’s role is to prepare an appropriate environment with materials that have value and purpose, and to foster and protect the child’s endeavor to explore. The teacher serves as a guide and is the link between the child and the environment.
From birth to age six, children are sensorial explorers, studying every aspect of their environment, language, and culture. From age six to twelve, children become reasoning explorers. The older child has entered a period of heightened receptivity to intellectual learning. For this reason, the Elementary curriculum stresses a rigorous academic program. Children develop new powers of abstraction and imagination. They utilize and apply their knowledge to further discover and expand their world. During this time it is still essential that the child carry out activity in order to integrate acting and thinking. It is his own effort that gives him independence, and his own experience that brings him answers to how and why things function as they do. The work of the Elementary child is social as well as academic. Driven by a desire to become part of society, the older child needs an environment that allows for social development. Lessons that encourage the children to work together in a non-competitive atmosphere allow them to practice creating and functioning in a harmonious world, participating actively, enthusiastically, and responsibly.
Where the first period of childhood is characterized by a more or less unconscious absorption from the environment, the second period is concerned with the acquisition of culture.