The spiritual needs of the elementary child round out the various needs as described by Montessori for this developmental stage. In Lower Elementary, meeting these spiritual needs leads to concentration at this age.
What is meant by spiritual needs? These abstract concepts can be created within classrooms to give children what they need to concentrate on their work and make it meaningful for them. Listed below are the spiritual needs of the elementary child, as I understand them, along with an example of how each need could be met in the classroom.
Beauty. Preparing an inviting classroom environment will meet this need. Bringing in plants, allowing natural light through the windows, and of course, having the beautiful Montessori materials neatly displayed on the shelves all lend themselves to creating a colorful and welcoming environment.
Order. Have materials and supplies available in a neat and designated location. For example, identify a shelf in the room where supplies are stored in their own containers. Colored pencils, regular pencils, and erasers each have their own specific containers. This helps keep the environment ordered because children know where the supplies should be returned once they are done using them.
Reality. Provide books, materials, and other works that are based in reality. By this, having books with realistic concepts rather than personified animals or “cutesy” illustrations provides concepts grounded in reality.
Limits and limitations. Having one of each of various materials provides this. For example, having one of each type of word study box helps students recognize they might not always be able to work on what they want. Alternatively, they can choose to work with the child using it, or wait until the person is done with it.
Quiet and calm. Consciously making time for quiet and quiet work time is a gift, especially for children who prefer this type of environment. This is easy to do in morning circle, simply sitting quietly for a 2-minute period of silence (perhaps after some Brain Gym exercises?) before moving on to another activity. Encouraging “whisper work time” or having dedicated silent reading time are other ways to provide quiet and calm.
Independence from adults. This is so easy to do! Simply providing children choices for work they want to do and being able to decide when to complete that work gives children independence. Encouraging peer helping and teaching gives children the ability to solve problems on their own.
Respect, trust, and love. Meeting the children’s emotional needs as well as meeting the spiritual needs listed above will help meet the child’s needs within the classroom. I strongly believe that by fostering a caring, patient, thoughtful, and appealing environment the children will be happy and love coming to school.
Providing the abstract, but nonetheless, achievable items listed above will lead children to concentration by having their spiritual needs met.