Stars and planets are spontaneously form from gases and dust particles known as nebulae. Montessori used the term ‘nebulae‘ as an analogue.
Montessori says that within a child there exist potentialities named ‘nebulae‘. The potentialities spontaneously incarnate the behavioral characteristics of the culture.
These nebulae or potentialities, spontaneously adapt and develop in response to the cultural environment in which the child is born. It is through this adaptation process that the potentialities develop into the behavioral characteristics of that culture. Animals exhibit fixed specialized behavior or hereditary characteristics at birth. The animal’s adaptation to the environment is merely to exercise these fixed specialized behaviors. In exercising their fixed specialized behaviors the animal preserves the species and contributes to the cosmic purpose of nature.
Human are nearly motionless and mute at birth and do not exhibit fixed specialized behaviors, hereditary characteristics of the species and characteristics functions. However, humans have the potentiality to incarnate these behavior from the cultural of birth.
The human’s potential adaptation to any cultural environment is unlimited because he does not have specialized behaviors at birth, he is ready to learn the characteristics of the culture, and exhibit the characteristics functions of the culture of birth.
The progress of culture is predicated on potentialities (Nebulae) rather than fixed specialized behavior which rigidly enforces stereotypical behavior as found in animals.
Human have the potential to actually change the characteristics of the culture.
The long length of human childhood is a distinguishing feature from the rest of the animal kingdom. The function of this long period of childhood is to adapt to the culture of birth in both time and place.
How did language adapt to a child?
The infant has the potential for language acquisition, but no particular language at birth. At the age of two, the child exhibits an explosion of language – the language to which the child has been exposed no matter the complexity or the simplicity of the language. During this two years the child absorbed the totality of the language. The infant has incarnated the language during the period from birth to three years, and has stored the language in the unconscious memory called the ‘mneme‘.
The internal influences within the child that support the development of the potentialities (nebulae) are sensitive periods and unconscious absorbent mind.
Take for example, the child has the potentiality for language acquisition. In supporting the potentiality the infant has a special sensitivity to the human voice that produces motor reactions in the infant’s vocal chords, tongue, lips and others. Montessori named this time of special sensitivities as sensitive periods.
Montessori noticed that the child did not really decide to learn the culture, rather the child unconsciously absorbed the information without conscious effort known as absorbent mind.
The reconstruction of education must be based upon the recognition of the potentialities of the spiritual embryo, the inner support provided by the sensitive periods and the absorbent mind, the need for a rich and full environment, and the freedom to work spontaneously and intelligently in the environment.
The child that results from this education will reconstruct society.