Theoretical underpinning

Contemporary neuroscience, and the science of human development more generally, have identified the fundamental laws which govern the harmonious development of every human being. This knowledge is extremely welcome – it provides us with the rules for learning as programmed by nature. On 24 & 25 August 2015, we held a two-day seminar to share some of this fundamental data and we're very pleased now to share with you the videos of these two days. If you'd like to find out more about the major principles of human development, we encourage you to read Céline Alvarez's book 'The Natural Laws of the Child'.


Cognitive, affective and social neuroscience

Contemporary science has identified very clearly three main, natural learning mechanisms: brain plasticity, the development of executive skills and supportive guidance. Brain plasticity endows children with a capacity for exploration and specialisation; the early development of executive functions enables children to actively engage with their environment; and lastly, the essential need for supportive guidance reflects the fact that children are eminently social beings. These innate natural mechanisms mean that the young human being is a creature of exploration, action and social relationships. Hindering or inhibiting a single one of these three processes is to hinder or inhibit the overall development of a child's intelligence.

A creature of exploration
A creature of action
A social creature
Conclusion of neuroscience

The appropriate approach on the part of the adult

These three principles should encourage us, both in the classroom and at home, to abandon a controlling approach based on a vertical hierarchy – it is not only exhausting for us, but it also demands of a child, or a group of children, that they perform tasks which they have not chosen themselves. We encourage you to move at your own pace towards a more reassuring horizontal approach which will enable the child to find their bearings and the necessary confidence to act and explore for themselves. This is an approach involving respectful and individual guidance which seeks to awaken in every child their inner creative forces and energies.

How can we respect these principles in the classroom?

It involves preparing a rich, varied and ordered environment which gives the child the scope for exploring and acting autonomously and easily connecting with other people. Maria Montessori spent forty years of her life developing such an environment for children aged between 3 and 6 in what she called 'Children's Houses'. In our eyes, her visionary practical contribution constitutes an essential platform and educational legacy for anyone wishing to offer an environment which is consistent with the natural laws of learning. We therefore drew on her work when conceiving our experiment in Gennevilliers, but adapted it to take into account the findings of neuroscience. You will find below the practical elements which emerged from this research.

Approach of the teaching assistant
A prepared environment
Stages of implementation
Materials for getting started
Stages of autonomy
Group sessions
Monitoring progress of presentations

How do we work with the parents?

Start-of-year meeting

We hope that all this information will give you the confidence to get going, to change your approach and to construct environments which are more respectful and supportive of the natural laws of children. You'll find below the conclusion to these two days.


Teachers show the way

Several teachers who were present at these two days talk about their experiences and the first results which they obtained with their class. Many thanks to them.