Creating a Mind Palace: Sherlock and the Sensorial Curriculum

I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes stories, and like many other women, I’ve been enjoying Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation of the character in the modern BBC retelling of the classic stories. Perhaps Sherlock’s most obvious and impressive genius is his quick sensorial inspection time, or perceptual discrimination, which he uses to inform his deductions.

Creating a Mind Palace: Sherlock and the Montessori Sensorial Curriculum

Need an example? Check out this youtube clip of Sherlock quickly absorbing, assimilating, and communicating information.

Watching Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ minds work so quickly never ceases to impress, and there is something about the whole process of their “deduction battle” that seems oh so Montessori to me.

Following the Montessori curriculum, Practical Life comes first, enticing children with grown-up tasks while reinforcing the basic principles of Montessori work. But next is Sensorial, which for me is when the mystique of Montessori starts. Sensorial starts children with working from concrete actions and steps to abstract concepts, sharpening their sensory discrimination along the way. As children are allowed to revisit materials and work with them in new ways, children sharpen their perceptual discrimination and are increasingly accurate in shorter amounts of time. As well, they start noticing and integrating new information about their work.

For example, with the presentation of the Pink Tower, children are given the ability to experience the visual (size) and physical (weight) stimuli at the same time, but it is reasonable to say that most children will focus on the visual stimulus (the increasing size of the individual blocks) and only subconsciously experience the weight discriminations, at first. But as the child becomes more versed with the material, or the sensorial process in general, they will start to understand and assimilate this information quicker. When they move on to the more advanced materials in the Sensorial Curriculum, their discrimination is more developed and they are more aware of subtle differences (and their implications).

What’s more, since Sensorial materials (like most Montessori Materials) are self-correcting, children become increasingly adept at making accurate perceptual distinctions. Their observational skills are developed and they become detectives in their own right, investigating what interests them and mulling over the information to draw their own conclusions.

As children are given the opportunity to develop and practice these ways of thinking, they form orderly, quick, and perceptive methods of processing information.

In short, the more time we give children to explore and understand the same materials, the better they become at understanding new materials.

Despite appearing to be a Jack of All Trades, Sherlock Holmes is phenomenal for having developed a highly efficient method of ordering information in his mind palace. And this is exactly what the Montessori Method offers children. By working from a simple place of order and beauty, allowing the child to follow his or her own interests, and teaching highly complex and abstract concepts via concrete methods, the Montessori Method empowers children to develop a critical and orderly way of thinking akin to Detective Holmes himself.

They just might not be as show off-y about it.

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