The Montessori method of education is a pedagogical tool that promotes child-centered, self-directed collaborative learning to children from the age of three years and older. The Montessori Method was developed by an Italian physician, Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907 for mentally disabled children but upon success was implemented on normal children.
This mix-age-level educational method helps the child become confident and independent.
Montessori schools are based on hands-on education learning, that directs the child towards optimum self-development as well as helps them develop essential qualities like concentration, coordination, cooperation, and confidence.
Dr. Montessori developed the unique concept of Casa Dei Bambini or The Children’s House where the children are provided with a prepared environment and trained teachers to facilitate holistic development.
The Children’s House is a peaceful safe place to facilitate education, where children develop and maximize their inner potential without competition and stress.
Dr. Maria Montessori keeping the needs and requirements of absorbent minds during early childhood years in mind prepared an environment where children are encouraged to become independent and confident.
The Prepared environment of the Montessori classroom brings out the true nature of the child. The Prepared Environment is based on three main components of the Montessori method:
- The pupil
- The environment
- The teacher
The interactions between these three components along with Montessori principles, philosophy, and technology help children achieve cognitive, physical, social, mental, and emotional attainments.
Montessori education lays heavy emphasis on sensorial training and the use of concrete materials during the educational process is important.
The prepared environment of a Montessori classroom incorporates appropriate aspects of philosophical, psychological, pedagogical, and scientific principles to help in the holistic development of the child.
“The general idea about the buildings of a modern school is that they should be hygienically correct, satisfying the laws of healthy housing, etc. Our idea is to build them so that they are psychologically satisfying; i.e., the building should correspond to the psychological needs of the children”. (The House of Children 11) https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1078013.pdf
The concept of a “Prepared Environment” was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, to facilitate proper education in children and instill virtuous values in the developing minds. This environment gives children the freedom to completely develop through physical and sensorial stimulation.
A Prepared Environment should be a place where every student feels accepted. A place where the children do not have to face competition, judgment, stress, and pressure.
The prepared environment of the Montessori method promotes independent learning and gives the child a boost of confidence.
The Prepared Environment of the Montessori method is based on six key principles that facilitate the overall development of the child.
Six principles of Prepared Environment:
The Prepared Environment of The Children’s House is based on six principles of the Montessori Prepared Environment that help children become aware of their inner potentialities.
The Montessori method of education encourages children to make their own choices.
The children have the freedom to move around freely in the classroom, participate in any activity of their choice and interact with other students on their own terms. This helps children develop at their own pace.
- Structure and order
Along with freedom the children also have to acquire a sense of responsibility. It is essential to impart systematic and structured values in young developing minds. Maria Montessori noticed significant periods of order between the age of one and three.
During these periods the child begins to draw conclusions.
Providing children with an environment that helps them think rationally about the outcomes and develop confidence, reasoning skills, and a balanced perception of the world and its outcomes is important during the sensitivity periods.
The aesthetics are as important as the academics in the Montessori method. The atmosphere of the classroom affects the child’s behavior and attitude.
The environment of a Montessori classroom should be inviting and engaging. The pupils in the classroom should have a sense of order, comfort, harmony, tranquility, and peace.
- Nature and reality
According to Dr. Montessori, nature should act as a medium of inspiration for children and the children should not be confined to the classroom.
The Montessori method promotes physical activities and uses materials and apparatus made with materials like wood, cotton, bamboo, metal, and glass.
The furniture and materials in the classroom should be “child-sized”.
- Social Environment
The development of social skills and basic manners during early childhood is necessary.
The Montessori method encourages children to socialize with other children in the classroom at their own pace and become socially aware.
- Intellectual Environment
Without the recognition of the above five principles, it will be impossible to facilitate a proper intellectual environment.
After combining all the five principles, the teacher has to create a space of learning where the curriculum and development of the child can flourish.
In an intellectual environment, children are provided with all the appropriate activities, materials, and apparatus that promote cognitive intelligence in young minds.
How to create a Montessori Environment in schools:
Unlike traditional preschool classrooms, Montessori schools do not have flashy plastic toys on the shelves, posters on the walls, and bright decorations.
A Montessori classroom environment should be peaceful, aesthetically pleasing, and minimal when it comes to decorations.
The Montessori method prohibits the use of plastic and promotes the use of natural materials and apparatus. The environment of the Montessori classroom should have child-sized furniture, natural materials, and apparatus.
Read our article to further learn about the Montessori Prepared Environment.
Here are a few characteristics of a Prepared Environment in a Montessori school.
- Less is more
The setup of a Montessori classroom is based on the minimalist approach and almost looks old-fashioned when you first enter.
Flashy posters and banners can distract the child and disrupt the education process.
- Structure and Order
The classroom environment should be structured and organized.
Every apparatus and material should go back to its own designated place. A Montessori classroom should instill a sense of structure, balance, order, and responsibility in children.
- Everything Child-sized
The Montessori classroom consists of:
- Child-sized Furniture
- Shelves and Baskets that contain activity materials
- Materials that are used to facilitate education as well as development.
The child-sized materials and furniture do not intimidate young children. The furniture and the materials should be easy for the children to use and reach.
- Sensorial stimulation
Sensory stimulation is one of the salient features of the Montessori method. According to Dr. Maria Montessori, the senses are the gateway to knowledge especially during the first six years of the child’s life.
The Materials should provide sensory stimulation. The materials should also keep the child engaged and attentive during the education process.
- Open Space
The Montessori method provides freedom and independence to children to develop as well as learn at their own pace.
The classroom should have an open space and should not be cluttered for the child to move around freely to participate in activities as well as interact with other students.
- Promoting practical life skills
The Montessori method of education along with the traditional curriculum also promotes practical life skills in children.
The activities that promote basic life skills include learning how to set up a table, tie a shoelace, buttoning clothing, washing hands, and other basic social manners.
How to create a Montessori environment at home:
It is important to understand that the Montessori method is more than an educational tool. It is a way of life, and before adopting the Montessori Environment at home it is essential to understand the basic Montessori principles.
The Montessori method of education is an auto-didactic approach where children are encouraged to develop and work at their own pace.
The Montessori method of education is a child-centered approach that prepares your child to become independent, confident, and intelligent.
Refer to this article to learn more about creating a Montessori environment at home.
To set up a Montessori environment at home understand the child’s needs and requirements.
- Child-sized furniture
A child-sized table, chair, and a couple of shelves will be more than sufficient for beginners.
- Bring structure and order
Provide the child with designated shelves and containers for materials, clothes, and toys to instill values like order, structure, and responsibility.
- Materials and apparatus
The apparatus and materials used in the Montessori method were specially developed to stimulate the child’s senses. Investing in Montessori materials can help facilitate better education.
- Have Minimal and Neutral decor
The child does not need any additional stimulus other than the learning materials. Flashy colors and decorations can distract the child.
How does Montessori Prepared Environment contribute to the child’s development?
While education is dominantly subjected to curriculum, books, and assessments the aspect of the educational environment is equally as important but often overlooked in Traditional Educational Institutions.
The Montessori Method of Education considers the importance of the Environment and provides children with an appropriate environment to thrive off of. The Montessori Prepared Environment is amongst the cornerstone of the Montessori Philosophy.
The Montessori Prepared Environment integrates aspects like minimalistic decorations, appropriate materials, child-sized furniture, and organized working stations that provide children with the tools to become independent. The Montessori environment encourages children to wilfully become explorers of knowledge.
When we talk about the Montessori Environment, one may regard it as a place that is fun, exciting, welcoming, and warm. It is a place where children are encouraged to freely explore what’s next to come and indulge in auto-didactic education.