A Montessori classroom is a child’s second home. In fact, it serves as the child’s first step into the new world. As the child slowly makes this transition, it is essential that he is provided with an environment that not only makes the shift easy but also facilitates learning to the maximum.
According to the Montessori Method, a Montessori classroom should be planned and equipped in such a way that children adapt easily to the environment without compromising their learning process.We are all familiar with the setting of the traditional classroom where young students are provided adult-sized furniture while the shelves and cupboards are placed so high that the child is always in need of an adult’s assistance. Additionally, in a traditional classroom, children are usually confined to their desks while the teacher dictates the same lesson to the whole class.
However, Maria Montessori was contrary to the traditional learning environment and believed that, “The child, making use of all that he finds around him, shapes himself for the future.” Her desire was to provide the children with a learning space where they had the freedom to explore, learn, and experience at their own pace and desire. This led her to create the Montessori Method which focuses on shaping the child as a whole being while making the learning process pleasant by equipping the classrooms with a variety of different materials.
The focus of the Montessori prepared environment remains on the six basic principles – Freedom, Structure and Order, Beauty, Nature and Reality, Social Environment, and Intellectual Environment. Here is a brief description about each of the principles and why they hold importance in the child’s learning and developmental process.
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” -Maria Montessori
The prime principle of the Montessori prepared environment is freedom. Just imagine how you would feel if you had to take assistance for the smallest task or were limited to the same task daily without any challenges. Our children are the same way. They have the potential that we, as parents, oftentimes ignore.
The Montessori Method is based on the belief that children who are given freedom can learn with their own natural instinct. The prepared environment of the classroom allows children to choose the activity according to their own preference and pace while enhancing social interaction amongst peers.
Structure and Order
Parents of preschoolers will agree that a temper tantrum can be expected whenever their child’s routine is disrupted. This is because children between the ages of one and five pass through a sensitive stage. Montessori believed that during this phase, children should experience order, consistency, and familiarity in their environment. Since children of this age have limited verbal skills, any disorientation can create chaos which can be avoided by having a consistent schedule and ground rules.
The Montessori method meets the child’s need for order by providing a space that is organized and structured according to their needs. Materials are in the same place every day while lessons and activities are conducted at the same time. The school day ends with children placing all the materials and their completed work in the given space. This sense of order enhances children’s understanding of the world and allows them to organize their time and space efficiently.
Visit the MKU classroom and at first glance you will notice how well-organized the environment is. Everything is beautifully displayed while the classrooms are neat, uncluttered, and orderly. Maria Montessori emphasized the aesthetic appeal of the Montessori classroom and always encouraged teachers to decorate classrooms in such a way that learners come eagerly to learn and work. The environment should reflect peace and tranquility while the arrangement should always be well-maintained.
Nature and Reality
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that 60 minutes of unstructured free play daily is essential for the child’s physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, studies show that children are spending less time outdoors than they were 20 years ago. However, Dr. Montessori agreed with the benefits of outside play and always emphasized that educators should take children outside as much as possible. Children don’t like to sit inside, and keeping them confined in one room can make them cranky and sluggish. Giving them outside time daily enhances their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.
In Montessori classrooms, children are grouped with different ages. This structure allows children to share and work cooperatively while enhancing empathy and respect towards each other. Multi-aged classrooms allow older children to develop leadership qualities and younger ones to learn to return the favor in the coming years by being in the same spot as the elders.
The last but the most important principle is the Intellectual environment. The Montessori Method claims that children develop a love of lifelong learning when they take responsibility for themselves and their education. The intellectual environment moves students from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. Each Montessori material can be used in multiple ways to enhance learning, whether it be through language, sensorial, life skills, math, culture, or art.
When all the principles of the Montessori prepared environment are combined, the child develops independence, focus, adaptability, self-confidence, self-discipline, and patience. The freedom to fully learn not only helps the child succeed in academic endeavors but also in practical, everyday life.