The Prepared Environment
Dr. Montessori wanted this environment to be open-ended, not a fixed system. She believed the classroom should be innovative, full of constant experimentation based upon observation of the child. It is a nourishing place; a place of self-construction which reveals personality and growth patterns. Not only must it contain all it needs, but all obstacles must be removed as well.
Although Maria Montessori placed such emphasis on the environment, it is important to keep in mind several key ideas:
She regarded the environment secondary to life itself. In the Montessori Method she states: “It can modify, it can help or hinder, but it cannot create. The origins of species and individuals lie within. The child doesn’t grow because the environment is nourishing. She grows because the potential life within her grows, making itself visible.”
The environment is carefully prepared for the child by a knowledgeable and sensitive adult.
The adult is a participant in the child’s life, living and growing within it. The eventual outcome of the class depends upon the teacher’s ability to participate with the children in a life of becoming.
The Montessori Classroom environment has four major areas. The activities in the Practical Life area aid in the development of the child’s sense of order, self-reliance, and muscular development. Each material in the Sensorial area provides a means for the child to focus on a particular sensory perception, thereby enhancing the child’s ability to perceive similarities and differences, to grade and match, etc. The purpose of the materials in the Math area aid in development of the mathematical mind. Beginning with the concrete, the materials gradually enable the child to comprehend abstract mathematical concepts. The materials in the Language area lay the groundwork for reading and writing. There are also many activities in the areas of Art, Music, and the social and natural Sciences, which enrich the child’s development, and well as her understanding of the world around her.
The Montessori Elementary environment is prepared so that individualized learning establishes an intimate contact between child, teacher, and work. Instruction deals in the concrete and concerns itself with the basics as compatible with the development of the child. Everyone knows everyone; it is like a family. Work is shared and learning is vitalized by social life. Adding to the community spirit is parent involvement. Because of the open-ended Montessori environment, there is no limit to what the child can do. In collaboration with the teacher all kinds and levels of learning take place, thereby maximizing the individual potential of each child.