THE MONTESSORI METHOD
At the Montessori School of Englewood, we strive to champion each child as an individual. Scores of studies show that the more self-confident a young person is, the more likely they are to pursue their unique interests. Thus, honing a child’s individualism plants the seeds for a lifelong love of learning.
Walk into one of our Montessori classrooms and you’ll be struck by the independence and self-confidence our students express. You’ll see children of all ages moving purposefully through an environment specifically tailored to pique their innate curiosity. Our students don’t learn by direct lessons, but via exploration with their senses and minds.
Montessori learning isn’t just an endeavor of the mind, but of the whole person. Our classroom shelves are filled with learning materials designed for Montessori education — like pink block towers, red rods and gold beads. They’re tangible and tactile and, well, fun. With these materials, children understand learning as play, and are inclined to foster a real love of learning.
“The purpose for the revolutionary pedagogist is to prepare students to live in an interconnected global world with personal dignity and respect for all other people as human beings with the same privileges that one seeks for oneself while preserving the earth for those who will come afterwards.”
- Molefi Kete Asante
THE MONTESSORI PREPARED ENVIRONMENT
“Education is not what the teacher gives, education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual… by his experiences upon the environment.”
-M. Montessori, Education for a New World.
The first six years of the child’s life are crucial for what he/she will become. The experiences in the child’s environment are consequential for the development of the child's personality and understanding what it is that the prepared environment (classroom) provides is of significant importance.
The child using the powers of the absorbent mind creates all aspects of his personality and intellect from what he finds in his/her/their environment. The child is not able to discriminate what conditions are favorable for the development neither can differentiate the conditions that will hinder such development. The child absorbs all and weaves into his character. However, the child can grow in any environment but the aim should be to provide the ideal conditions for his/her development.
Dr. Montessori shared that in order to support the child’s spontaneous development the environment should provide liberty to experience the world in his own way, explore and assimilate the world; that the adults discard our notions of “educate the child” and instead pause and think what it means to prepare an environment that will aid the process of developing life.
The Essential Components of a Montessori Classroom-Prepared Environment
The Montessori prepared environment provides the child the opportunity to develop in accordance with the laws of nature. In order to achieve this the classroom has three main components
A group of mixed-age children that are in the same developmental stage
Materials and activities that meet the needs of the child at this development stage
A trained adult who understands the developmental needs of that group of children and can connect the activities and materials within that environment.
A group of mixed-age children
The young child is at the stage that Maria Montessori referees as the “first plane of development” from birth to age six. During the second half of that period, the age of three to six is when the child begins to consciously work and redefine the immeasurable information that has been collected through the senses. The child needs physical and psychological nurturing and protection with a consistent caregiver. The environment provides opportunities for sensorial exploration, liberty of movement and to manipulate objects. The child needs opportunities to practice communication and experiences within the social group and material culture of his community. The child also needs to practice his functional independence skills and explore the social relations with others, because children will grow up to become members of society and they need to adapt to the society of their time and place.
Montessori is clear that there must be mixed ages within the group of children and it is essential for individual development and social cohesion, therefore it is important that the program supports the mixed age group of children three to six years old, without separating them. If we let that happen, we have relinquished our responsibility to ensure the fidelity of the program and Dr. Montessori’s principles.
The Materials and Activities
The Montessori prepared environment consists of the materials and activities that match the needs and work for the child in this stage of development. Those materials not only are attractive but also stimulate the interest of the children and lead to purposeful activities, but also protect the child from obstacles of growth and development. The materials have not been designed to teach facts, but rather aid the child in organizing all that has been previously experienced, increasing the child’s capacity for learning.
The Prepared Adult
The last component of a Montessori classroom is the trained adult, who understands child development and can provide, maintain and connect activities and materials with children in this kind of environment. The adult establishes psychological and physical safety in the classroom through love for the children, creating an atmosphere of acceptance and love and supports positive behavior through establishing limits, underlying a structure for freedom of choice and grace and courtesy.
The prepared adult is responsible to take in consideration the needs and characteristics of the group of children that will serve, understands that freedom is a fundamental tenet of the Montessori method and pedagogy and it must be offered to the child so that the child can make his individual self-construction.
“The right education depends fundamentally on the right environment. Seeing that the child has a distinct life rhythm, and his activity has different aims for those of adults, he needs and environment apart, specially created for him.” M. Montessori, The Child’s Environment, AMI Communications.