The Prepared Environment
A Montessori prepared environment ensures that everything the child comes into contact with will assist and extend independent learning and exploration. This calm, well-ordered environment allows plenty of movement and activity. Children are free to choose and work on activities at their own pace, they experience a combination of freedom and self-discipline, which is guided by the environment.
There are six main characteristics to the Prepared Environment: Freedom; Structure and Order; Beauty; Nature and Reality; Social Environment; Intellectual Environment.
Montessori identified that children need to explore and follow their own natural tendencies, allowing them to develop their potential and increase their knowledge of the world around them. Within the prepared environment, children experience freedom of movement, freedom of exploration, freedom to interact socially, and freedom from interference from others. This freedom ultimately leads to freedom of choice.
Structure and Order
The structure and order balances the freedom in a Montessori environment. A disordered environment will not encourage freedom, just uncertainty. By providing a well-structured, ordered environment children will feel safe and secure. They will adopt their environment in ways that make sense to them and see how they fit into the world.
Montessori environments should be beautiful and insinuate a simple harmony. Uncluttered and well-maintained, a place of peace and tranquillity, that’s inviting and encourages learning.
Nature and Reality
Montessori believed that we should use nature to inspire children and recommended that Montessori teachers take the children out into nature, rather than keeping them confined in the classroom. This is why natural materials are preferred in the prepared environment, we use real wood, reeds, bamboo, metal, cotton, and glass. All the equipment and furniture is child sized aiding children’s development and fostering independence.
Giving children freedom to interact encourages a sense of compassion and empathy for others, where they are not confined to socializing with just children of their own age. Montessori classrooms combine children of similar ages, giving older children the opportunity to help and guide their peers.
With the above elements in place children will feel safe and well supported in their environment, fostering within them a natural desire to learn.
A Montessori environment is designed to develop the whole personality of the child, not just their intellect, and meets the individual needs of all children. The Montesssori curriculum has five specific areas each offering specific activities and equipment; Practical life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and Cultural. These developmentally appropriate materials move from simple to complex and concrete to abstract, helping children to fully develop their unique potential.