Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Prepared Environment

Our school invites the new students starting in the fall to come to a week of enrichment which is 2 hours a day/M-F.  We typically offer a week in July and a week in August.  Since we have started this a few years ago we usually have all or close to all new students come during this time.  This year, for some reason, the prepared environment really spoke to me and I was amazed-AGAIN-at how complete/thorough/deep/rich the Montessori philosophy is.  There are many values and principles of the philosophy and all works in tandem with one another.   This year I will be contemplating on the Prepared Environment aspect.  

In ten brief hours that the new students spend in what will be their school community for the year, transformation begins.  The classroom set up, the processes, the way the teachers engage (or don't engage) with the students is simply beautiful.  The space calls to the children-it's not only set up in line with their brain development, but also all the other aspects-social, cognitive, emotional and academic.  Something connects with the childrens' hearts-they realize they are empowered and respected in the space and they step up to the expectations that come with being given freedom and believed in.

There are some foundations that are a part of the prepared environment.  

1.  Freedom:  Maria Montessori believed children should be able to explore their natural impulses which leads to their understanding of the world around them.  This includes freedom of movement, freedom of exploration, freedom to interact socially, and freedom from interference from others.  

2.  Structure and Order:  While Structure and Order seem counter-intuitive to the aforementioned freedom, nothing could be further from the truth. Structure and Order in the Montessori classroom accurately reflect the sense of structure and order in the universe. By using the Montessori classroom environment as a microcosm of the universe, the child begins to internalize the order surrounding him, thus making sense of the world in which he lives. (NAMC)

3.  Beauty:  The Montessori classroom should be beautiful, inviting and suggest a simple harmony.  

4.  Nature and Reality:  Maria Montessori had a strong reverence for nature-she believed that nature provided deep inspiration for children.  This is why, as much as possible, real objects/items are used in the classroom-real objects, real wood, real dishes etc.  Child sized furniture and tools are used to that children can complete their work without frustration.  

5.  Social Environment:  When there is a time/space provided for social interaction, children develop compassion and empathy for one another as well as skills to resolve conflict and problem solve.  The freedom children experience in the classroom to interact sociall  leads to organic opportunities to engage with other children and adults and essentially practice their communication skills.  

6. Intellectual Environment:  If the above aspects are not recognized, the intellectual environment will not reach its purpose. The purpose of the Montessori environment is to develop the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellect. By guiding the child through the five areas of the Montessori curriculum (Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Cultural subjects), the child has the structure which is at the forefront of the creative work in a Montessori classroom. 

A lot of time and effort is involved in creating a prepared Montessori classroom that is designed to meet the individual needs of all children. Through developmentally appropriate, sensorial material that moves hierarchically from simple to complex and concrete to abstract, children are given the freedom to fully develop their unique potential through a carefully prepared learning environment.  (NAMC)

If you are new to Community Montessori, I invite you to read more about Montessori and start to gain a new appreciation of your child and what they will be experiencing when they are at school.  It's simply magical and such a joy and blessing to watch children unfold and become more of who they are.