The Prepared Environment
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The importance of a prepared environment rests on the belief that children learn from everything around them and on the Montessori concept of the teacher as a facilitator of the child’s efforts to create the adult she is to become. Teachers pay close attention to what is put in the whole learning environment, including the materials available, how they are displayed, and their accessibility to the children. The attractive powers of beauty and order are employed to both draw and keep the child’s interest. The teacher acts as a guide, demonstrating the ways in which classroom materials can help children develop the skills they need to be independent learners. A prepared environment includes not only physical aspects, but the social and emotional context in which teachers and students share the work of learning and growing.
In a Montessori setting, the classroom is carefully prepared to help children grow and develop in their own manner, whether we call it work or play. Gradually the children reveal qualities such as intense concentration and surprising attention span, exactness and precise movement, a sense of order, maximum effort by even very little ones self-discipline and respect for others, kindness, and an obvious joy in “work”.
Each classroom is designed to support the child’s need for purposeful activity. It is a children’s house: the furniture is easily moved; pictures are hung at child’s eye level; plants are easily watered by the children. The sink is not a toy, but a real, child-sized sink. There are many carefully designed materials to meet the child’s natural interests. The atmosphere is positive, supportive, and noncompetitive.
Thoughtfully designed Montessori materials are:
- Manipulative – each child learns by doing.
- Concrete – each child can touch, feel, and move objects to learn their characteristics.
- Sequenced- each child begins learning with the simple and progresses to the complex. This assures success and enhances self-esteem.
An important part of the prepared environment is the Montessori teacher, who serves as a link between the children and that environment. Self-motivation is the key to learning. Therefore, the teacher acts as a facilitator whose role is to stimulate interest in all facets of a child-centered learning environment. Teachers are expected to observe their students closely in order to facilitate each one’s growth and learning at just the right time and level.
The teacher’s work is made possible through rigorous Montessori training. Montessori teachers learn to use the materials that Dr. Montessori developed and to create their own effective materials to meet observed learning needs that students will express over the ensuing years.