"The adult can assist in shaping the environment, but it is the child that shapes its own being" The Secret of Childhood, Maria Montessori (p. 195)
In a Montessori classroom, the prepared environment plays a crucial role in fostering children's creativity allowing children to apply effective effort to fine-tuning their focus to master their day-to-day challenges in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical areas. In the prepared environment, children work to expand their order, coordination, concentration, and Independence (OCCI, The Montessori Method). Children learn to use their hands to become proficient learners. Classrooms are enriched with Everyday Living, Sensorial, Language, Math, Science, Culture, Geography, Peace, and Cosmic Education. Integrating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) into the topics to make the materials interesting and reach children of various abilities. I remember being heavily invested in observing, analyzing, and evaluating children through self-reflection for preparing their classrooms. Classrooms are individually tailored to meet the needs of each group of children. I believe in classrooms children are not just learning they are preparing for a bright future ahead. As a school, I remember being invested in a belief system where educators consistently readjusted the environment to the evolving needs of children so they belong and consciously work towards bringing their best.
pic1.Third-year Montessori student is conducting group line reading a story to the group. 2018-2019, MHMS
In the above picture, a student is conducting a group line. Notice the attentiveness and the curiosity among the students who are listening. This moment is not forced but co-created by the children themselves. The art of Montessori education and prepared environment is deeply at work. Not every student is comfortable doing what she liked to do, but students create opportunities based on their interests and express serving their class at the same time.
In the picture below is our school's typical work time. Notice as I am taking the pictures students are least distracted as they are immersed in their work. Notice a child has laid out the number rods. At 2.7 years speaking only a few words she has learned the quantity and symbol of numbers 1 to 10 and thus laid it out in the proper progression. As a result, she is working to color the sheet with pride and ownership. Thus no amount of "good job" from adults can replace the self-esteem children create for themselves when they take the lead in reaching proficiency whether it is in art, language arts, math, peace, music, culture, or science. To learn more about the prepared environment in a Montessori classroom, click on the pdf document button.