The importance of a prepared environment in the Montessori method

The prepared environment is a concept developed by Maria Montessori that the environment should be designed to facilitate the child's autonomous learning and exploration as much as possible. In the prepared environment, there's a variety of activities as well as freedom of movement. A prepared environment gives each child the freedom to develop his or her full potential, thanks to developmentally appropriate sensory materials. Materials range from the simple to the complex, and from the concrete to the abstract, depending on each child's age and abilities.

What is a Montessori-prepared environment?

The prepared environment is an organized, clean, spacious, warm and welcoming space in which learning and activities take place (school or home). Children are free to choose and work on activities at their own pace. The material is easily accessible for the child, but also visually appealing and ordered specifically to help his or her development.

The environment prepared by Montessori focuses on the students' learning environment. There is no main focal point in the classroom, such as a teacher or a blackboard. Teachers carefully observe individual children and the class as a whole to respond to students' needs and interests. This gives children the opportunity to be autonomous in learning the knowledge of their choice.

The first objective of the prepared environment is, as far as possible, to ensure that the growing child is independent of the adult.
- Maria Montessori Le secret de l'enfant, 1966.

The Montessori classroom is a meticulously prepared environment, developed to maximize student learning and progress. There are generally six aspects, or principles, to the prepared environment. Properly prepared environments should encourage the following:

  • Freedom
  • Structure and order
  • Beauty
  • Nature and reality
  • Social environment
  • Intellectual environment

Learn more about each of these aspects, and why the prepared environment is so important to a child's success in the future.Montessori education.

The benefits of a prepared environment

environment prepares montessori classroom
A prepared environment in a Montessori classroom

The aim of the prepared environment is to make children feel comfortable and safe. It also teaches them that a prepared and organized environment saves them time and helps them learn. The prepared environment also enables children to concentrate during learning periods by keeping the environment free of clutter and distractions.

What are the elements of a Montessori-prepared environment?

  • Freedom

Children in a Montessori-prepared environment have freedom of choice. This means that a child can explore, learn, move, observe and interact socially. The Montessori pedagogy is founded on the principle of children's freedom to explore and learn. According to this approach, children should be free to follow their own instincts and discover the world around them on their own, in order to maximize their potential and intellectual enrichment.

In a prepared environment, the child should be able to move freely, explore without constraint, interact socially and not be influenced by others. This freedom ultimately leads to greater freedom of choice. From the earliest stages of Montessori education, students are encouraged to develop their autonomy.

  • Structure and order

It may seem strange to follow freedom with the notion of structure and order, but in practice, they complement each other perfectly. The idea behind this principle is to reflect the structure and order of the universe, so that the child can assimilate the order of his environment and thus be able to begin to make sense of the world around him. The structure and order of the Montessori environment accurately reflects 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 assimilate the order that surrounds him, giving meaning to the world in which he lives.

This structure is very important. As the child assimilates the structure of the classroom around him, he also realizes the rational and systematic results of the natural world. The student is able to make assumptions and reasoning, and to determine the conformity and value of these things by navigating a structured environment. A chaotic environment can have a detrimental effect on the development of reasoning skills and self-confidence, as these opportunities to develop perceptions are fewer and more fragmented.

There is a sensitive period for order between the ages of 1 and 3. This is when children begin to draw conclusions from the world around them.

  • Beauty

Beauty is a characteristic of the environment prepared by Montessori, as it creates a sense of harmony, order and comfort for students and teachers alike. It is essential to make the environment conducive to learning. The atmosphere of the place must be prepared in a simple and harmonious way, so as to reflect peace, tranquility and harmony.

methode montessori environnement prepare

Montessori classrooms, or the Montessori environment as a whole, strive to offer a calm, soothing aesthetic that can be fully appreciated by children. Plants, natural lighting, pastel colors and natural materials are often present in Montessori classrooms, creating a sense of being at home, or at least in a comforting environment. To furnish a child's room, you can easily turn to Montessori furniture available from IKEA.

  • Nature and reality

Maria Montessori believed that nature should be used to inspire children. Being able to interact with the world around us is a hallmark of Montessori education from the earliest stages. Students are encouraged to interact with their natural environment outside the classroom, experimenting with and interpreting natural phenomena. In the prepared environment, natural learning materials are used wherever possible.

These materials include wood, metal, bamboo, cotton and glass, rather than synthetics or plastics. The materials should also be real and child-friendly in size, so that the child can work with the materials alone without frustration and without having to depend on an adult for help.

  • Social environment

The prepared environment must support social development by encouraging freedom of interaction. Montessori education encourages children to interact with empathy and to work constructively with disagreements and differences.

As children grow, they become more aware of their social responsibilities, preparing to work and play in groups. This social interaction is supported throughout the environment and is encouraged by the nature of multi-age classes.

  • Intellectual environment

The intellectual environment is the culmination of the six principles of the prepared environment. By creating a space in which Montessori method can fully develop, children will develop their intellect as well as their personality. By guiding children through the five domains, we provide them with the structure they need to develop their own personality.

This environment is filled with materials and activities specific to each element of Montessori education. Children understand that this is a place of learning and are comfortable developing their fundamental abilities (order, coordination, concentration and independence) in this environment.

The role of the teacher or parent in preparing the environment

Whether you teach in a Montessori school or whether you're homeschooling using the Montessori method, your most important task is to create a well-prepared environment. The most noticeable element of a well-prepared environment is the presence of real-life activities and the absence of toys. Montessori materials and real-life activities encourage imagination

Some elements of a prepared environment :

  • Storage
  • Beauty
  • Cleanliness
  • Live plants
  • Small furniture
  • Drawing at child's eye level
  • Neutral walls and furniture
  • Variety of natural materials and textures
  • Wide open space
  • Appropriate place for personal belongings (shoes, jacket, etc.)

Why is the prepared environment so important in Montessori education?

The environment prepared using the Montessori method contrasts sharply with classrooms in traditional schools. Montessori environments aren't just pretty spaces with lots of nice things on shelves. The prepared environment serves a very useful purpose. The Montessori environment essentially serves to educate the child, as does the equipment it contains. When the child's environment is prepared, a Montessori teacher has little more to do than guide the children through it.

Parents or teachers need to ensure that the learning environment is carefully prepared, teachable and supportive of behavioral interactions. When the environment is designed to facilitate independence and learning, the goal is achieved.

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