By Sharon Vanella, Head of Early School
Visitors to our Montessori Early School at Charlotte Preparatory School always remark about the beautifully organized classrooms and the calm, soothing atmosphere. Creating this kind of setting for our students, ages 2 through 6, is not by accident. It’s a central component of a Montessori education called the “Prepared Environment.”
The term “Prepared Environment” refers to the set-up of the Montessori classroom. A key goal of the Montessori method is to facilitate the development of independence in children. To this end, the environment is created very intentionally to allow the children to be successful in their choices throughout the work cycle. The main aspects of this preparation include attractiveness, utility, and sequence/layout of the materials.
First, the environment and the materials therein are designed to attract the child’s attention. Beautiful, natural materials are prevalent, with color added to draw the eye. Practical Life materials are set up to include cloths, sponges, and other accessories that coordinate and invite the interest of the child. Classroom displays are child-centered – child-created and/or beautiful artwork, photographs, plants, cultural artifacts – simply placed, mostly at a child’s eye level. You will not see a plethora of charts or cartoonish/manufactured posters papering the walls, as these are distracting to preschool children.
Secondly, the materials in the classroom must be useful and functional. If a work is broken or missing a piece, it is removed or closed until it is repaired or complete. Tools used are child-sized and user-friendly. The activities are set up to be ready to use, with the necessary paper, tools, water, sponges, soap, or any other element to the lesson, present and fully stocked. The lessons are shown to include clean-up and re-setting of the material so that the activity is prepared for the next person.
Finally, the materials are set in a logical sequence within each area of the classroom. Materials are arranged from the simplest to the most complex, left to right, top to bottom. This helps the child determine which activity might be next and gives the child a guide for placing the work back in the correct space when finished.
All in all, the “Prepared Environment” provides a beautiful space in which children are able to function independently, make discoveries, and contribute to their community as they learn and grow.
If you’d like to visit our classrooms and learn more about the Montessori Early School, join us for an Open House on Thursday, October 10 at 9:30 a.m. RSVP here.