Saturday, May 19, 2018

What is a Prepared Environment?

In Montessori education, the prepared environment is an important tool. From child-sized furniture to a colorful, exciting room decor, everything is arranged to make the child more comfortable and encourage them to be more open and interested in the process of learning and discovery.

Child-Sized Surroundings

The lack of adult-sized furniture is often the first thing a visitor notices when they enter a Montessori classroom, and for good reason. Everything about the class environment is tailored to the child, including tables, chairs, and bookshelves built to child scale. The idea is to make children the primary focus of the classroom, encouraging their participation by creating an environment that is just the right size.

Placement of Books and Activities

In addition to placing things at the child’s level, a prepared environment is designed to steer the child towards activity. The activities will differ from one child to the next, but generally include methods of fostering creativity, encouraging discovery, and helping the child develop both academically and socially. Even the mixed ages in a Montessori classroom are an intentional attempt at building social interaction by allowing younger children to learn from older ones. Despite the fact that the room is brimming with materials in a seemingly haphazard arrangement, you can rest assured that everything is in its place and being used to the maximum benefit of the child.

Including Nature in Education

Even the great outdoors is part of the prepared environment. Maria Montessori observed that children are inherently curious, and adapted her teaching method to include outside, real-world activities as part of the learning process. She believed that we all learn better by doing, and realized that allowing children to engage in hands-on activities helped them learn. From forest hikes to summer gardening, being active outside helps children learn to be more responsible, civic-minded members of their community.

The Prepared Environment at Home

The prepared learning environment should not end on school grounds. Parents are encouraged to create a prepared environment at home as well. This might be as simple as a corner where everything is scaled to child-size, but it can be expanded throughout the home as well. Make sure that your child's books are easy to reach, that all of the tools they need to be engaged and active are freely available when and where they need them. Think of the changes as making your child feel more included in the home. Because being accepted and included is one of the most important aspects of the prepared environment.

The prepared environment is much more than a particular set of textbooks, an assigned seat, or even a structured curriculum where the same subjects are studied for the same duration at the same time on any given school day. The prepared environment is making sure that your child has the tools and encouragement to follow their interests, to learn how to solve their own problems, and the self-confidence to share their experiences and discoveries with others.  To see a prepared environment in person, schedule a tour at the Montessori School of Flagstaff Westside Campus today.  Our teachers and staff welcome prospective students and parents to visit the school and learn about the Montessori difference firsthand.

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