Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural tendency to work.
The prepared environment offers the essential elements for optimal development. The key components comprise the children, teacher and physical surroundings including the specifically designed Montessori educational material.
Characteristics of the prepared environment include:
- Beauty, order, reality, simplicity and accessibility.
- Children must be given freedom to work and move around within suitable guidelines that enable them to act as part of a social group.
- Children should be provided with specifically designed materials which help them to explore their world and enable them to develop essential cognitive skills.
- Mixed age groups (eg. three to six, six to nine, nine to twelve) encourage all children to develop their personalities socially and intellectually at their own pace.
“Beyond the more obvious reasons why it is sensible to group the ages three by three, such as the little ones learn from the older children and the older ones learn by teaching the younger, every child can work at his own pace and rhythm, eliminating the bane of competition, there is the matter of order and discipline easily maintained even in very large classes with only one adult in charge. This is due to the sophisticated balance between liberty and discipline prevalent in Montessori classrooms, established at the very inception of a class. Children who have acquired the fine art of working freely in a structured environment, joyfully assume responsibility for upholding this structure, contributing to the cohesion of their social unit.”
There are prepared environments for children at each successive developmental plane. These environments allow children to take responsibility for their own education, giving them the opportunity to become human beings able to function independently and hence interdependently.