“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”
The Montessori Method
Montessori is a method of education based on the observation of children’s natural developmental needs. The Montessori classroom is specifically designed to engage children in developmentally appropriate, hands-on, freely chosen learning activities. Over three years, the teacher provides individual guidance to each child to help her explore, make discoveries, and interact with the materials while fostering a close relationship. This helps provide the foundation for joyful, motivated, life-long learning.
The Prepared Environment
“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”
At the turn of the 20th Century, Dr. Montessori, through scientific observation, discovered that children learn to read, write, perform mathematics, and become members of a community in the same way they learn to walk and speak. To optimally provide surroundings to support this development, Dr. Montessori developed a ‘prepared environment’. This environment is organized, simple, and beautiful. It includes tools of real life, three dimensional sensory materials, as well as art and music from around the world. The teacher is the dynamic link between each child and the materials that surround her. This peaceful, non-threatening environment allows children to develop at their own pace with no stress.
A Multi-Age Setting
A true Montessori learning environment is comprised of children of multiple ages. This provides an authentic social environment that reflects the wider community. By observing the older children, younger children learn social appropriateness and gain initial understanding of materials and concepts that they themselves will experience as they grow. Older children, in turn, have the opportunity to strengthen their understanding of material as well as feel responsibility by interacting with younger children.
Activities in this area reflect everyday tasks performed in the home. Preparing food, arranging flowers, polishing various objects, watering plants and general care for the space give children a sense of ownership and empowerment from the first moment they enter the environment. By mastering these skills, children broaden their attention span, develop their motor coordination, and create life-long learning habits (ie every task is to be completed and completed well).
The materials in this area are scientifically designed (based on the metric system) and give children opportunities to understand and discover the physical qualities of the world such as dimension, color, texture, and shape. By experiencing these concrete materials with their hands, children develop an abstract understanding of these concepts.
A diverse, hands-on, rich collection of language materials give children numerous opportunities to develop and enhance spoken language, vocabulary enrichment, writing, reading, and overall language appreciation.
By incorporating concrete materials like rods and beads, children explore abstract mathematical concepts such as quantity, the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, the decimal system (units, tens, hundreds, thousands), and fractions. Research shows this hands-on approach gives children a solid, life-long sense of numbers.
Additional materials give children the opportunity to pursue their individual interests in geography, art, music, and science and nature. Large motor activities, group discussions, storytelling, literature, and songs are also incorporated in the Montessori day. Much time is devoted to learning outdoors and discovering what nature has to offer our world. With this constant exposure to the outdoors, children naturally appreciate nature of all sorts.