“Obstacles must be reduced to a minimum and surrounding should provide the necessary means for the exercise of those activities which develop a kid’s energies” – Dr. Maria Montessori.
The idea of the “prepared environment” was coined by Dr. Maria Montessori to emphasize the design of an environment that optimizes independent learning and exploration for children.
Within the prepared environment, there is a diverse range of activities and ample opportunities for movement.
A Montessori teacher plays a crucial role in preparing and communicating the environment to the child, ensuring its atmosphere and order are maintained.
Through the use of developmentally appropriate sensorial materials, the prepared environment grants each child the freedom to fully develop their unique potential.
These materials span a spectrum from simple to complex, concrete to abstract, and are tailored to accommodate the age and abilities of each individual child.
Montessori classrooms are meticulously prepared to provide lessons, activities, and resources that align with the specific developmental needs and interests of every child.
It is important to acknowledge that not all lessons will captivate every kid’s attention.
Hence, Montessori schools allow children the freedom to select the lessons that naturally attract them.
So what are the 6 elements of the prepared Montessori environment? The Montessori prepared environment is a carefully designed space that is intended to support the holistic development of children: freedom, structure and order, beauty, nature and reality, social environment, and intellectual environment. By incorporating these six principles, Montessori schools create a nurturing and stimulating environment where children can thrive.
What is the Prepared Environment?
According to her book entitled “The Secret of Childhood,” Dr. Montessori said that the objective of the prepared environment is as follows: “The primary aim of the prepared environment is, to the greatest extent possible, to cultivate the kid’s independence from adults.”
Hence, the prepared environment stands as a fundamental element of the Montessori philosophy.
According to Dr. Montessori, the learning environment and every aspect that engages the child should promote independent learning and exploration.
For a Montessori classroom to effectively function, it is crucial that the materials within it are comprehensive and used in the appropriate manner.
The prepared physical environment encompasses the integration of control of error in the children’s activities.
The materials and presentations are designed with built-in control of error, requiring the child to utilize their reasoning abilities and fostering independence.
This enables the child to receive immediate feedback and the opportunity for self-correction. Ultimately, the responsibility for learning lies with the learner.
Control of Error in the Prepared Environment
In the Montessori approach, control of error refers to a built-in mechanism within the materials or activities that allows the child to recognize and correct their own mistakes independently.
It provides immediate feedback to the child, enabling them to learn from their errors without the need for constant intervention or correction from an adult.
Control of error not only fosters independence but also encourages critical thinking, self-reflection, and the development of problem-solving skills.
It empowers children to learn from their mistakes and discover solutions on their own, fostering a sense of confidence and self-reliance.
For instance, in the Montessori school’s children’s house, the furniture is designed to be lightweight so that children can move it without adult assistance.
However, it is intentionally made unstable and can be easily knocked over if the child does not control their movements.
Within the classroom, there are breakable objects deliberately included.
Children are taught how to pour from glass pitchers and handle fragile items, which instills in them the importance of handling things with care to prevent damage or breakage.
Another approach to establishing control of error is by placing small colored dots or numbers on the bottom of materials.
For instance, when working with sound cylinders, the child can check the dots or numbers on the bottom to confirm if they match. If they do, the child knows they have matched the cylinders correctly.
Overall, Montessori education utilizes various methods to create control errors in the learning environment.
Six Elements of a Prepared Montessori Environment
- Structure and Order
The underlying concept of this principle is to mirror the structure and organization found in the natural world. By doing so, the child can internalize the orderliness of their environment, enabling them to comprehend and make sense of the world they inhabit.
Granting children the freedom to explore, move, interact socially, and be free from unnecessary interference is one of the primary objectives of a Montessori prepared environment—to promote freedom of choice.
We strongly emphasize providing our young learners with sufficient independence to select their daily activities.
At the same time, as mentors, we closely observe their progress and provide guidance and correction when necessary.
This approach enhances their cognitive skills, including processes such as knowing, thinking, learning, and making judgments.
- Nature and Reality
Dr. Montessori recognized that kids should be inspired by nature.
Because of this, Montessori educators frequently take the kids outside and incorporate natural learning resources into the environment they have created.
Instead of synthetics or plastics, these materials use real wood, metal, bamboo, cotton, and glass.
To avoid frustration and the need for adult assistance with movement, the materials should be actual and kid-sized. This will allow the child to engage with the items independently.
It’s crucial to provide a welcoming environment for learning. In order to create calmness, peace and quiet, and harmony, the environment should be carefully and intuitively prepared.
Additionally, the setting for learning needs to be clean and well-maintained.
- Social Environment
The prepared setting should promote freedom of communication to encourage social growth.
Children become more socially aware as a result of the environment in Montessori classrooms, which encourages the growth of empathy and compassion for others.
- Intellectual Environment
When those principles are upheld, Montessori educators will be able to communicate with children in a way that fosters both their intellectual growth and the development of their entire person.
Purpose of the Montessori Prepared Environment
Montessori recognized that young children primarily learn and absorb information through their senses.
Therefore, a prepared environment is so important to be designed in a sensorial manner, emphasizing beauty, simplicity, and order.
The preparation of the environment includes carefully selecting materials and activities that are essential for the kid’s learning process. It creates a classroom space that is conducive to all the lessons and learning materials.
The Montessori teacher plays a crucial role in choosing and arranging these elements to optimize the baby’s educational experience.
In contrast to many childcare centers that rely on excessive use of color, sound, and movement to stimulate children, the Montessori classroom aims to minimize distractions and overstimulation.
The physical layout and organization of the classroom are thoughtfully designed to promote concentration and enable children to easily locate, use, and return materials.
Neutral colors are used on the walls, and shelves display a limited number of objects at a time.
This intentionally created environment cultivates a sense of calmness, neutrality, and quietude, which fosters and enhances the learning process.
The prepared environment in accordance with the Montessori principles plays a crucial role in achieving specific goals:
- Create an appealing and inviting environment for children that promotes a positive learning atmosphere that piques the interests of each individual child.
- Provide a carefully prepared and spacious environment that allows children to move freely and comfortably.
- Allocate dedicated areas for various activities to support the kid’s development.
- Include learning materials in the prepared environment including equipment and storage for the personal care needs of young children.
- Incorporate materials that have a built-in mechanism for self-correction, which promotes independent learning—one of the pillars of the Montessori curriculum.
- Ensure that adults have clear visibility of all the children and can easily attend to their needs in a timely manner.
In conclusion, the structure of the classroom in a Montessori prepared environment is designed to foster a kid’s imagination in a number of ways.
By providing realistic materials, freedom of choice, active learning, and a supportive environment, Montessori schools help children to develop the skills and confidence they need to be creative thinkers.
Dr. Montessori believed that a “prepared environment” can be designed by the use of natural materials wherein children are allowed to learn with freedom within limits, learn the basics, foster social and emotional skills, develop their sense of compassion and empathy for others, and nurture the whole personality of the child.
Just as children are allowed to experience the freedom of movement, internalize the order of the world, and practical life when they embody and build the foundations of their limitless minds.
What is the goal of the prepared environment? The goal of the prepared environment is to create an optimal learning and development space for children. It is designed to support their independence, exploration, and engagement with the environment. The prepared environment aims to provide a carefully curated and organized setting that promotes self-directed learning, fosters concentration, encourages social interaction and facilitates the development of various skills and abilities.
How does the Montessori’s prepared environment develop the child’s imagination? Montessori’s prepared environment plays a significant role in developing a child’s imagination. It provides a rich and stimulating environment that encourages exploration and creativity.
What are the benefits of a prepared environment in Montessori? The prepared environment and multi-age classroom offer a secure space where children can freely explore and cultivate their independence. It facilitates children’s autonomy through the arrangement of the environment, the use of Montessori materials, the presence of various curriculum areas, and the supportive guidance of educators.