Everything is the right size and proportion for the children.
Everything is within reach of the children – This gives the children physical freedom and helps them achieve independence. Being able to select and help themselves to classroom activities also helps them achieve mental freedom.
Everything is orderly and tidy – The room is arranged into different areas: practical life exercises, sensorial exercises (0 – 6 years only), mathematical materials, the language area with books, reading and writing materials as well as cultural and environmental materials.
There is simplicity and beauty about the environment – The room is light and airy and safe. Everything is well cared for and welcoming. For the 0 – 6 child their ‘absorbent mind’ is strongly impressed by their surroundings.
Materials for intellectual development – These are gradually introduced to the children when each of them is ready. They are well made, attractive and interesting – always complete, never with pieces missing. The Montessori materials support the children’s learning, provide them with a challenge and are designed to develop skills, competence and problem solving.
The natural world is well represented – In the environment there will be a nature table and/or display table. There are flowers or plants and gardening activities are encouraged. This idea of keeping the child close to nature is very important to encourage a caring attitude and assist spiritual development.
The social setting is another aspect of the special Montessori environment. A stable group of children will show respect and encourage each other throughout their time together in the environment and they will work freely together and be able to converse without restraint. This kind of cooperation and collaboration will result in a peaceful environment.
These classrooms are a multi-aged environment where there is a balance between gender and age spread. This age spread is typically three years and within the same plane of development; 0 – 3 years, 3 – 6 years and so on. This is a more natural way of grouping children than strictly by years or by gender. This profile of classroom better represents the social situations in the real world. During the day children are encouraged to move around freely and develop their own friendships.
In the 0 – 6 years community the children will tend to work more on their own and perhaps in small groups of 2 or 3. Many of the Montessori materials in the Children’s House classroom encourage individual development however there are also some activities which support group work, especially in the area of language and maths.
The 6 – 12 years children in the Primary School are very social beings and a great deal of the work can be done in small groups which supports their academic development and social cooperation.
In a typical Montessori environment, across all age groups, the children will learn from each other: younger ones watching older ones or the older ones are helping the younger ones; this cooperation supports healthy social development and independence and minimises the need for unnecessary adult intervention.
It is through the provision of these prepared environments that Dr Montessori first observed, what she called, the true nature of the child; qualities that collectively described a normalised child. These amazing qualities include a love of learning, perseverance, concentration and independence, imagination, cooperation, compassion, respect and sensitivity, creativity, and at the completion of tasks the child demonstrates quiet reflection, joy or exuberance.
It is the adult and their relationship to the classroom that will convey a message of love, care and concern as this ambience will be felt by the children. The adult needs to exhibit gracefulness and be calm and organised, as the children over time will emulate this behaviour and enjoy friendliness with error.
The adult is a protector of the child’s concentration and holds consistent expectations as this allows the child to experience personal acceptance and trust.
Understanding of Montessori theory, which includes the human tendencies, sensitive periods, planes of development and the absorbent mind, are constant keys for the Class Director to effectively respond to the needs of the children in their care.
It is the role of the Class Director to prepare the environment, including maintaining and rotating the materials. The adult has two roles within the classroom; firstly to offer presentations to the children, since the adult is the dynamic link between the child and the materials. Secondly, stepping back and allowing the child’s learning and exploration to flourish independently. The Class Director will observe and only intervene to offer an extension to the understanding or to redirect the child.
The Class Director has an inherent respect for the child and the internal processes taking place. This allows the Class Director to engage and inspire and it is this humility that represents one of the key spiritual realisations for the Class Director. The Class Director is conscious of peace experienced in the classroom for children to be thoughtful and reflective.