The child who concentrates is immensely happy.Maria Montessori
We already know that “the child” is at the heart of Montessori pedagogy.
The elements that will enable this child to build himself, to reveal himself fully and to open himself to the world, are based on the very principles of the environment that will be proposed to him.
This environment, whether internal or external, will be carefully thought out and reflected upon. This is what Montessori calls “the prepared environment.”
Provide an environment of great freedom, an adequately prepared environment, because the latter is an integral part of life and life cannot exist without an environment.Maria Montessori, The Child is the Future of Man
Principles of Prepared Environment according to Montessori
An activity carried out by the hands and guided by intelligence is the only one that can generate such a concentration force.Maria Montessori, The Child is the Future of Man
It is through observation and knowledge of the child’s development plans that the Montessori teacher will be able to create an atmosphere, that is, an environment that is conducive and adequate to meet the child’s needs.
Because it is above all a prepared environment, it allows the child to work, to concentrate, to build, etc.
Maria Montessori has always referred to the very important role played by the prepared environment. For her, self-building only works when the child can concentrate and find interest in what he or she is doing.
This self-construction occurs when the child works with his or her hands, senses and mind. He or she then develops by carrying out activities, and can thus freely discover the world.
For Maria Montessori, the prepared environment must be like a mother’s body, protective, so that the child can live his own life. In a prepared environment, deviations disappear …
The prepared environment and human trends
In a prepared environment, human tendencies are expressed, they lead to independence, order, working alone or in groups, manipulation, communication, exploration, etc.
This prepared environment allows the exploration of reality, of life, it also allows us to go beyond the material presented and to go beyond the classroom space.
The child must be independent, he must be free to make his own decisions, free to go autonomously to the material that is always in order, we have already mentioned the fact that freedom and responsibility are closely linked. The child must make his own discoveries, and will thus be able to appropriate the classroom as a working room.
At home, the young child tends to work alone or with a friend, at school, children like to work in groups.
Children particularly like to do long and hard work, they will find a large space in their classrooms available for this purpose.
Moreover, the children in the school like to keep the classroom in order, and even if at this age it is no longer a need as it is in the children’s house, they like the tables to be clean, the shelves tidy and the equipment in good condition. This order must be organized jointly between adults and children.
Similarly, the mental order in the environment is very important, for the teacher, but also for the children, the shelves must be grouped by domains so that there is unity in the logic of storage. This order in the classroom will later help the child to find an order in life.
Children also need to manipulate, they must have all the necessary tools at their disposal. Access to water, cooking plate, seeds of all kinds, complete equipment in all materials, specific place to carry out experiments in complete safety. (Maria Montessori has always insisted that the prepared environment be in harmony with nature).
The teacher makes small or large lessons also called “presentations”. These presentations are offered to a child or a group of children. It is by observing the child through his work, his interests and his progress in learning that the teacher will adapt his presentations while respecting the rhythm of each one.
Plants and animals in a prepared environment
Children are sensitive to the presence of plants and animals in their environment.
Plants are part of the environment and the visual effect in the classroom.
The class must be beautiful and brightened by plants of all kinds and cut flowers. Children take care of these plants, water them, remove wilted flowers, change the water in the vase, etc.
Moreover, a Montessori atmosphere is also the presence of an animal ! The children organize themselves to clean their habitat, to feed them, to take care of them, to take care of them during the holidays. The presence of an animal in the classroom must make sense, such as creating an emotional bond between children and living things.
Plants and animals in a classroom allow children to discover a sense of responsibility and cultivate their love of nature and life!
Montessori equipment in a prepared environment
Each material must be only one copy in the classroom. So when two children want to do the same activity, they have to agree. The child, until an activity is available, will choose another job independently, so that he can overcome the frustration of not getting what he wants right now.
This essential aspect of the human being is part of a mental construction and allows for growth. Waiting also means respecting the fact that your classmate can take the time to finish his work at his own pace. Finally, a copy of each material helps to avoid comparisons and competitions between children, as each one carries out his activity for himself.
Thus, if a child deals with the equipment that another child would like, the latter must wait until the first child has finished and put it away before using it.
There is a rule that children do not exchange equipment with each other; they must store it in the appropriate place when they are finished. All thus exercise their patience and respect for others.Maria Montessori, The Child is the Future of Man
Waiting also means respecting the fact that your classmate can take the time to finish his work at his own pace. Finally, a copy of each material helps to avoid comparisons and competitions between children, as each one carries out his activity for himself.
Similarly, a Montessori classroom always has a library with many books available for free access and small armchairs or carpets to make it easier for children to settle in.
The Prepared Environment Facilitates Concentration
Total concentration can only be achieved by young children, and again, only when their hands are also used.Maria Montessori, The Child is the Future of Man
Beyond the equipment, calm, order and arrangement greatly enhance a child’s concentration. The walls are neutral in colour, with a soft paint without overloading.
Furniture must be clear, pleasant and functional. The furniture is adapted to the size of the children, so it is not uncommon to see at least three different sizes of tables and chairs in a single classroom! The shelves supporting the equipment are no higher than children’s, and the equipment is not stacked on the shelves.
The equipment must be complete, beauty calls for the interest of the child.
Finally, Montessori pedagogy is based on the fact that a child cannot be disturbed in his work and concentration, for this reason, he has a working time of three hours without interruption in the morning, the same goes for the afternoon!
However, the prepared environment is not a sterile or autarkic space, it is linked to the outside world. “Going out” then becomes a component of the environment prepared in primary school.
Small outings and discovery classes in Montessori
By leaving, children can exercise their independence. They need concrete information to reason in a more abstract way, for this they need access to the outside world. It is a necessity for their personal construction.
At the children’s house
In 3/6 year old classes, the outings will be more over a day. These outings will be thought out and reflected upon by teachers and children, but they will be organized and planned by adults.
Beforehand, these outings will be prepared by activities proposed to the children, such as the in-depth study of the different animals, their names, their habitat, their food, etc.
And of course, this equipment will be made available to children on shelves. Afterwards, a trip to the farm will be planned to allow each child to discover outside what they have discovered in the classroom.
What about small outings or discovery classes for children aged 6/12 and over?
We know that since man has existed, children have also existed! But what were these children doing all day long in the past?
They accompanied the adults on hunting and gathering, they moved, they imitated their parents, they played, etc.
In fact, the trend towards exploration was freely expressed in nature. The children were learning outside!
For thousands of years, children have been genetically programmed to learn what is happening around them. What will change today is the way we learn.
Children have a need for independence that expresses itself, independence from family, we go to see our friends, independence of thought, we want to think for ourselves, social independence, we want to associate with whoever we want, physical independence we will see what has behind the hill.
The theme of the outing is very important for the child because it is his way of integrating into society and the world in general.
To meet the child’s needs, there would have to be the whole universe in the classroom! And even if Maria Montessori has thought about the specific material that can best answer their questions, children want to have access to the concrete reality to understand.
If the Montessori class itself serves as an immediate environment, “going out” means a little more than that, it means “going beyond”.
“Going out”, according to Maria Montessori, then has a double meaning, there is the environment of the class that brings together representations of the cosmos for example and offers an understanding of the world, and the external environment that will allow real research initiated by the child himself.
A child can be the initiator of a small outing, to observe the buds for example, he can go alone or with friends if the plants are in a garden near the classroom, because it must still be possible to go there in complete safety!
A trip to a museum can also be initiated by a child, in this case an adult can accompany him. On the other hand, if the outing is done over several days with the whole group, the adult and children can reflect and prepare together what we will then call “discovery class”!
The adult is interested and engages the children to carry out these outings while ensuring their safety.
Let’s take a closer look at how these outputs work!
We can divide the preparation of these small outings into three steps.
The first step is about the ability, you have to learn how to get out
Teachers will help children to gradually develop these skills, such as finding out about the museum’s opening hours, for example, how to get there, what mode of transport?
Children can do this with an older classmate.
The second step is the telephone call
How to make a call, to whom to call? What do we want to know? How do we present ourselves? Take notes of the answers and draw conclusions from what is understood. Often these two steps overlap. It is therefore necessary to be able to anticipate the steps.
Third step, the exit as such
When the exit takes place, there is the exit process, you go to a place, you meet someone, you exchange with the person, you take notes, you come back. Finally there is an objective to achieve, that of the goal of the exit!
Longer outings over several days are prepared well in advance. Adults and children decide together on the theme of their outing. Together they will look for a place, make a reservation, write, phone, etc.
Finally, when the theme of the outing is clearly defined, the children will deepen it with the equipment and tools available in the classroom for several weeks. They will experiment, explore, they will prepare their “discovery class” with all the impatience of children who launch themselves into great research, the highlight of which will be the outing itself!
When children disobey – not their mothers, but nature – when, in their environment, they do not have the means and opportunities necessary for the development of their personality, the flaws in their personality will appear later.
These will become evident in their college, in their married life and in their social life. The phenomenon of concentration is very interesting to observe in children who have good opportunities for practice.
People around will say that the child has changed, but what really happened is that his personality has formed. These children have concentrated all their faculties into a single entity; as a result, they have become persons.
In our schools, we offer these opportunities to the child and we know that these changes will happen; children who are disordered, destructive or dreaming will become calm and happy.
That’s the great thing about it. It’s a rebirth!Maria Montessori, The Child is the Future of Man
Maria Montessori, The Child is the Future of Man
Classes, Montessori AMI Training, Baldegg, Suisse, 2011
Maria Montessori, The Steps of Education