In a week of school observations, over and over I was awestruck by what I saw. In class after class, the carefully prepared environment was working its usual magic. Children are engaged, most working independently, preparing for their day and their work in a familiar routine that guides their actions.
For those of you who know the Montessori classroom, these photos may bring a smile of recognition seeing children deep into their learning. But for those who may not, my comments will direct your attention to some key elements that may help as you prepare your own spaces.
These classrooms are in widely different school programs: small vs. large institutions; publicly vs. privately funded; one serving special needs children in a diverse inner city setting vs. two small, homogeneous rural communities where diversity is minimal; classes of all ages. Your eyes will see that in spite of these differences, the connection to purpose is present. The prepared environments are doing their jobs.
The order built into the primary classroom guides the actions of the students. In these classes, where the children absorb everything around them and assimilate those experiences into learning and understanding, the freedom to explore and follow their natural tendencies is the incentive that drives their play.
Every one of these classrooms are spaces that draw the students into activity…activity that sparks the children’s imaginations in a way that educate. The method of education we call Montessori is based on this belief. It changes the relationship between adult and child, teacher and student. In this transformation of roles, the exciting and carefully prepared environment is the silent partner of the adult, whose role is to sow the seeds.