The Prepared Environment
The "prepared environment" is Maria Montessori's concept that the environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child.
In the prepared environment, there is a variety of activity as well as a great deal of movement. In a preschool classroom, for example, a three-year-old may be washing clothes by hand while a four-year-old nearby is composing words and phrases with letters known as the movable alphabet, and a five-year-old is performing multiplication using a specially designed set of beads. [....]
In the calm, ordered space of the Montessori prepared environment, children work on activities of their own choice at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially designed to meet their developmental needs.
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Things to Keep in Mind
- The "Prepared Environment:" In a successful Montessori environment the classroom/materials teach the lesson as opposed to a “typical” classroom where a designated adult fulfills this role. Therefore it is very important to have the “right” material prepared beforehand to deliver certain educational goals. But more importantly, it is essential to introduce and maintain a sense of structure and respect for others. Take the time to talk to your child about this new environment you are about to visit and how you will both practice “whispering” and exploring together. Even if your child has just turned two, he/she will benefit greatly from you telling them about what they are about to experience beforehand.
- The “Accessing Materials” routine: It is important to remember as the “Instructing Parent” that a vital part of learning from the activity is learning how to obtain a “work mat” and place it on the table, remove a target activity from the shelf, place it on a “work mat”, explore it and then return it to its original order and place on the shelf.
- Learning through doing and not through “explaining”: Try to remind yourself that your child learns better by watching you do something as opposed to listening to you explain it. There will be ‘self-explanatory’ activities laid out for you to access with your child while you wait for you and your child’s turn with the teacher. The teacher will be observing the children and when the time is “right”, the teacher will invite you over to a presentation of a certain activity using pre-prepared materials, and then leave you and your child to explore it.
- Be respectful of others and their workplace: Direct your child away from other children’s material, if they attempt to access it while another child is “working” with it. Explain to them that he/she will have a turn when the material is back on the shelf. Do not get frustrated if the child fights you on this, for this is part of the learning experience. If your child persists, escort him/her to the designated reading area and explain that once he/she is “ready” both of you will return to the table. If you were already working on something together, leave the material on the table. Once the child is ready to return, start by putting back the material you were working on, before moving on to something else.
- Learn where things are in the “Learning Zone”: A big part of this first experience is to learn about the “Learning Zone” and its different areas. The teacher will begin the session by walking the children through the facility and then sitting down to their designated area.
- Remind the child that this is their own “Learning Zone” and it is important to keep it “special”
- One of the benefits of us being a hybrid program: is that we believe in free play time and toys! The first 40 minutes and the last 40 minutes of each session are designated to non-Montessori toys/outdoor playtime!