Classrooms are called environments!
Montessori environments are unique and engaging learning environments designed to fit the specific needs of each child’s stage of development. It provides a child-centered setting, in which mastery of certain ideas is emphasized without placing unnecessary limitations on the child. It is adapted to the culture of the place in which the school functions.
The classroom is carefully prepared with materials appropriate for the students to explore at their own pace, based on their interest and sparks curiosity, minimizes unnecessary failure and promotes feelings of joy when achievement occurs. Children start by focusing on concrete and manipulative tasks and then shift to more abstract tasks as knowledge and proficiency increase.
Children are allowed to choose their work instead of the teacher choosing the work for them. Children learn how to be self-directed. Sometimes they make mistakes, but that is the beauty of independence. Children have the ability to learn in a relatively risk-free environment and to grow from their mistakes.
All furniture is child-sized and shelves are at eye-level of the children. Care is taken not to overcrowd the shelves or overwhelm the children with too much material. The materials are organized and arranged in sequence in accordance with the way the mind functions. So it varies for different age groups.
Children use the mats or chowkies to define their personal workspaces. They are free to choose the area of the classroom they want to use. There is plenty of movement in the room, but the movement has a purpose.
In a Montessori classroom, the more self-discipline a child exhibits, the more they are rewarded with freedom to pursue learning the way they enjoy most. When a child knows they are responsible for their own behavior and their own success in learning, they feel more motivated to regulate their own behavior. They do not look for external motivation or rewards.
Montessori classrooms are mixed-age groupings. Children of different ages often work collaboratively. Many times, older children act as leaders, helping younger ones with concepts or activities that they have mastered. This, mirrors real life where we often work with people of different ages and abilities towards common goals. Cooperation replaces competition in a multi-age classroom. By staying in a classroom for extended period of years, students gain a strong sense of community. The teacher develops an understanding of their individual needs from not only an academic standpoint, but emotionally and physically as well.
The classrooms involve both indoor and outdoor settings. Gardening and hands-on exploration of nature are often part of the daily routine.
The absence of an imposed daily time-table, choice to work with developmentally appropriate materials, incorporation of logical limits to activity and mixed age groupings create an environment that supports independence, confidence, self-discipline, mutual respect, social connection, and ownership of the environment.