The Prepared Environment
"When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower."
-Alexander Den Heijer
Children develop through interactions in their environment. The quality of the environment impacts the construction of the child and their understanding of the world.
A prepared environment is one that will provide what the child needs or could use to develop in such a way that he or she fulfills the task of “self-construction.” It will provide the nutrients that the child needs to develop to his full potential.
Montessori believed that the child is born with super powers (human tendencies, an absorbent mind and sensitive periods), that will help him to adapt to the elements of his culture. The prepared environment takes these super powers into consideration.
The Physical Environment
- space: enough to satisfy free movement and independence (not too large that the child feels lost, and not too small that he will be constricted and the adult will become an obstacle)
- light: natural if possible
- temperature: should be comfortable so the child is able to concentrate
- ventilation: air must circulate
- noise: at a level that allows the child to concentrate
- safety: if we want them to be independent, needs to be a safe space
(electrical outlet’s covered, etc), natural consequences are important-materials in the environment will break if dropped
- adequate storage space: to avoid clutter (clutter takes energy from child, be objective, be careful to declutter the environment)
- furniture: must be size proportioned to child body
- toys and materials: satisfy the child’s need, they have a developmental purpose, are interesting to the child, ready to be used independently, should be complete, if some piece is missing or broken, remove material from the environment, clean
Adults in the Environment
- the adult is the most important part of the environment because they are the role model for what it means to be human
- prepares the physical environment
- prepares non-physical environment
-observe- only through observation can the adult provide a prepared environment for each child that meets the child’s need in the moment.
- model movements by moving graciously
- language experiences-the adult needs to establish relationship with child with precise language
- must allow child to choose work freely, following inner guide, to fulfill needs of sensitive periods
- foster repetition and concentration
- establish routines in environment
- ensure the child has opportunities for real experiences
- the environment must be flexible, requires a lot of work from adult, the adult must be flexible and change the environment as needed
“The child absorbs knowledge from his environment simply by living.”
-E.M. Standing (1962) Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work pg. 263