The Montessori Method is characterized by providing a prepared environment that helps the child in his development. When we speak of a prepared environment, we are not only referring to the physical space or its decoration, but also to the people with whom the child interacts and the activities and guidelines that are proposed within this space. An orderly, aesthetic, simple, real space, where each element has its reason for being in the development of children.
WHY CAN THE PREPARED ENVIRONMENT HELP THE CHILD IN HIS INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT?
The prepared environment fosters independence in the child
In the Montessori classrooms, activities are offered that respond to the developmental needs of the child. It is through these that the child gains independence.
In a Montessori classroom, the child is an active being, it is he who decides what activity to develop. The child ceases to have a passive role and becomes the active protagonist of the teaching-learning process itself. Thus, he develops a sense of independence according to his development and it is precisely thanks to this space that he is able to make appropriate choices for him.
"No one can be free unless they are independent; therefore, the child’s first active manifestations of individual freedom must be guided in such a way that through this activity the child can be in a position to reach independence." - Maria Montessori
The Montessori environment promotes free choice
As we mentioned previously, the child has an active role in the learning process. In a prepared environment, children have different materials at their disposal and it is they who choose which one to work with, according to their needs, both mental and physical.
The freedom to choose the Montessori material with which a child wants to work will allow the development of different skills in the child, such as self-assessment and self-correction.
In a prepared environment, respect is a fundamental piece, it seeks to respect the personality of the child. We have to be clear that the development of the child’s potential is not determined by us. As adults, we can only serve the development of the child, guide him and introduce him to the environment in a respectful and loving way. Children work of their own free choice and this allows them a high degree of independence.
"Free choice is the highest activity: only the child who knows what he needs to exercise and develop his spiritual life can truly choose freely." - Maria Montessori
The prepared environment helps the adaptation of the child in a society
According to Maria Montessori, children absorb like “sponges” all the information they require and need for their performance in daily life.
The child has a deep relationship with the environment around him. The child is absorbing everything he finds there. Absorption in the place will allow him to feel linked to the people around him, thus assimilating customs, social habits, and beliefs.
The prepared environment will help the child to adapt to his social environment, reproducing the uses and customs of the culture.
The Importance of concentration in the environment
Concentration not only allows the child to hone his skills but also marks the beginning of a transformation in his behaviour because it allows him to channel his energy in a positive way. For this to happen, activities with well-defined and clear purposes are necessary, which allow the child real and constructive work.
The Montessori environment is characterized by being a safe environment that allows the child to become focused on a task without any distractions. Within the environment, the child will be attracted to the materials because of their shape, color, etc. then, as he gains more experience, he will develop more and more intellectual work.
In a prepared environment, we find Montessori materials
Taking the previous point, Montessori materials are necessary for the child to achieve concentration. These materials invite the child to make great discoveries and motivate them to repeat an activity until it is successfully completed, observing and classifying objects, finding similarities or the most subtle differences. The child is the one who chooses them and it is through them that he builds himself.
The order and distribution of materials by areas within the Montessori environment have their purpose. The way in which the materials and furniture are placed is studied so that it adapts based on their development. The order of the environment and the materials help the child to order in his consciousness the multitude of sensations that the world provides and the limits help him to order his mind and make it easier for him to understand what surrounds him.
The environment helps the control and coordination of the child’s movements
Body movements not only enable the child to relate to his environment but also allow him to develop his body, mind, and spirit. As he grows, the child is achieving greater motor skills, which will allow him to acquire a higher level of independence. Children are attracted to activities that involve movement and, especially, to those jobs that require a certain level of accuracy and precision.
The Montessori environment is a safe and non-restrictive environment. Being a space designed and adapted to the needs of the child, children will be able to move freely within a prepared environment. Not only will they achieve gross motor coordination, which manifests in the mastery of balance, but they will also achieve the development of fine motor coordination, with the use of the hand.
"We don’t just make movements simply to move, each movement has its purpose, and it always has some intention. "- Maria Montessori
The Montessori environment provides a sense of trust and security for the child.
A prepared environment offers the child a space of confidence and security. Every human being needs an environment that provides him with physical and mental security, especially in their early years.
It helps the development of the will in the child
Dr. Montessori considered that each human being is in charge of leading the development of his will, a process that occurs naturally if he is allowed to follow the fundamental laws that keep the universe of which he is a part balanced and disciplined. For him, it is the same creative force that directs his development, the one that time after time allows and encourages repetition in the child. The ability to choose material intentionally develops gradually during the early years and is strengthened through practice.
The will is something that develops little by little and that only the child can forge, through the exercise of it; the adult can only help and accompany. This develops when the internal force of the child leads him to grow, to choose, and to spontaneously repeat an activity in his work environment.
The Montessori-prepared environment offers a calm and orderly place, which invites the child to choose what material they want to use. This develops free choice, an indispensable component of the will.
It is important to emphasize that the will helps the child to shape his character and strengthens his decision-making capacity, until one day he will act consciously and voluntarily.
Development of the child’s social awareness
According to María Montessori, socialization is established when individuals act independently and establish ties with other individuals, pursuing a common goal. In a Montessori classroom, social life takes place within a working community where the child learns to solve problems, behave well, and devise plans acceptable to all.
The prepared environment favors socialization and allows the child to develop two highly important social qualities: respect and waiting. As we explained before, the Montessori material is limited in the prepared environment, since there is only one of each, which makes the ability to “wait” develop. In a Montessori environment, we see children using materials collectively and cooperatively. These traits are affirmed spontaneously in the child through experience, with which the social construction is established.
Development of ecological awareness of the child
Nature is a great educator and awakens the capacity for observation, investigation, exploration, and analysis. That is why the child must be in contact with her since it offers him a series of development possibilities, much richer and broader than the one he has in a classroom.
Montessori education has a holistic approach, as it seeks to provide the child with tools that allow him to discover that everything he is learning is interconnected and that it is not isolated content. This helps the awareness of interdependence and the sense of gratitude that arises from that awareness.
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