The Prepared Environment

“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.” ~ Dr. Maria Montessori

 Montessori learning environments are prepared to enable infants, children, and young people to learn through their own activity. As much freedom and independence as possible is given for their age and stage of development — a level of freedom matched to their ability to regulate and discipline themselves. They are also provided with  resources  and  activities  that  capture  their  interest  and  initiate  cycles  of  purposeful  activity  requiring concentration and judgment.  In  the  Montessori  view,  the  development  of  infants,  children,  and  young  people  is  stimulated  by  action, and interaction,  within  their  environment.  What  is  offered  in  the  environment  will,  thus,  largely  determine  how children develop intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Educational research in recent decades, drawing on theories of place developed by cultural geographers, resonates with the significance Montessori educators over the last century have given to the role of the environment in human development (Ellis 2005; Tuan 1977). 

The essential components of a Montessori learning environment are: 

  • the infants, children or young people
  • the trained adults 
  • the physical surroundings, including the specially designed Montessori educational material. 

Montessori learning environments are prepared to nurture children’s natural tendency to work and their love of learning. They provide opportunities for children to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities under the guidance of a trained adult. The design of a Montessori learning environment has four dimensions. 

  1. The physical environment is characterized by furniture and implements, matched to the size and strength of the  children,  and  by  distinctive  educational  materials  designed  to  precise  specifications  and  matched  to the developmental stage.
  2. The social environment comprises a multi-age peer group, a trained teacher and trained teaching assistants as required.  This  dimension  of  the  environment  is  designed  so  infants,  children,  and  young  people  can develop  both  as  individuals  and  as  social  beings.  It includes real-life activities that link them in meaningful ways to their home, community and culture, as well as activities that develop a concept of their place in the world and the wider Universe.
  3. The environment is designed to give children the time they need to develop. Wherever possible the school day is made up of unbroken three-hour work periods, so children are able to follow their interests and to achieve their learning goals without being interrupted.
  4. The emotional environment is prepared to foster cooperation and not competition.  This allows for children to feel safe, secure, and confident, so they can freely follow their interests and engage in deep concentration.

Preparation  of  the  learning  environment  is  a  fundamental  task  of  the  Montessori  teacher.  Dr. Montessori urged teachers to prepare the environment, provide appropriate materials, and then step back to observe and allow time for work.  Scheduling that allows large blocks of time for work and play is part of Montessori’s legacy.  

“The definition of a school,  according to Dr. Montessori,  is a ‘prepared environment in which the child, set free from undue adult intervention, can live its life according to the laws of development’.” – E.M. Standing, Maria Montessori:  Her Life and Work, p. 118

  • The Infant and Toddler environments are prepared to aid in the natural development of the child. These environments are physically safe, cognitively challenging, and emotionally nurturing. The child is free to explore and manipulate, and to be fully involved in learning projects. We allow children to do what they are ready and willing to do.

    We reinforce their self-initiated activities by paying full attention, while being quietly available, and by appreciating and enjoying what the children actually do. Our environments are sanitary, and our student-to-caregiver ratios are low. We want to make your child’s school experience a positive one.

    CLICK HERE for information about our Infant Program.
  • The toddler environment of Sun Grove Montessori School is prepared to aid in the natural development of the child. Toddlerhood is a period of rapid change physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively and neurologically. Therefore, it is important that the environment for the child be physically safe, cognitively challenging, and emotionally nurturing. During this time, exposure to the appropriate materials and experiences is critical.

    The child is free to explore and manipulate, fully involved in learning projects. We allow children to do what they are ready and willing to do. We reinforce their self-initiated activities by paying full attention, while being quietly available, and by appreciating and enjoying what the children actually do. For example, toddlers who are mastering their toileting skills need free access to changing and toileting areas in order to take control of their bodily functions. In a Montessori environment, the changing and toileting area is on the child’s level where he or she need not ask to go, and other friends may watch and learn. The toddlers not only appreciate this opportunity, they also make good use of it by learning to use the toilet sooner.

    CLICK HERE for information about our Toddler Program.
  • The primary environment mixes three, four, and five year old children and offers an ungraded, individualized learning experience structured to each child's unique learning potential. Activities to promote and refine skills of sensorial discrimination, develop coordination, and invite concentration are presented with varying degrees of challenge. The skills of living and social-emotional development, as well as skills of learning, are encouraged.

    CLICK HERE for information about our Primary Program.
  • After completing the primary class, students move into the elementary classes and continue their work in a stress-free, ungraded environment. These environments are structured to move students toward mental work at an abstract level. In addition to perfecting math and reading skills, the Montessori elementary curriculum presents the opportunity to explore cultural subjects, history, geography, geometry and the natural sciences.

    CLICK HERE for information about our Lower Elementary Program.

    CLICK HERE for information about our Upper Elementary Program.
  • The Montessori Middle School philosophy provides opportunities and support for adolescents as they gain self-knowledge and self-confidence. They belong to a community in which they are responsible for their own behavior. They learn to be adaptable, academically competent and challenged, and to create a vision for their personal future. These adolescents become empowered to be peaceful, accomplished, and involved citizens of the world.

    The Montessori Middle School includes traditional subjects as well as the creation of a business. “Wake Up Montessori” is a breakfast/coffee shop open two days per week and is run primarily by our middle school students. All profits are used to defray costs of their end-of-the-year educational experience.

    CLICK HERE for information about our Middle School Program.