The Prepared Environment

“The teacher’s first duty is to watch over the environment, and this takes precedence over all the rest. Its influence is indirect, but unless it be well done there will be no effective and permanent results of any kind, physical, intellectual or spiritual.” –Maria Montessori
Montessori's first school was called the Casa dei Bambini, literally the children's house.  A Montessori classroom more closely resembles a home than it does a traditional schoolroom, or even a modern preschool.  To a visiting adult, a primary Montessori classroom may seem sparse and bare, until the adult kneels down.  It is from the perspective of a child of 3 or 4 that the Montessori world is best appreciated, it is to this scale the room is built. 

Montessori was the first to incorporate child-sized furniture into her school, insisting on small tables and chairs, lightweight enough for small children to rearrange them with ease.  All shelves are low and open, with the materials always neat, orderly, complete, and available to the children.  They are arranged in areas: practical life, sensorial, language, math, and cultural.  Integral too to a Montessori classroom is large open floor space for the children to unroll individual mats to form work spaces as needed. 
  • Viewing the silent, unoccupied classroom in the video on the right, what is your impression?
  • Early childhood education is often a particularly emotionally charged subject to consider, why might this be?  
  • What preconceived notions about childhood, children, and what a school looks and feels like do you bring with you?