In Montessori philosophy there are three leading factors that make up the methodology: the environment, including all the materials; the directress, and the child. The prepared environment will be the focus of discussion and will underline: the principles of the prepared environment, how to set up the environment; and its importance in childhood development.
There are five basic principles that must be adhered to in any Montessori environment these are:
The child is given freedom of movement to move about the environment of his own accord, this freedom is of utmost importance as it allows the dirctress to observe and cater for the child's needs. “it is only in an the atmosphere of freedom that the child can reveal himself to us” Montessori: A Modern Approach, by Paula Polk Lillard. The child is given the freedom to choose to work with any materials that draws his interest for any period of time, providing the selected material has been presented by the directress. The child is also allowed freedom to interact socially within the environment . The child's freedom does however have limits of basic respect and safety, i.e. the child may not run in the classroom, disturb a child that is concentrating on work, use the materials in a way the defeats the purpose of the particular activity or is damaging to the material. The child is given freedom to progress at a rate that is comfortable to his individual stage of development. Through this freedom the child learns self-discipline as an individual. “Freedom and limits: a natural path to self discipline at home and at school” quoted by Margot Waltuch. It is through this freedom that the child is given the greatest freedom of all: freedom of choice which goes hand in hand with the internal development of discipline.
The child has a distinct need for order, order to place and arrange all the stimuli collected from the environment. “He needs order to organize the world around him and make sense of it” by Margot Waltuch. Nature shows us that all things have an order that they live by, this basic principle forms part of the order and structure of the prepared environment as it reflects the reality of the world. The order and structure of the environment ensures that the general events of each day are kept the same and that materials are always found in the same place thereby nourishing the child and giving him a sense of security in the environment. This does not mean that there is never change in the environment but rather that any changes should include the children and be carefully considered and monitored. The order of the prepared environment serves the child by having all the materials needed for the activity there for him to use and then to return the activity to the same place in the same condition it was found. This allows the child to have a complete work cycle and to become a part of the upkeep and maintenance of the environment. “By returning the materials, the child not only participates in the full cycle of activity, but becomes an integral partner in maintaining the order of the classroom” Montessori: A Modern Approach by Paula Polka Lillard.
Reality and nature
Maria Montessori had a profound respect for nature and believed that it should play a large part in the prepared environment. “Montessori emphasized the importance of contact with nature for the developing child. Man still belongs to nature and, especially when he is a child” by Paula Polk Lillard. It is for this reason that all materials used in the environment be of natural origin as far as possible and not synthesized or plastic. The child needs to have materials that represent the real world, bringing the child into closer contact with reality to show him the limits of nature and reality. Furniture that is easy for the child to move around is used along with glass objects that can be be broken if not handled with care. The care of plants and...