The Montessori Classroom
The classrooms are specially prepared environments designed to enhance the child’s independent learning. Each classroom has a sea of beautiful child-sized wooden tables and chairs bathed in natural light. Shelves are arranged to feature a variety of materials that are exquisitely crafted to invite exploration and learning. Everything has been designed with the child in mind—even the sinks and water fountains are just the right size.
The children are allowed to choose the work they want to do, selecting from among the many lessons that they have received. As the children work, the guide and assistant circulate throughout the room assisting only when necessary. The guide determines when a child is ready to receive a new, progressively more advanced and more complex lesson. Lessons are given in practical life, language, sensorial, mathematics, and geography, exposing children to the full range of materials available in the classroom.
There are two or three groups of one or two children, working on lessons meant to be used on the floor, on mats they have rolled out on top of a large area rug. You can see one child working on a puzzle map of South America, naming each country as she goes. Near her, a young child carefully builds a pink tower with specially designed cubes. The rest of the children are seated at tables throughout the room, each accommodating one to two children, visiting with one another while they go about their work. Looking around you see children painting, sewing, counting, and building words. Across the room a child is watering plants while another is using manipulatives to add numbers in the thousands. An older child is writing a story in his journal, while across from him a young girl is exploring how to make a large equilateral triangle out of four smaller equilateral triangles and then out of two right-angle triangles.
There is a steady hum of sound and activity in the room. Children move freely throughout the room, interacting with their classmates, respecting their work space, observing the work done by others. The classroom is a center of harmonious activity.
The most important period of life is not the ages of university studies, but the period from birth to six, for that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is formed.
—Dr. Maria Montessori
In addition to the individual work time, each day the children have group time where they might sing songs, listen to a story, or present a show and tell. Of course, the children go outside daily to enjoy the spacious playgrounds (weather permitting.)