The Prepared Environment
Typically, Montessori classrooms are light, inviting spaces with beautiful wood furniture, a variety of plants and animals, musical instruments, and art objects. Teachers give special attention to creating a developmentally appropriate environment that is safe, orderly and aesthetically pleasing. Each classroom is specifically designed to support children’s independence and challenge their intellectual, social, and emotional growth.
We describe Montessori classrooms as prepared environments. Every element of the room is thoughtfully arranged to encourage children’s tendencies toward purposeful action. Children’s innate curiosity is supported by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities. The Montessori classroom is notably a busy space in which children are actively immersed in meaningful work. It is, at the same time, a serene space that allows them time to think and reflect.
Each classroom is organized similarly. Most classroom materials are on display and grouped by distinct areas of study in order of complexity. With a teacher’s guidance, children are free to move about the classroom and choose materials they wish to work on. Classrooms reinforce independence by allowing children to use the bathroom as needed, take time out to prepare a snack, clean up after themselves, etc. If children feel they need assistance, they can rely on a peer or ask a teacher for help.
In every sense, a Montessori classroom is the children’s classroom and the children embrace this sentiment. The room is set up to be child-sized and child-centric. The sense of ownership and pride that the students have for their rooms serves to reinforce their social and emotional learning.