What makes for an authentic Montessori school environment? What are the foundations of an authentic Montessori school? Here's a look at various aspects of a true Montessori environment and the ethos behind them.
What is Montessori Education?
To quote The South African Montessori Association, "Montessori is an international philosophy of education based on scientific observation of how the child learns. The approach is child-centred and acknowledges the innate eagerness of the child to learn and acquire knowledge. It is a holistic approach to education which values all areas of the child’s development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive."
The first Montessori school was started in 1900 with 22 children. Maria Montessori aimed to observe and work with these children closely to see how they learn, interact, and experience their environment. Over 100 years later there are more than 20 000 Montessori schools worldwide.
Because not all Montessori schools are strictly Montessori in their teaching methods, it's important to highlight what makes a school truly authentic when it comes to Montessori principles and education.
Here are 6 traits of an authentic Montessori environment:
1. The staff all follow the same guidelines when it comes to discipline, personal behaviour, curriculum presentations, and embodying the Montessori philosophies.
2. The environment is beautifully maintained, ordered, clean, and aimed to serve the child, not the adult.
3. Activities on the shelves are age appropriate depending on the age of the children in the class.
4. The activities gradually progress from concrete to more abstract teachings, beginning with sensorial materials.
5. Authentic Montessori classrooms have an uninterrupted 3 hour work-cycle every day.
6. The classes are divided as follows:
- Nursery - ages 18 months to approximately 2 1/2 years
- Pre-school - ages 2 1/2 years to 6 years
- Junior Primary - ages 6 years to 9 years
- Senior Primary - ages 9 years to 12 years
An authentic Montessori school is not just about academic achievements, its focus on emotional and spiritual development is paramount too. It aims to foster compassion, curiosity, self-motivation, respect, and independence alongside academic goals. Creating a sense of community amongst parents, teachers, and children is vital, and this "connectedness" is an important characteristic of a true Montessori school too.
"There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community." - Maria Montessori