Friday, 1 August 2014

Aesthetics and the Prepared Environment

During my training and studies one thing that really stuck a chord with me personally about the prepared environment was the idea of aesthetics.

Upper Primary classroom courtesy of Lincolnshire Montessori 



     "The child should live in an environment of beauty"
                                                        - Dr Maria Montessori


When you walk into a well prepared Montessori environment it takes your breath away. I recently had a PD workshop at a centre I had not visited before and I was impressed by this aspect of Montessori theory in practice, it was the embodiment of a perfectly prepared environment.

The centre had light coloured timber floors, off white walls, white shelving and light timber tables and chairs. There was a total of three pictures on the walls, of what was quite a large room so they were in no way domineering - one was a print of a classical piece of art, the other two were photographic nature prints. What struck me as I entered this room was how the materials on the shelves just 'popped' out at me, imploring me to explore them!

It was a very calming room and as I spent the next few days in that room, I really appreciated what a wonderful space it was to be in. Imagine then what it feels like to children who are unable to exactly pinpoint these feelings and communicate them to us easily.

Aesthetics is a large focus in the 3-6 class, but can sometimes be a forgotten detail in the elementary classroom. As the child's inner need for external order fades in the second plane of development, that doesn't mean it isn't still important. It is disappointing to hear of 6-12 teachers who feel that a beautiful room isn't a priority. I personally feel it is important to maintain high standards of order and aesthetics to help inspire the child in their work and inspire them to respect and maintain their environment.

courtesy of Baan Dek Montessori

Another aspect of the prepared environment is having beautiful things to observe and utilise. One of my mentor teachers instilled in us that if you have quality pens, pencils and stationery the children will appreciate them and take care in their work. This may not happen instantaneously if they have not experienced this from the start of their schooling experience, so they may require lessons in how we handle such precious items and how to care for them. Overall we set the standard for the classroom, and that is part of the prepared environment.

During my practicum a child in the class I was in picked up my pencil to use. It was a high quality pencil, a Staedtler Wopex which if you are not familiar with them have a  smooth coating which feels quite silky. The pencils used in that particular room were ordinary and were okay to write with. So when this child picked up my pencil, she instantly commented on its lovely texture and how nice it was to write with. This was also a child who avoided writing, and that day she wrote pages of work. She was able to discern the quality and she was inspired to produce good work.

Similarly, I know of a an extremely experienced Montessori teacher who also believes the children should have the best writing utensils that the school can afford. This lady teaches her children to write cursive with a fountain pen from the day they start in her room. The penmanship of her students is remarkable, and their work  books are impeccable.

Overall I don't think we can afford to underestimate the impact of an aesthetically pleasing room and the details we put into our prepared environment. Objects of beauty and quality utensils will inspire the child and speak to them on many levels - respect, values, trust, standards of work and care just to name a few.

Montessori Homeschool space courtesy of Vibrant Wanderings
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and please feel free to share photos of your beautifully prepared environments  :)

Acknowledgements:

Thank you to Lincolnshire Montessori, Baan Dek Montessori and Vibrant Wanderings for sharing images of their gorgeous spaces. Montessorians across the globe supporting each other - it is truly wonderful!


Further reading:

Montessori Nuggets: Benefits of the Prepared Environment

NAMC: The Six Principles of the Montessori Prepared Environment Explained

To the Lesson: What is the Prepared Environment

The SPD Foundation: The Sensory Smart Classroom





6 comments:

  1. thank you for this post. I wonder where I can get this constellation map do you know by any chance?
    PS do you know what is in the brown boxes at the bottom of the shelf?

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    1. Thank you for stopping by :)
      The constellation map looks very similar to the Nienhuis one. As for the boxes I can only guess that they are continent boxes as there are seven of them and they are on the geography shelf.

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  2. I loved this! It gave me warm fuzzies while I was reading it. I agree 100% and am slowly working through my home to make it that way as well. We just finished making over our homeschool Montessori classroom this Spring. It was so worth it!

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    1. Thank you for the kind words. It is an ever evolving process and we are always adjusting our environments as the children develop and have new interests. I enjoyed the tour of your classroom post - you have created such a lovely space for your children.

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  3. I have a beautiful Montessori classroom.

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    1. If you ever wish to share photo's you're welcome to do so on my Facebook page :) I love seeing other classrooms

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