The baby is not an inert or passive being, but a “creative” individual, actively struggling to grow and learn. There is an unconscious urge, a life force or horme that works untiringly, but this work of the child cannot achieve perfect development if the conditions are not right. ” Discuss a perfect prepared environment, stimulating his needs for emotional, intellectual stimulation, hygienic precaution and his physical growth. “There is a play of instincts within a child not only with respect to its physical growth and nourishment but also with respect to various psychic operations.
Maria Montessori The Secret of Childhood (Chp. 6 Page 29) Every child has a certain potential and an unconscious urge to carry out activities. He is very curious in nature and wants to develop his own powers to reveal himself. Maria Montessori termed this urge as the spiritual embryo. The child possesses within him, a pre-determined pattern of psychic unfolding which leads him to perform activities for his self construction, development and growth.
This psychic pattern is built at the expense of the environment around him. Thus, special care should be taken while preparing as well as providing this environment to him. It should be concise and appealing to the child as it assists him in his overall growth. Maria Montessori designed an environment to facilitate the revelation of this psychic embryo. However, she believed that, the environment alone is not sufficient to fulfil this revelation. Hence, she provided adequate freedom to the child in order to help him reach his full potential in all the areas of development.
For the child to react to the environment around him he needs the help of two factors; the first is “sensitive periods” and the second one is “absorbent mind”. A child learns to explore the environment with the help of his senses. He learns by putting things in his mouth and by touching them. Therefore Maria Montessori provided sensorial materials in the classroom. The “Absorbent mind” process is one by which the child learns from his environment. He has an unconscious mind (0 – 3 years) and a conscious mind (3 – 6 years).
In the absorbent mind, the knowledge the child absorbs in his unconscious state starts reflecting in the conscious state. Therefore a perfect environment helps make these impressions in the child’s mind. The prepared environment is secondary to a child’s life. The child once born makes a lot of personal choices with the help of his psychic embryo. The prepared environment helps to fulfil them. It helps to nourish and nurture but never create. It is present since birth and is an invisible force. Maria Montessori stated that the child’s conquest for intelligence begins at birth.
While he is developing, he tries to overcome every obstacle that he finds in his path. A leading force is active within him and it guides his efforts towards his final goal. This force is called the horme. Its basic nature is to stimulate and activate the individual. “It is through the environment that the individual is moulded and brought to perfection… since a child is formed by his environment he has need of precise and determined guides and not simply vague constructive formulae. ” Elizabeth G.
Hainstock The Essential Montessori (Chp 6 Page 81) Maria Montessori prepared the environment in such a way that it helped a child in his self construction. It was designed to meet his sensitive periods and his laws of natural development. The sensitive period refers to a special sensibility which a child acquires at birth. Children have an “absorbent mind” from birth to around age six, possessing limitless motivation to achieve competence within their environment and to perfect skills and understandings.
Thus, the environment is prepared so as to help a child meet with each of his sensitive periods. The environment provides maximum independent learning to the child. It also understands the child’s rhythm of life. The environment nourishes and nurtures his sensitive periods of growth by offering the essential elements for optimal development. Each Montessori classroom has a varied range of materials which help the children reach high levels of abstract knowledge and creative thought. The Montessori-prepared environment help the children explore with their senses in a more concrete way.
They are provided with materials to equip them in various areas such as practical, sensorial, geographical, lingual, mathematical, etc. They also have the opportunity for a great deal of movement around the classroom. Movement or physical activity is very important in the Montessori classroom. Maria Montessori ensured the following elements in her classroom for the child to reach his full potential. She allowed the children to move about freely which allows them to reveal themselves and can direct their own growth by responding to their inner urge.
In reality, freedom means to be in control of oneself, to make one’s own choices and to not take any impositions from adults. Paula Pork Lillard mentioned that a child needs freedom to become responsible. There is a relationship between responsibility and self-discipline. If the child feels responsible then he will discipline himself. Freedom to do any aimless activity is not accepted. Therefore, the teachers firmly set limits for the children and aid them to discern between acceptable and unacceptable, good and bad. Freedom in classrooms helps in the development of natural laws.
The child develops a sense of independence as he is taught self-help skills like buttoning, zipping, putting on shoes, etc. He develops his sense of will since he is able to choose his own activities without acquiring permission from the teacher. For example, a two and a half year old child can choose to use the pink tower or any of the spooning exercises present in front of him. Unlike traditional classrooms, a child is allowed to interact with other children during class hours. This caters to the development of his emotional and spiritual life and develops his interpersonal skills.
Freedom helps the child in the various stages of growth as his needs are met in time; thus satisfying his inner self. A Montessori classroom ensures structure and order in the child’s environment. This helps the child develop a sense of safety and security. Order is one of the needs of life, which, when satisfied, produces real happiness. The sight of something out of place disturbs the child’s mental order and intelligence system. All materials should be kept in perfect order and should be clean and well maintained. Nothing should be missing so, when the child enters the classroom, he finds his materials ready for use.
They must be placed, in terms of levels of complexity, from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. This helps the child in his stages of growth as he will use only those materials which are suitable for him. This ensures a complete work cycle for him. The child is able to derive his principles of orientation from his environment and it, therefore, shouldn’t change and should be concrete and not vague when it comes to its setting. For e. g. when the child enters the classroom and doesn’t find the material that he wishes to use in its place, then it disturbs his mental balance and he develops insecurity.
It is accepted that there is Reality and Nature in the classroom. This is because Maria Montessori wanted the child to be in touch with real, comprehensible things in his environment. She didn’t believe in obscuring the child’s sense of reality by introducing him to a fantasy world. This was to enable him to think appropriately by interacting with and re-acting to the world around him. Make-believe situations close the mind of the child. “Nature” in classrooms is necessary for him to be able to communicate with his environment and categorise his perception of his imagination.
Reality and nature in the classroom helps the child develop his imagination and powers of creativity. With “real” things around him, his imaginative play is revealed through the cluster of suggestions and anticipations that gather about the things he uses. For e. g. the classrooms have many real objects such as real jugs and glasses for the pouring activity. They also have gardens and pets. The classrooms are very beautiful and appealing to the child. They are simple, uncluttered, relaxing and colourful, making the atmosphere very warm.
The essential charm of the environment is its cleanliness and order. Everything is in its place, dusted, bright and cheerful. Montessori classrooms have an environment which is inviting; thus helping the children to respond to their natural tendency to work. E. M. Standings states that the Montessori classroom should have low windows with curtains and decorated cupboards. Materials display colour; making the classroom look very bright and cheerful. One of the most important elements of the prepared environment is the material used in the Montessori classroom. The reactions of children to various objects, the way in which, and the frequency with which, they used them, all gradually built up reliable criteria for the elimination, modification, and acceptance of the apparatus to be used in our schools” Maria Montessori The Discovery of the Child (Chp 6 Page 99)
The materials in the classroom must aid the child’s inner needs. Materials are aides to the child’s self construction. These materials teach him how to concentrate in a way that no vocal instruction could ever do. Maria Montessori made sure she placed the materials on low shelves so they were accessible to the child and within his reach. The child has the freedom to choose any material of his choice. However, he has to follow certain guidelines before he uses them. Materials should be purposeful, stimulating and inviting. The materials are of different shapes and sizes; and the child is allowed to touch and feel them.
This physical contact with the material helps develop the child and he is able to differentiate between size, shape and weight. Every material isolates one quality, thus the child is able to understand the area that is isolated. This helps them to develop concentration and power of attention. Montessori materials include sensorial materials which appeal to the child’s senses. They also include didactic materials and control of error. The child is able to learn with the use of these materials as he can correct his own mistakes and not wait for the teacher to correct them. There is only one of each material in the lassroom; this idea teaches the child to be patient and learn to wait for his turn. The materials indirectly prepare him for future learning as there are many cultural lessons provided with the help of these materials. They are sequential in nature, which is, they go from easy to difficult and concrete to abstract. This helps in the intellectual growth of the child. The child is allowed to use the material and repeat his activity innumerable times so he can understand the concept and gain full control over the material. He is given ample time with the material, provided he is doing something constructive and is gaining purposeful knowledge.
The teacher presents the material to the child individually so he develops his concentration. The material is at the child’s disposal and therefore he develops his need for love of work. In a Montessori setting, the teacher becomes passive and the child becomes active as he is able to gain control over the material. Maria Montessori believed that every child has a need of sense of community and social life. She allowed interaction between children so they could develop their social skills. She encouraged this so as to prevent the children from becoming loners and becoming insecure.
They were allowed to talk to each other and work with one another. She introduced vertical grouping and noticed that the children were helping each other and hence they were learning to cooperate with each other. This helped the children in strengthening their leadership qualities and also helped them in team building. They started feeling for each other and started supporting one another. She also made sure there was no competition and pressure in the environment. “The prepared environment is meant to provide exposure to materials and experiences to aid the child in developing intellectual, physical and psychological abilities. Elizabeth G. Hainstock The Essential Montessori (Chp 6 Page 80) Montessori’s classrooms ensured psychological, intellectual, physical and hygiene development in the child. She included children of different age groups in the class. This emphasis on vertical grouping ensured moral support, team building and harmony. The children acquired high self esteem due to this process.
She made sure that there was no competition and no pressure in the classroom. Hence, the child could work at his own pace and take his own time. There were child-size materials in the classroom; this gave them a sense of security as they felt they belonged to an environment that welcomed them. They could carry out their responsibilities freely and perfectly since everything was accessible to them. The order in the class never changed. Due to the purveyance of the above criteria in the classroom, the child’s psychological growth is established and this, in turn, makes him emotionally strong.
Furthermore, there are didactic materials present in the classroom. They are auto correcting and of one concept. The child can repeat his exercises as many times as he may please. This strengthens his power over the material. The materials are sequential, logical and lead from concrete to abstract and simple to complex. Due to this particular property of the materials, the child also develops mental order, which in turn helps him develop his intelligence. With freedom in the classroom, a child is able to develop his physical attributes. He is allowed to move around.
Through movement, he reacts to the external environment and carries out his personal activities. He carries his own materials and places them back, thus improving his fine motor skills. Freedom of movement is the functional incarnation of the child’s creative energy. The child is satisfied as he is able to vent this energy in the desired direction and is thus able to feel emotionally strong as well. The teachers take many precautionary measures in terms of hygiene, too. The classrooms are kept clean and tidy. The children are taught self hygiene by through the idiom “Cleanliness is next to Godliness. ” They make sure their lassroom is devoid of dirt and litter. This instils in them a sense of responsibility towards their environment. “A child develops through personal effort and engagement. His growth, therefore, depends upon psychic as well as physical factors. It is of utmost importance that a child be able to recall the impressions he has received and be able to keep them clear and distinct, since the ego builds up its intelligence through the strength of the sense impressions which it has received. ” Maria Montessori The Secret of Childhood (Chp. 5 Page 96) To summarize, the prepared environment, as Maria Montessori discovered, is essential in bringing out the child’s innate love of learning and in developing their curiosity to learn about their environment. When a child is provided with a rich, purposeful environment he becomes independent, develops discipline and self motivation and is able to improve his powers of concentration. He also learns to cooperate with others. Maria Montessori built upon these qualities so the children could become very confident and responsible.
As highlighted above, the environment is like a progressive building block which helps form the child into a well rounded person. He becomes academically strong and is prepared for future learning. He becomes independent as he is given the required materials and also the responsibility for their upkeep. The environment helps the child to develop and perfect his own capabilities. This environment has built-in controls to eliminate any obstacles that the child may face. It encourages purposeful activity, helping the child with his overall growth and development.
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