- Montessori Philosphy
A Closer Look at the Philosophy behind the Aesthetics
Where are the bright primary colors, benign cartoon animals, and lots of plastic toys?
At first glance, a Montessori classroom feels nothing like many preschools and daycare centers. Because we’ve come to associate cheery palettes and busy animated vignettes with child-friendly settings, it’s easy to forget that young children require the same heads-down workspaces for focused work as adults do. They also need similar breakout spaces for small group collaborations.
Creating Spaces to Think
Thinking and comprehension require a certain amount of visual breathing room. Learning to communicate and to process information in abstract terms necessitates concentration. We owe it to our children engaged in such important work to give them peaceful learning environments free of distractions.
Early childhood educators at The Montessori Schools are charged with the important task of designing an educational setting that improves a child’s chances of learning through interacting with it. Such malleable methods require space and freedom for children to grow and to mature as a result of their own initiatives and energies.
Philosophical Origins of the Montessori Classroom Design
The renowned Italian educator Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) wrote about classroom design in significant detail. Many of Dr. Montessori’s writings focus on a child’s interaction with the spaces that he or she occupies on a daily basis, which include classrooms but encompass many opportune settings for learning. In The Advanced Montessori Method, Dr. Montessori described the “best conditions for [cognitive] development.” She addressed the physical needs of the child (cleanliness, ambient air space, nutrition, etc.), and she maintained that there is an “economy” to a child’s needs. Children “demand simplicity and moderation,” she wrote, as exemplified by their need for clothing that allows for cleanliness and freedom of movement and for furniture that can be moved and washed.
Significantly, Dr. Montessori also wrote about the psychological needs of children. Attractive, unencumbered space—a room that feels spacious, open, and airy—enables one to move about freely. Open space also positively affects the child emotionally, raising his or her spirits with a prevalent sense of comfort, order, possibility. Similarly, the introduction of art, textiles and other rustic crafts are for the purposes of imbuing the classroom with “grace and harmony of line and color.”
Child-sized is a Child Centered Approach to Education
In The Child in the Family, Dr. Montessori described in more detail the implications of designing an environment especially for a child. This would be a space that actually conforms to a child’s size, physical strength, and intellectual capabilities. The objects and tools of the “ordinary tasks of everyday life” are accessible and capable of being used by his or her small hands. Similarly, the function of each object in the classroom is also readily apparent.
For example, the natural consequence of not wiping a table after completing a pouring exercise is that your next work could be water stained. Similarly, if you don’t return your work to its designated place on the shelf and in its original condition, how is your friend to find the work and also enjoy working with it?
In the Montessori classroom, everything has a purpose and, therefore, the child consistently experiences cause-and-effect related to their actions. Everything in this prepared environment “fits” the child.