The Favourable Environment

Time and time again, we return to the discussion of the prepared environment, the lynchpin of the Montessori approach, as we all take to heart Montessori’s quote (1936/1966:60):

“Our educational system esteems a child’s environment so highly that it makes it the centre of instruction.”

I have seen so many inspirational environments over the years; environments in which the children shone like bright stars, environments where the teachers’ joy of being with the children literally danced in the air and where the beauty of the classrooms has taken my breath away. Yet, I continue to explore questions about what it was that created these unique environments and why is it so hard to make such learning spaces available to all children including all those attending Montessori classrooms. The Montessori Musings team and friends, would like to explore some of these questions with you, dear Montessori teachers, as we gather for our next Challenging Our Montessori Practice webinar on Tuesday 8 February.

A  well prepared environment may have been what enticed you when you were considering Montessori for your children or as a profession. Its order and clarity, the simplicity of natural materials, their availability and readiness for use.  The freedom it offers to children whilst nurturing movement, choice, independence, responsibility and care for the activities and also the  children and  adults within the environment. The environment providing  a wide range of activities both inside and outside, filled with respect and trust afforded to each child and adult, shining in beauty and love. All of these are considered to be the essential elements of what we have come to expect in an authentic Montessori classroom.

Yet there is so much more to it, as was evidenced in our discussions about the environment both in the Montessori Everywhere session and also in the subsequent Montessori Europe discussion. 

This authentic environment has to be created, prepared and maintained daily by the adults, with a significant contribution from the children – who help to maintain it and also indicate their needs and interest as revealed in daily observations. Creation of this environment often means starting each day in an empty classroom a couple of hours before the children arrive. Is it possible to create such magic in these conditions? The preparations usually requires staying behind at the end of the day or working at night making sure activities meeting the children interests are ready for the next morning.  The maintenance requires resilience, physical strength, creative energy, inspiration and curiosity about the children, our colleagues and ourselves.  What is it that feeds our willingness to do all this whilst sharing  the path of learning with the children?

Sometimes we question the value of our offerings, as we encounter physical and mental fatigue and ponder about the relevance of what we have to offer to today’s children. We are also challenged by our own limitations  as we endeavour to create an equitable inclusive environment and honour children’s home languages and culture. We try to offer children “mirrors” in which their faces shine with curiosity and joy of being valued for who they are,  as we also “slide our doors and windows open” to catch a glimpse of different experiences and new  lives and environments. We try our hardest to create a calm harmonious environment amidst the chaos of the children’s and our own needs, interests and circumstances. And we  rejoice when we suddenly witness a moment of peace.

It is for these treasured moments that we keep the flame of curiosity and joy burning in our hearts to be shared with the children.

Join us at our webinar on Tuesday February, 19.00 (UTC) – register here.

In a short introduction, Barbara Isaacs will explore how we are sowing the seeds of harmonious peaceful co-existence based on an understanding of interdependence, personal responsibility and global citizenship in line with Montessori’s Cosmic vision, and the need to actively support the child’s agency, need for collaboration and emerging sense of solidarity?

We will then discuss in break-out groups:

  • What do we really understand by the Favourable Environment, prepared to meet the spontaneous unfolding of the child’s inner needs and whether the environment really can provide everything each child needs, when we adhere to the same format it was envisioned by Montessori herself?
  • What is the role of the adults in the environment’s creation, preparation and maintenance and are we caring enough for each other as well as the children and their families?
  • Can we ensure that the environment protects each child’s rights and entitlements and values and celebrates their home culture?

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