What is a Montessori Environment or method? For this, we have to first look at the meaning of education, development and method. In general,
- Education means “bringing out, leading forth”
- Development refers to “the process of developing / growth / evolution”
- And, pedagogy is “the study and practice of how best to teach”
In the field of education, there have been many philosophers, educators and reformists. They have all studied, researched and brought out pedagogical methodologies successfully and reached far and wide in this world.
What makes Montessori special?
Montessori education begins with the understanding that the role of the adult is to help the unfolding of the children’s inborn developmental powers. Montessori education believes that all children, from the earliest moments of life, are possessed with great constructive energies that guide the formation of their mind and the coordination of their body.
The Montessori approach was developed without preconceived ideas as to how best to aid children in their journey to adulthood. Dr Maria Montessori, inventor of this method, believed: “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”
Some of the unique features of Montessori are:
- The Child is the Head of the Family.
The whole method is child centered and the trust is on the potential of the child. The methods just guide adults how to help the child. All that adults have to do is “Follow the child”
- Prepared Environment.
It is a very specially prepared classroom concept with age appropriate characteristics
- Teacher is a Facilitator.
The adult in the environment is considered as a facilitator. His or her job is not to teach but facilitate learning by introducing a contact with the materials in the environment.
- Grouping done with needs of each plane of development.
There are four key developmental planes in the journey of a child to adulthood. They occur in: 0-6 years, 6-12 years, 12-18 years and 18-24 years. Each of these planes has its own goals. The goal in the first plane is the development of the self as an individual being; that of the second is the development of the social being; the third, the birth of the adult and finding one’s sense of self; and the forth, becoming a specialized explorer. Montessori Method ensures complete development of the adult human being by satisfying the specific needs of each of these planes.
- Didactic Materials.
The materials in a Montessori environment are not teaching aids but developmental aids. They are scientific and precise in nature. They are specially designed for learning to happen spontaneously. Abstract concepts are materialized to have hands on learning.
- Free choice.
The children have choice to work at their will and choice. Dr. Montessori said: “To aid life, leaving it free, to unfold itself…that is the basic task of an educator. Making free choice is one of the highest of all the mental processes.”
This is a special feature in learning for the age group 0-6. The children learn through their senses. For their senses to gain information, they require movement. This has been optimally used in the Montessori curriculum for this plane. To quote Dr Montessori, “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.”
- Spontaneous Education.
Movement, free will, and prepared environment can result only in spontaneous education. In the words of Dr Montessori: “Since it is through movement that ‘the will’ realizes itself, we should assist a child in his attempts to put his will into act.”
This method has been followed since 1907 and is suitable, apt to children of our generation as well. This method can be applied to any culture, any country, any community, any language and any economical group.
- Mixed Age group
This is one of the best features that promotes social development and indirect learning from the older children. The constant interactions between the older and younger children develop a bond which is very healthy for a coherent society. They respect each other. Besides, lots of sharing and caring happens naturally without being taught.
This is the key feature of Montessori Method. Every aspect of the Montessori Method came through observation. The whole method was devised by following, observing children over a period of 22 years.
- Integrated learning
Learning does not happen in isolation. Every aspect of learning is integrated. In Montessori, the child learns the so-called subjects not in isolation but in an integrated manner. For instance, the children learn one subject from the other, and vice versa. They learn language through Math; Geography through sciences, and so on.
Incorporating these aspects, Montessori education comes to be known as an innovative, unique, joyous journey of learning for the child, throughout his or her journey into a responsible, productive, and happy adult.