Monday, November 1, 2010

The prepared environment

Maria Montessori talked about the "prepared environment" that fosters learning. That means that if we provide an environment that stimulates the child's interest and provides the materials that are necessary for a particular task in an accessible way then learning will take place almost on its' own without too much intereference from the parent/teacher.  It has been a somewhat trying day here.  I was feeling under the weather due to lack of sleep and a lingering cold.  So when my four year old announced that she urgently needed some blocks to build with (she needs everything urgently it seems),  I decided that it might be a good time to unearth the myriads of blocks that lay hidden inside the chaotic mess the the toy drawers are currently.  I grabbed the nearest basket and soon there was an overflowing basket of all kinds of wooden blocks, beads and other building things.  I must say it all looked rather attractive. Sure enough while I got busy with some other things calling my attention, there was sudden activity in the block area. Buildings and other interesting structures srang up like mushrooms after the rain and then the builders branched off into stringing their wooden beads into outlandish jewelry which then lead to some other related activity which then lead to... you get the idea. Later that day when I was busy dealing with an unexpected crisis, once again there was activity around the block basket, a really elaborate building went up, a true architectural gem, with careful attention being paid to design, colors, landscaping - this time by my son with a few little ones pottering around.  Later when the said gem  was now reduced to rubble, the young ladies returned to the pile, one put a few selected blocks away in a sandwich bag for playing tomorrow and one was observed carrying off a small colorful collection with her to bed.  So there you go, a prepared environment in action.  But it's not just the blocks, I've seen it work with all kinds of books on many different subjects, with art supplies, etc.  When we create a rich environment that promotes curiosity and learning both physically and emotionally (and it doesn't have to be expensive or too elaborate), than learning will certainly take place.


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