Thoughts & Reflections
Walk into a Montessori Classroom, and it’s immediately clear — something is different. Perhaps it takes a minute to put your finger on it, or perhaps you can identify the difference right away, but the sensation is there.
We call the Classroom, the Prepared Environment. We get this space ready for children to learn, to explore, to be. The curriculum is the materials on the shelves, and there are a few unifying characteristics — they’re mostly natural materials, beautiful and appealing, simple.
The materials are all displayed on the shelf, in an orderly manner. They’re mostly stored in boxes. Treasure Boxes, of a sort.
The box is simple, plain. There are a few materials that have similar boxes, so you don’t know what’s in it unless you lift the lid. Sometimes the lifting of the simple, plain lid, opens a world of color and shape, just waiting for you.
This is an invitation to the child. There is something about the unassuming nature, just a plain wooden box, a small container with a tiny latch, simply arranged without pomp ready and waiting for you at the front of the shelf, that is truly a treasure.
Particularly in the Sensorial and Math areas, the materials are set, and when they are purchased they come in their box, beautiful and tidy.
Not only is the material beautiful, precise, and appealing, the container that houses it is also “just-so.” There are a few materials which won’t fit inside their box unless they’re put away exactly right. There are materials which look plain from the outside, but inspire a quick intake of breath at their beauty, potential, and inspired thoughtfulness once you lift the lid, or lower the sides, or peek inside.
What is treasure? Treasure is still and quiet, waiting. It is something hidden away, ready for whoever finds it, waiting for someone to stumble upon it’s potential. It is available to anyone, though sometimes we need to be ready.
We see in the classroom, sometimes a child walks past a material for days or months, and suddenly it’s as though a spotlight has illuminated it. The path is clear, once the development emerges.
Treasure is meaningless until it is put to use. The materials really are a treasure. Waiting to be spent, used, reimagined, and taken on a great adventure, wherever the mind can travel. But they are only things, until they are in the hands of a child; it is only then, that they hold their true value.
Written by:Charlotte Wood