Sunday, October 4, 2015

Montessori History: Children at Work in Classrooms

For those unfamiliar with the Montessori method, these historical images gathered from around the web show some of the characteristic features of a Montessori environment. The built environment plays a critical role in the children's development of independence and graceful use of the space. 

What does a Montessori classroom look like? How is it designed? What features remain prominent today?

The room shown here features low shelves along walls hold work materials for children to gather. Images on walls are art, not instructional posters. Children work at small group and individual tables and on the floor according to their own choice. Work is individual, as pictured here, but there is space for two children to work at each of these medium sized tables. 

Children have open access to outdoor areas for work. Work may be done on mats rolled out on the floor. Again, note, the decentralized role of the adult as a guide rather than schoolmaster. If not a garden, the rooms are designed to include a patio for working in the open air whenever possible.

Some children here are working on the floor alone and with a partner. Others have free access to the slates on the wall. 

Note the intentionally bare walls, uncluttered to keep the child's eye drawn to the colors and forms of the materials rather than instructional aids. One child is practicing music with the Montessori Bells. Music takes place in the environment, rather than as a subject isolated for outside instruction. 

 Here, the guide gives an individual lesson while others continue their own work. Art decorates the walls. The Pink Tower for sequencing dimensions may be observed on the right foreground.

Children work on a variety of endeavors simultaneously, independently chosen from presentations they have received from the guide. A child on the left writes a story with the Movable Alphabet in front of a child with the cards symbolizing the decimal system. A child at a table labels objects. 

Note the concentration of the children on their self-selected work. The tables have been decorated with cut flowers, as a way the children work to strengthen their hands in cutting and participate in the beauty and order of the environment. The vases of flowers also promote a care of movement, with the natural consequence of spilling the vases if care is not taken. 

Dr. Montessori has said that the Casa, or "House of Children", operates best when there are many children, closer to 30 than 20. The children develop a greater sense of independence and cooperation between each other than when in small groups with an adult. 

This is the Glass Classroom at the World's Fair. The guide is modeling individual llessons while others work exercises with The Pink Tower and knobbed cylinders. 

The child in the foreground works on The Broad Stair, also known as The Brown Stair. 

This appears to be Dr. Montessori in her later life in India. Dr. Montessori expanded the use of mats for work, as well as low tables initially due to financial constraints. Children enjoy using the traditional low tables, or chowkis, and the use has spread globally in Montessori environments due to the affordability and portability. Children can carry them independently. 

 Pictured, the Moveable Alphabet, nomenclature cards, the Pink Tower, and what appears to be the matching or grading of Color Tablets.

In this scene, there appear to be no tables at all, only work on mats on the floor. The circle on the floor traces a broad area for children to balance and perform movement exercises, as presented. As in the first photo, the photos hung higher are hung to tilt down to the childrens' view. 

The emphasis on outdoor work environments is critical to the philosophy of freedom of movement. 

This appears to be a lower elementary environment, where children would be in the second plane of development (ages 6-9). Utilizing furniture available, the class utilized chairs attached to tables. Many of the children are observed to be reading or writing, as opposed to the more sensorial environments in the Primary house of children. 

Here, Dr. Montessori is shown visiting an environment where children are working with word cards (grammar?) and classified nomenclature. 

Dr. Maria Montessori and her son Mr. Mario Montessori, a famous educator in his own right as well. They observe a child performing exercises with the knobbed cylinders blindfolded, to develop the stereognostic sense of visualizing dimension (and later, quantity) in the mind's eye.

Special thanks to Sid Mohandas for sharing these images via The Male Montessorian project, 

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