Being in an environment that provides a sense of calm and order, that is clean and neat, that has what you need where you need it is relaxing and inviting to people of all ages. For children this is especially true as the environment can help them develop their emerging personal skills such as coping and being able to find things. Taking pleasure in clean, tidy surroundings and being able to successfully contribute to, and take pride in, “my” place. Teaching students to “own” and care for their classroom environment as an extension of home is one way that the Montessori approach fosters a child’s inner sense of responsibility and independence. Most care tasks are taught through the Practical Life area of the Toddler and Primary classrooms.
For example, Montessori teachers and assistants do not clean up after students. Instead, the class learns how to perform the care tasks required to keep the classroom in working order. Soon, students are able to perform tasks like sweeping, dusting, mopping, watering plants, returning work to the shelves, and cleaning up messes and spills on their own. The children make these tasks part of their daily routine, performing them without needing instruction from their teachers.
The Value of Teaching to Care for the Environment
Dr. Maria Montessori witnessed the innumerable benefits for her students when they were given the tools to care for themselves and their environment:
“The children of three years of age in the ‘Children’s Houses’ learn and carry out such work as sweeping, dusting, making things tidy, setting the table for meals, waiting at table, washing the dishes, etc., and at the same time they learn to attend to their own personal needs, to wash themselves, to take showers, to comb their hair, to take a bath, to dress and undress themselves, to hang up their clothes in the wardrobe, or to put them in drawers, to polish their shoes…
This has a truly educational, not utilitarian purpose. The reaction of the children may be described as a ‘burst of independence’ of all unnecessary assistance that suppresses their activity and prevents them from demonstrating their own capacities. It is just – these ‘independent’ children of ours who learn to write at the age of four and a half years, who learn to read spontaneously, and who amaze everyone by their progress in arithmetic.” (From Childhood to Adolescence, p. 66)
Children crave more opportunities to wield their independence with each new success. With each new task comes a learning curve. Trying, failing, and trying again allows the child to experience the importance of self control, discipline, control of error, focus, and more. This also instills a deep sense of pleasure and pride and a satisfied feeling of a job well done.
Allowing students to care for their environment at school and at home instills the character traits that form successful, lifelong learners.
The Montessori in a Minute Series
Montessori schools have at least five key areas of learning in the Montessori environment: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Culture. Montessori schools like Hudson Montessori School utilize specially designed tools, like those found in the Language section, to promote experiential and sensorial learning that students can repeatedly practice at each age level. Often, these tools are self-correcting, allowing the child to check their work and adjust accordingly.
This Montessori In A Minute series regularly explores the unique benefits of Montessori philosophy, its fundamental materials, and areas of the classroom. For all parents at Hudson Montessori School (Jersey City, New Jersey), the school hosts monthly Parent Education Nights to learn all about the Montessori method and how the students learn curriculum components using a Montessori framework.
To learn more about Hudson Montessori School’s interdisciplinary, theme-based learning approach to education, the Montessori philosophy and methodology, or how the school fosters the love of learning for children age 2 to sixth grade, sign up for an open house tour.