The environment structure is a vital part of the Maria Montessori way of life. Each age group has their own environment that is tailored to their individual and collective developmental needs. Each environment is organized specifically for the interests of the age group. Materials are provided with little dedicated instruction, allowing for independent exploration. The environment consists of a variety of workspaces for the children to explore, and the children are encouraged to use these workspaces as a space to discover the materials within the classroom. There are no set desks or designated spaces where children must perform a specific activity. Rather, children are allowed to learn in a way they feel is most natural whether it is alone at a table, with an instructor on a rug, or peer-to-peer in an outdoor space.
Dr. Montessori believed that the 0-3 year age group was the most important period of development for children, and modern science agrees. This means the environment in which these children learn is especially important. AMI-accredited Montessori schools offer several environments for this age group.
First, some schools offer classes for parents and toddlers together that focus on how the parent can create an environment that supports the development of their child. There are “Nido” environments for children between the ages of 2 months and 14 months that are made specifically for children who cannot yet walk.
Finally, there are “toddler communities,” which is the youngest environment we offer at Maria Montessori School. Toddler communities consist of children from 18 months to 3 years of age. These environments are divided into five parts: practical life, language, large movement, hand-eye coordination and creative expression. This is where our young children learn how to take care of themselves, their environment and each other. In toddler communities, we focus heavily on using social context to develop independence through language and movement. Students learn how to interact cooperatively with other young children through courtesy and direct conversation. Members of our toddler communities are immediately introduced to a respect for individuality, as instructors consider the unique personalities of each student.
All Montessori age group environments highlight the individuality of every child, promote a self-
corrective learning style, foster positive cognitive and social development, all while creating in
the children a sense of community and appreciation for the world around them.