Dr Maria Montessori, the Italian education pioneer, believed that her classrooms should be a home away from home for children. The safer, more comfortable and relaxed a child feels, she reasoned, the more that child would learn and develop while in that classroom. Montessori’s name has now come to signify a philosophy of schooling, where a peaceful, inviting environment encourages children to be receptive to ideas, and where the classroom itself plays an understated yet important role in a child’s early education.
Aim for an uncluttered space, with a few designated spaces for art and displays. The furniture itself should be a natural colour, as much to emphasise the materials they are made from as to contribute to a sense of calm. You can designate areas for certain activities, of course, but you should also consider creating a ‘quiet space’, where young children can sit and quietly read or play.
There are some key things to consider when arranging and equipping your classroom according to the Montessori way. For more info, head to montessoritraining.blogspot.co.uk or montessori.org.uk. And to get a better idea of what could go where, why not see what’s available from a specialist supplier. Hope Education offer a free nursery and classroom setup advice service to help do this for their customers.
You should aim for everything to be child-sized. What does that mean? Well, although there are obviously variations in similarly aged children’s sizes, you should aim for chairs about 25cm to 30cm in height. That way you should ensure that a child’s feet are flat on the ground. However, it’s good idea to have a range of chair sizes to cater for different-sized kids.
No matter the size of the chair, there should be about 20cm between the top of a child’s legs and the underside of a table. This will help a child’s posture as they work on tasks. Tables and chairs should also be lightweight enough that children can easily move them around the room.
There’s not much point in having shelves that children can’t reach. When that happens, the classroom starts to feel more like a grown-up’s space rather than one that belongs to the children. So, aim for shelving that’s about 80cm up the wall. To accentuate a friendly feeling, you might want to look for shelves with curved edges. Translucent shelves are a great way of helping kids see what is actually stored above them.
The coat racks
Just as shelves should be within a child’s reach, so coat hooks and personal cubby spaces should be accessible too. It’ll help children to remember to neatly hang jackets and bags.
What about the adults?
Since a Montessori classroom is centred around the children, it’s counter-productive to have an adult’s desk in the room. The idea is to foster a shared learning experience, so anything you might need to work on should be done around the children, at their level. You might find one comfy chair helps when you are reading stories, or else big bean bags are a good option.