Care of the Environment   

Annie Burgess | Brevard, NC

One of my favorite things about teaching is creating a special environment for children.  Some key things I take into consideration when preparing the environment include the use of child-sized furniture, soft lighting, live vegetation, minimal visual distractions, and a cozy home-like feel.  As visitors meander through the classrooms at Mountain Sun many of them often comment on the feel of our school.  As Montessori-inspired educators we strive to maintain a sense of order in our classrooms: uncluttered and organized. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

When adults show careful attention to and a love of the environment, it is only natural for the children to want to show the same care and attention if trusted to do so.  Children are provided many opportunities to care for the environment with child-sized brooms, table crumbs, dusters, sponges, towels, and watering cans. Our classroom environment is not one without messes and/or accidents. In these instances, children are provided the time, space, and proper tools to clean up after themselves. At this point in the year, this often takes place without any direction from the teachers. Our day usually begins with volunteers to feed our fish or water our plants. There is a sense of great pride among the children when they partake in maintaining a welcoming environment for themselves and other guests.  

Our Practical Life shelves offer children opportunities to pour from glass cups (only real china will allow the children to realize that glass can break if dropped on the floor), prepare and serve a snack, open and close a variety of containers (strengthening their hands), and many other works that are self-corrective. It is expected that works are returned to the shelf in pristine condition for the next child’s use. This teaches us how to be respectful of the materials and to consider others. Who wants to use the apple cutting work if the tray is dirty with apple core and left-over bits of fruit? Remembering to return the works to the proper place on the shelves also keeps our environment tidy.

As parents, we can take the lessons our children are learning in their classrooms and extend these practices at home. I have experienced first-hand, as both a teacher and mom, the joys and exclamations of “I did it!”  It may begin with small steps. Perhaps you always apply a bit of toothpaste to your child’s toothbrush for her because you fear the waste and possible mess of smeared toothpaste all over the counter?  (Can you tell I’ve experienced this one?) If so, perhaps a slow weekend where the child can practice applying the toothpaste and cleaning up after themselves would be a good starting point.

There are other tricks that can help when considering setting up an environment complementary of Montessori philosophy in the home. I look forward to sharing some of those tips with you all in an upcoming workshop.

In the meantime, I liked the information found here concerning family life : care of self, others, and the environment. Enjoy!

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