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The Yellowstone Montessori Environment

Everything about the primary Yellowstone Montessori environment is specially designed for a specific need of the child aged three to six. The age and number of the children in a classroom, the height of the ceiling, the design and size of the indoor classroom and outdoor facilities, the shelving, tables and chairs, how and where everything is set up, and how many of each material is on the shelf, are all determined by the developmental needs of the child. These aspects of the classroom were designed primarily to meet the physical, character, emotional and social developmental needs of each individual child.

The teacher with her loving heart and extensive training:

  • 1) Links the individual child to the material in the classroom;
  • 2) Models kindness, patience and compassion;
  • 3) Helps relations between the children;
  • 4) Demonstrates how to use materials; and
  • 5) Shows each child how to function and thrive in the classroom.

Thus, a very important triangular relationship exists between the child, the materials and the teacher. The teacher is not the center point of the classroom. The child with his/her developmental needs is the center point of the classroom. The child is at the apex of this triangular relationship.

Concentration and Experimentation

The Yellowstone Montessori primary classroom is a gentle environment where a child can experiment with learning socially, emotionally, and intellectually. This calm environment allows a child to learn and to concentrate while not being over-stimulated. In this nurturing environment a child can make mistakes and learn from them without criticism. A Montessori classroom is a place where a child can experiment with new friends, new objects, new language, new ideas, and new skills without fear. It is a place where a child can practice choosing his/her work, play, and behavior. It is a beautiful place with objects designed to fascinate a child, so s/he can learn to manipulate, appreciate and use them for a purpose. The pattern of the day and week is regular and rarely changed so that the child knows what to expect and feels secure.

Freedoms

A child’s character development occurs in the process of experiencing the people, materials and the freedoms in a Montessori environment. The basic freedoms in the classroom are: to talk, to choose one’s work (limited only by having had an introduction to that material), to move about the classroom, to work as long or as short as one desires with any material; to choose the place of work, to refuse a lesson from the teacher and to reflect. Other freedoms are to refuse to allow another child to observe and to refuse to share. By the time a child is five, the child chooses one thing to do at any given time from among several hundred lessons in the classroom. However, from the beginning there has only been one set of materials for each particular lesson. Since a desired material may sometimes be in use, over time children develop enough patience to wait for what they want and develop a sense of what they want to do. They learn to go after what they want to do and to think ahead. The environment engenders a self-regulation within limits of respect for themselves and others.

Grace and Courtesy

Grace and Courtesy are the foundation for character development in a Montessori classroom. They basically teach the Golden Rule applied to many kinds of social situations. These are the little lessons that help a child learn how to function in the classroom and become aware of the needs of other children. These lessons begin on the first day. There are at least 50 of these lessons which are taught to one to four children at a time or to the entire class at circle time through role playing as situations arise throughout the year. Often the teacher will demonstrate a funny rendition of behavior and then show the graceful solution. The children get up and practice. These lessons range from “How to blow your nose,” or “How to introduce yourself to a new child,” to “How to ask another child if s/he wants to play.” Lessons demonstrate how to operate in the classroom; how to get the teacher’s attention; how to raise a hand on circle; how to speak in a quiet voice; how to watch another child’s lesson. These lessons all build the child’s confidence at school and lead to harmony in the classroom and playground.

Classroom Bell

Montessori classrooms traditionally have a little bell which is rung to get the children’s attention when it is needed for announcements. The children practice stopping their work and looking toward whoever is ringing the bell. This lesson also demonstrates the only appropriate way to get everyone’s attention. The bell is not used as a way to settle the classroom.

Limits to Freedoms

In a Montessori classroom a child’s freedoms are only limited when they are disturbing someone else’s work or showing disrespect for another person or the materials. At Yellowstone Montessori teachers creatively redirect risky or inappropriate behaviors so that the child and others are safe. Redirection is the most frequent response when a teacher sees something about to happen, or in the process of happening. The word “Stop!” is reserved for situations where a person’s safety is threatened. When differences between children arise, teachers help children to talk about it with each other and learn to resolve problems.

When necessary, limits are set in a kind, repetitive, calm but firm manner, so that all the children feel safe and respected. Every effort is made to meet all the children’s needs for justice, fairness, kindness and understanding. Bullying of any kind is not permitted. A natural outcome of this environment is that children learn how their choices and behaviors affect themselves and others in a positive or negative way. Teachers support and protect the children in this process so that all the children learn that everyone makes mistakes and needs forgiveness, that no one is perfect, but that certain behaviors cannot be allowed for the health, safety and happiness of all.

The Three Year Cycle of Lessons

The Montessori curriculum for three to six year olds is a three-year continuum of Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Geography, Science, Art and Music. Each lesson builds on those before it. The early lessons are designed to attract interest from three year-olds; the later lessons are designed to attract the older children. The third year in the classroom is the culmination of all that has occurred before. The five year olds become the leaders in the class. Physical, emotional, social and academic development integrate in the brain/mind and body producing an explosion of learning. Children therefore get the greatest benefit from the environment when they remain in the program three full years.