The room, materials, children, and teacher are all an integral part of the Montessori experience. It is a comfortable and engaging place for children.
The layout and furnishings, including the sinks and bathroom, are child-size to allow even the smallest of children to be independent – taking care of themselves and the room.
Materials and activities in the environment are designed so that, after an initial lesson, children can choose to work alone. Many of the materials are self-correcting (e.g., if the graduated cylinders are not ordered correctly, there will be an empty space at the end). Thus, children can work out each problem on their own.
Materials are organized into categories: Practical Life, Sensorial, Art, Music, Geography, Number Work, Writing, and Reading. Science and Nature activities are also available and vary during the course of the year.
In our Sparta and Oak Ridge locations, each class has children of mixed ages – predominately from 2 to 6 years old. New students can learn by watching older children, while older children can teach and be models for younger children. Of course, children will always be at different stages of maturity and composure, allowing everyone to experience the give-and-take of life as part of a diverse group. This also allows the children and teachers to be together for at least three years, getting to know each other and building formative early relationships.
Each teacher, in addition to setting up the environment to be rich and engaging, must be observant. She will use her observations to present appropriate activities to individual children or small groups, knowing when to stand back or interrupt, when to offer help or let mistakes play out, when to encourage, assist, mediate, or intervene. Much of our teaching is done by showing rather than saying.