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Montessori method in design

Montessori method in design

A different way of approach on the educational section is the Montessori approach, which guides children to discover their needs involving body and mind. From our early stage of existence we notice that we have the ability to absorb with greater ease much more things, and as we get older this ability fades out. That is the reason why we start attending school from our early years, as the age between six and twelve is considered as calm and conductive to learning. This is a method that gives children the freedom to explore their own needs through senses and special learning materials. It is not based on a pre-defined curriculum which would possibly cause the reaction of the child, but it gives them the chance to construct their selves within a ‘favorable environment’.

The Montessori Method was found in the early 1900s by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. Her main contributions in raising and educating children were the preparation of a natural and life – supporting environment, their observation in living freely in this environment and the continuous adaptation of the environment in order that the child may fulfill his or her greatest potential, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

An underlying principle of the Montessori school is that children will naturally engage in a self-directed learning process. The children are expected to learn more from the environment and from each other than they do from the teacher. For this reason, very little time is spent engaging in whole-class lectures.The teacher lets the student spontaneously divide themselves into small groups and supervises while the children work together to complete an activity. It is through this hands-on, self-directed process that Montessori believes children will receive the most knowledge. General life skills are far more important in the Montessori Method than the mastery of an outdated academic curriculum, and this offers to the Montessori kids a natural and healthy adulthood.

Following Montessori Architecture, the designer has few principles that have to be applied on the specific school in order not only to empower the Montessori approach but also be accepted by the Montessori Organization as a registered Montessori school. Initially the prepared environment should follow a guideline which introduces the following:

· Beauty
· Harmony
· Simplicity
· ‘A Place to Live’
· Objects Should Be Prominent

Following that, this Architecture follows and the next environmental attributes:

  • Spatial, which provides the liberty of movement and the shape and size of the classrooms. The “L” shape was best because it allows the greatest actual separation of activities and the most pronounced inside corner. Its asymmetrical quality allows for a sense of wondering and is more edge-focused instead of center-focused.
  • Aesthetics, which aims to a simple decoration, a pleasant, newer, and well-maintained facilities that have a positive effect on learning. Also, the rooms have to be artistically beautiful as according to Maria Montessori “Beauty both promotes concentration of thought and offers refreshment to the tired spirit”.
  • Lighting is very important for the performance of students, and especially Day lighting enhances learning and improves health
  • Color: Color has an influence on blood pressure and behavior. Warm colors increase the blood pressure and muscular activity while cool colors lower both. Also, studies have shown use of nature’s colors, i.e. blues, greens and browns; create a comfortable, relaxed environment. Color schemes in classrooms should be light and natural and use of bright reds, yellows, and oranges should be limited. They can be effectively used in learning materials to provide more interest. Generally bright colors are best used with learning materials and art. White walls allow all colors to be seen without the color bias of a colored background. Large areas of warm colors such as red, yellow or orange should be avoided.
  • Thermal attribute is also vital for the smooth and productive behavior. According to specialists “Under ideal thermal conditions, students worked faster and produced a higher percentage of correct answers in the morning.” Also, students learn more and retain the knowledge longer when living in an ideal thermal environment.
  • Acoustical: Noisy environments tend to result in “poorer auditory discrimination and less tolerance for frustration by children”. Also, high noise levels adversely affect teaching time. In Montessori classrooms we are very aware of the noise level and its effect on learning. Sound absorbing materials can enhance the quality of the learning experience.
  • Air quality and natural ventilation helps the interior of the classrooms to be clean and succeed a good air flow through open windows
Montessori School - Estudio Transversal

Beyond these attributes there are another five keys that each classroom should has:

  1. Outside environment: Ideally, each class should have at least two walls facing the outdoor environment, which again ideally should be a natural setting of gardens, forest, or fields. At least one door should lead outside, allowing children to freely go in and out to a prepared outside environment.
  2. Observations: Montessori classrooms should have plenty of natural light brought in through loads of attractive windows that can be opened to allow the air to flow. In classes designed for younger children, windows should be selected that reach down to almost floor height or mounted lower to the floor to allow small children to see outside without stretching. Observing the outside environment is important as well as watching the other children in other classes.
  3. Cubby area: each child should have a small private space for him/her to keep their personal belongings. This enriches the idea of individuality and accountability.
  4. Kitchen: a small sink and a small fridge should be provided for each classroom
  5. Storage: storage spaces are important for each classroom separate and also as a whole. There, children can keep their homework, models, or whatever is dealing with throughout the day.
Montessori Kindergarten ArkA

All the above approaches are vital for the application and success of the Montessori Method. The ideas are important and followed silently in order to get the result Maria Montessori once aspired. Color, lighting, air quality and size of the classrooms, outside activities, materiality, and surrounding environment, are issues that are important in order to give a more complete and persuasive result to parents, children and teachers.

Montessori Kindergarten - L&M Design

Source: The Montessori approach and principles by Christina Demetriou

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