The learning and development of students in Montessori Subirats is based on their autonomous activity. The autonomous activity consists in the free circulation of the students in a given space (mainly their classroom, but also in the outer spaces) with freedom to choose what activity they perform among all the available ones. Autonomous activity is the basis for educating in freedom as we understand it.
In the Montessori pedagogy the classrooms are called prepared environments. The objectives of a prepared environment are to promote independence and autonomy and help build the internal order of the child and their mental structure. The environment must have clear limits but also freedom (choice, movement, repetition). The Limits are established for the benefit of collective interest and have the function of seeking the balance between good coexistence and individual freedom.
The prepared environment must be a place where children feel comfortable, confident, safe, free and happy. The space is well lit, clean and tidy, contains natural elements and the furniture has an appropriate size and weight to their height and strength and is placed to allow free movement. From a psychological point of view, the environment must offer stimulating (but not overstimulating)activities that allow the control of error and respect the individuality of the child.
Although Montessori education is not adult-centered, its task entails a great responsibility in the process of self-construction of the child. The adult must identify the needs of the child through observation and, based on the knowledge of the theory, offer the appropriate materials at the stage of development and at each sensitive period. Guides (teachers) and Assistants are the connection between the environment, the children and the materials.
Observation is key in all this process because it is the basis for monitoring and evaluating children and helps design an optimal learning scenario that allows each student to develop their potential to the fullest.
Through the observation, the Guide is looking at what new materials can be presented (teach to use) to each child. She/he may do individual presentations or, if there are several children at the same stage, she/he may choose to present it to a small group. Children can only use the materials that the Guide has presented them.
When the child works in an environment where there is freedom and no rush, behaviors that in other circumstances would be exceptional become common, such as very young children concentrating for very long periods. The work cycle in Infant Community (1 to 3 years) lasts around one hour and a half or two hours. In Children’s House (3 to 6 years old) and in Elementary the work cycle lasts for 3 uninterrupted hours.
Observation of the work cycles along time in Montessori Schools around the world has demonstrated that the student activity follows a surprisingly regular pattern. When the child enters into the classroom in the morning he usually chooses a relatively simple activity that he has already mastered. A little later they tend to choose a bit more complex activity that lasts longer. After that happens what is known as the false fatigue, a period of uneasiness in which their behavior becomes messy and seems tired and without interest. This period is necessary because eventually the child will, in their own initiative, direct their interest towards an activity much more complex: the great work of the day.
The great work is a challenging activity that requires a high level of concentration and allows them to develop new skills and acquire new knowledge. After this activity the child is relaxed, satisfied, sociable and restful.
Montessori materials are scientifically designed materials that have a specific learning goal. They are arranged by areas and within each area they are distributed by sequences ranging from the concrete to the abstract and from the simple to the complex. This organization allows children to perform exercises with increasing difficulty.
They are made of natural materials (wood, metal, glass, wicker, etc.) in order to provide a world of sensations and provide the child with a knowledge of the real world.
This learning system allows every student to learn at their natural pace, being able to devote more time to what it costs, and moving faster on those contents or skills that he has mastered in a short time. It also has the possibility of b>going beyond the curriculum in those aspects that attract them especially.
Afternoon activities, usually with specialists, serve to work areas and contents that, due to their nature, must be done in groups, such as music, performing arts or physical education.
Montessori Subirats aims to develop the capacities and competences, as well as to achieve the objectives defined by the government of the Generalitat for each educational stage in the official curriculum. The organizational structure, the time distribution, the different activities and the materials are organized to achieve this purpose.