Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Peaceful Montessori Classroom: Prepared Environment Design

The necessary condition for the existence of peace and joy is the awareness that peace and joy are available. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living.
NAMC montessori prepared environment peaceful classroom shelves
Visitors who enter my Montessori classroom often remark at how peaceful it seems. They are amazed that 32 children can all be working on 32 different lessons, with some sitting on the floor, some at tables, some working with materials, some reading aloud, and some eating snack, and still there is a sense of peace and calm within.

When we speak of a prepared Montessori environment, we often think of the preparation of the teacher and the materials. But it goes much deeper than that. Before we put materials on shelves, before we cut paper and sharpen pencil crayons, before we fill small pitchers with colored water, we prepare ourselves and the Montessori physical environment.

There is no prescription for a ‘typical’ Montessori classroom. The teacher’s own personality is reflected in the choice of decor. However, there is one prevailing thought; we create a space that both calms the soul and satisfies the innate desire for order.

When creating a peaceful environment, consider the following:

The Peaceful Montessori Classroom: Prepared Environment Design

  • Order, cleanliness and beauty above all
  • Plenty of open space for children to move around easily and comfortably
  • Classical Artwork – paintings (Maria Montessori preferred pictures of children or mothers and children), prints, sculptures.
  • Portraits of Peacemakers such as Maria Montessori, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dali Lama
  • Bouquets of fresh flowers
  • Living plants and animals
  • A quiet indoor water fountain
  • Neutral colors on walls; the focus should be on the Montessori learning material
  • Variety in texture and color of furnishings
  • Fabric tablecloths and curtains
  • Natural wood furniture
  • Symbols of Love, Friendship, and Peace
The Peace Pole
NAMC montessori prepared environment peaceful classroom peace pole
You may wish to consider displaying a peace pole in a prominent position in your school. The Peace Pole Project was started by the World Peace Society in 1955. The World Peace Society is “dedicated to uniting people across the world”. Their peace pole is inscribed with “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in different languages which show that we are all united in our quest for peace. It is a reminder to all who enter your community that you value and strive to maintain peace and dignity to all who enter.

Here are comments from a Montessori teacher reflecting on the prepared environment:

”One of the things I really love about the Montessori environment is that it is arranged specifically for the needs of children. Everything — the materials, the child-size furniture, the space — is designed for them. And I believe that the children really sense this. They feel that the space is theirs, that it is made for them, to be occupied and used by them. They feel cared for and protected. The environment says to them: “You are important.” And finally, I have to say that as a teacher, I really enjoy preparing the environment. I like the sense of order. The process improves my understanding of what children like and what they respond to. An ordered environment makes it easier for me to watch, follow, and help promote each child's progress.
Source: NAMC interview with Rebecca Slosky, 2006

  • The NAMC Classroom Guides provide detailed information about the Montessori prepared environment.
  • The Peaceful Classroom, by Charles A. Smith, PhD
  • Other books on Montessori education and peace: Parent Child Press
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, March 17, 2010.


  1. I read the article on the peaceful Montessori classroom and I am so glad that NAMC has information out there to aid the teachers in general towards finding harmony for the children.

  2. This is so true. Preparing a beautiful, ordered, clean environment for children makes them feel not only welcome, but like it is for them. It is incredible on giving students their own spaces to care for and use promotes peace and order among an otherwise chaotic classroom environment. Children can do numerous different things at any given moment.

  3. I know that I am not the most organized person, and going through this program I have become more inspired to each day put together a more organized classroom that creates the type of peaceful environment that is necessary for my students to thrive. Since I have done this, I notice that my students take more pride in their work and the classroom environment.

  4. I have recently moved from a Montessori Preschool for aged 3 to six years, to a mainstream primary school. I was awarded my full time teaching position wef term three this year and in my class I have children aged 5 - 7. I currently follow the New Zealand Primary School Curriculum and when taking over the class, I gave it a good clean and revamp!. Even though mine is not a Montessori classroom, I have still organized it in a similar manner. I take great pride in having a clean, aesthetically pleasing, ordered classroom. I have a language area with languages games and activities set up neatly on trays, I have a library corner with a comfy couch and some neutral beanbags, I have a maths area, where all my maths activities are set up neatly on trays, and I have an art area with lots of equipment and resources readily available to the children. I have also created a selection of advanced practical life activities and activities that will develop fine motor skills. I have put forward a proposal to the school to set up a junior Montessori classroom for next year and am currently awaiting their response. However in the interim I have had wonderful feedback from the children, my teaching colleagues and the parents. I have found that the work I have put into preparing the environment has had huge benefits for the children, and that the children have become really responsible in taking care of it for themselves. The environment is calm, ordered and welcoming, and this is reflected in the children's behaviour and attitude to learning. In my experience of teaching, I can't stress how valuable a carefully prepared learning environment is - no matter what the educational setting!

    1. I love the way you describe the classroom. I was trained in public education and am now getting my Montessori training. I have a lot to learn and unlearn. Reading all the information has given me the insight to change or add several things to my classroom. As I read, I have been highlighting and starring information about things I can change or include. For example, I plan to get a hanging plant to hang in front of the window. For a pet, I thought I would start out with a beta fish so it is easy for students to take home on weekends and holidays. We have a garden plot which I plan to have the children plant various kinds of flowers in. Then we can have fresh cut flowers in the classroom. I am also going to revamp my space to add a peace place. I will make a lace curtain for the window, hang the plant, have a wind chime at student's level, a small candle which I will light each morning, and a small vase of flowers. I would like to also add a bean bag or large pillow to sit on. These are some small but effective changes I can make. The harder ones are to talk less and show more. I am not a neat person though I am organized. my classroom is ordered, but often my desk has piles of stuff I am working on. I am not setting a good example for the students. This course has helped me to take a critical look at myself, my teaching and my environment and I desire to change much. The classroom is easier. I am a work in progress.

  5. This comments from the Montessori teacher touches on something that I always found so essential: “One of the things I really love about the Montessori environment is that it is arranged specifically for the needs of children. Everything — the materials, the child-size furniture, the space — is designed for them. And I believe that the children really sense this. They feel that the space is theirs, that it is made for them, to be occupied and used by them. They feel cared for and protected. The environment says to them: “You are important.” I would even add the environment says “you are important”, and the kids feel empowered and responsible for their environment in return. My daughter is not in a Montessori school, and I see her struggle with chairs too heavy, tables too high, the absence of mirror at child height in the bathroom, the fact that the sinks are too high (so water is dripping down her arms when she washes her hands). These are examples of how her environment is not conveying the right message but instead telling her: you don’t belong here, you are not the right size yet, you are not respected enough, … How could she feel empowered and responsible? It’s almost as if the environment was telling her “it’s ok if you drop your towel on the floor instead of putting it in the bin, anyway the bin is too high for you.” Instilling that sense of respect, mutual respect, is important and not so costly or hard to achieve, so I wonder why so many traditional schools are still lacking behind in that area. I am preparing a suggestion email for our school, with an action plan and estimated budget to help them improve at least the toilet area.

  6. I feel inspired to rearrange my classroom, I am loving the format of presentation and the freedom to share thoughts openly as I embark on this great journey with my students. I am finding it difficult to contain some of my curiosity already and want to see it all its own pace of course. : )

  7. The Montessori Classroom not only reflects good common sense, to make the work not the walls the main focus, but the atmosphere in which this is to be done. A clean organized uncluttered environment helps the student to focus. This philosophy works at home just as well as at school. in our house we have very few pictures and decorations out, we made out countertops of stone look tiles, and have oak cabinets and flooring, and the colours are soft and reflect nature. People often mention how peaceful our home is. Simple really is easier to live in, clean and maintain and sets the atmosphere up to be clear. I look forward to when the class room area will be done. (we are in the midst of renovations)


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