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7 Steps to Achieving Beauty in the Montessori Environment

I discovered the Montessori method while studying International Relations and Political Science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The more I learned about the state of the world—the national and tribal conflicts, the animosity among different cultures—the more I felt that education would be the core foundation of future peace and tolerance. It isn’t necessarily advertised as Montessori’s primary value, but the key tenant of the Montessori philosophy centers on fostering peace within the child and their environment. (To learn more about my Montessori journey, click 
 
A well-structured environment helps children develop inner peace and consists of seven core characteristics: 
 

1) Natural Materials

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To our best abilities, materials in the environment are made from natural materials. Local and state regulations can limit our ability to use natural materials in some cases but we always look to find materials that are reflections of the real world. Glass cups for drinking, ceramic pitchers for pouring, cotton aprons and wood furniture are all used frequently in a Montessori environment.
 

2) Natural Light 

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Natural light is preferred to artificial light. Montessori said this long before research was conducted about the affects of artificial lights like fluorescents. Research shows that florescent lights can be draining and make you feel more tired than natural light. Windows also help to create the home-like feel that “Casa” is supposed to emulate.
 

3) Minimal, Simple & Basic 

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Nothing in the environment is without a purpose or a place. There is one of every material in the space (this encourages children to share limited resources), materials and furniture are simply designed and demonstrate basic key concepts. Materials convey the “keys to life” and are not meant to convey every detail about every subject. They spark interest for the child so that she can explore more on her own.
 

4) Complete & Well-Maintained

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Materials that are broken or chipped are removed from the environment immediately so they can be repaired. It is important that we give the child complete materials – there are no missing pieces in puzzles or cards missing. This disorder can be confusing for the child and does not represent our best environment.

I would challenge you to think of one of these characteristics that does not also apply to the environments of adults. Don’t we all deserve to live and work in environments that have these qualities? Perhaps if we did, we might all have a bit more peace within ourselves as well. 
 

5) Cozy & Home-Like

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For Nidos, ICs and “Casa” (and arguably for elementary as well), community environments for children should resemble a home environment instead of feeling like an institution. Children (and guides) spend the better part of their day in the community environment, so making it feel cozy and home-like is important in order to make children feel more at ease.
 

6) Direct access to the outdoors

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Ideally Montessori environments have direct access to the outdoors. Children can choose to take their multiplication work out on the patio on a nice sunny day or play a game of their choosing with a friend. Nature makes us happy and having the ability to enjoy it whenever one chooses is a wonderful gift.
 

7) Functional and practical without compromising beauty

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Materials, furniture and decorations are functional but are also beautiful. We must resist the idea that children will ruin something or make it dirty. The beauty of the materials is always important even if used for a messy activity.
 
Every aesthetic delight in the environment is an opportunity to demonstrate the joy of life to the growing mind, to show a child that we both create and maintain beauty in our world, and that they have a responsibility to do the same. 
 
Finally, I would challenge you to think of one of these characteristics that does not also apply to the environments of adults. Don’t we all deserve to live and work in environments that have these qualities? Perhaps if we did, we might all have a bit more peace within ourselves as well.

Many thanks to Show Me Montessori, The Montessori Notebook, and Willow Child for creating wonderful images found in this post.
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Michelle Rugel-Hiatt

Michelle is an AMI certified primary and elementary guide. She is passionate about creating beautiful Montessori environments.
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