The Prepared Environment - In High School

Also in the Weekly Post, November 12, 2010.

In real estate, we know it’s “location, location, location,” but it’s all the more true for a Montessori high school. The past couple of articles about the High School have focused on the budding partnerships in the Museum District.  However, to establish the partnerships is just the beginning. The creation of relationships is part of the preparation of the environment for the adolescent students. Remembering that our mission is to create an environment that helps them “prepare themselves” for life, the proximity to the partners is a key factor in choosing a location for the High School.

This past weekend’s Montessori Journey gave us a great opportunity to experience the Montessori prepared environments that our children enjoy everyday. Notice that these are not mere classrooms—a room for a class—but are ‘prepared.’ How are they prepared? Each space is dedicated to a specific age range and the room is carefully arranged and ordered to serve the developmental characteristics and needs of that age.
The environments contain just what is necessary and sufficient for the children’s development. If we add too much, it’s just clutter. If we don’t have enough, the children will be bored. Either way, negative behaviors can result. Each Montessori teacher shows her sensitivities to the age by choosing what materials are available, in what quantities, and in what arrangements—then adds to the room an array of work spaces where children may take the materials to work with them. The materials and the work spaces invite the children to activity, not passivity. Each environment then is more than just a room—it is a laboratory, a studio, a senate, a canvas, a party, a workshop—the environments for each age are optimized to help children prepare themselves for life.  The teachers don’t prepare the children, the children prepare themselves!

How should the environment for adolescents be prepared? What should it look like? This environment would not be just a single room, but a series of world-class institutions, each representing a variety of disciplines and providing opportunities without an upper limit. This environment, like all the other Montessori prepared environments before it, calls out to the students; it is attractive and compelling. This prepared environment provides a safe and engaging core learning space from which students can leap off in any direction and to any depth. The environment is populated by adults who provide challenge and support to the adolescent students who are making their way to adulthood. These subject experts must be readily available to students to foster a close connection with the disciplines, but also with the adults who are contributing to society through their work. The location of the High School places the students into direct contact with these exemplars of human society in a variety of fields.

So get ready, because in the afternoon on Saturday, November 3, 2012, we’ll put the journey in Montessori Journey as we travel to the Museum District and see that Montessori prepared environment through the eyes of the Post Oak School class of 2016.