Ideas > Architects of the Intellect > Montessori: Discovery Learning
Maria Montessori's (1955) concept of a prepared learning environment emphasizes practical, sensory, and formal skills. Success-oriented and self-correcting, hands-on manipulatives accommodate the holistic nature of the child, including physical, mental, and moral aspects.
These materials are inviting and pleasing to children and foster competence in practical skills of life. Sensory and motor development occur through repetition of exercises and lead directly into formal skills of reading, writing, and mathematics.
Throughout the process, the teacher facilitates, providing the didactic materials for growth and development, but does not dictate direction. This is a form of auto-education in which the student chooses the learning experiences and the teacher respects the internal, individual nature of the learner.
The influence of Montessori's methods are seen in the richness of sensory materials and self-correcting manipulatives that crowd the early childhood classrooms. These highly motivating, structured environments are overflowing with printed volumes of multiple books, booklets, pamphlets, and papers.
There is an abundance of specifically designed, self-correcting toys, games, and puzzles that invite playful discovery. Throughout the learning experience, observation and direction by the teacher lead the child toward meaningful, ongoing progress. Montessori schools target primarily the individual child in the early grades, when, according to Montessori, the propensity for learning is at its highest, but also address students in the intermediate years and even the transition years of the middle schoolers.