What Goes Into a Montessori School Setup?
Five years and nearly 90 campuses later, how do we do it — and why? We take you behind the scenes of a Montessori School Setup
Stepping foot inside a Montessori classroom is a humbling experience. Its simplicity invites a sense of calm and exuberance that inspires adults and children alike. A Montessori environment transforms learning into an experience that is personable, energizing, and most importantly – joyful.
In our Toddler communities, we see this when a two-year-old exudes peace because she has been given the respect of freedom within limits.
In our Children’s House, we see this when a kindergartner confidently chooses his own work with deep concentration because the environment is interesting and accessible.
In our Elementary communities, we see this when a student eagerly deep dives into academics because of the agency, personal responsibility, and peer collaboration that is elevated in a Montessori classroom.
These outcomes are, in part, credited to the brilliance of Dr. Maria Montessori’s Prepared Environment, and they motivate us in all that we do as the world’s largest Montessori school network. It’s no easy feat to prepare these classrooms from scratch, but the more communities we serve, the closer we get to helping every child realize their full potential.
Matt Bateman, Vice President of Pedagogy at Higher Ground Education, recently helped with Guidepost Montessori’s 80th campus opening in Chicago.
“Setting up a school is always physical; this very work is Montessori in spirit. ‘The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself’,” he said on Twitter. We've shared more of his insights and what goes into setting up the Prepared Environment below.
Dedicated staff first inventory, organize, kit, and pack materials from a Texas warehouse. This intentional preparation on the front end means we significantly reduce the number of boxes sent to new schools, while reducing time spent on the receiving end since the kitting means packages come “shelf ready.”
Once boxes are delivered to the school, an onsite setup team gets to work unloading, unpacking, and putting together furniture. As the bones of each classroom start to form, the heavy lifting shifts to a much quieter pace. Staff disperse in different corners of the classroom, get on the child’s level, and fill rows of shelves with the full scope and sequence of hands-on, Montessori materials.
With the help of technology, staff efficiently divide and conquer by using an app that provides visual mapping and guidance on how each shelf should look and why. This empowers staff of varying experience levels to join in on classroom setups without relying on any one manager to tell them what to do. Everyone is equipped to contribute in their own way, until at last, the end result is a welcoming space that has nothing to do with us as the adults and everything to do with the children!
It wasn’t always this efficient; we’ve come a long way since our network opened our first campus in 2016.
“This classroom setup is one example of how we’re striving for scale without compromise in quality. In fact, scale has made this room better...,” Bateman said. “These sorts of efficiencies aren’t just efficiencies of cost. They are efficiencies of educational quality. But … driving down the cost of quality is one of the most important, least-appreciated components of real education reform, and that is accomplished at the intersection of novel operational practices and serious pedagogy.”
Jenna is a trained journalist and writer whose parenting journey transformed after implementing Montessori at home with her three children. She is a passionate advocate for bridging Montessori to the mainstream as a means to build community, empower parent-child relationships, and honor learning as the lifelong journey that it is.
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