In May 2015 I had the pleasure of meeting Nacee Mercier and her family when they were visiting the Netherlands. At the time, opening a school in Africa was just a twinkle in her eye. But with this woman’s dedication, openness, honesty and commitment, I knew it would happen.
Fast forward to October 2016 and Moonflower Montessori School in The Gambia opens with two Montessori classrooms – one toddler class and one preschooler class. (You can find out more about Montessori in The Gambia here.)
I am so honoured to be able to take a virtual tour with you. I hope to be able to visit in person one day.
Let’s take a look!
5 things to apply from these spaces in your home
Here are 5 things to look for as we tour the space which you can apply in your own home too.
1. Intentional preparation
I hope I haven’t scared you off. But the thing that jumps out at me the most in these spaces is the care with which they have been put together. They only include items of beauty and which are useful.
To try at home: look around your space and place in a box (or two) everything that does not need to be there. You don’t have to throw it out; maybe just relocate it or eventually give it a new home.
2. Include your culture
You can tell from looking at these spaces that these are classrooms in Africa – the handmade baskets and wall hangings give the child a sense of his culture.
To try at home: What elements, furnishings, cutlery or other can you include in your home to help your child absorb your culture? Where parents are from different cultures, how can both be represented?
3. Natural light and use of wood and natural materials
Where possible have natural light in your living spaces and using wood gives a grounding and natural quality to the space.
To try at home: replace plastic tables and chairs with wooden alternatives; look for natural materials for activities and baskets.
4. Make things child sized
Look at the size of the chairs in the toddler classroom. They are so low! And just the right sized for a toddler to have their feet flat on the floor as they sit. The materials are similarly accessible for toddlers and preschoolers with everything at the ready, attractively arranged.
To try at home: check if the furniture is the correct size for your child and consider cutting down the legs if possible. Can your child reach things for themselves? For example, can they fetch their own plate and glass in the kitchen for a snack?
5. Add plants
I love plants in classrooms and in the home. They soften the space, are great for looking after, and bring a feeling of the outdoors in.
To try at home: find child-friendly plants and place at child height. Have watering cans available a few times a week to give them water.
A virtual tour of toddler and preschooler classrooms, The Gambia
I love the inclusion of cultural elements into the environment for the children to absorb their culture.
Wooden furniture and natural light makes the space feel both spacious and warm and cosy for the children.
The toilet block even uses natural materials.
Materials in the toddler room, with pieces removed, ready for the child to try to master.
I’m assuming this is the peace table – lovely rug and wooden objects. These would be sure to help children come back to calm.
Care of plants is important in any Montessori environment – here the potted plants can be tended to by the children.
Those windows are such a beautiful feature as well as bringing in beautiful light.
Well selected materials on the shelves + beautiful baskets + plants = an inviting toddler environment
The beautiful Montessori maths material attracts a local stick insect!
The Montessori kitchen with child-sized sink and access to food preparation materials.
The preschooler classroom also benefits from natural light and natural materials. The neutral tile floor is very practical as well as making the materials very attractive.
Love this book corner – I could quite happily settle in here for a while.
A big thank you to Nacee for allowing us this tour. I hope you are all feeling inspired. I know I am.
Sending best wishes to everyone for a joyful and inspiring 2017.