In Montessori schools the classroom community is structured developmentally, so that children of different ages share the same classroom, and are encouraged to collaborate and help each other.
There is a three year age span providing a diverse group. There are rich opportunities to relate in many different ways. The age differences allow for true spontaneous helping to occur (a cornerstone of a strong society). The group is consistent; everyone comes everyday. The teacher is the same person every day. The child can settle into this community and quickly feel that they are a vital member.
The mixed age community creates conditions that foster individual differences as strengths, and promotes groupings of mixed abilities. These ongoing experiences develop social skills as a response to conditions, rather than through direct teaching intervention. In these groupings children internalize what they have learned by teaching the younger children and by being mentors and role models.
There are also freedoms and limits that are part of living and working in a community. These determine the quality of the social life of our classroom. This daily interaction defines social development in a Montessori classroom, many social opportunities are a key element of the everyday life of the classroom. Social development is so much more than children getting along together! All the children benefit from all the social interchanges.
In this community approach to education the child comes to understand that each one of us is dependent on others and each must make a contribution for the betterment of all. Through living and working daily in a collaborative approach to learning the child finds community membership can be both personally satisfying and socially rewarding.