Children of St. Patrick Parish, between 3 and 5 years of age, are given the opportunity to participate in a specially prepared environment called the ATRIUM. The atrium is not a classroom, but can be likened to a retreat house for children.
Why is it called an “atrium”? The word “atrium” actually means “portico, or porch entrance to a large house.” The term “atrium” was chosen by Maria Montessori to describe this space, because in the ancient church, the atrium was a gathering space between the church proper and the street. It was the place where the catechumens, those preparing for initiation to the Church, would receive instruction.
The atrium has a similar purpose for our children: it is a place to help them enter into full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgical and communal life of the Church.
The atrium is a community in which children and adults live together a religious experience that facilitates participation in the wider community of the family, the church, and other social spheres.
The atrium is a place of prayer, in which work and study spontaneously become meditation, contemplation, and prayer.
The atrium is a place in which the only teacher is Christ; both children and adults listen to his Word and seek to penetrate the mystery of the liturgical celebration.
What is a “prepared environment”? The prepared environment is a Montessori concept: a space designed to facilitate independent learning by the child. In a prepared environment, children work with materials of their own choice and at their own pace. They experience a combination of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially prepared to meet their developmental and spiritual needs.
Where can you read more about the Atrium?
The website of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, www.cgsusa.org
Religious Potential of the Child, by Sofia Cavalletti
Listening to God with Children, by Gianna Gobbi