One of the tenants of the Montessori philosophy is what Dr. Montessori called the Prepared Environment. It has seven components which combined allow the classroom to function the way she envisioned in her early work:
- Structure and order
- Reality and nature
- Beauty and atmosphere
- The Montessori materials
- The development of a community
- The adult
Several of these are unique to Montessori classrooms, but the one that I want to talk about today is the idea of infusing reality and nature into the classroom. The items used in the Montessori classroom represent real things, not fantasies or cartoons, all the way down to the books read to the children (in most cases). While fiction is certainly still a crucial part of our library, we strive to include books that depict realistic scenes, not mythical or anthropomorphized creatures. Children use real tools that are child sized, and clean things which are actually dirty instead of pretending to clean.
Effort is given to utilize natural materials as much as possible within the materials to increase the child’s connection to nature. Montessori believed this connection to be critical to the child’s development as a person and a learner. Many Montessori classrooms include one or more pets, and a variety of flora, helping children to gain respect and appreciation for all living things. Further, many Montessorians try to extend their classroom to include the outdoor environment. They might choose to set up some work in the open air, or have work that is only available to do outside. This can be a logistical challenge, but it is something that we strive for to increase children’s chances to be in nature.
This TED talk gave me a wonderful reminder that nature doesn’t have to be as hard to find as it sometimes seems, especially for children. I see the appreciation for exploration of nature amongst the children even on our playground – they are always finding sticks, leaves, nuts, and creatures that fascinate them. Dr. Montessori believed that this connection to nature was not only good for children in its own right, but gives them the foundation they need to become learners and scientists. As they explore, they are forming questions and theories and seeking explanations to complex systems, not to mention gaining an appreciation for the world that they live in.
Where’s your nearest nature? Have you explored it lately?
**Views expressed in this post are my own and not necessarily shared by Millhopper Montessori School.