Montessori and Nature

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:

  • Freedom
  • 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.

One Child at a Time

In my Montessori philosophy class this week, we got a piece of paper titled “The Unfolding Montessori Teacher” which outlines ways we could continue to grow and give back to the Montessori community over the course of our Montessori career. It was presented as a guide, not a choose your own adventure, and the last item is:

Takes a global responsibility: Helping Achieve World Peace

While this is a beyond lofty goal, it is the most succinct way I have of knowing that I have found my people. Dr. Montessori felt very strongly that education serves as a peace-builder, and that tradition continues in many of her namesake schools. But how? The Montessori answer is simple – One child at a time.

Everything about the Montessori style of education is based on following the child, serving their developmental needs, and doing so in the name of creating a good human, not just a good student. While this spans their academics, meaning everything they do is personal to them, it also stretches into their personal development, which is very much a part of the curriculum.

Children as young as two-and-a-half are actively taught grace, courtesy, manners, and conflict resolution. From the very beginning, students are taught about kindness and respect. Arguments over playground toys are met with an adult mediated session where each affected party gets to share their side. The goal is collective peace, and a transference of resolution skills, not mutual tolerance. Further, an enduring respect for life is cultivated throughout the Montessori experience, from caring for classroom plants and animals, to a universal no kill attitude – even roaches and mosquitos are humanely caught and returned to their outdoor home.

Being in Orlando made Montessori’s call for peace education all the more timely and painfully important. Montessorians, and educators collectively, must continue to show children ways toward peace that they can carry with them and spread to others throughout their lives, one child at a time.