The Montessori Outdoor Environment
To that end, the natural environment must not be treated as a separate entity from the physical classroom. Rather, it should be an extension of Montessori’s structured environment.
Whether you’re a teacher or parent, you can easily encourage every child to develop a close, personal relationship with nature. Montessori-based schools are typically built in harmony with the surrounding natural environment.
Trees, bushes, and landscaping features are maintained with care using eco-friendly methods, and children should have ample opportunities to spend time in nature throughout the day. If you’re homeschooling using the Montessori method, you can make your yard or porch an integral part of your child’s classroom.
To help your students harmonize with nature, I have put together a list of some of my favorite outdoor activities:
Even if your classroom is located in an urban setting, you still have plenty of natural learning options. Consider scheduling regular “nature walks,” where physical activity and natural studies co-exist.
Your nature walks can be structured in the vein of scavenger hunts. Give each student a checklist of natural items to look for, such as rocks, leaves, and flowers, and a basket where they can collect their finds. Encourage your students to ask questions about each item they collect.
Older children can take nature walks with more of an ecological focus. Perhaps your students can collect litter and recyclables during their trek. As a group, talk about why it is important to dispose of waste properly and use the discussion to help them foster positive life skills.
Students can develop gardening skills, patience, and healthy eating habits while spending time outdoors when you have a classroom garden in place. Kids of all ages love to get their hands dirty, planting seeds and watching them grow. Ideally, you should choose edible, organic plants that can be turned into delicious snacks and meals when full grown.
Depending on your location, an outdoor garden may be a seasonal project. During the colder months, you can keep your students interested in gardening by creating planting schedules for the upcoming season. Students in over-10 groups can research the types of plants that are ideal for the climate and even create meal plans to be used at harvest time.
Natural Work Spaces
It’s important to remember that spending time outdoors doesn’t have to involve a special project or activity. When the weather is nice, your students can get fresh air while doing schoolwork at an outside workspace. Whether you have a row of desks outside or a long table that can accommodate several students, your students are likely to be more productive and happier when completing work in nature rather than a classroom.
The structured environment encouraged by Maria Montessori’s teachings encourages freedom of movement in a warm, inviting atmosphere where children can socialize and learn. An outdoor classroom, or one that places a strong emphasis on nature, is the perfect place for the “whole child” to thrive.