Monday, June 02, 2008

Montessori Classroom - Take Students on a Nature Walk

NAMC montessori classroom nature walk evergreen tree
Children love to go outside! And, unless it's extreme weather, so do teachers. I have had very positive experiences taking my upper elementary Montessori students out for a nature walk at various times of the year. The children gathered leaves to take back to the classroom to identify or took my book on identifying trees and tried to learn the names of the trees on campus. Sometimes, they'd take their sketch book and sit and quietly observe and sketch the world around them.

The first time I took my lower elementary Montessori students outside, it was not so pleasant! I was new to the school and the children were not yet used to me or my expectations. We were listening and watching for birds and other creatures. Needless to say, with 30 lower elementary students tramping about, we didn't hear much more than the crunching of gravel and laughter of children. Not that the walk was a disaster: we did delight in butterflies and gathered wild dandelions growing along the side of the gravel road.

I've learned a lot this year from my younger students. I've learned to prepare them well ahead of time for what exactly we'll be looking for or observing. I've learned to play up the importance of their role. I've learned to break them up into small groups. I may take all 30 of them outside all at once, but I make sure that they're not all sitting in the same place!

Montessori Classroom Science Curriculum - Take Students on a Nature Walk

NAMC montessori classroom nature walk ladybug
A few weeks ago, after we'd studied butterflies and moths, I invited my lower elementary students to be scientists for the afternoon. I told them that the irises and other flowers were blooming and it was the perfect time to observe nature. I asked them to take their science notebooks and a pencil and we walked quietly and solemnly to the flower gardens. There, I arranged them into groups of four, and asked them to take a very close look at what was right in front of them. They immediately began sketching what they saw - flowers, weeds, rocks, bugs, spiders, and ants. We spent a good 10-15 minutes sketching. I noticed some of the children start walking around. Keeping a close eye on them, I let them wander, wondering what they would find.

Sure enough, a few minutes had passed when I heard "Miss Michelle, come look! We found a chrysalis!" We all gathered around a large bush with a fine specimen. The children spoke reverently about how they could keep it safe and a few volunteered to observe it daily and inform us on its progress. I gathered everyone up, made sure all our books, sweaters, and pencils were in hand, and returned to the Montessori classroom. The children immediately, without my having to ask, gathered colored pencils and quietly began coloring and labeling their sketches. It was a beautiful moment. One child came up to me and hugged me, saying "This was the best day ever." That said, I knew I had done the right thing by the children.
Here are some other ideas you might want to try on your next nature walk:
  • Give each child a small paper bag for gathering specimens. (You may need to put a limit onNAMC montessori classroom nature walk flying hawk how many each one may collect).
  • Discuss the weather. What does the sky look like? Is it going to rain? Is there any wind?
  • Discuss the seasons. What season is it now? How would this look if it were winter? Summer?
  • Look for animal tracks.
  • Have a rainy day experience. Dress to stay dry, but keep your hands free (no umbrellas). Peek into puddles. Listen for birds and frogs. Look for plants with a drip tip. Try to find where animals could go when it's raining.
  • NAMC montessori classroom nature walk frog in grass
  • Get a New Perspective. Have the children lie face upward under a large tree. Have them look into the branches. Can they see the top branch? What patterns can they see? What other things are present? Pretend to be the roots of the tree in the soil. What do they feel like? What animals can they see moving around in the tree?
Going outside promotes a sense of community between the Montessori children and nature. If children are to be the stewards of our earth, they need to learn to observe and respect it firsthand. We no longer are a world where being outside comes naturally. We, as Montessori teachers, need to make the conscious effort to make these experiences available whenever possible.

Learn more about identifying plants, classifying animals and taking field notes in NAMC’s 6-9 Botany and Zoology Curriculum manuals.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Monday, June 2, 2008.

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