Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Connecting with the Natural World in the Montessori Environment

NAMC connecting with the natural world montessori environment girl and teacher

So all we could do was to Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! And we did not like it. Not one little bit.

Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat.

This beloved children’s story says it all: children do not like to just sit inside. They want to be up doing things. The young child’s sensitive periods of movement and refinement of the senses actually demand that she be up and about, exploring her environment. In addition, the sensitive periods for order and language help her learn how her environment works and help her discover the names of everything around her.

The Montessori Environment:  Benefits for Children Connecting With the Natural World

As Montessori caregivers, we have a responsibility to follow the child’s needs and capitalize on these sensitive periods by helping set the foundation for developing an appreciation for nature. We spend so much time preparing the indoor environment, that we sometimes forget to take into account the outdoor environment. The outdoor environment should be carefully planned down to the smallest detail in order to best meet the needs of these very young children.

NAMC connecting with the natural world montessori environment jumping in puddles
Unstructured free play is necessary to a child’s physical and mental health

Research supports the need for children to spend more time outdoors.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 60 minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. Unfortunately, studies indicate that children are spending only half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, says that children today do not have as many direct experiences with nature and worries that this is forming a disconnect between the mind and body. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Laura Markham suggests that children who spend time outdoors are calmer, happier, healthier, and more creative; have longer attention spans, and do better in school.

Dr. Montessori understood the importance of taking children outside. Yes, bringing pieces of nature into the classroom has value, but taking children outside helps them form a meaningful relationship with those objects in their natural environment. When the child is outside, all of her senses are stimulated. Surrounded by the big outdoors, children can explore by touching, seeing, hearing, and when safe, even tasting. This awakens the senses and calls the child to come explore, creating a sense of awe and wonder that will be important throughout her life.

By developing an appreciation at such a young age, children naturally will grow to be respectful stewards and caretakers of the earth.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

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 Wednesday, February 6, 2013.


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