CA News


Added May 15, 2017

“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” -Maria Montessori

Montessori classrooms are often called "prepared environments," spaces that have been carefully curated to allow children to engage independently with materials that will support their development across multiple domains. Children don't stop development when they leave the classroom, though. Because we believe that the prepared environment is essential because it supports children\\'s development, we must also think about the ways in which other environments should be prepared with equal care.

Our outdoor environment, then, is also "prepared" for the children, with appropriately sized apparatus for gross motor development, time and space for children to play at their own pace and in various combinations of large groups or small groups or to explore on their own. Our gardens are welcoming for children to enjoy and, most importantly, to contribute to in meaningful ways.

At this time of year, you'll see children at both campuses caring for our outdoor plants, preparing the soil, watering and planting new flowers. This is important work, connecting the child to her physical environment while simultaneously satisfying her inner drive to work with her hands and to have her work visible and improving to the world around her. You'll see children planting on their own or with small groups of friends, making their garden more beautiful and more inviting for their own classmates and for guests.

Gardening provides ample opportunities for gross and fine motor control, but it's also well matched to children's desire to learn about and classify their world. Look for connections in the classroom to the Parts of a Seed cards, Parts of a Flower cards, and Botany cabinet. Children learn the names for a wide variety of native plants and flora, and for the ways in which botanists classify flora and fauna around the globe.

At home, consider the ways in which you can engage your child's natural motivation to work in the earth: Give them their own garden beds.

Whether you use raised beds, containers or ground plots, give each of your children his or her own plot. Keep it small- a container should be large enough for the child to turn soil, water and plant, but not so large that it become overwhelming. Put their plots in a place that's visible and connected to your garden, with the best soil and light.

Reuse the sandbox. If your children have grown past their sandbox years, consider converting the old sandbox to a garden bed. This gives the child continued ‘ownership’ of a familiar space and encourages a sense of responsibility to the gardening project.

Give them appropriate tools. Disposable plastic children’s gardening tools are worse than no tools at all; they break easily and frustrate the user. Look to Montessori Services for examples of good quality, lasting tools, or make your own by swapping out the handles to lengths more manageable for your child. If you can't find appropriately sized tools, let them use yours. They are better to manage with a tool that's "real" than to wonder whether you believe their work is as important as yours. 

Engage them through the entire process, from seed to table. Children learn better when they understand the context of their activity. Besides planting and nurturing their garden beds, be sure they alone do the harvesting and preparation of their crop for the table, no matter how modest the offering.Look for great books to support the experience.

Whenever possible, start from seeds. While it’s a convenient shortcut to buy starters, children will learn more by seeing the growing process as it begins with seeds. The care given to sprouting seeds and nurturing the young seedling are a valuable part of the gardening experience.

If you don't have a green thumb, this is a great opportunity to learn with your child, even when things go wrong. Not all our flowers blossom. Not all those seeds will thrive. When they don\\'t, investigate with your child what you might have done differently, and allow for time and wonder even when the flowers don't flourish. It will make the awe when they do all the more beautiful.

Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.

Christopher Academy Alumna

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