Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Nature in Montessori Education

Nature experiences are at the foundation of a full Montessori education, but it isn't blatantly obvious. Some people like to "combine" Montessori with Charlotte Mason to incorporate those nature lessons - but they are already included!

SO many of the Montessori experiences anticipate a child has already had real life experience with plants and animals - trees and insects - soil and air and rain - and all else.

Then the follow-ups to much of the biology work at both primary and elementary is to "go out and find these things for yourselves".

Art experiences include learning how to draw what you see. Grace and courtesy lessons on various outdoor skills. So much more.

So we take our real life experiences, have key Montessori experiences to organize those experiences, then go back to real life experience to apply those key experiences.

There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature.
“It is also necessary for his psychical development to place the soul of the child in contact with creation, in order that he may lay up for himself treasure from the directly educating forces of living nature.” 
The Secret of Childhood - Dr. Maria Montessori 

Even so, reality is that many of us grew up in a world that was only just realizing that we must maintain a connection to the natural world in order to live to our fullest potential.

Nature education - just BEing in nature - being comfortable in nature - knowing what to "do" or not do (this one is more important!) - just doesn't come naturally for us anymore.How can we pass what we don't have?

Thus we need guidance.

Some of the resources used in my family or by those I know - or that I recently found at our local museum center that I really appreciated the portions I saw - couple with a spiral sketchbook and a basic set of nice colored pencils and off you go!

The Kids' Nature Book has a week represented across a two-page spread with daily simple activities. Simple activities - gets to the point. A list of generic items to always have on hand is at the front of the book; index, additional resources and additional information are all found at the end. 

Some reviews on Amazon state there are some irrelevant evolution notes - use them or set them aside as you like. I didn't find them problematic to adjust for personal beliefs (children aren't reading this book - the adult is).

This one is great for someone who just wants to be told what to do without needing a whole lot of preparation or fore-knowledge. I wish I'd had it when my son was smaller and our time was limited, even given I grew up on almost 20 acres of land, woods, ponds, fields, gardens, and animals. As it is, I am getting it for use with my foster children.

Perfect for any age beginner - I will be using with toddler and preschoolers mostly, but also school age children. Just as a loose guide to ensuring we are doing something with nature every single day.

The pages I have seen in The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook one I really liked. This one is for elementary children to use themselves. There are some pages to fill in, but they give a website to print out additional pages as needed.
(I now own it - the reviews on Amazon about printing mistakes must have been corrected in the meantime because our copy is *perfection* - LOVE this book!)

I will use this with elementary children; while including younger children in some of the activities at least on a verbal level (or artistic!).

This book is similar to The Kids' Nature Book in that it follows the year (modify if you are in a different climatic area), with activities suggested by month and season. Before the first month section though, there is a whole section on observing the cycle of the moon and other cycles of the sky such as seasons, caring for nature properly, quick drawing lessons, and the like - these portions should be interwoven with the monthly sections (which provide about 14-16 pages per month).

My Nature Book is another one I like for elementary and older children. It is set up to BE a journal - done in any order, with pages for drawings, pages for lists, pages to note "first hike" and "what would you do" scenarios. It is thinner than the workook so more portable. This is one to really get the children connecting with their inner selves. My plan is to provide a copy of this book to each of my children; then go through it myself to create a list of activities and opportunities that I then ensure we do - activities such as hiking, opportunities to just be outside for no particular reason but to be there.

This journal and activity book is more "free form" though it gives guidance on each page - nothing stands out as needing to be done in order or at a particular time of year.

This one we had - and mostly used. It was tough though - part of it is that this is an adult-read book with adult-led activities (at least to get started). Not for the feint of heart, but not overly advanced and technical either. Let's go with "upper-intermediate" level on this one. Of the activities we did in this book, we loved them all. Of the ones we didn't do - many we came to later via a different route or we never found to be our "thing".

You could say this focuses more on "art" than on pure nature exploration. Art and nature go hand in hand of course!

I have sold off our copy; I am considering re-purchasing it for the sake of the foster children; but first I would like to work through the above two books and see where that takes us.

As I pull up the list of activities in this book, I see that it was written by a Waldorf teacher. Perhaps that is part of the combined appeal and the mis-match for me. The components of Waldorf that match with Montessori (nature, key experiences) and the components of Waldorf that don't fit with observed child development (I won't list those things here). Short story: this book would be great for those with Waldorf leanings!

Seasonal activities and crafts include:
Leaf Banners
Wheat Weaving
Leaf Crowns
Nature's People

Caring for the Birds and Squirrels
Star Windows
Snow Scenes
Finger Knitting
Yarn Dolls

Round Wind Wands
Dish Gardens
Butterfly Pop-Up Cards
May Baskets
Pressed Flower Cards

Shooting Star Streamer Balls
Walnut Boats
Parachute People
Paper Birds
Moving Pictures

We actually have many more in our home. Dangerous Book for Boys; Tin Cups and Tinder; A Kids Herb Book; My Nature Book - and who knows what else is hiding in our library ;) - A Classroom Without Walls - Deepening Children's Connections with Nature

The current plan in our family:

  • I create a list of pre-planned activities to ensure we actually do them somewhat routinely. 
  • Use The Kids' Nature Book as an activity we do each day. 
  • Each elementary and older child receives a copy of My Nature Book and The Nature Connection - the journal for their own use to have a dedicated weekly time to their private use (more if they want it) and the workbook for family activities with their personal follow-up. About 4 pages a week. 
  • So at least two dedicated "longer" times in nature each week (ideally daily) - once for private time and once for family time; with a short time each and every day for sure. 

Whatever you do, take the key experiences and get outside to apply them!

1 comment:

  1. Good post! Thanks for the nature reminders, although they are spread ALL OVER your albums. I forget to glance at the notes sometimes when I give presentations. The weather is getting very nice for these outdoor things down here in TX!