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Nature Based Learning

Karen Macias

The latest thing in early childhood education has been “nature-based preschools” and more outside, get in the dirt, type learning.  As has been the case before, Dr. Maria Montessori was way ahead of her time.  Back in the early 1900’s, Dr. Montessori wrote about “sensitive periods” in children.  These were spans of time in a child’s early life, that they are more prone to learn things than at other times.  We have found this to be true with language.  Children between the age of 1 and 3 find it very easy to learn another language.  Educators in the 1980’s used this same phenomenon that Dr. Montessori had found and referred to it as “critical windows of learning”.

With the importance of nature in early childhood, Dr. Montessori was, again, doing this in the early 1900’s.  Montessori environments have always had, in the cultural area, parts of plants, flowers, etc.  Dr. Montessori expanded on this by taking children outside to locate those plants, take them apart, and find the different parts of each.  Fresh air was of the upmost importance.

Making nature be part of your Montessori classroom can happen in almost every area.  Most Montessori classrooms include garden space.  As in the classroom, activities are offered for different levels and abilities.  Here are some examples:

Infants:

Digging in the dirt/garden with their hands.  Feeling the difference in dirt and rocks.

Watering the plants as an exercise.

Planting seeds.

Toddlers-

Digging in the dirt.

Watering plants.

Sifting the dirt to separate the rocks and soil.

Matching leaves to plants.

Three-Six years old

  • Planting /Watering
  • Matching and comparing sizes
  • Journaling about the growth, including size, weather, insect affect.
  • Differences between annuals and perennials.
  • Harvesting/Cooking/Eating what we grow.
  • Care of our environment
  • Importance of fruits and vegetable in our diet and for our health

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