The Outdoor Classroom

I love Montessori’s commitment to hands on learning in the outdoor classroom!  Early on, as a young physician, Maria Montessori observed the healing, calming and ordering effect nature had on children.  She observed that children gained a sense of calm and tranquility when they were immersed in nature.  Montessori believed that the order and beauty of our natural world brought out the order and wonder of the children’s inner beings, bringing about a kind of healing: “It is also necessary for his psychical life 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.

Anyone who has ever spent time with children recognizes the sense of freedom and abandon that happens when children are outside.  They run to the playground.  They happily state that the best part of their day was “play time.”  They love going to the park.  There are so many indicators of the importance of nature for our children. 

When we lived in Duluth, Minnesota the temperatures were regularly below freezing for most of the year, I remember hearing of the best performing ,Blue Ribbon’ elementary school in the area. We were able to drive our children to this school so that they could attend and one of the first things I noticed was the long time they allotted for recreation outside.  The school paid playground attendants so that the teachers could have a real lunch break while the children ran and played.  In the winter they flooded the playgrounds with water which froze.  Then they used a Zamboni to smooth out the ice so that the children could ice skate.  Parents volunteered to come in at play time to lace up the ice skates and give extra support while the young ones were learning to ice skate.  The children all learned to wear their boots, put their ski bibs on and out they went to play or skate.  Time outdoors was precious to the entire culture and this school tangibly reflected that.  There is no substitute for our natural world.

Seeing this emphasized and prioritized in every Montessori environment I have been a part of has greatly affected my view of being outdoors and my commitment to getting children out of doors as much as possible.

At Little Lea in addition to play time and gross motor activities, we dig, we plant, we water and weed, we walk, we wonder, we sit and talk, we discover things in the yard and garden…there is just so much to do and love about being outside!  We live in an amazingly beautiful world that must be cherished, enjoyed and prioritized.  Our young ones love to work and play!

Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath it’s shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping. When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.” – Maria Montessori.

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