Learning Through Nature: The Montessori Philosophy

Nature provides one of the biggest driving forces of curiosity and exploration while offering rich sensorial experiences for children.  For this reason, nature has always been an integral part of the Montessori learning process. Montessori education draws a deep connection between nature and childhood development.  Children come to appreciate nature and all that it has to offer.

The Montessori Philosophy

Dr. Maria Montessori considered the outdoor environment an extension of the indoor classroom. According to her philosophy, the natural world provided endless possibilities for experiential learning. “Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur,” she wrote in The Absorbent Mind.

The Montessori Method stresses immersion in nature because of its effects on the growth of the whole child. According to the method, nature enriches the life of each child by supporting physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development.

By increasing a child’s interactions with the natural world, Montessori guides and Montessori parents are promoting the child’s development as a young naturalist. Spending more time in nature will also influence the child to lead an environmentally responsible lifestyle throughout childhood and into adulthood, as well.

In a Cosmic Education

Dr. Montessori stressed the interconnectedness between humanity and nature. “The land is where our roots are,” she wrote. “The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.”

In her explanation of cosmic education, Montessori emphasizes that the child should understand that they are part of a greater universe. By going outside and learning from nature firsthand, this profound understanding can be achieved.

“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”

How you can apply it at home

As Montessori parents, you can continue this cosmic education outside of the classroom, too. Here are just a couple of ideas:

  • Take your child on nature walks in or around the woods or beach (depending on where you live).
  • Visit the nearest botanical garden or zoo together, and encourage them to keep nature journals and take photos of anything they see that catches their interest.

Through these activities, your child will become more connected with nature, and begin to understand their place in the universe.

What is Virtue Education?

In a Montessori school system, our primary focus is the whole child. As part of developing all of the elements of the whole child, the Montessori Method concentrates on educating the human potential. Through character education, we are able to help each child unlock their personal potential. Virtue education allows each child to explore the field of morality and learn to discriminate between good and evil.

What are the Virtues?

Virtues are universal and are recognized by people of all cultures. They are necessary for a child’s well-being and happiness. Once they are learned, they will last the child a lifetime.

We make sure that our students learn the following virtues:

Wisdom, courage, perseverance, honesty, kindness, patience, helpfulness, humility, compassion, hard work, creativity, independence, confidence, respectfulness, grace, courtesy, sociability, responsibility, self-sufficiency, curiosity, joyfulness, gratitude, and service.

All of these virtues help build a child’s character and inspire others around them to be better people.

Developing the Virtues

In The Discovery of the Child, Dr. Maria Montessori wrote “She must acquire a moral alertness which has not hitherto been demanded by any other system, and this is revealed in her tranquility, patience, charity, and humility. Not words, but virtues, are her main qualifications.”

In order to develop these virtues, we expose our children to stories and experiences that model them. We make sure that our guides make it a point to display these virtues on a daily basis, so they serve as role models to the students. We also concentrate on positive activities in order to prevent the formation of negative traits. In a Montessori environment, bad habits such as laziness and disorder are quickly replaced by good qualities such as self-sufficiency and hard work.

Cultivating virtues leads a child to develop a more purposeful life. In Montessori classrooms, students learn virtues like service and helpfulness by participating in practical life activities. Such exercises include teaching children to care for the environment and peer to peer collaboration, in which an older student helps a younger student.

What You Can Do at Home

Understanding that learning doesn’t start and finish in the classroom is essential for Montessori parents who want to support the development of the whole child. Children are learning at all times, so the child’s learning experiences at home and at school should be cohesive. One way to form this cohesion is through communication with your child’s guide.

It is important for you to know when and which virtues are being taught in class. For instance, if you find out from your child’s guide that honesty is being covered in class next week, you should find ways to incorporate practicing honesty at home also.

Role play is a great way to do this.  Explain situations that your child can easily understand and give your child various options of choices they could make in that situation.  Be sure to provide some choices that emphasize honesty more than others. Then discuss your child’s choices, and the possible consequences of each choice, as well as why it’s important to be honest both at home and in school.