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Building Appreciation for the Environment Through Fun Science Activities

In a Montessori education, nature plays a key role in inspiring wonder in children. The Montessori philosophy emphasizes forming a strong bond between children and their environment. By getting your child to play and learn through outdoor science activities, you can begin a lifelong appreciation for nature.

Here are a few fun and engaging science experiments that you can do with your child to help them connect to the environment around them.

Worm Observation Tower

Little animals like worms are often fascinating for children. If you find that your child is captivated by these little critters too, they will love creating a worm observation tower. This is also a great opportunity to teach your child to be kind to animals by handling them gently.

To make the worm observation tower, choose a glass vase or bin that you don’t mind getting dirty and have your child fill it up with sand and dirt. Pour a small amount of water into the container to make the soil damp and easier for the worms to crawl through.

After the container is prepared, help your child go worm digging in your garden or lifting rocks and seeing if there’s anything wriggling around underneath. Then you can fill your container with any worms you that you find and let your child watch as they crawl around. Your child will enjoy observing their new worm friends as they poke around through their temporary home!

The Science of Sinking and Floating

This fun and easy activity is appropriate for children of all ages. Start off by going on a nature walk with your child and allowing them to collect any objects that they find interesting, such as leaves, flowers, rocks, sticks, and acorns.

After they collect their treasures, have them sort them into two piles: one for objects that they think will sink and another for objects that they think will float. Then you can fill a bowl with water to test out their theories. Allow them to experiment and see if they can make a floating object sink by putting other objects on top of it. This is a great chance for you to teach your children about weight and density.

What Type of Rock is This?

The fossil layers give us clues about how the environment has changed over time. Limestone is a unique rock because it is made up of these layers. Because limestone forms through evaporation, it can be found in a variety of environments.

Children are usually impressed by limestone rocks because they can also be used as chalk. Encourage your child to look around damp environments, such as creeks or lakes, for brownish-yellow and grey colored rocks. After your child collects a few rocks, put each rock into a separate bowl outside.

To identify limestone rock, pour vinegar on each rock and wait a few seconds to see what happens. Little bubbles will form all over the rock in less than a minute if it is a limestone, while nothing will happen to other rocks. This is the perfect opportunity to tell your child that a chemical reaction is going on because the vinegar is an acid and limestone is a base. Explain to your child that when an acid and a base mix, they create heat, which is the reason the bubbles formed.

Solar S’mores

Solar s’mores are a creative and delicious way for children to learn about how strong the sun is! You can create a solar oven by grabbing a leftover pizza box, covering the top of the flap with aluminum foil, and covering the bottom of the flap with plastic wrap. Place black construction paper on the bottom of the box and line the sides of the box with additional aluminum foil.

While you create your makeshift oven, you can explain the function of each step to your child. For example, you can explain how the aluminum foil works to reflect the rays of the sun and how the black construction paper is used to absorb heat.

When your oven is ready, your child can fill it with all of the necessary ingredients for s’mores – graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. The s’mores will usually take around an hour to cook like this. While you wait, you can explain the virtue of patience to your child. When you see that the chocolate and marshmallows have melted into something gooey, you and your child are free to enjoy your delicious solar s’mores!

 

 

Incorporating Montessori Principles into Your Daily Life

Montessori is more than just an education style; it is a way of life that goes beyond the classroom walls. It’s important for parents to recognize this Montessori lifestyle, so that they can begin to build an authentic bridge that connects the gap between home and school. Here are some key Montessori principles you can incorporate into your daily life as a Montessori parent.

Environment

A Montessori environment is characterized by an unmistakable atmosphere of peace, which in classrooms, is marked by certain features such as the peace corner, the peace rose, or the peace table. Parents can cultivate this peaceful climate at home by getting into a regular rhythm or routine to avoid the anxiety that comes with worrying about what might happen next. Parents who practice and model meaningful, courteous behavior, such as saying “good morning,” “please,” and “thank you,” will help reinforce their child’s mindfulness.

A child’s sense of peace can also be improved by feeling a connection to nature. Parents are encouraged to take the time to stop anywhere with their child in order to observe and listen to nature, such as watching the sky change color as the sun sets or listening to an animal rustling through a bush.

Discipline

Positive discipline and child guidance are crucial Montessori principles to incorporate at home because they promote children’s self-control, teach children responsibility, and help children make thoughtful choices. A good example of a positive discipline technique that a Montessori parent can take to prevent misbehavior (in a child between the ages of 3 and 6) is acknowledging how the child feels, asking him how he thinks he would solve the problem, and then suggesting what they can do in future situations.

For instance, a conversation with your child might go something like this: “I see you’re frustrated because you wanted to have a turn playing with the truck. When you want something that someone else has, what can you do?” This problem-solving approach to discipline corrects the child’s misbehavior while effectively guiding him in direction of self-discipline.

Activities

There are five types of activities for young children that embody Montessori principles and aid in child development. These five activity styles can easily be incorporated into your daily life.

  • Practical life activities include tasks like cleaning, making their own snack, washing vegetables, watering plants, scrubbing dishes, and cleaning windows.
  • Eye-hand coordination activities include pursuits that work their hands in all sorts of different ways. Making a pasta necklace by threading, water pouring exercises, puzzles and a favorite for many children – locking and unlocking locks on a lock box or latch board.
  • Arts and crafts activities include drawing, sand and clay molding, cutting shapes, painting, and sewing.
  • Language activities include using baskets filled with classified objects in them and reading books, especially books that focus on daily life.
  • Gross motor activities include fun indoor activities like balancing and yoga and outdoor activities like swinging, running, jumping, and sliding.

These are just a few ways to help you get started on incorporating Montessori principles into your daily life. At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, our curriculum offers children a carefully prepared environment, rich in learning materials and experiences. We follow the eight basic Montessori principles that provide a foundation for the Montessori classroom experience: movement and cognition, choice, interest, avoidance of extrinsic rewards, learning from and with peers, learning in context, respectful teacher-child interaction, and order in environment and mind. We believe that what your child learns in class with the proper guidance can be reinforced at home with the proper environment, discipline, and activities.

Montessori Learning through Sensorial Work

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that sensorial experiences began at birth. Through their senses, children are able to study their environment. Through sensorial work, children are able to consciously obtain clear information that allows them to make classifications in their environment. These classifications also work as stepping stones to organized intelligence, which leads to the ability to adapt to the environment.

The Importance of Sensorial Work

Sensorial activities in Montessori learning are specifically designed to aid children in discrimination and order, as well as to broaden and refine the senses. Sensorial work with Montessori designed materials helps prepare a child to be logical, aware and perceptive.

The concept of sensorial work was developed by Dr. Montessori long before sensory play was adopted into practice. According to the Montessori philosophy, the child is the “sensorial explorer” and learns to perceive qualities through sensorial experiences.

Sensorial Materials

Montessori materials, like the Pink Tower in the photo above, are designed to aid in visual discrimination by allowing the child to recognize differences in dimension, width, length, and size. There are plenty of Montessori activities that enhance the visual sense, including the Brown Stair, Red Rods, Knobbed Cylinders, and Color Tablets.

The tactile sense is also developed in sensory activities through the use of Touch Tablets and Fabric Feel, while the auditory sense is sharpened through the use of Sound Cylinders and Bells. The olfactory sense, in which a child learns to differentiate smells, is developed through Montessori materials like Scent Bottles, while the gustatory sense, in which a child learns to differentiate tastes, is developed through Food Preparation and food tasting.

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we know that there is no limit to the amount of knowledge children may obtain during their formative years. Between birth and age 6, we know how important it is to develop a child’s senses. For this reason, we place emphasis on helping children understand the world around them. In the classroom, we implement sensorial work and use the proper activities to develop logic, awareness, and perception.

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.