Connecting children to nature in a Montessori primary environment
Russell, Maureen Harrington
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Children are inherently connected to nature and fascinated by living things; there is a significant body of research discussing the benefits of children interacting with nature on a regular basis. Due to a variety of factors, including increased academic pressures in schools, overscheduling of extracurricular activities, increased reliance on technology for entertainment, and fear of children being left alone outdoors, children are spending more time indoors than ever before in our history. Connection to nature and inspiring wonder are an integral part of the Montessori Philosophy and Method. The Montessori Method also stresses that immersion in nature is imperative for proper physical and psychological development. In Montessori classrooms, there is an intrinsic connection between nature and many of the primary materials. In an action research project with a class of 39 children ages 4-6, a Montessori guide studied ways to integrate nature exploration via a Montessori primary curriculum, inside and outside of the classroom. The guide incorporated daily outdoor exploration in or around the woods, seasonal nature-related activities, access to Montessori botany and zoology and materials, live insect and small animal observation opportunities, daily read alouds related to nature, and gardening in a greenhouse. Data was collected through two parent surveys, children?s nature journals, photos of the children interacting with nature inside and outside, and anecdotal records. The research showed that by providing regular access to the outdoors along with multiple opportunities inside the classroom to explore nature and nature-related materials, the children became more connected with nature. For the future, the research suggests that increasing children's interactions with nature will influence environmentally responsible lifestyles and support children's development as young naturalists.