This post from a fellow blogger really gives validity to our quest for a connection to nature at MCH.
A symphony of tones
Recently I was talking to a fellow Montessori teacher from another preschool. We were discussing our outdoor environments, which are quite different from each other. Her environment follows a more traditional approach of a manicured lawn, sandpit, steel climbing structures, and a playhouse. Our environment is more natural, with logs and rocks, shrubs and bushes, sand and mud and a "wild" area of evergreens, seedlings, and any living creature that makes itself at home there. The teacher is looking at changing her outdoor environment, taking away some of the traditional playground items and bringing in more natural elements. We started talking about the fun (or is it entertainment?) the children have with those traditional items and we asked ourselves the question what are the needs (real or perceived?) of the children?
I thought about a passage in the book "The Tao of Montessori" by Catherine McTamaney, which I am currently reading. In it she writes:
"Simple environments, few choices. Are these the qualities of a boring classroom? In Montessori, they are the cornerstones of the children's imagination. When we debate the role of fantasy in our classrooms, we come back to these real items, these few, orderly materials presented with such care. The child who absorbs everything around her, is offered only those things that are real. In doing so, have we taken all the fun out? No. Rather, we have respected the inner vision of the child. By experiencing stimuli, colors, sounds, flavors in isolation instead of cacophony, the child observes the world around her and develops a more profound understanding of it than if we offered her syrupy "fun". The world is a symphony, Begin with a single note.
I thought of this "single note", and how we expose the children at our preschool to the natural world, one step at a time. How we observe the worms when they are hiding in our worm sanctuary in the sand. How we marvel at the delicate monarch butterfly when it emerges from its chrysalis. How we protect the little black walnut seedling from being stepped upon when it sprouts from the earth in our wild corner. These little gems in our garden are one by one a single note of nature's symphony. Our children take real joy in being in our garden. They do not ask for a plastic truck or digger, they do not miss their "playhouse" which now functions as a henhouse, they do not look for steel bars as they rather balance and climb on the boulders and logs that provide a more natural challenge.
Our preschool garden is protected from bright colored, noisy, steel and plastic toys and entertainment equipment. Instead, the children have access to natural elements, real, small, simple, and beautiful. McTamaney continues:
" The child, in offering her attention to the tiniest detail, respects the wonder of her world. She does not overlook the miraculous seed. She attends to the color of the rabbit's eyes. By protecting the space from too much color, too much noise, too much distraction, we preserve in the child the ability to wonder. We offer her the ability to hear each tone, to appreciate the complexity of the symphony by understanding first each simple sound."
And isn't that what nature does so well, a beautiful symphony of tones you wouldn't want to miss?
The Tao of Montessori. Reflections on Compassionate Teaching (2005, 2007) by Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D. iUniverse Star. Lincoln, NE
15 hours ago