Nature-Based and Place-Based Learning

Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children acquire knowledge from their environment, often times innately through their senses. She remarked that the young child is a “sensorial explorer” and that a carefully prepared environment is essential to their education.

The educational environment need not be confined to the traditional classroom space. At The Montessori School we practice place-based learning and believe that nature and our community is the most dynamic classroom. With this approach, our students’ knowledge and skills are as diverse as the experiences they have, which are in turn as diverse as each new plant species they place into the earth and each new tradesman they meet. Knowing their community intimately, they are inspired to become the stewards of it.

With this in mind, we have put much care into cultivating an outdoor space that facilitates exploration. Our students enjoy planning and maintaining several garden beds. Currently we have a native wetland garden, two wildflower gardens — all of whichare certified Monarch Waystations — and are in the process of planning a fourth butterfly garden. We are registered as part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, our schoolyard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, and we are Eco-School Certified.   We’ve also applied to be certified as a Green School.

Each year, students choose an environmental action project that interests them and also acts as a service learning project. Placed-based action projects allow the students to observe and experience the interconnectedness of all living things, including themselves. They serve as curricular extensions that raise ecological awareness within the child, meet their developmental needs and encourage them to explore and connect with the natural environment, both on campus and in the larger community.