6 Core Principles of Prepared Montessori Environment. Number 4: Naturalness and reality

Montessori education has a very close connection to nature. Probably because the whole method is built on the beliefs in the child's true potential, inner powers and natural abilities. Mainly because we are an integral part of the natural world. Also due to the positive impact of nature on the people.


In my opinion, in our time of developed technologies, we should bond with nature closer than it ever was before. Numerous studies claim the positive impact nature have on kids and adults including physical and emotional. So integrating more natural elements in your classroom or home can only do good.
(Except the time when you form the practical life area in your home and your friend calls you and tells that she sees the amazing huge stump that would be amazing hammering work. You sit in the car right away and go to pick it up as fast as possible so no one steal it. You come to the place and see that the size of it is enormous! You hardly put it in the car and have troubles transferring it to your home. But now all is done, child hammers happily. On the next day, you see that you have a specific amount of ants coming out from the stump constantly! Ooops!)

So what points represent the idea of naturalness and reality in Montessori education:


1. Detailed study of the world

It means that during our learning periods, we study the beautiful world around in all details and explore every element of it. Starting from learning about the universe and cosmos and transferring closely to continents, countries, traditions, handcrafts, seasons, learning about animals, plants, small living creatures, art movements, things that around us... This list is endless. I want to point out that during our learning we go from general to specific and from big to small. This makes it easier for the child to understand it and forms the idea of connection of everything that surrounds us.


2. Real flowers in the classroom

I really like environments with real flowers. It makes them live and welcoming.
Look how many flowers this environment in Washington Montessori Institute in Baltimore has! The area looks very esthetic, fresh, welcoming and comfortable due to it.

Washington Montessori Institute in Baltimore

Spread the pots with flowers around your learning area, this way a child can not only look at them but take care of them as well. You can make a special activity or set for caring of the plant that will include removing old leaves, cleaning the plant, cutting, watering, spraying.

Please pay attention at this gorgeous material for caring of plants that was posted by Yuriy Filev on his FB page. The photos are from Russian Montessori school "Emerald city" in Ulan-Ude. 

 
Care of the plants from Montessori school "Emerald city"

What to include in such material:
  • apron
  • scissors to cut dry leaves
  • brush for sweeping dust from leaves
  • sponge or little soft cloth for cleaning the leaves
  • jug for watering
  • spray
  • signs with information about caring (for younger children it can be just happy smiles indicating that this plant was watered, an older child can write on them dates of caring etc)
  • cards with information about plants in the environment, their description or pArranginges

Arranging flowers is another great opportunity. Children especially like arranging flowers that they picked up themselves.

Flower arranging from Modern parents messy kids

For this type of activity you will need flowers, scissors, several vases to choose from.

3. Animal corner

It is wonderful to have animals in the environment. Children can observe them and care about them. 
There is a special connection between the soul of the child and the living beings. The child fervently loves all living creatures. They can be interested even in the smallest ones, such as earthworms, without feeling of disgust, which we grown-ups have for some animals. It is desirable to develop this  feeling of trust for every living being. It is a special form of love and unity with nature.

In my classroom, we had a huge snail. It was very popular. The other opportunities are fish, turtle, guinea pig, rabbit, parrot and other. I think it is interesting to try for example small ant farm, so children can observe them daily. Or I always wanted to experiment with having a singing bird in the classroom, such as canary. How awesome would it be for children to listen to their wonderful songs?


4. Real representation of objects

We show children things and items accurately. We want them to look the way they are in real world. We do it more with younger children because it is difficult for them to understand abstract concepts. At first, they need to form the basic realistic look of the item in mind and remember it and then they will discover that one item can look differently. That is why we try to choose, for example, animal figures that have more real features. We present things in their natural colors. I always search pictures for my cards so they look similar to the real world.

This wonderful set from The Kavanaugh report includes great animal figures that look very natural and sizes of animals are very real.

Farm mat from The Kavanaugh report

5. Nature elements and materials made from natural materials

A lot of furniture and supplementary materials, such as for example trays or bowls,  are made of wood because it feels and looks better. It is better for our health.

On our shelves, you can find a lot of natural elements that are used as compounds of practical life activities, for sensorial exploration or researching of nature. 
In practical life area, you can use these elements for spooning or transferring activities. They are very good for sensory boxes and developing of senses.
What can be used?
  • stones
  • shells
  • sticks
  • nuts
  • chestnuts
  • seeds
  • pine cones
  • acorns

6. Nature table

Tables and areas that present nature elements are very good opportunity for children to explore and research parts of the natural world. Children love to discover, touch and smell these treasures. You can put there all the things I mentioned above plus also stumps cuts, tree bark, feathers, leaves, moss, fresh or dry flowers. It can be seasonal items, like for example tree buds in spring.
This wonderful nature shelves from To the Lesson blog always inspire me. They show such a big choice of treasures to explore!

Nature shelf from To the Lesson

You can make a special chest or drawer to store nature gifts. This way the child will always know where to find them. Also, he can store there his own findings.

Nature collection for discovering

7. Real objects and items to prepare for real world

During preparing our spaces we believe in powers of children and that is why we give them objects that can be often counted as for grown ups. But as I experienced if you show children the proper way to use them they will be able to operate with them very easily.  I mean such things as instruments, glass  and porcelain cutlery, different utensils, nails, needle, sewing machine and so on. 

Instruments from Montessori school "Emerald city"

In my classroom, we were using such tiny sewing machine (on the photo it is not mine, I have a brown one). I have it from my childhood. They were producing such in USSR. It is completely real working machine just very small. We used it after a long process of many preliminary exercises in sewing and it was the final one. Children were working successfully. They were extremely happy to use it!


It is better to distribute all these elements that form the idea of naturalness and reality throughout the room, rather than concentrate them in one place. A child, moving around the room, will constantly interact with the objects of nature, watching them, noticing the changes, taking care of them.

7 comments:

  1. I just LOVE that little sewing machine! I wonder how I could find one here in the US. I appreciate all the tips for how to incorporate Montessori education into a home or classroom. I really love all the detailed information about caring for plants.

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    1. Thank you Vanessa! I am happy you liked this article! I think you can find such machine on ebay, write"ussr sewing machine" in the search bar ;)

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    2. Excellent post dear Katherine

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  2. My head is spinning after reading this post. There are so many fabulous ideas here. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. It's truly inspiring and such a great resource.

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    1. Thank you for reading! I hope it will help you in some way during organizing your Montessori spaces!

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