Maria Montessori was an iconic doctor and educator who created the Montessori pedagogy we know today. She based the Montessori way of schooling on a few fundamental principles; a child’s innate need to become independent and self-sufficient, the needs of children according to the planes of development, and a wholesome respect for the planet and a child’s place within it.
One key element of Montessori is nature. As International Earth Day is coming up on the 22nd of April, it’s a reminder for guardians and parents to go outdoors with children and celebrate many of the Earth’s beautiful bounties. The planet and our place within it are honored, nurtured, and respected every day through many different principles in the Montessori pedagogy, which we are going to look at.
Nurturing our kids to be conscious guardians of the environment
In Montessori, you will often hear people talk about how respectful and conscious children are towards their environment, their classrooms, and the materials within them. Children are naturally caring, and they strive when they have something to look after; this is where personal responsibility comes in.
Children are innately curious about independence and gaining it. Though this can come with struggles, as with independence comes responsibility. Personal responsibility and interpersonal responsibility vary from age to age. Children as young as one are often given less responsibility than those who are 6 and above. However, it can still be taught even in the younger years.
The Montessori principle of responsibility connects the child to their environment; this can be seen with practical life activities, where children are guided towards watering plants, preparing snacks for themselves and their peers, and tidying up after themselves. Montessori encourages children to think about their roles within society and responsibility towards others by starting with their roles within the classroom.
Montessori aids children by firstly modeling behavior; the adults present should be calm, tidy, and organized. They model caring behaviors toward all the children in their care and always aim to be personally responsible for materials, clean up after themselves, and show considerate behavior towards nature and others.
By modeling this behavior, children are allowed the freedom to work alongside the adults present and learn with them. They are gently encouraged towards copying those behaviors without realizing it.
Another way that Montessori encourages personal and interpersonal responsibility is through mixed-age groupings. At different periods of a child’s life, their needs and abilities change.
Children of different ages can learn and grow together, helping each other along the way. For example, an older child in a Children’s House classroom may be able to aid one of the younger children with an activity or read a book to them. They can even help the adults within the room put younger children to sleep or relax with them before an adult is able to help. These sorts of responsibilities parallel outside the classroom and innately teach children to understand the different levels of responsibility within society.
This type of environment breeds positive peer relations because everyone is a big family, co-operating with each other along the way. Mixed-age groupings are a crucial principle of Montessori that allows children to grow up as self-sufficient and socially conscious characters who can help our future planet thrive, which has never been more important.
As we spoke about, children can be guided towards thinking about others, but it doesn’t happen naturally. In Montessori, it is essential for children to learn how to share and co-operate with one another. This is done by only having one material for each section, as there aren’t many duplicates. If a child is working with a material, another child will simply have to wait until the working child is finished.
Another way this is nurtured is through positive language; in Montessori, there are no naughty corners or steps. The experience is the consequence. Children are guided by the adults in how they should communicate with one another. A child learns what is allowed and what’s not through positive discipline. They experience the consequences of what happens if they hit another child or say something horrible, it’s not a case of taking them away unless absolutely necessary.
Through this, children can stand up for themselves and others and realize when their behavior may have negatively affected someone else. With this principle, Montessori helps children become resilient and confident people who can be the change we want to see in the world.
Children need to spend time outside, playing, caring and moving. The Montessori environment is no different. The classroom is designed to be harmoniously connected with nature. Materials are generally plastic-free and ergonomically designed, light is plentiful, and flowers and plants are dotted around. The prepared environment allows children to be in a beautiful space and learn how to keep it that way for everyone to enjoy.
Earth Day is all about caring for our planet to create a cleaner, greener, and prosperous future for us to continue enjoying for generations to come; Montessori principles naturally instill this into children from a young age.
From 3 years old and up, Geography presentations are given, allowing children to learn about the world, putting their substantial knowledge from books into practice. They are also encouraged to actively participate in daily care routines, such as planting seeds, learning about the life cycle of animals and plants, and recycling from books and presentations.
Children are also encouraged to spend time outside and play freely in appealing surroundings full of nature and natural ecosystems. Montessori helps children foster their natural curiosity about the world around them by exposing them to nature, going on trips to parks or forests, and teaching them about different animals and habitats.
Everything in Montessori has a purpose, and nothing is done if it doesn’t help children become better-equipped world citizens. The principles are clear; anything that a child can see or experience is discussed and taught. Montessori helps children create a deep connection with nature.
Mother nature is celebrated every day in Montessori. Children are guided towards being active and responsible members of society in many ways; the youngest absorb behavior that adults model; the middle ages of 3-6 begin to take action themselves, and in the later stages of childhood, children are responsible for many different elements of the pedagogy, where they are guided towards thinking about the world outside.
Children are our future, and it has never been more true than in the world we live in today. They are naturally absorbent and go through sensitive periods of change and interest, especially in their younger years; Montessori aims to show them how to behave and help others through actions first. If society demands people to be caring and considerate, these skills should be taught, shown, and acknowledged from a young age.
From the upper ages of Children’s House, all of primary and up, children are encouraged to participate in social work, whether through collecting donations for charities, working on inter-generational projects, or simply helping others within the environment. If modeled correctly, children can take on an active role in these activities and even enjoy them, especially if they are curious about them.
Montessori immerses children in an environment in which they are innately curious and gives them tools to partake in restoring a prosperous and sustainable planet for all.
By adopting these principles, Montessori can help children become fully grown independent humans with the mental capacity to think about others and the future of the planet.
With each day that passes, especially on World Earth Day, children should be shown the joys of this planet—nurturing their natural curiosity by giving them responsibilities and roles, guiding them towards planet-friendly activities, and allowing for true responsibility for their actions.
Adopting these principles can show children how vital their role within society is and create independent, free-thinking, and accountable people for the good of our planet. This is the core message that Montessori aims to teach, and it’s certainly one we should all follow for a bright and better future.