My name is Adam, an almost 3 year educator in Early Childhood education. I am almost done with my 2nd year in a Montessori classroom, and I have loved every second. My first year in a two year program to get my Montessori Credential (age 3-6) is almost over. Later posts will be focused on my growth and reflections on my time in the class, but for the most immediate future the focus of this blog will be on my work to transition our garden area to an outdoor classroom.
Last year when I took children out to the garden, there wasn’t much to do besides planting/weeding/basic gardening activities. It only supported maybe 4 or 5 children, and the rest would look on from the inside, disrupting work cycles. As the summer went on, it became harder and harder to get out there, until I would just go out by myself after work and take care of it. The children hadn’t been out there in months. It was disheartening, since my love and passion belongs to Mother Earth, and I was unable to transfer this love to the children.
Last year, I had the idea to transform the garden into an outdoor classroom, but funds were lacking. By outdoor classroom, I wanted to create a space where children could come and, like a Montessori environment, have freedom to choose work, whether that be writing, drawing, or taking care of the garden. Montessori herself extolled the virtues of holding work time outside, saying by connecting with nature, the children focused more intently and developed faster. This was my dream. A couple months ago, my Director approached me with an available grant through my organization, Children, Inc., through which I could possibly realize my dream. I applied, and thankfully, I was awarded one thousand dollars to make an outdoor classroom, with the help of a co-worker, Maggie.
Then as I started to work on this, a parent made a donation to further realize my dream. As a long time supporter of nature, my passion slid very easily over to help children realize their connection with nature. Through my class and reading books like “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv, I learned that children gain many benefits from extended time spent outside. Not just at the playground, but also by exploring the world around them. Behavioral and Developmental problems disappear through this, and I realized how important this work was for the long term success of children in my program.
I am currently in the middle of realizing my dream, and even though it’s stressful and hard work, to me it isn’t work, but play. I must thank the Children, Inc. for helping me provide this space for the children, the Petryk/Benz family for their generous donation and their employer Toyota for matching their donation. Also this wouldn’t be possible without the support from the administration of my center and my co-teacher, Liz Helton. Future posts will detail the work that has gone into realizing my dream, but for now, I’ll leave you with this quote from Maria Montessori:
“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.” (The Discovery of the Child)