Notes from Hailey
The warm, spring weather has been inspiring us lately as we learn the parts of flowers and trees, as well as identifying various types of plants. The children have also been enjoying some extra outside time, having the opportunity to explore the woods, build fairy houses, and just enjoy the sunshine. We’re also anxiously awaiting our outdoor mornings, since our first attempt was rained out. The plan is still to have outdoor mornings on Thursdays, so please be sure your child has a water bottle and appropriate outdoor footwear for walking through the woods on those mornings!
While completing my Montessori training, one of the instructors recommended the book "The Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv. In his book, Louv discusses how important direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of both children and adults. While planning our outdoor mornings I kept some of what he writes in mind, while also incorporating what we usually do in the classroom: we may use sticks or rocks instead of spindles for practicing quantities or we might form letters with things we find in the woods, for example. Below is an excerpt from Richard Louv’s website where he talks a little about his research. I would encourage you all to take a look at both his website (richardlouv.com) and his books.
“The children and nature movement is proving to be one of the best ways to challenge other entrenched concepts—for example, the current test-centric definition of education reform. A different vision is embodied in the nature-themed schools sprouting up nationwide, such as the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center Preschool, where, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in April 2006, "a 3-year-old can identify a cedar tree and a maple—even if she can't tell you what color pants she's wearing. And a 4-year-old can tell the difference between squirrel and rabbit tracks—even if he can't yet read any of the writing on a map. Young children learn through the sounds, scents, and seasons of the outdoors." Taking cues from the preschool's success in engaging children, an increasing number of nature centers plan to add preschool programs not only to meet the demand for early childhood education but also to "create outdoor enthusiasts at a young age," as the Journal Sentinel reported.
The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea: the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.
Howard Frumkin, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at Centers for Disease Control, recently described the clear benefits of nature experiences to healthy child development, and to adult well-being. "In the same way that protecting water and protecting air are strategies for promoting public health, protecting natural landscapes can be seen as a powerful form of preventive medicine," he said. He believes that future research about the positive health effects of nature should be conducted in collaboration with architects, urban planners, park designers, and landscape architects. "Perhaps we will advise patients to take a few days in the country, to spend time gardening," he wrote in a 2001 American Journal of Preventive Medicine article, "or [we will] build hospitals in scenic locations, or plant gardens in rehabilitation centers. Perhaps the . . . organizations that pay for health care will come to fund such interventions, especially if they prove to rival pharmaceuticals in cost and efficacy." Today, Frumkin adds, "Of course, there is still much we need to learn, such as what kinds of nature contact are most beneficial to health, how much contact is needed and how to measure that, and what groups of people benefit most. But we know enough to act." In every arena, from conservation and health to urban design and education, the movement will have no shortage of tools and no shortage of potential far-reaching benefits. Under the right conditions, cultural and political change can occur rapidly. The recycling and antismoking campaigns revealed how social and political pressure can transform society in a single generation. The children and nature movement has perhaps even greater potential because it touches something even deeper within us, biologically and spiritually. An array of leaders from different religious backgrounds have stepped forward to support the reconciliation of children and nature. Such leaders understand that all spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and that one of the first windows to wonder is the natural world.
Beyond all of this, the most important development has been the growing number of individual parents and other family members who have decided to do what it takes to bring nature into their lives, and keep it there. The real measure of our success will not be in the number of programs created or bills passed, but in the breadth of cultural change that will make such decisions second nature—in every family, every school, and every neighborhood. We do not know if this young movement will outlast the decade. But those who pursue it—and the pioneers who were working for change decades ago—are responding not only to nature, but to a hunger for hope. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that the success of any social movement depends on its ability to depict a world where people will want to go. Thinking about children's need for nature helps us begin to paint a picture of that world—which must be done, because the price of not painting that picture is too high.”
Notes from Emily
Welcome, Spring! The children seemed to really enjoy our first ‘outdoor day’ of spring; we had a group snack outside, worked together to move sticks for building huts, discussed Earth Day and the importance of caring for our planet, and explored the field and woods for signs of spring. In the afternoon, the older group of children worked in teams to complete a nature scavenger hunt. During the first week back from vacation, the children learned how to start seeds in the classroom. We are in the process of starting watermelons, zinnias, calendula, and pumpkins. Each class is starting different plants that the elementary children will tend until they are large enough for transplanting into our raised beds. During consecutive ‘outdoor days’, we will work in the garden beds, plant some cold-hardy plants such as peas and carrots, and do some trail clearing work on the woodland trail.
We also had our second session of the health class curriculum offered through Prevent Child Abuse Vermont. In first session, the children discussed when we may need help and who is a trusted adult to ask for help. In session two, the children discussed different emotions and how we express them. In the following weeks we will focus on parts of the body and caring for infants. The children have been very respectful and engaged with our guest teacher during these 30 minute sessions.
I would like to share a few moments from the classroom this week:
In honor of Earth Day, I have been focusing on our geography material this week (globes and puzzle maps). On Monday, I took out the sandpaper globe with a three year old and we discussed the terms ‘water’ and ‘land’. As if the other children could anticipate my lesson plan for the week, several groups of children were independently inspired to take out puzzle maps when they noticed us working with the globe. On the first day back from school, there were three different puzzle maps out, with various children exploring the continents of the world, the countries of North America, and the United States.
We have an older toddler beginning to visit our classroom in preparation for a transition into our community. While I was giving this child a lesson, a three year old was very interested in this new friend. As a way to engage and be friendly, this three year old helped the toddler to clean up the work by handing each piece to the toddler so they could set the material in its box. It was so sweet to watch the children in this coordinated, silent effort.
On Friday after lunch, Ali took the older group of children out for a short walk. To help clean up after lunch, I began sweeping the floor just as the children came back inside. Without being asked, two of the five year old children came over to me with another broom and dust pan and proceeded to finish the job for me with much enthusiasm. This is a lovely example of when older children enter what Montessori called the “second psychological stage of work,” when a child has practiced certain skills to perfection and now acts based on a greater awareness of community need (“the floor is dirty and I know how to clean it up, and I can take pleasure in my ability to help with this”).
Thank you to: Will Alexander for his donation of his most recent book to MSCVT, to Brian Bogie for orchestrating another fun Sugar on Snow event and for the generous gift of a bottle of syrup for each family and to the Routhiers for a gift of some stress balls for the classroom.
Notes from Minori
Thank you so much Montessori grandparents and special visitors for coming to our classroom to observe your grandchild's activities. I noticed the classroom was filled with lots of smiles and love. Your grandchildren looked so proud and happy. How lucky they are to be nurtured with your love and endless support! It was a joyous day.
Baking lesson and food preparation
Our children have been having a great time in baking lessons with Diane on top of our regular food preparation exercises since March. This is a bigger project than our regular food preparation where a team ( usually 2 children and Diane) make a new recipe each week for our snack. I observe the children work cooperatively and focus on the activities each week. I can see children enjoy the process and feel very proud of what they are making. Children also take care of dishes and putting the kitchen tools away nicely. “Food preparation is a very important part of the Everyday Living curriculum in Montessori education. It's is vital to the child’s feeling of responsibility in being a part of the real world. The child not only perfects specific skills needed in preparing foods, but also learns about different types of food and how they are used.”( New England Montessori Teachers Center) Children’s senses are also get stimulated through these activities.
We have planted some vegetable seeds for our community garden recently. It is exciting for children to see the vegetables grow too.
Earth Day Network says our planet is losing 15 billion trees each year. In our classroom we often talk about how to protect our environment and be kind to our planet. We have read Dr. Seuss’ inspiring book “The Lorax “ and have had a discussion. We planted carrot seeds in washed eggshells. We have talked about the “3Rs” /Reduce- Reuse- Recycle. We have made sure that we should be mindful about our resources, that means, we are not using too much or wasting them. I am very grateful that children in our community are leaning a lot and making efforts to be greener and eco friendly for the Earth and the next generation to live together in harmony.