• 5 Reasons to Get them Outside: The MSOSV Outdoor Classrooms

    An advocate for outdoor learning, Dr. Montessori would say that with Spring right around the corner and Summer immediately following, there is no better time than now to open the outdoor classrooms and children’s gardens.

    “There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature.” Maria Montessori

    Children should have a place and ample time to learn about nature, or to simply enjoy their usual Montessori activities in an outdoor environment and be a part of the children’s garden each and every day.

    1. Wonderful memories and experiences that last a lifetime-

    Outdoor Community

    Whenever I meet an adult/young adult who lets me know they too were a Montessori child, I ask them to reflect on their earliest memories attending a Montessori preschool. “Tell me something you remember about the Montessori classroom.” It is not surprising that many come up with sensory experiences of nature, such as pulling a large carrot from the soil, scrubbing a seashell, watering a plant or discovering worms. Rarely do I hear, “we had these really fun worksheet packets that we colored”.

    Just a few things that might be found in the MSOSV outdoor classroom environments.

    • Giant artichoke plants
    • Tomatoes – growing – in all sizes
    • Oversized zucchini
    • Bird feeders and lots of birds
    • A shady peach or plum tree to sit under
    • Watering, lots of watering
    • Art – mosaics, rubbings, shadow, easel painting and more
    • Peace Garden with child made steppingstones, and shaded seating to read
    • Hidden strawberries – for the tiniest hand to find
    • Garden tools to take on almost any job in the garden
    • Herbs – lots and lots of herbs -lavender rosemary, basil, mint and more
    • Giant Sunflowers
    • Open ended science experiments
    • Compost, soil, lots of dirt

    In the spring, summer and fall, families can look forward to fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs being harvested and then sent home. The children harvest basil to make pesto, pick peaches to make a delicious peach parfait and many children just pop cherry tomatoes into their mouths right from the vine. The children are the Masters of the garden.

    Together they plan, work, sow and enjoy the garden and outdoor environment.

    2. Children are Free to Explore-

    Peach Tree Stroll

    Instead of forcing children to learn through an overly structured environment, a Montessori classroom emphasizes free exploration, and an outdoor classroom offers even more free exploration than an indoor class. Children can choose their own activities and work in different areas.
    The free exploration gives a child a chance to find their strengths and interests, which will allow them to branch out and build on various skills.
    This free exploration also provides child multiple opportunities to expand on their social skills. Children will interact with other children and learn how to problem solve.

    3. Children Enjoy the Fresh Air-

    Despite the changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is still plenty of fun to be had working outdoors. Breathing in fresh air can give children more focus and energy to complete tasks. The natural light from the sun will put children in a better mood and also helps increase levels of vitamin D.
    Children are able to spread out and are less likely to spread germs. There is more physical space in our outdoor settings, larger and more open than the indoor classroom.

    4. STEM and Montessori go hand in hand-

    Vegetable and Herb Garden

    Many parents are surprised to learn that STEM education does a lot more than they think. In fact, it can boost science literacy, create children who think critically, and enable an entire generation to be more than workers but to be innovators. Innovation is a necessary part of a continually growing economy. It’s clear from stats and observation that most future jobs will require at least a basic understanding of science and math.
    Children develop diverse skill sets and a passion for exploration and growth. We don’t need children to memorize random facts anymore. We have so many facts at our fingertips. Gone are the days where we go to the library to “look it up”.

    Open-ended Activities in the Outdoor Classroom – Boosting STEM


    Sensorial, Language and Math Ideas

    The outdoor classroom is full of exciting ways to open and refine all 5 senses.
    Children can explore different textures such as the rough pavement compared to the smoothness of a leaf. Draw shapes with different colors of chalk. Compare the colors of the grass, sky, flowers, etc.
    Children use chalk on the sidewalk to write letters, draw flowers and more. They set up a Peace area to sit outside while reading books selected for the garden. The children have snack or just might be found listening to the sounds of the outdoors.
    All activities are open-ended allowing the children to discover, question and think for themselves.

    5. Children Learn Gardening Skills – Practical Life-

    Planting Artichoke

    There are many outdoor practical-life activities such as simple gardening like digging in soil and planting seeds. Children try their hand at raking, sweeping, or practice their pouring skills with water or sand.

    • Our garden gives children a chance to use shovels, wheelbarrows, hoes, and other garden tools. The grips, strength, and specific tasks will help expand on the motor skills.
    • Fine motor skill development could include pulling out weeds or trimming flowers.
    • The foundation of gardening also includes a lot of independent skills a child will learn and use as they grow older.
    • Instead of being handed strawberries on a plate, children learn the time and effort it takes to grow strawberries and feel more pride when the strawberries grow. Waiting for the exact right moment to pick the delicious ripe strawberry develops patience. Washing and enjoying that wonderful strawberry is a memory that will last a lifetime.
    • Children can find a lot of satisfaction through the work put into the garden.

    The traditional classroom experience includes indoor learning, but the addition to our outdoor classroom expands beyond the typical outdoor time found during “outside playtime”. True classroom time is dedicated to the outdoors, and children gain a lot of knowledge from the time they spend outdoors.

    The foundation of gardening also includes a lot of independent skills children learn and use as they grow older.