Maria Montessori recognized the young child’s need to observe and absorb information about the world around them. Encountering something new in natures sparks the child’s curiosity and leads to a spontaneous lesson as the child wonders, “What is this? What is it called? How does it feel/smell/taste/sound?”
Through her experiences exploring nature, caring for plants in the classroom, flower arranging, preparing food, and working in the garden, the child learns that plants are living organisms with needs. Dr. Montessori believed that experience with real objects should always proceed before learning the names or looking at pictures of things.The child discovers, on her own, the basic needs of plants through these early experiences.
Lessons in botany give the child deeper knowledge of the plant kingdom. With the support of the Natural World Chart, Plant Kingdom Charts, and various Sorting Cards, she absorbs the fundamental differences between plants and animals. Through classification games, plant stories or “Who Am I?” cards, and other activities she begins her education on the plants from around the world.
Montessori realized that young children in the period of the absorbent mind have a real need to learn the proper names for things. She created the Montessori nomenclature materials (3-part cards, charts, and booklets along with their controls of error) to help children develop their vocabulary and increase their understanding of the world around them.
Children are inherently connected to nature and fascinated by living things; there is a significant body of research discussing the benefits of children interacting with nature on a regular basis. Connection to nature and inspiring wonder are an integral part of the Montessori philosophy and curriculum.
“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
Learn more about the Maryland Center for Montessori Studies.