|Photo by Lisa Nolan|
|Lily flowers are great for parts of a flower|
Here is one of my Montessori botany activities from my training manual: The Study of Nature. Outings.
The Study of Nature. Outings.
The point of departure for this study is the direct exploration of the environment.
In Montessori preschool the exploration was limited, the teacher tried to bring nature into the classroom with plants, animals, leaves, etc.
On the elementary level, the interest in the environment becomes more and more lively and, consequently, we start with small outings which will be prolonged later on into excursions.
Their aim isn't just to take a walk, but it is also a discovery of new social relationships between the children.
These outings, if well prepared, are one of the best means of study for children. Culture plus direct experience in nature must go hand in hand. Not through lessons in class or even experiments is it that children discover the reality of nature. Essential is that they discover things in reality, together with other children, in an atmosphere of freedom and ordered research of truth. No book, film or TV can transmit the same emotion of a child experiences from actually being in the woods. It appeals to his sensorial and psychic potential. At first, it is all sensorial but little by little they discover what is hidden in the green sea of a meadow or a forest.
We can consider a small part of a meadow and see that it is made up of grass but then we discover thousands of lives that live on it. In the same way, we can walk on a street and observe an old wall. Grass grows on it, and insects and mollusks will be discovered.
The exploration of small habitats is a great key for discoveries plus a stimulus for the imagination. For example, if we can get children to turn over a rock to see how some insects live in the darkness under the stone, they can imagine how life may be in dark caves, on the bottom of the sea, or under the arctic ice.
An essential part of a successful outing is preparation. The adults have to liberate themselves from all burden of bookishness and just go out with open and joyful eyes, eager to discover the details of new life forms which may interest the children. Look and discover with them under rocks, under tree bark, in a hollow log, or in the cracks of an old, sun-drenched wall. The children's interest and enthusiasm must find a direct response in the adult and this love for nature is born.
PREPARATION FOR OUTINGS:
Elementary-age children love to organize the preparations for an outing.
Things to take:
Toilet paper, just in case!
Small first aid kit
Pocket-size tree finder, bird finder (nature books for looking up the names of local plants, etc.)
Travel light! Children don't like to carry things for a long time.
Construction of simple instruments for the capture and observation of animals:
a) For animals living in pools, cans perforated at the bottom.
b) For a mini aquarium to view captured animals, a can split along its side, with the sides turned down for stability. Fill with pond water and transfer tadpoles, etc., caught with the "sieve" can observe and return to the pond. Remember to protect all the animals from the direct rays of the sun!
c) For insects, plastic jar with a perforated lid for ventilation.
d) For snails, fill a container half full of sand, cover it with gravel, insert some sturdy tubing in the center and cover it with a fine mesh net. Snails mate during the rainy season, and can be caught with their eggs, and kept in a humid container until the babies hatch. Keep the habitat moist by pouring water into the tubing, not directly onto the gravel.
Once the children's love for nature has been kindled, teach them respect for nature. Plants and animals have to be treated gently, rocks and logs returned to their original position, and mosses and turf replaced in good order.
Since you may be proudly presented with such discoveries as worms, pill bugs, spiders, slugs, grubs, and the like, not all of which may be to your liking, please don't show your disgust or fear, nor try to hide your ignorance of what kind of animal or plant you are looking at. You are all out there discovering and learning together, so a cheerful, "Let's look it up what this might be!" puts everyone on the right track.
THINGS YOU MAY FIND:
On warm rocks: lichen in patches of yellow, red or gray dots. They are the only plant that "eats" rocks. Later they die and mosses take hold in the rough spots the lichens have created in the rock. Once mosses are established, mini ferns and grasses will find tiny spots to grow in, turning the once lifeless rock into a little garden. Soon bugs and lizards will appear.
On trees: you will find leafy and feathery lichen, mosses and fungi, spider webs in the branches, grubs, and larvae under the bark – where Woody Woodpecker looks for them…
In ponds: frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, snails, water walkers, dragonflies, green algae, reeds, horsetails.
Under rocks and in moist places: worms, bugs, beetles, newts, salamanders.
Optional: keep a nature outing journal and or write your observations down in a notebook, and or keep a sketchbook for sketching what you find, and observe. Remember to put the date on them!
Also, start with your own backyard, a neighborhood park, and or an empty lot (the kind that has weeds growing everywhere).