“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping.”
-Dr. Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child
Whenever I have had parents visit the classroom, I’ve asked them to see the world as their child may see it. The responses are interesting to watch, but once one adult squats down, and feels a bit foolish at first doing so, I see that “ah ha!” moment. One by one, I witness each adult literally seeing the world how their child sees it: quite low to the ground!
A learning moment doesn't mean it needs to be assigned vocabulary or follow a strict curriculum. A learning moment can happen anywhere! The outside world is a wonderful classroom and as children experience their world more, they begin to create their own games, formulate their own questions, refine and coordinate their bodies, and work out their “problem solving muscles.” Nature naturally changes, unlike the classroom or your home where an adult has to physically change the environment based on interests and capabilities, thus finding those enticing moments to spark wonder. Nature does this all on its own. We live in an area with seasons! There are obstacles to climb over, life cycles to observe, animals to mimic, and music to listen to. Colors! Textures! Weather! What a perfect environment for these little scientists to run their experiments.
So let’s get dirty!
Getting our hands in the dirt has many health benefits, such as boosting the immune system and decreasing stress. In the Montessori world, there is an even deeper meaning. We talk about the interconnectedness of the world: every living thing working together to create balance. The children are working on finding out who they are and how they fit into the bigger world. See their smiles when they can just get right in the dirt. This connection speaks to their innermost being.
Sadly, dirt has a negative connotation among many adults. So let’s relook at how this “dirt” provides life and how it looks different in all parts of the world. Once we start to understand and appreciate the order, patterns, and beauty of the earth (the dirt, soil), we reconnect and realize we need to take care of our global home.
What are some easy ways to reconnect with the literal earth? They all involve finding ways to engage with soil. Now that it is spring, the ground has thawed and we can go play!
- Gardening season is here. Before you begin with the seeds, till the soil without tools or wearing gardening gloves. This allows your child to get to know the soil and feel what the plants need to grow. Engage your senses! What does it smell like? Is it cold? What is the texture of the soil? Moisture level? Different plants need different environments.
- Let your child poke holes to plant the seeds. Is there a section of the garden that is just for them? Let them learn how to water, pull weeds, and watch as the shoots emerge. Show how to have gentle touches when caressing a leaf. Lay down in the soil and just watch.
- Our world is crawling with insects! Lay down in the grass and just watch the ants march across the soil. Can you find their ant hills? When digging in the garden, did you find worms? Turn over a rock or log to find more insects. We do not want to smash nature, so how can we interact with it? Gaining experience from such a young age allows them to develop empathy even for the smallest of creatures. (The cicadas are coming.)
We want to raise our children to be curious and maintain their sense of wonder as they explore their world. This is how they learn! When you are outside, get down to your child’s level. See the world that they are seeing. This new perspective may open you up to more of the wonders you can share with your child. Learn and explore together.
I hope you grow in your appreciation of mud streaked faces and the dusty/grass-stained clothes. Do not be afraid to get dirty!
Ms. Barba, Sassafras Lead Teacher