Grand Forks Montessori Academy
We are proud to have the GFMA Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom as a key element of our curriculum that continually enhances and supports our children’s needs throughout the year. Our program has matured over the years, providing richer opportunities for the staff, families and children. Children learn and experience the world’s wonders through their natural environment, and gain skills resulting in personal growth and self-worth through their great impact on it.
Our outdoor classroom has matured in a manner that illustrates how what we do today impacts tomorrow. What our children helped to plant in the past, benefits today’s children. Our apple trees provide apples for our children to pick and gather, to learn to peel and core, and to learn to make homemade apple treats for snacks. They see how the beneficial bugs eat the fallen apples and how they mulch into the earth. After many years of maintaining our outdoor environment, children have more trees to climb, more branches to cut with which to create art projects, games, and forts, from tic-tac-toe with acorns and pebbles, to willow branch weavings, to branches strong enough for a see-saw or little walking bridge on the ground.
Our children are astute observers, have inquiring minds, and are encouraged to experiment, learn, and practice scientific methods. As they fully immerse in the natural world around them, engaging with all their senses, they experience the changes in weather and the cyclical nature of changing seasons. They understand the cause and effect in the natural world and the symbiotic relationships that occur. The children are encouraged to explore, create, and make connections in their learning.
Some of the ways our children have engaged in our Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom include: observing and identifying the wildlife, birds, butterflies, ants, aphids, spiders, mushrooms, flowers, leaves, trees, raising and releasing ladybugs, identifying wildlife tracks in the snow, building igloos and snow families in winter or engaging in water play during the warmer months. They make bird food crafts for their feathery friends, measure the growth and change of the vegetables they planted, and explore the woods. They get to climb trees, build forts out of natural materials from the landscape, practice their letters in the sand, play music outdoors, and make mud pies in their ‘restaurant’ as they become entrepreneurs using their imaginations. They learn to recycle and upcycle, how to be creative with materials, as well as give back to the environment. Our children get to harvest and eat vegetables and fruits they plant each year, they also get to pick the apples, pears, and apricots from the trees planted by children from past years, and climb trees children in the past have planted. They love to rake, shovel, dig, water, trim, and see the positive benefits of their actions.
Children take great pride in maintaining an environment designed just for them. They see and appreciate how their actions impact their environment. They know they are important because their actions make them feel important. The environment is a joyful, beautiful place of learning because they help to make it so. Our Nature Explore environment is more than just an outdoor classroom. It is an essential component of healthy, developmental growth in children.