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Toddlers watch lizard

When children come in contact with Nature, they reveal their strength.

-   Dr. Maria Montessori

Spring has arrived in Raleigh/Durham and at The Montessori School of Raleigh (MSR) that means students are deepening their understanding and connection with nature. From Earth Day activities to classroom lessons, students across grade levels are discovering the wonders of the natural world around them. The following are just a few of the ways MSR students are building connections.

Children’s House (Ages 3-6)

  • In Children’s House (CH) Spanish classes children have been exploring La Mariposa Monarca and learned about the thousands of Monarch butterflies that hibernate in the same forest each year before flying from Canada to the Mexican state of Michoacán. They also learned that this annual butterfly migration has become an important tradition and valuable source of income in Michoacán.
  • In honor of Earth Day, CH Extended Day students made Trash Monsters as part of their art class. This re-use project combined clay making with clean trash items to create artworks children can put in their yards or gardens to remind all of us to reuse and recycle.

Lower Elementary (Grades 1-3)

  • CH Butterfly Girl
    In MSR’s Lower Elementary (LE) program, children have been learning about local birds. After reading about birds’ lives and studying their body parts and systems, students spent time observing birds, paying particular attention to each bird’s physical characteristics. They collected data based on their observations and used that data to create mathematical graphs and chose and completed individual research projects based on their interests.
  • Taking advantage of the outdoor spaces available to each classroom, LE students have also been exploring plants as part of their natural science studies. By observing bees flying from flower to flower, the students learned about pollination. They collected and dissected flowers to understand the different parts of each plant and they classified different types of flowers by looking for similarities and differences in the flowers. Finally, the children planted seeds and are watching them sprout and grow as they weed, water, and care for their gardens.

Upper Elementary (Grades 4-6)

  • The Upper Elementary (UE) community celebrated Earth Day by sending home a Longleaf Pine sapling for students and their families to plant in honor of the day. The Longleaf Pine is a threatened species, native to the Southeast region of the United States, and there is a large movement by regional state parks to raise $100,000 to plant 100,000 pine trees. The sapling container can even be recycled to build a bird feeder!
  • Upper Elementary students in MSR’s virtual Blended Learning Plus program, studied Elizabeth Coatsworth’s nature-inspired poetry then wrote their own haiku, North Carolina nature poems, and a poem modeled after Coatsworth’s poem, “I Like to See a Thunderstorm,” which used repetition, rhyming patterns, and rhythm. The work culminated with each student creating a personal poetry page that was compiled into a booklet of poetry titled Reflections of Nature
Intersessions Zen Garden March 2021

Middle School (Grades 7-8)

This spring’s Intersessions in the Middle School focused on community service activities on MSR’s Brier Creek Campus, home to MSR’s Middle and Upper Schools. The seventh and eighth graders built and planted raised garden beds, cleared erosion fencing to improve natural habitats, continued work on an outdoor Zen meditation garden area, and other projects. Click here to learn more about Intersessions at MSR.

 Upper School (Grades 9-12)

  • In the Upper School, members of the Green School Initiative Occupation continue working towards earning a Green School certification for the school’s Brier Creek campus. Part of that process includes auditing the consumption of natural resources on campus – like water and electricity. On Earth Day, the Green School Initiative Occupation launched its water awareness project to chart daily water consumption on campus and led a brainstorming session to discuss ways to tackle global water shortages. Occupations are student-designed and student-led clubs providing opportunities for students to explore topics and activities of particular interest to them.

Other natural science and Earth Day lessons continue at MSR: litter clean-ups, writing letters to state and federal lawmakers encouraging them to enact laws to reduce pollution, building a volcano that erupts, and studying the water cycle and the role water plays on the Earth, to name just a few.

All this discovery and exploration helps students at every grade level build critical thinking skills, increase their academic vocabulary, and develop their respect for nature. Dr. Montessori strongly believed that a peaceful world would be achieved through education that teaches compassion for and connection to all living things: “We must study the correlation between life and its environment. In nature, everything correlates... Nature is not concerned with the conservation of individual life: it is harmony, a plan of construction. Everything fits into this plan: winds, rocks, earth, water, plants, man, etc.” (Maria Montessori Citizen of the World)

How wonderful that MSR students are given regular opportunities to engage with and learn from nature.

By Laura J. Novia with contributions from MSR Faculty Kelli Alvater, Babe Clawson, Susan Keefer, Nancy Melamed, Carla Miranda, and Linsay Narvaez