The Outdoor Environment at LMS
At LMS our goal is to provide meaningful experiences for all of the children in an environment that is; 1) scaled to their physical needs, 2) supportive of their psychological development and 3) is responsive to their natural interests.
The Montessori concept of the prepared environment extends, as far as is possible, to the whole school, both indoors and outdoors. The prepared outdoor environment at LMS is a unique and special one that offers the children opportunities to explore and to become familiar with the natural world on a daily basis. The yard surrounding the school has been established in such a way that it incorporates a prairie, a small forest, flower and vegetable gardens as well as a more traditional play area with a sandbox and a basketball hoop. To complement the growing of flowers and vegetables, an indoor sun room acts as a greenhouse for starting seedlings and cuttings.
Through their activities on the prairie or in the forest, planting their seeds or digging for worms the children at LMS can explore their world. They make discoveries and follow their own interests. They experience light and shade, color and texture, or the benefits of too much or not enough water! They become familiar with the natural environment through observation and experience. They are not told about it but are free to be active in it.
Contact with nature is an important dimension of education. Children learn best when they do so in natural contexts. Going out amongst the plants and wildflowers is much more meaningful for the learner than their merely being brought into the classroom for a lesson. Direct experience with nature fosters learning in a meaningful context so that the learner can connect what is learned to real life. It also counterbalances the over emphasis on technology and organized activities so prevalent in our culture at present.
The outdoor environment at LMS allows children the opportunity to experience nature in ways that match their physical development and natural interests.
Spanish in our Montessori Classrooms
Back in the year 1968 when MSO opened its first satellite classroom in Bellevue, NE Larry Verschuur, who directed the first classes there, decided to launch a unique program. Since there were many foreigners amongst the military wives in the community Larry decided to try to hire someone who spoke French to assist him. His goal was two fold, firstly to use a native speaker whose pronunciation and fluency would be natural and secondly to ask that person to speak to the children in her native language in all of her contacts with the children. The second objective would ensure that the language would be available to all of the children all of the time, in the same way that the Montessori materials are there and available for the children to use whenever they are interested.
A newspaper article which appeared in The Omaha World Herald the following spring noted that the foreign language assistant’s presence in the room ‘stimulates the children’s spontaneous interest’ in the language. It was decided after that first year that MSO (and later LMS) would try to hire foreign speaking assistants in all of its classes. The only significant change was that in time it became clear that Spanish was a much more practical language to introduce to American children and consequently the Spanish language replaced French as the dominant one in all of our classes.
Since the inception of MSO’s original experiment with French in the classroom, the idea of bilingualism and of making a second language available to children under the age of five has become much more commonplace. Recent brain research has vindicated the case for introducing more than one language to children before they reach the age of two or three.
Research further indicates that a child who has been exposed to a second language while his/hr brain is developing acquires the pattern of that language in the brain. Even though that child may subsequently forget the lessons and vocabulary of childhood, when later exposed to the language, he/she will be able to recall the basic patterns of the language and consequently will be able to pick it up more quickly than if he/she was learning it for the first time as an adult.
When asked how best to teach a second language to children under six, Renilde Montessori, Maria Montessori’s granddaughter noted the following. ‘The simplest and most natural way to do this is to have a person in the school with whom the children need to communicate, an assistant for instance, making sure that this person speaks only the one language that needs to be introduced’ (AMI/USA News viii: 2: (1995) p. 5) Dr. Montessori observed that human beings have a predisposition for language and a desire to communicate. These two qualities combined with the presence of a foreign speaking person in their environment encourage children in our schools to become bi-lingual while following their natural and individual development.
At LMS we enrich each child’s experience in this unique and meaningful way.