There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature.” - Maria Montessori
With the recent push in many public schools around the world for increased testing, work, and standardization; outdoor play is often overlooked in a student's education. It is often viewed as a temporary distraction at best, or wasted time at worst. Not so in Montessori classrooms, where outdoor play is more akin to scientists and explorers participating in on-the-job training than it is to students throwing work aside for a few minutes.
Montessori takes account of the whole needs of the child, and not just academic needs, but emotional, physical, and spiritual as well. During outdoor play, students create, they observe, they relate, they negotiate. They are physicists testing hypotheses: "If I throw this stick with this much strength and velocity, how far will it go?" They are botanists collecting samples: "Why are the leaves from this tree different than the one next to it?" They are debaters determining the best way to play backyard football to make the game both fun and maybe even fair.
These skills are critically important, but too often overlooked. It is tempting to insert oneself into the middle of a heated debate between students on whether a rule was broken, or a wrong was committed. And yet, patience may provide a unique opportunity. Watch as the students argue, as they learn effective debate skills, as they negotiate and compromise, and as they learn that they in fact can be independent and settle disputes on their own. It may not be the settlement we would have decided, but remember: They're new at this, and they're learning!
Students need to experience the sun's rays breaking through the trees. They need to experience a cool fog that sticks to the grass. They must know forests and hear steady streams. In short, they must experience beauty. They must come to appreciate nature's beauty, it's resiliency, and it's fragility. And while there is beauty within the walls of every class, there is much to discover outside of them. What can be more important to learn than the idea that life is full of beauty and there are always possibilities?