In the process of looking for a nursery school for my child I have visited a number of different types of nursery school. I have been struck by the atmosphere I find in the Montessori Schools. I can imagine how the order of the environment might encourage the natural development of the child and how it caters for independence. I am interested to know if the same attention is given to the preparation of the outside environment or is there a more ‘free play’ approach outside?
We read a lot these days about the importance of nature in children’s lives and psychologists have described the phenomenon of ‘nature deficit disorder’. Interestingly enough Montessori also emphasized how important it is for children to be exposed to nature. For this reason she advocated that the outside environment should be planned with the same care as the inside environment. She suggested that there should be an inside environment, an inside-outside environment and an outside environment.
The inside-outside environment should be a sheltered area where the children could start to venture outside and could take some of their activities with them. The outside environment should have some different areas. A cultivated garden area where the children could plant and tend to vegetables, fruit and flowers and a more wild area where they could just experience the sheer joy of discovery of the natural world.
There should be lots for the children to do outside and these activities should be offered to them in the same way as they are inside. They should be arranged in an orderly way so that everything is clear for the child to see and choose and they should be shown how to do these things in exactly the same way as they would be shown how to scrub a table or build the Pink Tower inside.