Teacher Resource: The Outdoor Prepared Environment

The Outdoor Prepared Environment

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Even outdoors, you are still the third point of the triangle! When we take the children outdoors, where it seems so easy for them to function, we tend to forget that the magic of the Montessori prepared environment depends as much on the teacher as it does on the materials and the child. Do children really need the same active support, parameters, and supervision in the outdoor prepared environment as they do inside the classroom? In theory, yes; in practice, we sometimes fall short.

Intellectually, we all know the prepared environment doesn’t stop at the classroom door. So, why is it so easy for us teachers to abdicate responsibility when we walk outside? I’ve heard more teachers talking lately about the disappearance of peaceful play on the yard. Some may think today’s children are shorter on tolerance, or that it’s natural for children to interact less peacefully in a more stressful world. Perhaps. And perhaps there is something else going on. Something that has less to do with the children and more to do with us.

Let’s face facts. Every teacher’s time is precious – our responsibilities can be exhausting. Labor laws aside, in the real world there is sometimes no formal space for teachers to take a mental break or check in with each other. We see the children running, jumping, digging, dancing, and singing in the outdoor environment we have prepared for them. It’s easy to persuade ourselves that it’s all right to use outside time to check in with a colleague or for a little personal rejuvenation – what teacher doesn’t need a breath in the middle of the day! We justify this notion by telling ourselves the children are just playing, after all; it’s no big deal. Is that true?

Let’s remember that for many children, free play in the outdoor environment is very big work! Here are just some of the social skills children are developing – with or without you:

  • Negotiating social scenes of all kinds
  • Interacting successfully with others, while creating
    their own games
  • Implementing their own plans, while incorporating
    the ideas of others
  • Determining the difference between reality and fantasy
  • Role-playing in new situations, some that don’t
    make sense to them
  • Experimenting with leadership & being a follower, team-play, etc.

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Summer Camp at HBMH – 2016

Summer Camp at HBMH – 2016

Exploring the Senses: Ice

Never miss an opportunity to explore the senses!

Today’s random ice storm presented quite a few challenges for the school, but amongst the chaos, came wonderful, spontaneous learning opportunities for the students. We heard thunder first, then slight rain, and then all of a sudden…HAIL! Some of the teachers were brave enough to venture outside and gather a bucket full of ice to share with their students. We discussed how hail is formed, felt its texture, how cold it was, learned how fast it melted, and explored different shapes and manipulations of the ice when compressed in your hands. Our toddlers enjoyed the sound of the ice as it “crunched” in between their fingers. The crunchy, squishy, cold sensation was very enjoyable! (A few suggested we even make snow cones!)

How neat it is to hold frozen rain in our hands!

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“Nothing comes to the intellect that is not first in the senses” – Dr. Maria Montessori

This is how our toddler community celebrated International Day of Peace on Monday; peaceful yoga and friendship hugs.

D.C. Doctor’s Rx: A Stroll in the Park Instead of a Trip to the Pharmacy

 

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Unity Health Care pediatricians Robert Zarr and María Rueda-González walk in Meridian Hill Park. Zarr created a pioneering database of all 350 or more green spaces in the District with information about safety, access and facilities and integrated it into Unity’s electronic health records. (Kate Patterson/The Washington Post)

Robert Zarr is walking from his Columbia Heights medical practice toward Meridian Hill Park, talking about what’s going on inside his head. If you could see his brain on an MRI, he says, far more extensive regions would be lighting up than if he were having this same conversation sitting at his desk.

Zarr, a pediatrician at Unity Health Care’s Upper Cardozo Health Center, has a special interest in the unseen benefits of getting outside. He is the “physician champion” of ­DC Parks Rx, an innovative community health program committed to combating the woes of urban living by prescribing time outdoors.

Zarr mentions obesity, diabetes and mental health disorders as he walks. “It only takes a couple of kids” with symptoms of ADHD to disrupt a classroom, he says, and teachers start recommending their parents talk to pediatricians about Ritalin or other medical interventions. Continue reading