“Look mommy, my seed hatched!” This phrase accompanied with an expression of elated joy in addition to many more is words I have heard over the years of gardening with kids. What can we do to grab a hold of these teachable moments as they occur? I am going to give you 8 simple steps to nourishing nature with your child the Montessori way.
The first step is to choose what you are going to plant. You can choose a theme garden such as a rainbow, salad or soup garden or something whimsical like a fairy garden. Next week I will show you examples of theme gardens. Make this a fun family project. Allow your children to decide what they want to plant and purchase the seeds together. Montessori’s philosophy is to teach the child to do things by themselves.
The next step is to give a lesson to your child modeling how to plant the seed in a small biodegradable plant. Give them simple steps to model. 1. Pour the dirt into the pot. 2. Poke a small hole into the dirt about half way up your finger. 3. Place the seed inside and cover it up with dirt. 4. Water with a dropper and place in the sun on a windowsill.
Step three is to read a story about plants such as The Reason For A Flower by Ruth Heller. Have your child make a craft or draw a picture of the parts of a plant to explain what to expect as they patiently wait for it to grow. With keeping the Montessori Method in mind we want to teach our children the real science behind gardening this will give the task at hand much more meaning.
This step is about nourishing nature in the care of a plant. As the seedling begins to emerge you will begin to see the excitement emerging in your child. Teach them to properly care for the plant by themselves. Together, make a chart with pictures and steps to care for their plant. For example: 1. 3 drops of water. 2. Talk to your plant. 3. Place back in the sun. Using a dropper to water the plant will ensure it won’t get over watered and will build fine motor skills in your child.
Step 5 is to prepare the environment. In a Montessori prepared environment the children have child-sized tools which they use to accomplish purposeful tasks and “real work” just like mom and dad. As you prepare your garden keep these ideas in mind and allow your child to use real tools to hoe, rake and dig.
Model for your child how to dig a hole in the ground. Dig it about double the size of the pot. Carefully peel off the bottom part of the part and place it in the hole. Fill in the hole level with the top of the pot with fresh soil.
During this step you and your child will spend quality time nourishing nature together. Every day go out to the garden and work together weeding and watering. Make sure the tools are carefully placed in the same spot every time. This way your child will know where to get them and will build responsibility by putting them back each time. You may also build a small, low shelf in the garden, garage or shed to place your child’s tools, water pitchers and compost on.
The final step is to enjoy the nature you nourished. After you have worked hard together for some time you will have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Harvest the plants and show your child how to wash and prepare them. Plan a special salad or soup with the items from the garden. Allow your child to prepare a meal for the family to enjoy. This will be a wonderful way to complete the process and purpose of gardening!