Education for the Senses: Montessori and Applied Ecopsychology

“The senses being the explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge." Maria Montessori

Known for its hands-on approach and sensory education, the Montessori method supports learning through the movement of the hand and muscle memory, exploration, and observation to understand the natural environment. Applied Ecopsychology reconnects human’s disconnected nature mentality to its natural sources by seeking natural attractions through sensory experience, understanding and relating to its behavior, and applying nature’s wisdom to everyday life. Children are naturally and instinctively attracted to beauty, simplicity, detail, order, and nature; even before we introduce artificial objects to teach the rules governing our surroundings. Why not help them to stay connected when it comes naturally?

Some of the benefits of engaging on nature-based activities are:

· Sensory integration

· Relaxation

· Improves problem-solving skills

· Improves self-esteem

· Unifies the self (body, mind, spirit)

· Improves cognitive skills

· sparks joy

· promotes sustainability

· enriches relationships

“Education must consider the walking man, who walks as an explorer; all children should walk in this way, guided by attraction, and here education can help the child by introducing him to the colors, the shapes and forms of leaves, and the habits of insects, animals, and birds.” Maria Montessori

Because of young children’s natural attraction to nature and playful spirit, Applied Ecopsychology activities are introduced as games with a purpose. Below is a list of 26 engaging activities that can be done in your backyard. They incorporate skills like art, language, sensorial experience, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination to name a few.

1. Provide colorful beads and strings or any other art supplies and allow children to make necklaces that spell or illustrate natural elements. Using a long piece of string find the relationship that connects each element of nature.

2. Paint the inside of an egg carton different 12 assorted colors in the indentations. Naming the colors is not important for this activity. During a nature walk allow yourself to follow your attractions of color and collect natural elements that match the egg carton.

3. Find an attractive area to sit with paper and crayons in hand. Choose a color crayon and close your eyes. Allow your hand to trace the different sounds and the direction of the sounds on your paper without looking. Allow your hand to move freely without lifting your crayon. If any shapes, lines, or textures come to mind when you are listening to nature, do not hesitate to jot them down. Open your eyes and fill in the spaces between the map of sounds you have created.

4. Walk around and collect several natural elements that can help you make music. Share it with other participants.

5. Sit quietly in the garden, close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature. What do you hear?

6. Find a leaf, trace it with your fingers and then trace its outline on a piece of paper. Fill your tracing with color.

7. Go out and lay on the ground, look at the clouds’ movement. What do you see?

8. Feel something smooth, something rough, something fuzzy.

9. Find something red, blue, yellow, green, orange, and violet.

10. Find and follow an insect if it is safe for you. Notice what it’s doing?

11. Find something round in nature.

12. Find a rough rock and a smooth rock. Paint a design on each rock.

13. Wipe clean the leaves of a plant gently.

14. Go to the garden and water the plans, listen carefully to the sound of water.

15. Go to the garden and draw five animals/plants/minerals you see.

16. Find something that flies, something that crawls, and something that walks.

17. Find a nature friend having breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

18. Rake or sweep leaves.

19. Collect five leaves, grade them from smaller to larger.

20. Collect five leaves, grade them from lighter color to darker color.

21. Find an example of opposites in nature.

22. Find something that is showing change like a leaf changing color or a tree growing a small fruit.

23. Look closely at a flower or plant. Can you describe its color, do see any patterns, shapes, and textures?

24. Go to the garden and find a tree or a branch casting a shadow. Place a piece of paper and trace the shadow. Color the space created with your favorite colors.

25. Collect five rocks from the garden, drop them on a piece of paper, replace the rocks with a dot. Connect the dots on your paper. Color or paint the inside of your design with your favorite colors.

26. Make a collage with a collection of natural materials.

In the education of the senses, children learn to discriminate, organize prior knowledge of the natural world, classify, and make connections through discoveries. Training of the senses leads to a keen observant that by following his/her natural attraction perfects his training of the senses. Montessori states that harmony can be achieved when the trained senses detect affinities in the environment, and only those with ample sensory experience enjoy the pleasures of the natural environment. Let’s help our children stay connected to nature and be happy.

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