Our connection to the outdoors

By Rick Bellagh – Kauri Teacher, Primary

At the end of my AMI Montessori training in Portland, Oregon last year,  all of us newly trained teachers sat down with our trainer, Elise Huneke Stone, to try to get some insights into the nuts and bolts of how to actually implement this Montessori theory in the classroom.  As we worked ourselves up into a frenzy of questions, I remember Elise smiling and telling us not to worry.  “If all else fails, remember there are two magic spells you always have at your fingertips:  Sing with the children, and take them outside.”  After a year of practice here, I can confidently say that she was right on!

With our Cosmic Curriculum, we tell the story of the coming of life and show the Timeline of Life.  We tell the children that diversity is the result of Life figuring out better ways of meeting its needs and that humans too have benefitted from this process – we have a special brain, a special hand, and a special kind of love that extends to others of our species.

I presented the First Timeline of Humans last week, which invites the children to imagine human life before the invention of all our modern trappings.  They were absolutely inspired by this conversation.  The human body became what it is, not to drive cars and use iPads, but rather to move in the environment, climb trees, hunt, move rocks, and dig for roots.

In this modern day and age, children are often completely shielded from the exact activities that their bodies are designed for – they spend their days at school with books, pencils and computers, and are all too quickly entranced by smart phones and other screen time.  But deep inside their cells, these children are looking for a connection to their Cosmic Task, and they find a resonance that they don’t intellectually understand out in the bush where they can climb and dig and explore.

Dr. Montessori writes that, “Education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiment upon the environment.”

As teachers, we are tasked with creating an environment where the children can feel secure to explore their world.  We go to great lengths to do this, and yet just outside our classroom, away from all of our human construction, exists nature’s perfectly equipped classroom for which the children’s bodies are sublimely prepared.  Their joy in the outdoors is a primal one.

When I first felt that primal connection of being out in nature and knowing that my body was doing what it was designed to do, I also knew that whenever this modern world overwhelmed me with its confusion, frustration, or stress, I could return to the joy of the river and the trees, and sing my heart back to peace.

This is a gift our children deserve.