The Montessori environment contains specially designed, manipulative "materials for development" that invite children to engage in learning activities of their own individual choice. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials, cultivating concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.
The prepared environments and the role of the teacher in the classroom distinguish Montessori from other educational approaches. For example, independent activity constitutes a considerable amount of the day while teacher-directed activity accounts for the remainder. The reverse percentages are generally true for traditional education. The special environments enable children to perform various tasks, which induces thinking about relationships.
The prepared environment also offers practical occasions for introducing social relationships through free interaction. The logical, sequential nature of the environment provides orderly structures that guide discovery: theorems are discovered, not presented; spelling rules are derived through recognition of patterns, not merely memorized. Every aspect of the curriculum involves creative invention and careful, thoughtful analysis.
In viewing learning outcomes at each Montessori level, it must be emphasized that why and how students arrive at what they know are just as important as what they know.
The gardens at Kennedy reflect Montessori's philosophy of the importance of using nature to nurture a child's sense of wonder and connectivity to the world. The gardens enable the students to connect with nature through hands-on, real-life learning experiences.
Our gardens are divided into two distinct areas. One area consists of a butterfly garden, a wetlands area including a pond, and a simulation of a Midwest Plains area. The opposite end contains the raised-bed area, where vegetables and flowers are grown. Maria Montessori wanted to have students develop a sense of unity and connection of all things.
The gardens lend themselves to all areas of the curriculum.
Students can do real-world math, from counting the seeds to learning about area and perimeter. The gardens are a perfect place to contemplate the beauty of a plant or flower and use that for a springboard for writing. Social studies can be enhanced by the plains and wetlands areas. Research on how the Native American and early settlers used the plants can be augmented by the study of the actual plants they used. The possibilities for science are endless. Finding examples of food chains and life cycles, studying change over time, and examining pond life are just a few examples. The vegetable gardens enable students to discover where food comes from and how to grow it. They can have a "farm to fork" experience. The gardening and food preparation are all a part of Montessori's emphasis on practical living—that part of the curriculum that emphasizes independence, coordination, and cooperation as well as learning how to handle tools and learn valuable skills.