Thursday, May 24, 2012

Montessori Tides School Garden wins big in Florida Federation of Garden Clubs’ 2012 Annual Flower Show

by Kelly Johnson

Dr. Maria Montessori concluded that “establishing lasting peace is the work of education” (Peace viii) and emphasized the importance of schools supporting the child’s evolving connections to both the physical and social worlds to successfully achieve peace. She believed that, “The observation of nature has not only a side that is philosophical and scientific, it also has a side of social experience” (Adolescence 112). Montessori’s successful Philosophy and Method stresses that childhood immersion in nature is imperative for proper physical and
psychological development. Dr. Montessori stated, “How often is the soul of man–especially in childhood–deprived because he is not allowed to come in contact with nature?” (Irinyi). The Montessori Method encourages children to explore the webs of life and their place in and the impacts of their actions on those webs through spontaneous nature observation, connection, discovery, and discussion.

This nature centered platform is the foundation from which the children of Montessori Tides School in Jacksonville Beach approach their new vegetable garden. October 2011, the 1-3 grade class was awarded a garden bed grant from Slow Food First Coast that included a garden bed, support materials, and the seed money to get it planted. The children and teachers could now gain the experience of planting, tending, and harvesting a garden, and would have a garden for the entire school (including the classroom rabbits) to share, enjoy, and incorporate into the multiage learning environments for years to come! Over the past school year this garden has been integrated into all facets of the curriculum, while providing the children with artistic, scientific, and sensorial nature experiences that have allowed them to tap into their inherent senses of wonder through all of their senses–especially their taste buds!

With support from the Ribault Garden Club’s youth gardening program, in early May the students entered the fruits of their garden into the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs’ 2012 Annual Flower Show. Samples of their kale, collards, and red and yellow chard plants were judged, along side other youth gardening specimens from around the state, according to the National Garden Clubs, Inc.’s strict criteria. The students were incredibly excited to learn that their gardening dedication was rewarded when each of their entries won first place. This generated more excitement surrounding what they would grow and enter in the 2013 show. The inaugural year of vegetable gardening at the school has been an incredibly rewarding experience for all the children, teachers, and staff and continues to prove the importance of incorporating school gardens across elementary curricula. Just as the 20th century Nature-Study advocates declared a century ago, students require direct contact with the natural world to learn about nature’s workings. Modern research continues to support that such contact imparts a love of learning and a connection to nature that results in adult environmental responsibility. In this long standing vein of progressive educators, 21st century teachers be inspired to rekindle wonder in yourselves and your students through a school gardening program!

Works Cited 

Irinyi, Michelle. “Montessori Philosophy: Nature - Nurturer to the Whole Child.” North American Montessori Center. 21 July 2008. Web. 6 Sept 2011. <> 

Montessori, Maria. From Childhood to Adolescence. Madras: Kalakshetra, 1973. Print.

Montessori, Maria. Education and Peace. Madras: Kalakshetra, 1972. Print.