Plant Care: Practical Life Meets Science
OakHaven Montessori School students begin studying biology at a young age, usually around age three during their first year in the primary environment. This work continues throughout the course of their time with us. They explore information with more depth than you might imagine, so they end up with a strong base of understanding about living organisms.
Along with zoology, botany is one of the earliest subjects explored. We give our students lessons about plant life and there are supplemental materials on the shelves for them to explore. The learning doesn’t stop there. When it comes to biology, we believe having living examples present whenever possible is one of the best ways to spark genuine interest and increase understanding. Plants are one of the easiest ways to do this, and within our classrooms and throughout the building you will find many beautiful examples of this type of life.
It’s important to note that the plants we keep are not just for display and observation. Our students - even our very youngest students - take an active role in caring for the plants.
The Practical Life Angle
When we think of practical life, all that we teach generally falls under the umbrella of three categories: care of oneself, care of others, and care of the environment. The more we participate in this type of work, the more we realize how connected the categories are.
Plants are one of the best teachers of practical life skills. We keep living specimens in our classrooms intentionally - and for many good reasons. Studies have shown the presence of plants to have a positive effect on peoples’ moods, they are helpful in filtering the air, and they contribute to the natural beauty of our classroom environments.
But - rather than just letting a bunch of pretty plants sit there and be cared for by the teachers, we engage our students in the important work of plant care. The children in our classrooms learn how to properly water living plants. They learn to dust their leaves. They learn to recognize that some plants need more sunlight than others, and that it is up to us to ensure we place them in proximity to windows accordingly.
Beyond the potted plant, our students learn to appreciate the art of arranging flowers to beautify the classroom. They plant gardens, tend to their seedlings, and harvest their own vegetables. They take on a sense of responsibility for living things that are reliant on them. The original Montessori Erdkinder model for adolescents is based in part on students running their own active farm. This still happens in some schools, but others (where an actual farm is not practical or possible) find ways to engage similar types of experiences.