Montessori, Nature Tables, and the Prepared Environment

Just about every Montessori classroom has a place for a “Nature Table." The Nature Table is an attractive arrangement of plants, insects, animals and/or items that the children themselves have contributed to the collection. The objects on the Nature Table are refreshed or changed often by the teachers.  The children care for live plants or animals and maintain the cleanliness of the display.  But what is the purpose of this part of the classroom or home learning environment?  How are your children benefiting?

Maria Montessori was aware that children are naturally interested in exploring their environment and, if given the opportunity, they will eagerly seek out more detail.

“Children have an anxious concern for living beings, and the satisfaction of this instinct fills them with delight. It is therefore easy to interest them in taking care of plants and especially of animals. Nothing awakens foresight in a small child, who lives as a rule for the passing moment and without care for the morrow, so much as this.”

~Maria Montessori

I recall watching my young son as he studied the intricate details of a leaf.  He was initially attracted to the vibrant color of the Aspen leaf.  He picked it up and looked more closely, observing the spade-like shape and the way it twirled when held by the stem alone.  He smelled it and felt the smooth surface.  He became focused and completely absorbed in discovery.  Then he exclaimed:  “Mom, there is a whole tree in this leaf!”

He pointed out the way the main vein of the leaf split, and divided into smaller and smaller branches.  Each leaf seemed to contain within, a blueprint of the mother tree.  It struck me that the leaf was like a diagram of my child’s own method of learning.  Children learn by exploring information, starting with the big picture, and then following the paths as they branch into finer detail.  Young children are naturally drawn to learning and will readily delve into increasingly complex detail.

Maria Montessori realized the correlation between the environment and the way children learn.  Exposing children to the right environment and learning tools is part of the philosophy of the Montessori Method.  This is where the use of a Nature Table comes into play.

By preparing the table (be it in school or home) with a continual supply of new and interesting objects, the child's innate need for information can be met.  To find out more about the prepared environment of the Montessori classroom, please follow the link below:

What is The Montessori Method?

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