St. Croix Montessori's Environmental Education Program is based on developing ecological literacy in our students, as children need to have the ability to learn from and respond to nature. Nature experiences, activities, and studies are structured to correspond to the needs and abilities of our three distinct age groups.
Activities for the Toddler age child are based on immersion, giving these children frequent and unstructured experiences in nature. Whatever is experienced in these early years becomes an indelible and inseparable component of that child's make-up. The child experiences nature as part of themselves.
The Primary age child is developing a natural empathy for the world of nature. Children's familiar environments, the home and school, fill the center of their maps. They need a deep connection to the environment at hand in order to form bonds that will foster a fascination with nature. That fascination, or interest, becomes the basis for further study of their ever-increasing world.
The Elementary children are pursuing exploration of nature, with the upper elementary students involved in some beginning social interaction projects. Children's concept of the world is pushing far beyond what is known and familiar. Curiosity drives the early elementary to deeper and broader studies of the natural world. Upper elementary students are delving into beginning ethics, weighing right and wrong, fair and unfair, and responsible and irresponsible. Their search takes them into social action projects. These children then develop a knowledge of living responsibly in the natural world, not because nature is "out there" to be saved but beside they have experienced themselves as an integral part of nature.
St. Croix Montessori's Environmental Program: Components
St. Croix Montessori's beautiful 15 acre campus gives us a wonderful site for our environmental program. We are in the process of returning former farmland to native plants and wildlife habitat. This will give the children an opportunity to experience and study native flora and fauna. We can identify trees, track wildlife in the snow, and keep nature journals. We have plans for "mini belts" of native eco-system: oak savannah, short grass prairie, deciduous forest, a conifer stand, and a wetland with a small pond.
To honor the farm history of our area and to provide the children with the opportunity to care for other living things, we have a mini farm program containing a flock of laying hens and three alpacas.. The children do the "farm chores" daily throughout the seasons, gathering eggs for classroom cooking projects. The fiber from our alpacas will be used for spinning and weaving. We added a Nature Pavilion to the farm site to maximize the contact the children can have with the property.
Each classroom has a small outdoor environment for planting and bird feeders, with an area on the campus designated for larger gardening projects, such a pumpkin and corn patches. As it becomes even more difficult for societies to connect with nature, we are excited about offering these wonderful opportunities to our children.