The Importance of the Outdoor Classroom

We impart a huge “thank you” and express our deepest gratitude to the FMS PTO, Park Landscaping, and all the families who participated in the 5K fundraiser in April 2014 that made the renovation of the outdoor classroom possible!

The Montessori outdoor classroom is an extension of the indoor classroom and offers students the opportunity to experience firsthand; the beauty, wonder and mystery of the natural world. At Foothills Montessori School, the outside classroom is available to each of the Primary children on a daily basis. During our work cycles, small groups of students from each of the four Primary classrooms rotate to spend time in the outside classroom. Many of the “jobs” set up outside offer the children the opportunity to delve deeper into the insect world, by using magnifying glasses to look closely at bugs, and then to look at books nearby that reference interesting features and facts about bugs. A brand new greenhouse will anchor the outside classroom experience by providing the children opportunities to work with soil and plants and immerse themselves in the growing cycles of flowers and vegetables.

The impact of an outdoor classroom on the children is both immediate and long term. During the work cycle it offers the students a chance to relax, to let go, be exposed to the fresh air, sunshine and the many birds and insects who visit the space. It also gives students from four different classes the opportunity to interact with each other as they explore the garden with hand held magnifying glasses, painting pictures using a standing easel, manipulating puzzles, manipulating blocks, and experimenting in the ever popular water table. All the while, grace and courtesy lessons are being directly applied to their interactions and the ever important lesson of sharing is always in play. Even the direction of leaving the outdoor classroom to return to their Primary classroom is a powerful lesson in compliance.

The long term impact of exposing our students to the wonder and mystery of nature is profound. We’ve seen over the past ten years a decrease in time children are spending outdoors and an increase of time children are entertaining themselves with technology and media. It is a shift from the spontaneity of making up games and “hanging out” outside with small groups of children to a more solitary and more predictable environment. Technology has its place and function in our children’s lives, but the creativity and variety of an outdoor experience cannot be replaced with a reality experienced in front of a screen.

Recent research has raised concerns about children’s lack of exposure to the natural world and the ramifications both to the individual child and to the collective society overall. “Lost Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Order” by Richard Louv, points out “that for a new generation, nature is more an abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear – to ignore.” Furthermore, Louv points out “as the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow physiologically and psychologically and this reduces the richness of human experience.”

At Foothills Montessori School, we are committed to creating an outdoor space infused with the beauty and variety of nature Our veteran teacher Ms. Val (Lead Teacher for the Outdoor Classroom) so aptly states, “As a teacher, I take my observations of learning from my students, as they explore the unpredictable and immensely, ever changing experience of the outdoor classroom. Together we embrace the elements and are inspired by nature and its ongoing life lessons it so generously imparts. It lifts my spirit to provide this opportunity for our students.” Richard Louv concurs with this sentiment as he says “spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and that one of the first windows to the wonder is the natural world.”


A Weekend at Zion

Recently our lower elementary students, along with their parents and teachers, enjoyed a wonderful weekend sojourn at Zion National Park. We camped, hiked, built campfires, and enjoyed peaceful, quiet times admiring the beauty of nature.

Says Madison: “My favorite thing about Zion was the second year hike. We saw two frogs, a stink bug and a deer. When we walked a little farther, we saw the same deer again.  We skipped rocks, saw the Big Dipper and Orion’s belt. Cassidy found an owl!”


For some great pics and more stories, check out the E4 and E2 classroom blogs!

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Planting Flowers, Painting Rocks

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. — Albert Einstein

Spring is here! Okay, officially spring doesn’t start until March 20, but spring weather has come early to our outdoor classroom. Our beautiful trees are blossoming, and the students have been busy planting flowers, tomatoes, eggplants and all kinds of peppers!

Nature has also inspired artistic ventures such as our rock painting project. Our garden sure is coming to life — just in time for two new additions, CottonCandy and Cadbury. We are getting two new rabbits soon, and we hope they enjoy their new home!

Click below to see more pics!

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We love to PLAY!

Playing outside with friends is integral to every child’s development. It improves cognition, encourages mental and physical development, reduces stress, reinforces social bonds, enhances creativity and confidence … and of course, it’s just plain fun. The best memories from childhood are usually the ones involving interactive play with others in the great outdoors.

Richard Louv in his landmark book Last Child in the Woods discusses the fundamental need for children (and adults) to spend time outdoors. Instead of our weekly look inside a classroom, let’s join the children of E3 while they enjoy the interactive Science Playground, the open field and the Las Vegas winter sunshine just as children were meant to do.

And of course, nature can inspire great works of art. You are invited to visit the E3 classroom in person to view a gallery of artwork inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s flower studies, incorporating watercolor, pencil, ink, tissue paper and collage pieces.

See many more pictures of E3 by visiting their classroom blog!

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