Montessori schools are geared towards individually paced learning and fostering independence. One of the many benefits of Montessori schools is that complex subjects are introduced to children early and in such a way that it’s easy for them to comprehend. This includes botany, as well as other subjects.
Botany is introduced to children in Montessori schools as early as preschool. Montessori schools begin early by teaching children about the importance of plants to human life. Teaching botany that early takes advantage of kid’s curiosity and wonder about the natural world.
We’ll tell you all about botany at Montessori schools, including when it’s introduced and what is studied at different ages. Keep reading for an overview of both botany classes and the Montessori way of learning.
History of Montessori Schools
Before we get into the when’s and why’s of teaching botany to primary age students, we need to delve into the history of Montessori schools a bit.
Montessori schools were founded by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1906 when she started her first “Children’s House” in a poor, inner-city district of Rome. She had the vision of allowing the students to learn at their own pace by engaging in hands-on learning experiences.
Dr. Montessori developed unique learning materials for the students and also created a new and different educational environment by letting the children:
- Work with puzzles
- Learn to prepare meals
- Clean the environment
Dr. Montessori was one of the first to realize that children absorbed knowledge from their environment. In doing this, they basically taught themselves, learning at their own pace.
Her early research focused on elementary-aged children, but she soon expanded her curriculum to adolescents. She brought the Montessori philosophy to America in 1913. There are thousands of Montessori schools scattered across the United States now.
When Should Botany Be Introduced to Children?
Children are sponges when it comes to learning and they soak up so much knowledge from even a very early age. Montessori schools begin teaching botany to students even while they are in preschool. For the younger children, they begin botany lessons by explaining how the following are from plants:
- Food we eat
- Clothes we wear
- Houses we live in
From there, children can easily understand how plants are a part of our everyday life. Picture cards are used for preschoolers and primary students. Teachers then introduce seeds into the classroom and explain where plants come from by germinating the seeds. This is usually accompanied by the children learning the song “Gardner plants the seeds”.
With the sprouted bean seeds, children learn the different parts of the seeds and receive help removing the seed coat and looking on the inside.
Here are the parts of the seeds the children learn:
- Seed Coat – The outer portion of the seed
- Radicle – The first part of a seedling to emerge from the seed
- Plumule – The young shoot of a plant embryo
- Cotyledon – The significant part of the embryo within the seed. This is the storehouse of food for the baby plant until leaves develop for photosynthesis
Montessori schools accompany these lessons with not only songs but puzzles and matching. It’s hands-on learning at a pace and language that the children can understand.
There’s really no age too early to begin learning about the botany process. Botany is all around us, so it makes sense to learn about it early. Teachers at a Montessori school start simply, with the parts of a plant and what a plan means to the children’s lives and then build on that foundation.
Why Do We Study Botany In Montessori Preschool?
Dr. Montessori believed that, when children were introduced to the sciences, they would naturally be drawn to the subject matters that interested and challenged them. Montessori schools honor that philosophy by “following the child”, which means trusting the instincts of the children to direct the teacher’s attention to the areas in which they display the most interest in learning.
According to the Montessori way, brain development at different stages and ages dictates what the child is capable of comprehending. Observation of the children reveals what types of information they’re ready to learn. Before moving into abstracts, Montessori educators teach children concrete items, such as:
- Tangible Items
Botany is a part of biology and biology is introduced to Montessori students as the gateway to sciences. Children immerse themselves in experimentation and observation.
With the Montessori approach, the study of botany embraces many other subjects, such as:
- Practical life lessons
There are many ways to introduce botany in preschool. As well as the ways mentioned above, such as puzzles and matching, Montessori also introduces botany to preschoolers through the following:
- Age Appropriate Books
- Flower Arranging
- Nature Walk
- Flower Dissection
- Flower Painting
- Planting Seeds
- Flower Themed Snacks
If you’re interested in the Montessori approach to learning, here are a few tips about the above.
Age Appropriate Books
There are many books that preschoolers will enjoy as they begin to learn about botany. You can read to them entertaining stories while they soak up knowledge about botany. Here are the best books on botany we’ve found for preschoolers:
- A Seed is Sleepy
- How Plants and Trees Work: A Hands-On Guide to the Natural World
- Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
- Botany: Plants, Cells, and Photosynthesis
- A Seed Needs Sun
Any of the above would be a good start to begin reading to your preschooler or even elementary school student about botany.
Flower arranging is a great practical life lesson you can teach preschoolers. Get a bunch of different flowers and a vase and allow the children to arrange their own flowers.
This is also a great time to teach children about their colors and numbers by having them count the number of flowers they’re putting in the vase and by naming the colors.
This is another example of incorporating other subjects into the botany lessons. Flower arranging can be melded with math such as counting while still practicing with the art of flowers.
If you are lucky enough to live close to a state or national park, or even a community garden, a nature walk is a wonderful way to introduce children to botany. In a park or garden, you can observe many forms of botany, both controlled and natural.
Nature walks can also teach students about what they can find in the natural world, including:
- Different types of leaves
- Bushes and how they differ from flowers
- Trees and the bark that covers them
- The root system of plants
- Various flowers and the different petals
Nature walks are a good time for your preschooler to enjoy themselves in a natural setting and ask questions of their own. In this way, you can see what the child is interested in and what they gravitate towards, giving you clues to what to introduce in your next botany lessons.
One fun activity to introduce botany to Montessori preschoolers is flower dissection. It’s an easy task to do. Just follow these steps:
- Choose a flower for each child – tulips work well for this activity
- Helping smaller children, carefully remove each part of the flower
- Glue each of the individual parts onto heavy card stock
- Label the parts of the flower for preschoolers
- Discuss the different parts of the flower
This hands-on activity is a good way to get kids thinking about the different parts of a plant and how they interact. Those different parts include:
- Petal – Brightly colored floral segments that attract insects
- Stamen – Produces and releases pollen
- Pistil – Receives pollen and fertilizes the seeds
- Receptacle – Enlarged end of flower stalk
- Pedicel – Flower stalk
Even if very young children don’t immediately understand the parts of a flower, they will have fun pasting the parts onto card stock and talking about them with their teacher or parent.
- Paper plates
- Tempera paints
- Inexpensive or older flowers
- Sturdy paper
That’s all you’ll need. You can even grab some flowers from your flower or school garden if you want, especially if they have seen better days.
This lesson is an appropriate lesson to do after the flower dissection botany lesson. It’s fun for preschoolers and is the type of hands-on activity that fits in with the Montessori philosophy. Here’s what you do:
- Put a puddle of a single color on some of the paper plates
- Trim the flowers so that only a little of the stem is sticking up for a handle, about a couple of inches
- Dip the flower in the paint
- Using the flower as a paintbrush, have the children paint their paper
There’s no one way to paint with the flowers. Some children may use the brush technique while other students may stamp the flowers onto the paper. The trick is to have the kids enjoy the process while discussing plants and flowers with them.
Even if you don’t have a large plot of land or a community garden nearby, you can germinate seeds in cups inside your home or classroom. Let’s say you decide to grow tomatoes, first germinating them in a cup inside.
As the seeds take root, it’s a great time to teach the kids about what the plants need to grow and survive. Have the children take an active part in all these steps to maximize their enjoyment of the lesson:
- Purchase your seeds from a trusted source – fresher seeds have a higher germination rate
- Pot with seed-starting mix – this is not soil but a good way to starting seeds
- Make sure your cups have drainage holes
- Plant seeds at the proper depth – read the seed packet instructions to the children or have them read it themselves
- After planting, set cups in a warm location – on top of the refrigerator or by a radiator
- Keep it moist – but don’t over-saturate
- Place in bright location once seeds start sprouting – use a bright window and supplement with fluorescent lights
- Use a cool room temperature for best results
- Begin fertilizing weekly – use half-strength fertilizer
- Thin once seedlings have two sets of leaves – choose the hardiest seedling to keep
- Move to large pot or prepared dirt once the root system is strong enough
With this exercise, kids get to see that patience and work pay off. After exploring botany with some of the other lessons on this list, students will see the actual beginning of a new plant or flower.
7. Flower Themed Snacks
Kids need snacks but that’s no reason not to incorporate a botany lesson in with their snacking. At Montessori schools, many snacks incorporate the week’s lesson and supplement the knowledge learned.
Most of the food eaten was once a plant or part of a plant. If it wasn’t, it likely grazed on plants, so it isn’t difficult to keep up the botany lessons at snack time. Here’s a good recipe that uses plant-based foods to become an arty snack:
- Using a flower shaped cookie cutter, cut pieces out of a tortilla
- Spread sunflower butter on the flower tortilla
- Add a carrot for a stem
- Add spinach leaves for the leaves
- Add raisins or sprinkles for the pistils
While giving the kids the snacks, point out the different parts of the flower, or see if they can identify them. This is used to great effect after the flower dissection lesson mentioned above.
What Are The Benefits Of Studying Botany?
As we’ve noted, studying botany is a pathway to other sciences, especially the natural ones. Beginning botany lessons with preschoolers is a good way to build a solid foundation for those sciences.
Botany is studied at all ages at Montessori schools and, again, follows the student’s natural inclinations and curiosity. Montessori teachers build on what the students learn in preschool, such as the parts of a plant or what feeds flowers. Once Montessori students move out of the preschool and primary grades, they move into the following:
- Upper Elementary – Ages 9 to 12
- Middle School – Ages 12 to 15
- High School – Ages 15 and above
At each of these levels, teachers build on what was taught previously in the lower grades. While teachers “follow the child” in the Montessori fashion, there are some botany basic milestones that they teach at every grade level. Here is some of what they touch on:
- Upper Elementary:
- How various structures of plants are specialized for different functions
- How plants are essential to human experience
- How plants adapt and respond to their environment
- Basic needs of plants and how they meet those needs
- Leaves and photosynthesis
- Middle School:
- Plant physiology
- Chemical processes that underlie plant growth and reproduction
- Chemistry of plants and how it is essential
- Plant cell processes such as respiration
- High School:
- Growing and caring for a working farm
- Rain Forest studies
In each of these levels, teachers incorporate other subjects such as math or literature in with the botany subjects. While high schoolers may be planning and growing a full garden, they may also be reading literature on nature to enforce the botany lessons.
The benefits of studying botany are many. Montessori schools consider botany as steps to introduce the environment, stimulate the senses, and generate excitement about nature.
Learning about botany leads to learning about other sciences and the scientific method of study. Students graduate to using microscopes and technology to study the world around them. It opens doors to other subjects and avenues.
The Final Word
Montessori schools start early with botany lessons and continue until students understand and are running a working farm, having immersed themselves in all things botanical. The study of botany, under the Montessori method, includes many other subjects, such as art and reading. Students receive a well-rounded, hands-on education with many practical lessons.
The impact of botany in everyday life is emphasized in the Montessori lessons, giving children a better grasp of how nature fits into their own world. With this in mind, it is the hope that the students will emerge more well-rounded individuals.