The Great Outdoors at BestStart Montessori Taradale


At Montessori Taradale, we have an outstanding outdoor learning environment within the 3-6 year-old casa which contains a large vegetable garden, sand pit, swing, established trees, and other plantings. This year, we have looked at how to make this area more aligned with the Montessori philosophy and curriculum, while also considering how to make our centre-specific philosophy visible within the children's learning. We have considered how to provide a prepared learning environment with everything the children need to direct their own learning. 

Within the Montessori casa, we refer to the work cycle of "choose, use, and return" which should be evident in the outdoor environment as well as inside. Montessori activities should be purposeful but also fun. For example, instead of having a "family play area", we now have a baby washing activity and a baby dressing activity, with all the equipment required for a child to enjoy these activities. We have provided other activities which can be chosen and used by two or three friends, such as a picnic set and a doll's house, which encourages cooperation and the development of friendships and social skills. When the children have finished using these, they pack everything away and return it to the shelf for the next person to use. Similarly, we have invested in a range of new sports equipment and a purpose-built sports shelf, so the children can choose sports equipment, use it, and then return it to its designated spot. 

Our vegetable garden is the perfect setting to foster the children's sense of being kaitiaki (guardians) of our natural environment in alignment with our centre philosophy. In order to encourage participation and enjoyment of this area, we now have special gardening bags which include a set of child-sized gloves, spades, and forks. If the children wish to help with weeding, planting, or harvesting, they are able to access a gardening bag and come into the garden to get hands-on with Papatuanuku (Mother Earth). In thinking about every part of the outdoor learning area, we have considered how to foster the overarching principle of respect - for ourselves, for our environment and for others. Each of the outdoor activities has been set up to enable the children to reset, tidy, or pack away what they have used - ready for the next person or to enable them to be active participants in caring for the outdoor area. 

"There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature" - Maria Montessori.