Cultural education programs at GMS are extensions of many elements of classroom work. Students at GMS will have a deeper understanding of their education because they use it, feel it, and touch it during their experiences in our three extensive organic permaculture gardens and at the Land Laboratory in Oak Ridge. Our students form extraordinary bonds with each other and nature as they become self-reliant citizens of the world and stewards of the Earth.
Maria Montessori observed that children thrive on direct experience and that their hands are their primary teachers. This principle is woven into our classrooms through concrete, hands-on materials. Through direct interaction with the materials, children come to understand a concept using their own senses. They enjoy learning and are fulfilled by learning. They draw on this primary experience later when they begin to understand and explore concepts abstractly. The same is true in the natural world. Children, and all people, require direct personal experience to fully understand the world around them. Nature’s materials awaken a child’s senses in ways that even our classroom materials cannot. Nature demands the integration and use of all the senses.
The freedom to make choices and the insight learned from mistakes leads to a greater curiosity about the world. Montessori classrooms offer children a supportive environment in which they can explore their curiosities.
As in the classroom, children must feel secure in the natural world in order to make choices and learn from their triumphs and mistakes. Guidelines and role models are essential to a child’s learning experience in the gardens and at the Land Laboratory. Students actively participate in weekly classes and activities focused on ecological education. They learn to prepare, plant, weed, water and maintain the gardens and experience the joy and satisfaction of harvesting what they have grown. Our students learn where food comes from and the importance of the natural plant cycle. This, in turn, instills a sense of intrinsic enjoyment and satisfaction when a child connects with nature. A sense of calm and peacefulness can overcome someone who is immersed in the natural world. The experience grounds us and brings us down to Earth. Literally.
Nature also benefits from the people who enjoy it. Children who learn from the natural world and enjoy their relationship with it, also come to understand the needs of the natural world and their impact on it. They often become stewards of the Earth and ambassadors for it. They truly become responsible, global citizens.