At Greensboro Montessori School, Environmental Education Curriculum is based on seasonal cycles, the outdoor environment at the School, and the age of the students. We invite spontaneity and often pause to watch and identify insects, marvel at life in the garden, and discuss questions or insights as a community. In all levels we teach about soil, decomposition and compost, pollination, and biodiversity. But what is it we do in winter when the gardens are resting? The short answer is, we teach seasonality and ecology in organic gardens.
Primary students study birds, concentrating on basic identification by sight and sound. They love making binoculars (out of recycled toilet paper rolls) and using them on our bird walks around campus. Along the way, they learn to empathize with birds and their needs, to stop and slow down as not to miss a moment of wonder, and to make an ecological connection between our gardens and the needs of birds: shelter, food, water, and spaces to nest. As the weather warms up, we explore our winter stores of food from the fall gardens – sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger, and honey – in cooking classes, and venture outdoors to observe and relish in the signs of spring!
Lower Elementary students delve even deeper into their bird study, concentrating not only on the basic identification of birds, but also on prolonged observation of bird behavior, habitat, and appreciation for their ecological significance in our organic, permaculture gardens. They love learning how to use and read field guides like ornithologists! I find bird study with this age is a wonderful way to remind children how to sit and soak in the surrounding environment, something we often don’t take time to do when the garden gets growing in spring. Bird watching in winter offers students opportunities to experience peace, critical thought, and insight that they so desperately need after the holiday rush and just before the end of year crunch! As spring break draws near, we share our bird findings with area scientists, cook with our winter food stores, and begin preparing ourselves for spring planting in the garden.
Upper Elementary winter studies range from native tree and animal projects to redesigning of our Upper School outdoor classroom. This year, we’re up to something BIG … we’re tackling the subject of climate change and how it affects each of us and our experience at Greensboro Montessori School. We’re thrilled the culmination of this project will include an art installation we collectively create and participation at the Student Climate Change Summit at UNCG on March 29. The event will be from 5 to 8 p.m. at Weatherspoon Art Museum. Open to the public, the Student Climate Change Summit will feature a wide-array of student participants representing several generations. In addition to our Upper Elementary students presenting their artwork, undergraduate students from UNCG will present research posters around a variety of climate change topics. A student from NC State will describe the work of The Climate Reality Project Campus Corps on their campus. Last but not least, students from the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at Grimsley High School will present posters highlighting their IB papers on climate change. We hope you will join us at Weatherspoon Art Museum on March 29!
About the Author
Eliza Hudson is Greensboro Montessori School’s lead environmental educator. Eliza holds her bachelor’s degree in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. She has built and tended school gardens, taught hands-on cooking lessons and connected local farms to school programs working for FoodCorps. Prior to joining Greensboro Montessori School in 2014, Eliza was a classroom and after-school assistant at the Richmond Friends School, a farm intern at a family-owned farm in Ohio, and served as assistant director at a summer day camp in an urban community garden in Durham.
Greensboro Montessori School has taught environmental education since 1995 and has been permaculture gardening on its campus since 1997.