Caring for the environment is one of the areas of Montessori Practical Life activities, which are tasks a child sees routinely performed at home, and each serving a meaningful purpose as the child masters essential tasks such as food preparation, pouring a drink, tying of the shoes, sweeping, sewing and many more. Through Practical Life activities, a child also develops and refines social skills, which build self-esteem, determination, and independence. "Through practical life exercises … children develop a true ‘social feeling,’ for they are working in the environment of the community in which they live” (5, pg. 97). Maria Montessori explains in The Discovery of the Child.
Caring for plants is part of caring for the environment, which offers a child a wonderful opportunity to develop responsibility, discipline, and most importantly, affection for nature.
"Children have an anxious concern for living beings, and the satisfaction of this instinct fills them with delight. It is therefore easy to interest them in taking care of plants … Nothing awakens foresight in a small child, who lives as a rule for the passing moment and without care for the tomorrow, so much as this. When he knows that … little plants will dry up if he does not water them, he binds together with a new thread of love today’s passing moments with those of the tomorrow." Montessori M. (1967) The Discovery of the Child. NY: Ballantine Books. pp 71-72.
In our kitchen, children have their own nook where they eat, draw, and do practical life activities (especially ones involving water). We have also allocated few shelves for water-related activities such as window cleaning and taking care of plants.
Caring for orchids has become Adrian's daily routine. He waters them a little bit every other day and mists them daily. Orchids do not like to "sit" in water, so they need a little bit of water at a time, and as tropical plants, they love humidity, so misting does the trick.
Adrian was very excited to see the fruit of his labor in the form of a newly grown flower spike.
Despite the vast diversity, most orchid flowers consist of a triangle of three sepals (outer back petals) and three inner petals, where the middle petal termed the labellum (lip) looks quite different as it acts as a landing platform for visiting insects. In most species the labellum is at first located uppermost on the developing flower bud (pictured above), but as it matures (on the picture below) the flower stalk twists around so that the labellum ends up being lowermost (upside down) on the open blossom. This process termed resupination is a key characteristic that botanists consider in orchid identification.
This is Adrian's first "baby" orchid flower!
Another distinguishing attribute of orchid flowers is that they are mostly zygomorphic that simply means that if you divide the flower down the middle from top to bottom the structures are identical on both sides like mirror reflections of each other.
Adrian loves misting the leaves and the flowerets. An emerald mister (buy here) allows a child to hold the mister with one hand while pressing the pump-top with the other for misting and cleaning leaves.
Adrian uses a blue stick to indicate that the plant was watered.
You can also make signs: "I have been watered" or " I need water" or use color-coded sticks, for example, red: "need water" and blue or green: means the plant was watered.
While caring for plants, Adrian establishes the connection with nature and develops a true affection for it. Children intuitively want to take care of Mother Earth and all its living things, and they will care more if they have a relationship with nature. And the way to develop such a relationship is for a child to experience the nature fully: by exploring it, by coming in close contact with it, by caring for it.
Practical Life activities that are rich with sensory stimulation will engage a child intellectually and emotionally, and will make him/her feel not only connected to, but also an integral part of nature.
Synergy with our Mother Earth begins when children gain an awareness of the natural world around them through hands-on experiences. Such awareness will then stimulate their curiosity and inspire them to gain knowledge about how nature works. This knowledge then bestows on children the desire and capacity to protect Earth.
Since children have little experience, they tend to view the world in the present tense. However, when children study nature hands-on for example by caring for plants, learning the answers to questions like "How long does it take for the flower to bloom?" allows them to expand their perspective to include the past, present, and future. Children can see how the evolution of both nature and humanity have resulted in our environment's current state. They can then project the Earth into the future and envision possible "futures" based on where we are now. Finally, as children gain love and an understanding of nature, they can project themselves into the future and consider how their actions would help build the future they dream of most.
What is a better way to show the affection than through the care of our Planet and the environment!
Read here a post "Caring for Plants at two-and-a-half."
Montessori Practical Life activity Caring for the Environment is also one of the affirmations from I Cherish Planet Earth Book (read a post about it here). For Earth Day inspired activities, see here Earth Day 🌐 Activities Roundup.