Investing in our Planet: How Montessori Schools are Celebrating Earth Day in 2023
Maria Montessori once said, “The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” What better time to help children connect with the natural environment than Earth Day?
Earth Day presents an incredible opportunity for Montessori schools to help students understand threats to the environment and how they can make a difference. It is a time for classroom and school communities to discuss the interdependence of all living things, to celebrate the beauty of the Earth, and to accept the responsibilities of environmental stewards, developing an understanding of the vital role each human plays in the preservation of our world.
This year’s 2023 Earth Day theme is Invest in our Planet. EarthDay.org challenges people from all over the globe to “Get Inspired. Take Action. Be a part of the green revolution.”
From planting gardens to conserving energy, there are so many ways to encourage children to take action and invest in our planet. Here are some ways that Montessori schools across the U.S. have celebrated Earth Day, inspiring their students to become a part of the green revolution.
Kirkwood Children's House
Kirkwood Children’s House (KCH) in Kirkwood, MO, has been celebrating Earth Day in fun and exciting ways for 38 years; it is one of their school’s longest running traditions! The school has always been deeply rooted in the importance of caring for nature and all living things. Their current mission is to provide “natural education in a community of joy and peace.” Earth Day is the perfect way to celebrate this!
Their entire school community begins the day by meeting at a local park, about a mile away from their campus, and walks or bikes to school together. In an effort to conserve as much energy as possible, lanterns are used to light the building as the lights are kept off on the entire campus throughout the day. The children spend much of their time outdoors celebrating by planting gardens and potted plants around campus with parent volunteers and talking about the importance of being stewards of the environment. Students also make Earth Day trail mix that they sell to their families. They make sure to tell them that the rule is that they must enjoy the trail mix outside in nature appreciating and celebrating the Earth. All proceeds from the fundraiser are donated to an Earth-conscious organization that Kindergarten Leaders select based on their own experiences and thoughts about where there is a need in their community.
Last year, the school donated to an endangered wolf sanctuary after a recent field trip visit. Kerry Moran, KCH’s head of school shares, “The joy and internal sense of peace that comes from interacting with the world and its people in a caregiving way has such a positive impact on anyone in our school community who experiences it!”
Inly School in Scituate, MA, is excited to be hosting their annual Earth Day festivities once again this year. Their whole-school celebration begins with an opening ceremony. Students then travel in small groups through stations throughout campus to learn about sustainability related topics and engage in active learning across the school’s many outdoor classroom spaces. Inly School’s theme this year is the Seven R’s of Sustainability. The student-run stations will feature composting, vermicomposting, and recycling. In other areas on campus, students will help plant a butterfly garden and will work on rebuilding garden beds.
Middle school students will take an active leadership role throughout the festival, running a marketplace, displaying recent projects related to coastal climate resistance, offering pre-sales of a cookbook to benefit a neighboring farm in danger of closing due to climate change related drought impacts, and offering playful companionship to other students in the school’s Enchanted Forest fort building area. Students at the Toddler and Early Childhood levels will read recycling themed books on the school’s storytrail, will have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in the Enchanted Forest building forts, and will create recycled art to add to the garden beds.
The school will also showcase two new nature installations on campus that are grant-funded. One is At the Edge: Naturalizing Native Plants Around an Artificial Wetland, designed to bring native pollinator plants to the pond in their main entrance area. This is sponsored by Wild Ones 2022 Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Grant. The other is toddler-friendly gardens sponsored by Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom. Jennifer McGonagle, Inly School’s upper school director shares that their Earth Day festivities culminate with “live music in our outdoor amphitheater area to dance, sing, and celebrate being outdoors together as we in the northeastern region of the United States see the natural cycles of the world move into spring.”
The Montessori School of San Antonio
The Montessori School of San Antonio (MSSA) has been celebrating Earth Day since the school was founded in 1974. Last year, they began a tradition of hosting a campus beautification day each year as a way of bringing together their community to work together as stewards of their beautiful twenty-four acre campus in the spirit of Earth Day. This year, students, staff, and families will come together to plant native plants and trees, weed flower beds, rake leaves, refill bird feeders, and enjoy being together outdoors. They will end the morning singing “This Pretty Planet” together, their unofficial school song, which honors the Earth as a harbor and a holy place.
Not only do each of the events at MSSA’s Campus Beautification: Earth Day Service Event allow students to engage in harmonious activities, the school has also set up several outdoor areas for students to reflect and celebrate peace.
Head of school, Emily Lund, shares that the event “fosters the children’s love and respect for nature and their environment, [giving] them a sense of peace that will then flow back to the classroom.”
MSSA’s annual gala fundraiser raised over $220,000 this year to install two natural playgrounds and sustainable gardens. Their community is looking forward to the exciting ways these new additions to their campus will provide opportunities for endless natural discoveries that will spark children’s creativity, foster their physical and cognitive development, and help them learn to live in balance and harmony with the Earth.
Oak Meadow School
In Littleton, MA, Oak Meadow School’s Lower Elementary students have organized a fundraiser in partnership with Planet Aid, a non-profit organization that collects and recycles used clothing and shoes to protect the environment and provide for those in need. The school’s facilities manager, Jeffrey Nelson, initially presented the fundraiser to the Lower Elementary teaching team who agreed that it would be a great opportunity for students to not only raise funds to make school improvements, but also learn about different ways to help the Earth in honor of this year’s Earth Day.
At their school’s weekly community gathering, known as the Monday Morning Meeting (MMM), the students shared a presentation outlining their project to help staff, family, and friends better understand the fundraiser and to help spread the word. Other students helped advertise by creating posters to hang around the campus and developing a video to share with the community. Within their presentations and advertising mediums, students explained that for every pound of recycled textiles donated, the school will receive five cents. Additionally, the school would enter a competition with other local schools and the community that gathers the most donations will receive a grand prize of $1,000.
The students’ hope is to raise enough money through the campaign to improve the Lower Elementary playground, developing nature based outdoor areas where children can build, imagine, and play safely. Natalie Ferreira, one of Oak Meadow’s Lower Elementary teachers, shares that she and the other faculty recognize the love their students have for animals and all things nature related and how the connections they build with the planet they inhabit help them develop a strong commitment towards protecting life on Earth. They believe the Planet Aid fundraiser is a way for students to see this protection happen before their eyes and students seem to agree, becoming wholly vested in the project, stating, “We need to care for the Earth for the next generation. We need to help those in need who are less fortunate. We need to keep items out of landfills and reduce carbon dioxide emissions to prevent global warming.”
Jarrow Montessori School
Jarrow Montessori School in Boulder, CO, hosts an Earth Action Day every year in celebration of Earth Day. The tradition began in 2017 with a mission “to bring the Jarrow community together through shared skills to facilitate the movement towards sustainable living and building regenerative systems between people and the planet.” Upper Elementary students help run educational stations at the event that include fun, hands-on learning and activities related to topics such as renewable energy, medicinal plants and sustainable gardening, compost ecology, and recycled art.
Amy Ransom, JMS’s outdoor education teacher, reflects on the value of this experience for Upper Elementary students, stating, “Sharing what they have learned during Outdoor Ed and becoming the leaders for the event is a beautiful example and extension of Montessori’s three period lesson of mastery at the teaching level.”
Following the station activities, the school hosts a community potluck with live music and local Earth-focused organizations tabling the event. Ransom was also eager to share that everyday is Earth Day at JMS. As the school’s outdoor education teacher, she works with Primary through Upper Elementary classrooms a few hours each week providing interdisciplinary, hands-on experiences for students focusing on the local ecology that supports their studies in the classroom. Some of their activities include working in the school’s vegetable and herb gardens and with their functional compost system, harvesting and taking care of their fruit trees, and exploring their naturally-enriched neighborhood trails and lakes. Ransom remarks:
Connecting children to the natural world is necessary for them to act as stewards of the Earth. They must learn first hand about how nature works to realize that they are a part of it and play a powerful role in the future of the planet. Everything we do has a direct impact on the world around us as well as the global whole. Our students learn this first hand as they interact with the local ecology. From there, they are able to expand this consciousness to a greater whole.
These Montessori schools and others from all over the world are accepting the Earth Day challenge as they help their students to get inspired, take action, and be a part of the green revolution, investing in the planet and feeling and living in harmony with the Earth.
About the Author
Heather White, EdS, is a Montessori coach and consultant, content creator, and educator for adult learners, as well as a moderator and manager for the Montessori at Home (0 – 3 years) Facebook group. Formerly, she was a Montessori teacher, in-home caregiver, Lower Elementary coordinator, and associate head of school. She also has experience as a school psychologist intern. She is AMS-credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary I) and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.