Helen’s Director’s Blog: Round and Round the Garden

Round and round the garden
As adults we constantly both overestimate and underestimate the capabilities of small children. An area where we do both at the same time is in relation to their comprehension of their geographical location. I have two specific examples drawn from personal experience that I use when discussing this with students. The first dates back to the middle of my very first term at school. I was four and a half, and two surprising things happened that day. The milk in our milk bottles (yes, we all had free school milk with straws in glass bottles!) was frozen, which means it must have been in November (in Scotland) when I discovered that I could walk all the way round our small, rectangular 3-class school building and come back to where I started. The second was when my little sister, aged 2, disappeared one afternoon. When she was found it emerged she knew exactly where her friend’s house was, about a quarter of a mile away, and had just gone to visit her. These stories illustrate two things we need to remember about small children’s relationship with their environment. Firstly, they are very keen observers, and they remember a route they’ve taken before. And secondly, even if they’ve not been orientated to their surroundings, they will, tentatively, explore, but at their own pace. This means that time taken to orientate new children into all the spaces and corners of their physical surroundings when they start nursery is time well spent, because even going to the bottom of the garden can seem daunting if they’ve not been there before. Indoors, the uncluttered order in our Montessori classrooms supports them to become independent in their new environment quickly. As it’s in their immediate environment that they encounter the triggers for their learning, we definitely want them to be able to go 'round and round the garden' with confidence, observing and learning as they go.