The Montessori Land Lab: Practice in Sustainability, Creativity, and Collaboration with Middle School Students
Land Program from The Greensboro Montessori School on Vimeo.The GMS Land Laboratory outdoor education program was devised by a team of Montessori teachers in 2004 and is now in it’s 10th year. Based on Maria Montessori’s vision of the Erdkinder, early adolescent students travel to a wooded retreat in Oak Ridge, NC every six week to eight weeks for 3 nights and 4 days, camping with no electricity and transporting their water in jugs and bins on student-made “chariots” constructed from old bicycles and baby carriages.
Students spend their days in rotations linked to their school curriculum, based on Montessori’s Great Lessons, studying the natural world, collecting data for a local river conservancy, re-creating experiences based in history from medieval trebuchets to Victorian letterboxes, and engaging in team problem-solving activities. The campers stay in shelters that were built by students from pvc pipe and corrugated metal based on the exoskeletons of insects and maintain their camp sites and outdoor community based on principles of a Just Community.
The video tells the story of how the program originated and how it has evolved into an essential part of the middle school experience. All aspects of the program, including the structures on the Land are designed to be “temporary,” with particular attention to sustainability, healthy eating and behavior, and volunteer participation of parents and adults in the school. The GMS Land Lab is one of the few Middle School outdoor experiential programs in the Southeast and is an integral part of the Middle School curriculum.