Outdoorsy Montessori: How To Design a Square Foot Garden With Children!

WHAT DOES A MONTESSORI CHILD DO WITH A SQUARE FOOT OF DIRT, METAL INSET PAPER, AND SOME SEEDS? 
DESIGN A BEAUTIFUL, EFFICIENT LITTLE FLOWER GARDEN, OF COURSE!

Unless otherwise stated, all photos in the post were taken at the Outdoor Classroom of Fountainhead Montessori School in Dublin, CA

The "square foot garden" was popularized by Mel Bartholomew in 1981, first with his book, and then his PBS television show. 

In his book, Bartholomew describes his first ventures into backyard gardening and his feelings of discouragement with the conventional gardening practices of large, long rows that required lots of space and lots of weeding. Along his gardening journey, he discovered more and more ways of reducing wasted time, space and effort. 

For example, Bartholomew writes about how he actually counted the number of seeds in a packet of lettuce and found a thousand seeds! This means that when you plant that package of seeds, you will have a LOT of thinning to do! So, he read on the package how much space the lettuce plants would need and then he used a ruler to carefully plant one seed per inch. To me this sounds like a fun project for our Montessori children!

Mel has a revised edition of his book and you can even get it in eBook form at Amazon. Here's that link: Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition.


The Square Foot Garden website is fantastic! You can get an amazing amount of information at the site. Here's an infographic that is just one example of the helpful "hints" you will find there. 


One of the delightful insights Mel derived from his experimenting over the years, is that his method of gardening was particularly easy for beginners to understand and implement right away! 

He had a joke that if you are a beginner gardener, it will take you about 2 hours to learn how to create your square foot garden, and if you are an experienced gardener it will take about 2 weeks. 

Experienced gardeners have to be convinced!

For some fantastic videos with step by step instructions and the secrets of creating a square foot garden, I found this exceptional you tube series from Store This Not That

Here's the link to the first in the video series: Square Foot Gardening 101, The Boxes. 

The concept of "square foot gardening" is just "so Montessori"! And, perfect for young children.


This Activity is Compatible with Montessori Principles




IT'S JUST "SO MONTESSORI"
YES, CHILD SIZED!
The boxes are typically 4 ft x 4 ft, so that each section can be reached easily. However, if your children are young, you can make them 3 ft x 3 ft. (Like the ones at Fountainhead Montessori School featured in this post) 


 ORDER, 
CONTROL OF ERROR, and 
ONE-TO-ONE CORRESPONDENCE
The boxes have a wooden grid laid out on the top that makes a tidy control of error for the placement of seeds or plants. 

In addition, Mel's website (and book) has a chart for the number of a particular plant that should be planted in a square. (That sounds like a fun one-to-one correspondence activity for child gardeners!)


COLOR DESIGNING with 
METAL INSET PAPERS
Mary Cooper is the director of Lower Elementary Program at Fountainhead Montessori School in Dublin, CA. She is also the Art Instructor and Garden Coordinator, and so she devised a wonderful activity combining Art and the Outdoor Classroom. 

The students partnered up and were given one of the square foot garden boxes to design a color collage of flowers to be planted in the box. 

Mary came up with the idea for the children to use metal inset papers to lay out their designs.


DEVELOPING DESIGNS WITH CONCRETE MATERIALS
THAT ARE MANIPULATED BY THE HANDS
Each square foot portion of the box would hold 4 metal inset papers and the children kept the papers in place by inserting craft sticks through the paper and into the soil. Four plants per sq. foot was perfect, according to the size of these flowering plants. 


PLANNING, 
COLLABORATING and 
PROBLEM SOLVING TOGETHER
Next, each team brainstormed the color layout they wanted for their box that would hold colorful flowering plants.


THE "CONTROL MAP"
Then, the team took a photo of the final layout for their box and used it as the "blue print" for planting the flower seeds or seedlings. (like a "control map"!) And, the used inset papers were saved for colorful scrap paper/collage activities.


BONUS LEARNING WITH WATER CONSERVATION, 
THE WATER CYCLE, and 
RAIN BARRELS
The Outdoor Classroom at Fountainhead Montessori School has two rain barrels for collecting water for the children to use on the non-edible plants in the garden. 

These go along perfectly with the Montessori principles that teach children about their relationship with the natural world, the rain water cycle, and conserving. 


Photo by Paul Thompson at National Geographic Green Guide

REPURPOSING AND RECYCLING 
In addition, the rain barrels in the Fountainhead Children's Garden were invented by a teenager who decided to try turning food grade shipping barrels (destined for landfills) into repurposed rain barrels! 
This innovative teenager started a national trend!
I actually love the way this one looks, too!




SUCCESS!
So glad to have you visiting my site today! I hope you and your group learn a lot from square foot gardening in your environment! 

You might like these articles too: 
Montessori's Rationale for the Outdoor Classroom

Outdoor Classroom: A Great Selling Point for the Entry to Your School

I have lots of posts on the Outdoor Classroom. Just click here to check them out: OUTDOOR CLASSROOM. 

There's even more on my Pinterest boards: Magical Movement Company Pinterest.

My post is part of the Montessori Monday Link up at Living Montessori Now. There you'll find Deb Chitwood's free printables for Montessori style cutting exercises and loads of articles from Montessori educators world wide. 

It's that time of year!
I am no longer an Amazon Affiliate and I DO NOT receive compensations from Amazon or any other product vendors. The links to various products in this Blog are ones that I use myself and are for your own reference and convenience. 





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