Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Classroom Inspiration: Nature Tables & Trays

Solicitous care for living things affords satisfaction to one of the most lively instincts of the child’s mind. Nothing is better calculated than this to awaken an attitude of foresight.
—Maria Montessori

A standard feature in both Montessori classrooms and Waldorf classrooms is the nature table. This is an endeavor taken on by primarily elementary age students. However, if you are an art teacher looking to incorporate elements of this project into your classroom, consider having a nature table as an area where students can choose objects to create a study [drawing] of them.

Some schools have nature trays dedicated to the beauty of the natural world. Some schools have entire tables dedicated to the objects. In any case, both Maria Montessori [founder of Montessori schools] and Rudolph Steiner [founder of Waldorf schools] believed that children should be surrounded by nature.

Montessori wrote, "A little table or shelf, in the home or classroom, dedicated to a changing array of beautiful objects from nature, is a delight to children."

It is super important that you have your children choose out the objects that will be on this table/tray. After all, both Montessori and Waldorf schools employ student-centered methods of education, so why would you rob children of the opportunity to have this experience for themselves?

To create a nature tray or table, choose a designated spot in the classroom where these objects will be displayed.

It would be a terrific suggestion to begin your collection with a nature walk. Be sure to tell your students that they shouldn't pick up just any object. The nature tray is a place to display special objects. For example, if a leaf catches their eye because of it's beautiful array of colors, then this leaf is a special object.

Some typical examples of things that would be displayed on nature trays are:
  • Bird nests
  • Acorns
  • Nuts
  • Shells
  • Rocks
  • Pinecones
  • Feathers

Here is some eye candy to get you inspired...

The mirror in the background makes a wonderful prop

This felt lined utensil tray makes a wonderful nature tray

A plastic tackle box might not accommodate larger items

A wonderful set up in the middle of the room
Love the old letterpress letters on top of the structure
Always a great idea to have a magnifying glass handy
More like a dollhouse, but would be a cute set up
Summer nature tray

Like the stick stuck in the sand on the left
Shell nature table

You can learn more about Nature Shelves at this website.

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