What is a Montessori Farm School?
In Montessori education there is a great emphasis on hands-on learning, through experiences in the environment. At all levels, from infancy through adolescence, students apply their learning and build their skills using real-world activities and applications. The farm school concept grew from the later work of Dr. Maria Montessori, as she developed her adolescent program. This 'erdkinder' concept intentionally situates a multi-age school community on a working farm. This way children have a variety of meaningful ways to connect with the environment and apply concepts of their learning in real and purposeful ways. The learning environments - both inside and outside - are specially prepared for students to engage in hands-on learning.
What does this mean in practice? At the Farm School, students will grow and harvest crops in biology. They will use algebra to build gates and fences. Students will collect eggs in science and snuggle goats for compassion building. Older students will be able to run the self-board horse business and sell veggies to learn about financial management and collaboration. They can tend bees and livestock to learn about animal husbandry and history. Children will be able to build bird houses, bug hotels and habitat structures to attract birds, insects and pollinators in their community and environmental work. They can observe nature in Art and practice nature based self care. They can become Streamkeeper certified and become stewards of McClure Creek and the land.
Through these activities, students will begin to deeply understand where their food comes from and where the water goes. They will see first hand why it is so important for us to take care of our natural resources and protect our planet. The role of agriculture takes center stage at the Farm School as students develop an understanding of the value and the need for connection, community, environmental stewardship, compassion, and social responsibility.
It sounds so idyllic and practical ... because it is!
The Farm School Project at 3452 Jingle Pot Road
The proposed Montessori Farm School Campus will offer students, from infancy through grade 9, a unique children's campus located on a beautiful 20 acre rural parcel minutes from Nanaimo.
We will offer an infant-toddler classroom, three preschool classrooms (ages 3-5), five elementary (grade 1-6) classrooms, and a middle school classroom (grade 7-9) on the site. This represents a total student population of 192, and will open 116 new infant, group, preschool, and after school (school-age) affordable, high quality, child care spaces for Nanaimo and area families.
We have been granted the opportunity to build on the existing gravel parking lot and this enables us to protect and rejuvinate the important agricutural lands that surround the campus infrastructure.
A Focus on Environment and Sustainablity
Being light on the land and protecting our natural resources is important to Discover Montessori School. We don't just talk the talk, we walk it and we live it. As such we have designed the school building with the environment at the forefront of every decision we make.
We have designed to a CaGBC Zero Carbon Standard and aim to become the first school in BC to meet the CaGBC Zero Carbon Standard.
This means that we will not only evaluate, but also measure, our impact and carbon footprint at every stage of the development - from the design through to the subsequent operation and lifecycle analysis of the building.
We hope that our Farm School Campus will become a model school that shows others that is is possible to create learning spaces for children that connect them to nature, in an affordable, replicable, environmentally sensitive, and sustainable way to be enjoyed for generations to come.
The Farm School plan involves renovating an existing building and constructing a new building with features that meet our environmental goals.
For example, we have chosen a helical pile foundation in order to allow the water to flow naturally through the earth. We are building in a modular way to reduce construction waste and provide removability. Our landscape plan is drought tolerant and makes use of recycled materials that would otherwaise end up in the land-fill. Fixtures will be low flow and water will be harvested and stored for future irrigation use. International Dark Sky Association approved exterior lighting will be used to protect the night sky. The lands will be revegetated and regenerated while the agricultural use will be enhanced and expanded. The creek and riparian zones will be enhanced by our student Streamkeepers.
Interestingly, the landscaping plan is being designed by a team of local landscape architects who not only understand the need for environmental sustainability and value the use of native plants and drought tolerant plantings, but they also fully understand the developmental needs of children. They participated in a 5 year UBC study on children and outdoor play, and have a deep understanding of how the environment can shape the child's interactions and experiences. They will be applying the concepts learned through that study to create the ideal natural classrooms and play spaces around the building, and we can't wait to see the final design!
In 2017, Discover Montessori School entered into a long term 99 year lease on this property. Over the years we have been working with various provincial and municipal bodies to achieve the permissions and further develop the design for the school. With ALC permission granted, we are now working closely with the Regional District of Nanaimo to navigate the re-zoning of the parking lot only to allow for the school use.
Note: we are NOT applying to rezone the whole parcel. Any permissions and zones will be for the sole benefit of DMS and will be non-transferrable to other parties should the school no longer exist. This protects the integrity of these agricultural lands.
Our students, teachers and families have tended the land from afar. Groups of children have cleared invasive species, achieved Streamkeeper certification, planted pumpkins for sale to the Tofino Culinary Guild, and fixed up the Horse Barn, paddocks, and riding ring. We have worked with the Vintage Tractor Club who have kindly plowed and disced the field for us over the years. This year we are expanding our vegetable production to include potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, winter squash, birdhouse and other ornamental squash, corn, kale, buckwheat, and perennial crops such as blueberries, lavender, and rosemary.
We await the next steps in the rezoning process and hope to break ground in the Fall of 2021. We hope for an opening date of Fall/Winter 2022.
- These dates are subject change.