Nature’s Way advocates for the right and essential need of all young people to experience the connectedness, collaboration, adventure, and imagination that come with nature play. Our wooded areas in front of the school are used by students in Lower Elementary through Adolescent Community and are home to a tree house with climbing wall, our chicken coop, and the Lower and Upper Elementary fort-building areas.
Across the globe, forts are a part of children’s experience in rural and urban settings. The dens constructed with scavenged and natural materials become shops, restaurants, junk yards, homes & club houses. To build them, children collaborate, haggle, argue, compromise, work hard, carry big loads, think together, plan, organize celebrations, and problem solve. They deal with principles such as scarcity of recourses and the common good. They practice concepts of loaning, beautifying, making rules and dealing with each other fairly. In these activities, they are engaging in a practice society and they work hard at it.
We believe the richness of these experiences teach lessons that cannot be learned as deeply by listening to a teacher, watching a video, or reading a book. The construction of private places is one of the ways that children physically and symbolically prepare themselves, in middle childhood, for the significant transition to adolescence.
“I tell people that at my old school we built forts and made an actual community. Many people just smile and nod, but a few take interest. I think it’s amazing that a school can foster the idea in children’s heads that no matter how old you are you can build a home, cook a meal, own a bank, and elect a president. Our fort communities that we built were extremely important to us and we loved them… If you don’t think that a 5th grader who says ‘well, today in free time I went to the bank and deposited $500 on my mortgage, and then went and collected some food for lunch to celebrate’ is the most incredible thing on the planet, then I simply do not know how to impress you.”
~Alumnus, Savannah McMillan, sharing her thoughts on building forts at Natures Way Montessori School