By Viktor Berg

The Garden Montessori is the only nursery using the Montessori method of education in North Dorset. The method uses the key words: “follow the child.”

With a range of self-educating and self-correcting activities, the children have access to practical play, which encourages them to ask their own questions and discover their own answers.

The method was created by Dr Maria Montessori, who was the first female medical doctor in Italy (1896) and earned two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

“Using the Montessori method, we really work on children’s independence, confidence and self-esteem,” Principal Virginia Sewell said.

“As long as the environment is set up for the children, they can just follow their inner teacher and do the activities they want to do to grow.”

The nursery was established 25 years ago but came to the current site, the grounds of St Mary’s School on the outskirts of Shaftesbury, about two-and-a-half years ago.

Virginia said it was a “very traumatic time” after they were forced to leave their old location. Worries grew they would have to close down completely, but luckily, they were invited to St Mary’s.

“A lot of local community support was put into helping us find this place and it was through a parent – who actually works at St Mary’s as a teacher – who asked the principal, and she said ‘why not?’.”

The relocation unlocked more learning possibilities as it allowed the nursery to develop the outside area. Just before the recent half term, a child’s great grandfather built a mud pie kitchen for the children.

The outdoor classroom also features a large sandpit, tyres and planks of wood and gardening opportunities. The children choose when they want to have a snack and do their own washing up.

“Children are actually very capable of doing more, and maybe in our society today, we are not allowing them to just try for themselves, and learn by trial and error,” Virginia said.

According to Virginia, feedback from primary schools has been positive – children are more confident, are able to concentrate better and keep their inquisitive spirit. Parents noticed the children became more interested in doing things at home, such as helping in the kitchen or with the laundry, she added.

The Garden Montessori care for a maximum of 16 children per session and usually have three teachers on site.

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