The Montessori Centenary Children’s Garden has been awarded a gold medal! Celebrating the pioneering vision for Early Years education introduced in Britain by Maria Montessori in 1919, garden designer, Jody Lidgard’s, first Chelsea Flower Show Space To Grow garden reflects the very principles at the heart of a Montessori approach to education.  Child-led and future-driven, the garden was designed to provide a Montessori classroom space to nurture children, teaching them about the natural world alongside the modern technology that is the future of horticulture.

A propagating greenhouse doubles as a teaching area creating a scientific, playful and interesting environment where children can grow micro vegetables and salad leaves using cutting edge hydroponic technology.  Sustainability is a key theme, demonstrated by the SUDS compliant system that slows down storm water from the roof into the natural filtration system that is then used for irrigation.

The covered teaching area benefits from a living fern wall.  From here, children can see into the wormery and understand the connections between living things.  A dipping pond gives way to a water play station allowing children to learn about measurement, sinking and floating in a fun way, whilst the pergola’s picking platforms enable children to snip, tear and taste, learning through the senses.

Leonor Stjepic, CEO of Montessori St Nicholas, comments: “We are thrilled that our garden has been recognised by the RHS judges and delighted for Jody that his vision and efforts have been rewarded.  Maria Montessori believed fervently in the importance of access to the outdoors. She was a pioneer and well ahead of her times when it came to placing priority on Early Years learning. Our 2018 YouGov study found a high majority (89%) of parents of children aged six and under agreed Early Years educators have an essential role to play in their child’s development.  This garden is a reminder of the vital part that nature plays in a holistic approach to Early Years education.  We want visitors to rediscover the joy of learning and inspire children to discover the natural world in a fun and interactive way.”

Father-of-six, Jody, brought to life the child-led approach to education with a design that illustrates the multi-sensory nature of a Montessori classroom.  He adds: “This is a space that is designed to be experienced and enjoyed by children, teaching them about the natural world and allowing them to explore horticulture in their own way.”

Following the conclusion of the show, there are plans to relocate the garden to the Museum of Childhood in London’s Bethnal Green providing a natural teaching space for families in the local community. The wider Montessori and early years communities will benefit from online tools that will help them to recreate in their own environments the many innovative features introduced in the Centenary Children’s Garden.