My experience trekking with The Montessori School

My experience trekking with The Montessori School

Category Experiential Learning, Schools

By Gautam Singh

2023-11-17

After more than two years of leading treks for hundreds of children, I’ve realised one thing for certain.

Taking children up and down a hill, conducting the Indiahikes experiences, and constantly attempting to capture their attention requires far more energy than running 30 km at a stretch!

Little did I know how the experience would be refreshingly different on a trek with children from The Montessori School.

When children surprise and inspire you

I went as a trek facilitator for The Montessori School along with my team for the first time to Kunagalu Betta, a.k.a Puppy Betta as we fondly call it at Indiahikes. 

The trek was for a group of tiny children aged between 3 and 6 years. 

When I first heard about the age group, I was flabbergasted! No other school had sent students so young on a day trek before. I was curious to know what this school was up to.

Photo credits: Gautam Singh

But the very first group of children from The Montessori School took me by surprise. These young children - some who were just about learning to walk - were up there with us and their teachers, going shoulder to shoulder as if climbing up and down the hills was a common affair. 

I was surprised not just at their physical strength, but at their intellectual capacity as well. 

A 6-year-old could draw a portrait of a person like it’s not a big deal. A 12-year-old could converse with a 20-year-old on topics that only the brightest of minds could discuss.

The blistering sun was natural to them. Getting drenched in the rain was therapeutic for them. Playing in the mud and dust without worrying about their clothes, hands and face was their favourite playtime. 

What was more incredible was how teachers enabled their students to do all of this without holding them back.

I felt joyous and energetic after the trek. Where was my usual tiredness after trekking? I wanted to be a 3-year-old again and start my school life with The Montessori School!

When I came back to the office, I couldn’t stop talking about them all day.

Photo credits: Gautam Singh

Delving deeper into why trekking with TMS is different

A couple of months later, I had the opportunity to lead a trek for another group of children from The Montessori School. The children this time were between 6 and 12 years old and would be heading for an overnight camping trek to Channarayana Durga. This bunch of children were equally engaged and curious in the outdoors.

I also met the founder of the school, Ms Kavya, from whom I learnt how the school approaches learning. The Montessori system does not focus only on textbook education but gives a lot of importance to practical and real-world learning. 

At the age of three, a child is exposed to pottery, weaving, dance, music, and art. Children learn how to cook and wash dishes along with studying Maths, Science, English, History, Geography etc. 

When learning philosophies align

Photo credits: Vishnu Sivanandan

I realised that the Montessori approach to education and Experiential Learning at Indiahikes share several key principles such as child-centred learning, hands-on learning, a connection with nature, and respect for a child’s independence. 

For us at Indiahikes, the task was to enhance what they were learning in school.  The school was already aligned with the Indiahikes way of learning outdoors.

We decided to approach this in different ways on our treks. 

Caring for nature

The children at The Montessori School already have a strong connection with nature.  Our team used theatre to introduce sustainability concepts such as repairing, thrifting, and not using packaged goods.  The skit worked wonderfully. 

Some teachers told us they themselves had learnt something new through the skit. Additionally, our programme design discourages carrying packaged food on the treks. 

Caring for each other

We assigned several roles and responsibilities to the children on the trek. After reinforcing their responsibilities once or twice, children automatically began to take care of each other on the trek. They checked whether someone needed water while trekking. They offered to carry heavy backpacks in case someone was struggling.

Nature as a medium of self-expression

We encouraged the children to view nature not only as a playground but as a canvas. From mood boards to nature-based activities, the Indiahikes programme emphasises free expression -  play, explore, and just be. 

Photo credits: Gautam Singh

I have been fortunate to be a trek leader for The Montessori School on more than five treks around Bangalore.

The school views Indiahikes’ Outdoor Experiential Learning as seriously as any other academic programme and wants the same facilitators to come along each time. 

I am thankful to the teachers ("aunties" and "uncles" as the kids address them)  for being so aligned with the Indiahikes way of learning in the outdoors. It always feels like we are one team with the same goals. The impact on the students is so much higher because of this. 

Among my many takeaways from trekking with the school, the biggest one is this. Parents and teachers must let children be themselves in the outdoors. This is where they get a glimpse of who they are and how much they are capable of!

If they fall, they learn how to get up and keep going. If there are obstacles, they will find ways to overcome them. Their strength and abilities will surprise you. 

Gautam Singh

Finance Manager

About the author

Gautam Singh is the Finance Manager at Indiahikes. He is a B.Com graduate who realized Chartered Accountancy was not his cup of tea, a bit too late. At heart, he is an adventure seeker. He loves riding bikes, travelling solo, exploring places, and meeting new people. He is an avid runner, and it took him on the journey from being 'Fat to Fit'. He was also one of the lucky few who saw Kashmir both as a State and as a Union Territory on his first Himalayan trek - Kashmir Great Lakes. You can write to him at gautam@indiahikes.com