Montessori Community School, Durham, NC

Located on the border of Chapel Hill and Durham, the Montessori Community School (MCS) campus is home to 230 students, ages 18 months to 14 years. The campus includes twelve classrooms, a gym, art and music center, outdoor learning centers, a field, and existing wooded area. “MCS is a learning community of children, parents, faculty, and staff, each with distinct roles and responsibilities. Adults work in concert to support children’s development as active, peaceful, life-long learners and global citizens.” The school emphasises outdoor learning.

The Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) worked with the Montessori Community School and the Montessori Community Association (MCA, parent-led organization) to create naturalized play and learning settings for the primary school area and the Spark Center (arts and music center) serving the elementary school.

The outdoor environments focus on interaction between indoors and outdoors, which offers naturalized play and learning settings including earth play, a grass maze, rain gardens, and grassy knolls connected with wide curvilinear paths. The outdoor areas of the Spark Center provide opportunities outside the classroom for group lessons in a peaceful green surrounding.


A monarch butterfly feeding on a butterfly bush. Photo courtesy of Dr. Dennis Werner.

A goldfinch enjoying seeds from the spent blooms of purple coneflower. Photo courtesy of Rachel Forehand.