Facilities & Outdoor Environment

The Montessori School of Lake Forest has many rooftops and long hallways. When the school was designed in 1989, discussions between members of the board, faculty, and students led to creating “a house within a school”. Specifically designed from the viewpoint of a child, and according to Dr. Montessori’s philosophy, the “miniature home” of each classroom includes an exterior patio and garden. The school’s long hallways signify the sidewalk that leads the child into their prepared home-like classroom environment.

The rooftops of the Montessori School of Lake Forest symbolize the importance of the unity of our faculty, staff, and families. The Montessori philosophy lends itself as well to the whole school as it does to the classroom. At the Montessori School of Lake Forest we make sure that our school-wide culture takes a Montessori approach by focusing on connection, respect, and responsibility at every level.


The novelty lies, perhaps, in my idea for the use of this open-air space, which is to be in direct communication with the school room.”  – Maria Montessori

Outdoor Learning and Discovery Project 2000

The Montessori School of Lake Forest launched its Outdoor Learning and Discovery Project(OLDP) in 2000, embracing Montessori’s philosophy that the classroom extends outward as children grow, from indoors into the natural world, to larger communities of people and other living things, to the universe. The OLDP master plan applied this principle, linking each classroom in age-appropriate ways with the wider world.

The goal of the OLDP landscape plan was to support children’s innately positive relationship with the natural world through increased positive exposure to the outdoors.

· Parent Infant provides an enclosed space where infants use their senses to explore sand, grass, flowers, trees, sky, light, shadows, and more.

  • Toddler offers an enclosed large space to explore, and classroom windows with large views of yard and play area, meadow and prairie.
  • Primary private yards connect to the main path that leads to many places: the Marsh, Oak Woods, Savannah, Play Field, Woodland Stream, Orchard, Community Gardens, and Play Areas.
  • Elementary classrooms open directly onto the larger landscape and offer small nearby seating areas. Older children care for the Community Gardens using gardening skills they developed when they were younger.

The OLDP landscape reflects the style of Jens Jensen, a landscape architect and contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright. This Midwestern style emphasizes the simple beauty of our native landscape and plants. Jensen’s style of teaching was known as “The School of the Soil” and like Montessori, he believed that students “learn by doing.”

“First grow cabbages. After that, plant a flower. When you have successfully grown a flower, then you can start to think about growing a tree. After watching a tree grow for several years, observing how its character develops from year to year, then you can begin to think of a composition of living plants—a composition of life itself.”

– Jens Jensen

nwf_logo_vertical-green_275x300Certified by the National Wildlife Federation