I am fascinated by how different teaching philosophies and curricula teach geography and world cultures. Today I will share Montessori Geography lessons- and tomorrow we will look at Montessori World Cultures lessons.
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Montessori is a philosophy of education started by Italian physician Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, which can be implemented at home or in school. Three key elements in a Montessori classroom that work in tandem are the teacher, the child, and the environment. The teacher offers gentle guidance, while each child works at their own pace in the mixed-aged classes. Learn more about the general Montessori method at Living Montessori Now.
I interviewed 6 diverse Montessori teachers (bios and web sites down below!) who explained how they incorporate Montessori Geography lessons in their classrooms and in homeschooling.
What does Montessori geography look like in your children’s learning?
Jennifer: Montessori geography is first experienced via food! My daughter is obsessed with a show called “Emmy Eats” and has enrolled all of the other children in her cultural junk food obsession. I try to round it out with healthier lunch options. I have all of the geography puzzle maps and I purchase a flag for each country that we become interested in. We create folk crafts and listen to music, learn about the country’s animals, etc. With my daughter, we go more into the culture — including regional issues, religions, and cultural traditions.
Seemi: Geography is an integral part of our curriculum. A few essential Geography materials are available to the children all year long to explore at their leisure. These materials lay the foundation for a broader understanding of concepts that we delve into in more detail with our unit studies. The materials always available are:
We start the year off by introducing these basic geography concepts: air-land-water, making a land-water globe, moving from a globe to making our own maps, and the moving towards continent folders. Over the course of the year we study the land and cultures of the various continents.
Marie: We use specific Montessori geography materials as an introduction. One very helpful tool has been the Hugg-A-Planet by For Small Hands (see this review). We also have a world map in our homeschool classroom. I talk about the different continents with them. Another great tool we have is a floor puzzle of the United States. The states are proportional so we use these pieces to talk about how some states are bigger than others. We use our traveling adventures to discuss roads, travel, and how some cites are bigger than others. Discussion is a big part of our geography and the world is our classroom.
Melissa: Geography is an important part of the Montessori Cultural curriculum. As with all curriculum areas, we have geography materials available at all times in the classroom: things like globes, landforms, puzzle maps of the world and each of the continents, and images and artifacts that represent different parts of the world. We start with introducing the idea of the earth being made up of land, water, and air, and by the end of their time in the primary classroom, many children have made their own maps of each continent and can discuss the native animals, climates, landmarks, and cultures of various countries. Personally, I love exploring cultural geography at group times as well, using stories, songs, food, discussion and anything else that presents itself to learn about the world and the many incredible people who share it.
Anastasia: Driven by students’ interests or specific cultures represented in our classroom, we introduced children to various countries and cultures. We present children with various learning opportunities to make new discoveries connected with their country of interest. Focusing on a country begins in the morning when we greet the children in the language spoken in that country and learn to count in that language. Then we create a similar sequence of Montessori, geography learning experiences:
- The children learn to locate that country on the World Map using The Continent Puzzle and Wall World Map.
- We identify geographical features using The Land and Water materials.
- We also talk about the flora and fauna with the help of 3-Part Montessori Cards.
- We then look at and discuss assorted pictures of that country.
- We discuss the meaning of the country flag and the colours and we offer the children an opportunity to colour it in.
- Children are also introduced to the country through a display table with objects of the country of origin, pictures and books.
- Finally, in cooperation with the children’s parents we prepare presentations and children share their knowledge and experience of their homeland. We incorporate as many key learning areas as possible – maths, literacy, geography, culture, social interaction, problem-solving, art, physical education, etc.
Here are a few examples of Montessori Geography learning in context:
Japan: We talk about earthquakes, demonstrate them on a small scale and allow children to think of consequences of such event.
Italy: A Practical Life activity is arranged for children to practice foot baths – they pour water into a tub and soak their feet in it. We make pizza together with children and encourage them to create their own recipes. We discover the world of fashion, children design clothes using newspaper. Children also attempt to copy famous building constructions using blocks.
Hawaii: We talk about volcanoes and assist children in creating their mini- replica of a volcano using clay, paint and craft materials which children later use for free play. Children learn Hawaiian hula dance and make a Hawaiian lei.
Korea: A Practical Life activity is set up for children to experience traditions of the Korean Tea Ceremony with their friends.
North Pole: Children construct a small scale of igloo using ice blocks and salt.
Parallel to learning about a determined country, children learn about different subjects using hands-on materials and printable resources, such as rock and mineral activities and compass activities. They learn to sort animals according to their continent of habitat, and we discover what are the four essential elements of habitat – water, food, shelter and air. We learn about the location of the Earth in the galaxy and conduct experiments. These learning experiences take place in the form of an activity that is available for children on a shelf, group time activity, or story time.
For a great overview and additional information on teaching Montessori Geography to preschoolers, visit this Carrots are Orange article.
Thank you so much to our Montessori experts! Find out more at their web sites:
Melissa taught in Montessori Primary (3-6 year old) classrooms for six years. She later started a small Montessori preschool program for her and a handful of children from their neighborhood. You can read about her little school here.
Deb Chitwood taught as a Montessori preschool teacher for 10 years, in addition to being a school owner and director for 8 of those 10. She homeschooled her two children through high school, using Montessori methods completely during the preschool years, and in principle during the later years. Her fabulous Montessori resources can be found at LivingMontessoriNow.com
Anastasia has taught in four different Montessori Centres, beginning for 6 years at the American Montessori School in Russia, where she was introduced to the Montessori method. She then moved to Australia where she taught toddlers, received her formal teaching degree, and later taught preschool children. Today she uses the Montessori method to raise her daughter at home. You can find her at Montessori Nature.
Seemi, a trained Montessori teacher (AMS) has been working in Montessori for 16 years as a teacher, administrator, and school owner. Find out more about her school, plus tons of Montessori activities at TrilliumMontessori.org.
Marie has been homeschooling with the Montessori Method for over 3 years. She has used Montessori to setup a home environment where the children have access to all aspects of the home free of fences or barriers, and uses Montessori principles to help her children respect themselves, others, and the home. She blogs at Montessori Setup.
Jennifer is raising her daughter in Montessori, and began home learning with her a year ago. She started her licensed Montessori daycare 5 months ago and blogs at StudyatHomeMama.com.