Montessori Matters - Culture Geography

By SJMS Teacher Becky Tanner

“Culture and education have no bounds or limits: now man is in a phase in which he must decide for himself how far he can proceed in a culture that belongs to the whole of humanity.”  ~Maria Montessori

Through the study of geography, students gain an appreciation of the beauty of the world and the interdependence of the living things that inhabit the earth. Geography thus involves studying not only the topography of our earth but also its diverse people. This dual characteristic of geography makes the study of geography complex. To simplify things, the study of geography is usually broken into two parts: physical and cultural. Let’s take a closer look at the cultural aspects of Geography today!  

Cultural geography in the Montessori classroom focuses on specific places and people of the earth. This involves looking at the earth’s human or cultural environment in various ways. Students have the opportunity to study a culture’s traits from language, architecture, economics, history, and governments. Culture refers to a group’s shared way of life, including language, beliefs, customs, food, clothing, art, music and literature. Cultural geography studies the interaction between humans and physical geography, looking at the various political boundaries, the climate, cultures, customs, and religions that influence the people living within specific areas.  

Maps enable students to take fantastic journeys beyond the classroom into exotic lands.  In the same way, as when they read books, students open countless doors when they read maps. Through the study of maps, children explore the world’s continents, countries, and capital cities, as well as the people who inhabit them. Students study flags and create their own cultural maps and models. This study of maps opens a door for students to learn that there are other people in the world who are different, people with different religions, different beliefs, and different traditions.  

Primary Students in a Montessori environment are introduced to the Five Great Lessons.  These are an important and unique part of the Montessori curriculum. These lessons are bold, exciting, and are designed to awaken a child's imagination and curiosity. The child should be struck with the wonder of creation, thrilled with new ideas, and awed by the inventiveness and innovation that is part of the human spirit.

They consist of:
First Great Lesson - Coming of the Universe and the Earth
Second Great Lesson - Coming of Life
Third Great Lesson - Coming of Human Beings
Fourth Great Lesson - Communication in Signs
Fifth Great Lesson - The Story of Numbers

Middle School students take a look at the great lessons and dig deeper into how they connect to themselves. These lessons are the backbone of cultural study in this community.  Cultural studies inform other areas of the classroom as well.  For example, students may be interested in reading and writing about their experiences with these lessons.  

Finally, in ErdKinder, students are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in Ancient World History and the beginnings of the United States by focusing on music, foodways, timelines, games, and religion of the time. This is accomplished by reenactments of historically significant events allowing students to feel what it might be like to live in a different era.