In a Montessori preschool classroom, you will often find an entire shelf (or even two!) devoted to geography and cultural studies. These studies can easily be transformed for the home environment in a way that makes sense for your child and her interests.
Culture is a pretty abstract concept, so it is important to begin with something a bit more concrete – such as the physical continents upon which the cultures exist. Study the physical attributes of the universe, the planets, and then Earth in particular.
Once you are ready to connect the physical geography to culture, introduce the individual continents. In Montessori learning, continents are coded by color to help children remember the names, shapes, and general locations of each: Europe is red, Asia is yellow, Africa is green, North America is orange, South America is pink, Australia is brown, and Antarctica is white.
You will then begin your cultural studies by focusing on one continent at a time. How do you gather all of the information you will need for each continent? Here are a few tips:
- Ask friends, family, and even acquaintances who live on other continents or have traveled to them for coins, trinkets, photos, or souvenirs. People are usually very excited to share their culture with others!
- Follow your child’s interests as you contemplate areas to focus on in your cultural studies. If she loves animals, find out which ones are found on each continent. If she enjoys sports, study the major sports of each region, and maybe even learn how to play a new one. Follow your child through each continent, whether she enjoys art, history, languages, clothing, flags, food, insects, plants, major landmarks, etc.
- Highlight ways your culture is the same as other cultures, but also point out the ways you do things differently. Seeing similarities helps to humanize the other cultures, while pointing out the differences leads to conversation about the reasons each culture does things in their own way.
- Talk to the children’s librarian at your library. Ask him to help you find books featuring characters from other continents.
- Return to this subject again next year. Your child’s interests may have changed, or she may be ready to go more in-depth on certain areas of study.
Why begin cultural studies at all? Dr. Maria Montessori explains in her own words:
“If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying. … His intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him, and his interest spreads to all, for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which his mind is centered. … A great curiosity arises, which can never be satiated; so will last through a lifetime.” (To Educate the Human Potential, 1948)
Angela Chang is a trained Montessori guide and mother of two. She creates and shares the materials and lessons from her experiences of implementing Montessori in the home, and you can find out more at her website, or on Instagram or Facebook.
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