By Ashley Crawford
Montessori education is notable for its advanced language curriculum, tactile mathematics area, age-specific sensorial materials, focus on children’s independence, and emphasis on social grace. But one of the most overlooked areas in the Montessori classroom, and perhaps the one that draws threads between all of the aforementioned areas, is cultural studies.
The cultural studies that Primary children explore in a Montessori environment include, but aren’t limited to, geography, art study, and music appreciation.
Every Montessori classroom has a geography cabinet, a place where globes and puzzle maps are kept. We introduce children first to the entire world with the globes. We name the continents and oceans, and compare the shape of our earth to that of a sphere. Then the children explore individual continent puzzle maps, learning the names of each of the countries in each continent as they take the pieces apart and put them back together again.
These tactile geography maps naturally lead into discoveries about the people, cultural traditions, animals, and flora and fauna of each continent, This can be done through pictures, stories, research projects, parent/guest speakers, songs, poems and books. Classrooms explore geography in many ways, exposing children to the world and its varied cultures and natural biodiversity, all the while helping them solidify their sensorial and language skills.
Art and Music Appreciation
Many classrooms highlight visual and musical artists of all backgrounds throughout the year. These artists, the times and places in which they lived, and the subjects of their art and music, bring out many opportunities to learn history, culture, traditions and trends. Language and sensorial connections also abound here.
Aside from offering fine art appreciation, teachers also make artistic connections and extensions from the books, poems, and materials in the classroom that the children particularly enjoy. Montessori guides often want to deepen the interest a child sees in a work; they may offer an artistic extension such as painting a continent map, embroidering a hand sewn pillow with all seven continents on it, or illustrating the characters or scene of a beloved book, poem or story.
Through cultural studies, Montessori children receive a foundation of global understanding. These environments expose children to the diversity of human cultures and forms a foundation for their lifelong learning and curiosity of the world around them.