Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, South America? Each year our Montessori students embark on adventurous studies of one or more continents. Before they can begin, however, even the youngest students use the Sandpaper Globe, Continent Globe, and Continent Map to concretely investigate land and water on planet Earth. It isn’t long before all can sing the “Continent Song” and chant the countries of North America.
Young children are intensely curious about where they live from their own street, city, state, country, and continent all the way to their planet and galaxy. Working with puzzle maps, flags, matching cards, and photo and artifact collections as well as picture books, they wonder, ask, and answer many questions. What does the land look like—mountains, lakes, rivers? How are people similar and different? What kind of homes do people build? How do they travel? What plants and animals live there? How do people celebrate? What is the weather? What special foods are grown and eaten? What stories are told there? What kind of art, music, and dance do you find there? KWL Charts help organize what the children wish to research and record their results.
Geography is part of the integrated, thematic Montessori curriculum which links it with language arts, math, science, history, and the arts. Montessori children love facts! The children find it interesting to explore the relationship between living things and their physical environment. The plants and animals that live on the African savannah are very different from those of the Sahara. Australia has many marsupials. South America has the largest rainforest. The children study how animals find food, do “parts of” books to label body parts, and sort mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects by essential features. They create riddles, charts, and accordion books to share the information. Inviting guests—parents, teachers, and grandparents—allows children to meet a country personally. After introducing artists from a specific place, students explore the visual arts by drawing, printing, weaving, and painting to experience the medium. They enjoy trying on clothes and jewelry as well as cooking and eating local foods. Folktales, songs, poetry, and learning to say “Good Morning,” “Thank you,” and “Good-bye” helps them celebrate the diversity of the world.
Studying geography helps us all feel connected and teaches that every culture has unique gifts to share. With a deeper awareness and appreciation of our interdependence, each child begins to gain a global perspective as well as the recognition that as “keepers of the earth” stewardship requires falling in love with our world’s people and places. The students are always ready to travel. Pack your suitcase and join us on our next journey!