For Montessori the focus in Geography is on the interconnectedness of human beings and life. In the second plane Geography is approached by presenting the whole universe, and in doing so inflaming the imagination and answering the questions of the reasoning mind. Wonder and curiosity are encouraged in response to creation, the forces of creation and the unknown agents of creation, for whom spontaneous gratitude may arise for those who have made life possible and who provided a maintenance of the conditions needed for existence.
Humans have always needed Geographical knowledge to find shelter and a continuous supply of food and water. People relied on the local knowledge of trails to hunt, pass information and avoid conflict. They adjusted their daily lives to the climate, some using seasonal migration, others developing agriculture to take advantage of the seasons. Using charred sticks or clay they described their knowledge on clay walls to inform others. Knowing about Geography increases the children’s awareness of their surroundings and helps them to feel connected to the earth humans, to realise that the cosmic plan has been unfolded for them and that they can contribute to it.
In the Montessori classroom the creation story is the first great story, it focuses on the cosmic agents of creation and the laws they were given, bringing the Earth into being and introducing to the children it’s composition. The interrelationship of the Elements is introduced here to be developed later. The Universal command is to maintain order and harmony so that the environment can support humans, in which the current order prepares for a new kind of order; progressing from the known to the unknown, narrowing the vision into an exploration of the details. Facts are not denied but used to provoke interest rather than an end in themselves. After giving a broad picture with the Story of Creation we focus on examining the nature of the elements separately, the states of matter are seen in more detail. After hearing the Key Lessons the children have enough experience to pursue their own interests, becoming aware of regional differences, topographies, climate, local culture (including work, industry, crafts, activities) arriving spontaneously at economic geography (trade roots, goods) and thereby the interconnectedness of global culture. The children see that life is lived with a geographical background, as part of a greater whole with plant, animal and human life following laws, each playing a part in the maintenance of the Earth. Presented with this the children have an opportunity to understand the world, why is is as it is and the part they play in it.
Geographical work is divided into Chapters, each marking a series of discussions, that present children with ‘keys’ to further areas of exploration in greater detail. The details are deliberately related back to the whole, to give them meaning. These ‘keys’ are necessary for the children to be able to find answers to their question of ‘how?’ and ‘why?’. We give keys so that children can understand where they live, maintaining interest in understanding is more important than the retention of facts and the sequence can be altered to follow the child’s interests. Particularly in Geography follow up work form a presentation my be in History, Biology or Botany.
We use charts, experiments and visits to illustrate points. The facts taken in at Casa are revisited at a more conscious level with an approach fitting to this plane (emphasising reasoning and imagination).
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