Fundamental Needs Charts

Material Description:                          

  • Pictures that the children have brought representing what they think they need.
  • 2 charts; The Fundamental Needs Chart with the two categories of needs, the spiritual and the material and their subdivisions.  And the particular chart shows one need (food) and expands on it.  The silhouette of a human being on both charts represent the universal human being – the people of the past, present and those yet to be born.



Preliminary Activity, using children’s pictures.

Ask the children to collect pictures which represent things they need.

Put the pictures together and look at them with the children identifying the need they represent, giving a key to the terms we use to describe needs, rather than the item itself, if you are not sure if it is a need ask what would happen if we didn’t have it.

Group the pictures together according to the needs they relate to, give the terms of the needs used on the chart casually as you look at the pictures. Discuss whether things are needs or wants and the needs behind the want, is a palace about culture and art of shelter, are boots vanity or transport.


When they have all been sorted write labels for each need to give the pictures a title, give vanity as, ‘what we call it when we want to adorn ourselves’


Discussion with the Chart, using Fundamental Needs Chart

Begin, asking the children how, ‘What they think fundamental is (basic) These are our basic needs. Can we make links between the pictures and titles and this chart? (yes) some terms may be different, so make links,  We talked about material needs.  Things we have and use and spiritual needs, things that come from inside us, these are very special needs.  We know that we love our family, friends and perhaps even people we don’t know or see.  We love the people who care for us, but people have also loved other things and they have found other ways to express this, thorough religion, art, culture and another kind of love called vanity, the love we have for ourselves  In the circles we have some of the solutions to meeting these needs.’


Ask the children how they would define need.


Give the definitions, to have a need is to be in a state which requires relief, they can be basic and biological (food and shelter) or as complex as something which involves social and personal factors, being fulfilled by complex forms of learning, for example the need for accuracy, to contribute, to be recognised.  Discuss some examples of these.


We want the children to come to a realisation that humans came into a world in which they could fulfil their needs, the physical environment, sun, rocks, water air and the living environment plants and animals provided a setting in which humans could meet their immediate needs.

Show the Fundamental Needs chart

A green human, representing hope for the future, stands with red lines coming from him, attached to red cicles and pictures representing spiritual and material needs.

Discuss it, beginning with Spiritual Needs, Montessori identifies these as,

1)Culture / Art, (2)Vanity and (3) Religion and shows some examples of  the strategies that humans have used to meet those needs are in circles.  The lines and the circles are blue, like the sky, the circles blue crowned in gold, gold for Montessori it represents something precious, and the crown distinguishes the humans from the animals. The whole concept imply infinity, thought and emotion.  The strategies are culture specific and can be ancient.


Art (book) literature with words representing the totality of human thought, prose and the totality of scientific experimentation, (lyre) music, these represent all art including painting sculpture, poetry.


Religion (cross) Christianity (star of David) Judaism (crescent) Islam (Buddha head) Buddhism.


Vanity (mirror, comb, brush, necklace) this is not a moral judgement, but a search for aestheticism and going beyond what is utilitarianism, to perfect the self to present the self in the best possible way, a search for prestige. This seems to be a universal characteristic, in all regions, going back as far as the records, with tattoos, face paint, combs being used by all members of society.


Then discuss the Material Needs

The others are material needs, represented by a red line and circles, indicating the body and blood, the illustrations for the strategies focus on the materials used, for housing we have timber, stone, brick and steel.  The animals, vegetable and mineral kingdoms are represented.


These two areas are joined because the human is a unity, needing the satisfaction of both.  Humans exist on spiritual and material planes which are linked, they do not exist separate from their needs.


Show examples where these are linked, while clothing satisfies physical needs it also satisfied spiritual needs for art and vanity and it comes from plants, a basic material.  we need to eat, we may pray for a good harvest and say thanks before eating this is developed on the Particular Chart.


For defence we use basic materials, wood and iron, we use it to meet our survival needs but it can also become offence, a discussion may emerge.  For transport we have many examples to discuss, the children will suggest more modern ones.


After the lesson:

After the children have worked for some time with the Fundamental Needs Chart  give the Particular Needs Chart, to let the children explore further a specific need.


Follow up:

Particular Needs Chart-

A figure of a  blue human, representing hunger, has two lines coming from him, vegetable products are drawn, surrounded by green circles and green lines and animal products with red circles and red lines, black circles and lines indicate salt and water.



This is an introduction to the fundamental needs which brings together many areas of the curriculum.  It is not a ready made lesson by a mixture of discussion and questions.

The charts are not a specific material to study but spur on further research.


  • The method is a suggestion on how to pick up these important ideas with the children.
  • We see human beings as part of the context in which they live, this environment needed a great deal of preparation, before life came, plants grew and much later humans. Stressing the length of time with the work on the Black Strip and the Hand Timeline.
  • Life encompasses three worlds, the world of plants, animals and humans.  Each of these worlds has its own needs and can be studied separately.  We look at plants in Botany through stories, experience and experiments, we look at animals in Zoology, through experiences and harmless experiments and Human beings through charts, pictures and stories.  We don’t have the possibility of giving exact dating to many of the happenings on the earth, particularly in relation to the preparation of the environment and the coming of human beings, instead there is continued reassessment by biologists and archaeologists and so our work with the children is impressionistic and symbolic.  The images we use on the stories we tell are based on the artefacts and habitations used by humans, it is more important for the children to have an impression of who the early people were, how they lived and why they lived like that, than to have all the exact details.
  • For Maria Montessori Needs fall into two categories, spiritual (to do with the psychic, soul and self, the ego and the intellect) and material (survival needs).  She considered the spiritual needs to be the most vibrant, they drive humans forward, materials needs support this.


When to give the lesson:

Parallel to the Story of the Coming of Human Beings.

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