Montessori teachers often find themselves required to teach subjects that are not part of the traditional Montessori curriculum. Other times, student interest drives Montessori teachers into a frenzy of research and preparation of new learning materials.
I recently received my copy of the NAMC US History manual, and as with their other manuals was once again impressed by the comprehensive nature, presentation, and beauty of the NAMC manual. At first glance, I kept turning page after page, as a child would, looking at the impressive full-color illustrations. It was refreshing to see “new” pictures of what is, for some of us, an old topic. It didn't look like any American history textbook I’d ever seen. These pictures were ‘alive’, beckoning me to find out more.
Montessori Curriculum: NAMC US History Manual Review
There are hundreds of pages of informative topical background information and over forty hands-on follow up activities that will actively engage students in the learning process. Additionally, each activity has several extensions, creating a seemingly endless variety of activities to challenge students at all stages of development, while addressing different learning styles.
There are also over a dozen charts of important dates in American history that students can use to create their own timelines. For anyone desiring more information on specific topics, there is an amazing Resources for Teachers and Students section that includes pages of both print and electronic sources for further research. These resources are included in all of NAMC’s elementary manuals.
The second time through the manual, I spent more time reading the Did you know? sections. I find these fascinating. I’m constantly amazed at the small pieces of information found in those sections that pack such a big “punch”.
In fact, when I share information from the “Did you know?” sections with my students, those are the ones that seem to really catch their attention. These bits of information often spark the imagination and lead to further research. For example:
- Although [Civil War] soldiers were supposed to be at least 18 years old, boys between the ages of 12 and 17 also fought on both sides of the war.
- The Ford Motor Company is not the only company formed in the 1800s that is still operating today. Here are a few other recognizable names:
- Eastman Kodak Company
- General Electric
- Cadillac Automobile Company
- DuPont Chemicals
- Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Company (Campbell Soup Company)
- The Bell Company (AT&T)
- Deere and Company (John Deere)
I think my favorite part of the manual was in the Life in the 13 Colonies section. Because children are fascinated to learn about other children, the information on the daily lives of the American colonists will be a hit in any Montessori classroom. I can see my students making comparisons with their own lives and even performing a play where a modern Montessori student finds herself/himself transported back in time to find out that:
- Because it took a long time to make clothing, most people did not own many changes of clothing — two or three at most.
- Washing clothes involved hours of carrying and heating water, in addition to scrubbing, wringing out, and hanging the clothes to dry. People, therefore, did not wash their clothes very often, and usually wore the same outfit for many days in a row.
- Until they were five or six, boys and girls would wear shifts, which were long, loose dresses, and often went barefoot or wore soft shoes made of leather or cloth.
- It was considered stylish for men’s clothing to have many buttons, and women to have few or no buttons.
- Men and women wore leather shoes. Both shoes were the same — there was no right or left.
I was pleased to read about the coverage of Plymouth Colony and the events that led up to settling of the first permanent colony in the New World. I really enjoyed the text in the manual and learned quite a few things even though I have been celebrating and telling the Thanksgiving story for many years. For example:
- The terms Puritans and Separatists were derogatory names.
- The Pilgrims (Puritans) convinced investors they’d be able to repay their debt in six years.
- Three of the women aboard the Mayflower were pregnant.
- The ship’s captain lost his way and took the Pilgrims farther north than had been originally intended.
- The Pilgrims signed a treaty with the Wampanoag which guaranteed they’d form an alliance if a third party waged war against them.
When I came across the activity Re-enacting the Founding of Plymouth Colony, I found myself thinking that my students would love this! My upper elementary students love writing scripts and dressing up for performances and this activity is perfect. The manual provides a clear list of the characters and props that are needed as well as providing leads for student research. It even breaks it down, scene by scene.
43 interesting activities, including:
- Investigating the Indigenous Peoples’ Experiences with Early Immigrants
- Building a City in the 1800s
- Investigating Famous Americans
- Exploring the History of the US Flag
- Investigating the Electoral Process
With what was probably the greatest voter turnout for a US presidential election in years, the timeliness of the arrival of the NAMC US History manual couldn't be better. There seems to be a renewed interest in US History. I appreciate NAMC’s generosity in donating a copy of their manual to every Montessori elementary school in the USA. I know it will be a great help to have this information readily available for my next US History lesson.
To learn more about NAMC's US History manual, or to order your own copy along with other curriculum, visit NAMC's website.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, November 14, 2008.