Montessori students and teachers both will enjoy and benefit from a cultural unit that is integrated into as many curricular areas as possible. At the Montessori Preschool/Kindergarten level, geographical and historical study of continents and oceans will lay the foundation toward more in-depth elementary cultural themes.
At the Montessori elementary level, the best cultural units also make global connections by relating all aspects of the culture being studied, including animal and plant life, language, food, people and customs. Of course, don’t forget the cultural aspects of art, music, dance, legends, folktales, games, festivals, traditions, and religions! The year we studied Ancient Greece and Rome, our class play was based on the Greek tale of “Jason and the Golden Fleece.” This example of a cultural theme for the classroom will help you plan a well connected, fun year of lessons across all the Montessori curriculum!
New Cultural Units and Themes for Your Montessori Classroom: How to Make it Fun!
One of the simplest curricular areas to integrate is practical life. As a class, determine what everyday life was like and what special tools and utensils were used. This is easy and fun to incorporate in the Montessori classroom. Your students will have plenty of ideas on how to do this. The year my students studied American pioneers, we washed our cloth napkins by hand, made applesauce with some very willing grandparents, and had a “One Room Schoolhouse Day” complete with individual blackboards and lunch pails. The smell and taste of spices, special musical instruments, the textures of fabrics can all be used for sensorial studies.
To integrate your cultural study with your mathematical studies, evaluate the number system of the time or place you are studying. Is the number system Arabic, Hindu, Chinese or Roman? How do they write numbers in that culture? Our study of Ancient Greece and Rome led to lessons and works using Roman numerals. We even began writing the date in Roman numerals. We also looked at the mathematical contributions made by Greeks and Romans. While studying American pioneers, the individual blackboards from “One Room Schoolhouse Day” made their way into regular use for math work.
For language integration, use reading time to read books aloud on the cultural unit. The year we studied Ancient Greece and Rome, we ended every day with a reading from D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, and when we studied American pioneers, we read from Little House on the Prairie and other Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Explore the alphabet and vocabulary, and stories and songs from that time.
Working with your students’ sense of wonder can be a powerful and magical activity. Find something connected to your unit that will do this. For instance, when studying American pioneers, my students popped popcorn, grew heirloom vegetables, and watched bread dough rise. Also, seeing and touching artifacts from another time or place can be very powerful for a child.
Remember to include your Montessori students in the planning and above all, have fun!
- Jason and the Golden Fleece
- D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, Delacorte Books for Young Readers (March 1, 1992)
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, September 25, 2009.