Thursday, July 08, 2010

Montessori Curriculum Explained: Geography Materials, Activities and Philosophy

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed; That ignorance of each other's ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war. ~ Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, November 16, 1945

NAMC montessori curriculum explained geography materials activities philosophy children together
Maria Montessori developed her philosophy and method amidst the turmoil and destruction of World Wars I and II. She believed that constructing a proper environment which allowed children to learn to be independent individuals would build character and that understanding the cosmos and one’s role in it would lead to the creation of a better, peaceful society. The Montessori Geography curriculum is two-fold: physical and cultural geography. Physical geography discusses the formation of the universe, the creation of the earth, and all its physical properties. Cultural geography is the study of human society and culture. The two together show the child that we are all members of the human race who must co-exist peacefully in order to survive. Enjoy this in depth look as we explain Montessori Geography curriculum materials, activities, and philosophy.

Montessori Curriculum Explained: Geography Materials, Activities and Philosophy

Montessori Geography: Ages 0-3

The need to define and “find” oneself…the need to understand one’s place in the world…the need to make sense out of the cosmic reality of the universe. These fundamental human questions of self and the cosmos are inherent in all of us. The youngest of children have a need to belong, to know they are safe, to understand their place in their immediate community – the family. It is within the confines of the family where the infant first learns about her place in the universe. The rituals and routines of the family are absorbed unconsciously, allowing her to later learn about and identify with other cultures. Using her senses, she expands beyond the family to discover the natural world.

Montessori Geography: Ages 3-6

Through sensory experience and the use of imaginative stories, children in the Montessori 3-6 environment learn about their physical world. They can touch a sphere and compare the shape to the globe. They build landforms using play dough and fill water forms with water. Montessori puzzle maps are meant to be taken apart and put back together again as children develop an understanding of continents and oceans. These Montessori hands-on activities build long term memory by physically engaging the hand.

Discoveries are made about the people who live on different continents. Montessori students learn about food, music, clothing, traditions, holidays, customs, housing, as well as the plants and animals of the region as they compare their lifestyles to others. They learn about the flags of the world and reverently carry them as they “walk the line” in the Montessori prepared environment. They learn to appreciate the wonder found in the similarities and differences found around the world.

Montessori Geography: Ages 6-9

The Montessori Great Lessons are a series of imaginative and impressionistic lessons which serve to spur the imagination and creativity of young children, encouraging them to explore the vast world around them. The First Great Lesson recreates the origins of the universe and the creation of our home planet, Earth. This story, told in language that is easily understood, gives just enough information to create an interest in finding out more. This focus on physical geography is the foundation for much the Montessori lower elementary cultural curriculum which focuses on the creation of the earth, the nature of the elements, the relationship of the sun and earth and the work of air and water.

NAMC montessori curriculum explained geography materials activities philosophy waving a flagMontessori lower elementary students also learn about human society and community. Children “go out” into the world to experience and acquire culture through personal experience. Montessori believed that the world had the ability to serve as the child’s classroom and that real-life experience superseded what could be taught using materials and books.

Montessori Geography: Ages 9-12

The Great Lessons still figure prominently in the 9-12 Montessori environment. The geographical studies begun in the lower elementary are now explored more deeply. Montessori upper elementary students are now intrigued by the bizarre and extreme and will often come running up, delighted to share their new found information such as:
  • Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world's highest waterfall, at 979 meters. This waterfall is sixteen times the height of Niagara Falls.
  • According to the Gemological Institute of America, up until the 1730's, India was the only source for diamonds in the world.
  • Canada has more inland waters and lakes than any other country in the world.
  • Davao City, located at the Southern state of Philippines, is the largest city in the world in terms of area.
  • Each day the sun causes about one trillion tons of water to evaporate.
Economic geography is introduced at the Montessori upper elementary level. Students learn how buy, sell, and trade resources and how a country’s wealth can greatly influence the prosperity of their people. In addition, Montessori elementary students continue to go out into the world, taking longer trips overnight trips as they examine more closely what it means to be a contributing member of a community.

Children are born into a community of family. As they grow, their world and their role in it expands. By recognizing that we are all part of a larger, global community that is interconnected to all life on earth we develop the ability to understand that all of humanity must be agents for peace and harmony.

See other related NAMC blogs:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, July 8, 2010.


  1. Hello! I'd love to know where to find/read more about Montessori's beliefs about "the world having the ability to serve as the child’s classroom and that real-life experience superseded what could be taught using materials and books". Very Inspirational!!!

  2. Thank you for your comment. To find out more about Montessori’s ideas about going out into the world, I encourage you to read any of these books written by Maria Montessori: The Absorbent Mind, The Secret of Childhood, To Educate the Human Potential, Discovery of the Child, The Montessori Method, or the Advanced Montessori Method. Additionally, you may find information in the NAMC curriculum manuals: Curriculum Overview.

    Finally, you may find more information in any of our several blogs on the subject:

    Montessori Philosophy: Nature - Nurturer to the Whole Child

    Summer Vacation: Ideas for Montessori Families

    Environmental Stewardship: Montessori Cosmic Education

    “Going Out” Montessori Style – Experiencing A Dragon Boat Festival

    You and Your Montessori Child: Getting Back to Nature

    Montessori Classroom - Nature Walk

    World Environment Day Ideas for the Montessori Classroom

    Environmental Living Programs: The Montessori Way

    Environmental Stewardship: Montessori Cosmic Education

    You and Your Montessori Child: Getting Back to Nature


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