Throughout the year, Montessori teachers introduce themes that can guide the learning and exploration of the students. When possible, they work to integrate the theme across the curriculum. One of my favourite themes in the Montessori elementary classroom focuses on peacemakers and influential leaders.
I introduce the theme to the students through books. We begin by reading inspirational books and stories together as a class and in small groups. We read the stories of Terry Fox, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Anne Frank, Maria Montessori, Craig Kielburger, and others. Because lower elementary students are in a developmental stage of understanding and relating to justice, these stories are very meaningful to them. They ignite a spark of curiosity in the students that center on justice and compassion. They feel empathy for these amazing people, many of whom had to deal with harsh circumstances and injustice. The students are even inspired to make changes in their own lives based on these stories.
Peacemakers and Influential Leaders: A Cross-Curricular Theme in the Montessori Lower Elementary Environment
The next step is to give each student the opportunity to research a peacemaker or influential leader of their choice. They read books and compile information from various sources to create their research reports. This project had cross-curricular connections in language, writing, social studies, art, and physical education. In language, I present lessons on sentence structure and the writing process to help students write their reports. In social studies, we explore lessons focused on rights and responsibilities. In art, the students draw portraits of their peacemakers and influential leaders. And in physical education, they coordinate a Terry-Fox run and collect donations for cancer research.
Once their research projects are complete, the students share their reports with the class. Afterward, we discuss how learning about individuals who have positively contributed to the world makes them feel and what they want to do about it. We talk about how one person can make a difference to the world in some way. I then challenge the students to come up with their own project that will make a difference somehow, whether big or small. I encourage them to use their empathy, compassion, and sense of justice when considering changes they can make. They submit an action plan to me and then put their plans to work. Finally, we invite their parents to view the students’ research projects and portraits and to learn about their action plans.
Involving many cross-curricular links helps make this theme much stronger, more powerful, and more relevant to the students. The students are affected and empowered by what they learn and it leaves a lasting impression on them. The way they view themselves changes. They start to believe that one person can create change and make positive contributions to the world. That is an idea that we can all embrace.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, November 10, 2015.