The lower elementary Cultural Studies curriculum is focused on placing a child into the context of their world. This is done in many ways, using historical timelines, biology, zoology, history and geography. Students come to see themselves as part of a larger physical world, and as occupying a certain place in a larger historical context.
We are all members of the human family. Our roots lie in the distant past, and history is the story of our common heritage. Without a strong sense of history, we cannot begin to know who we are as individuals today. Our goal is to develop a global perspective, and the study of history and world cultures forms the cornerstone of the Montessori curriculum.
With this goal in mind, Montessori continues to teach history and world cultures in the Lower Elementary classroom. When in the Primary classroom, the students worked with specially designed maps and began to learn the names of the world’s continents and countries, and this work continues at a deeper level in the Lower Elementary classroom.
Physical geography begins in the first grade with a study of the formation of the Earth, the emergence of the oceans and atmosphere, and the evolution of life. Students learn about the world’s rivers, lakes, deserts, mountain ranges, and natural resources.
Each year the class studies a different continent or world culture. This includes a physical understanding of the territory, an understanding of the people, culture and customs of the area, and exposure to the culture’s art and music. Each spring, students gather with their parents for the Cultural Festival, a celebration which includes dance, music, art and foods from many different world cultures, with an emphasis on the region the students have worked with all year.
The Montessori curriculum integrates social studies and the sciences in the classroom, as they are in life. Therefore, the study of sociology, geography, geology, history, anthropology, astronomy, botany, chemistry, economics, government, philosophy, physics, and zoology are combined in the Lower Elementary classroom. Montessori biology, history and geography are introduced in the form of stories, which include the Great Lessons.
Biology is structured in such a way as to give the child a means of classification so that he can structure and relate the facts of biology. These studies should reveal to the child that classification approximates evolution. The ultimate goal is an ecological view of life and a feeling of responsibility for the environment. This understanding helps to establish the idea of the interrelationship of all living things.
Physical geography begins in the first grade with a study of the formation of the Earth, the emergence of the oceans and the atmosphere and evolution of life. Students learn about the world’s rivers, lakes, deserts, mountain ranges, and natural resources.
With the aid of the child’s imagination, the first science experiments are designed to give the child basic knowledge which will make possible the understanding of the development of the solar system, the Earth, life on Earth, and the needs of plants and animals.