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Geography…a study of the physical features and places of Earth. This is a subject that is normally introduced and taught around the third grade. Elementary students begin learning about Geography after they have been living in the world for about nine to ten years. Why is it that introduction of Geography is not until they have entered elementary school? Do school districts think that the study of Geography and the world around us is not important enough to be introduced until third grade? Or is it that the school officials have decided that children are not capable of comprehending the subject of Geography until they are ten years old? In my opinion, learning about the world around you is just as important as reading, math, and science.
In a Montessori primary classroom, the study of Geography is introduced and presented in a way that is appealing and fun to young children. It is engaging, hands on, and is relatable to their own life and their families. Our world is so diverse; as are most classrooms, so why not teach about the diversity of the children in a classroom? Yes, they are young; but they also are smart beings that know a few things about their home, family, and their culture. When we talk about certain continents and countries, I ask the children if they have ever been to a particular country, tasted a particular food, or heard of a particular animal. Many times, there are at least two to three children who will raise their hands and say that they have experienced something from a country. By doing so, it involves the children in the learning, and shows that their experiences are important as well as their family or culture.
The Montessori method provides numerous activities that make it easy to teach children Geography. In the primary classroom, there is the land and water globe, continents globe, puzzle maps for each continent; as well as puzzle maps for the United States and the world. There are other materials that can be found from various companies that sell Montessori materials as well. You can get as detailed as you would like with the materials, depending on the age and developmental level of the children in your classroom.
Puzzle maps are a great way to incorporate Geography into a Montessori classroom. I use the puzzle maps with the control charts. There are two types of control charts; one with the countries labeled and one without. I use on of the control charts and hang it on the wall to use during circle time, and the other control chart is used alongside the puzzle map.
I introduce one continent each month starting in December. I normally start with Antarctica, and discuss the animals of Antarctica. January is the study of Asia, February is the study of Australia, March is the study of Europe, April is the study of Africa, May is the study of South America, and June is the study of North America. With the other continents, I discuss the animals, famous landmarks, food, and culture associated with each one. I also have the older children; 4 1/2 to 6 year olds; use the pin poker to poke out each of the continents. They also make an “Animals of ______ Book” for each continent as well.
“Animals of ______ Book”
Each of the older children also have a “Continent Folder” that they use to save each of the continents in. In June, after we have studied North America, they then put their globes together using the continents that they pin poked, and they label them and the oceans. They each get to cut out two blue circles for the oceans, and use the world map with labels to write on their own globes. They love completing their globes, and are always excited to reach that point in the school year! They look forward to it all year long!
Pin poking Europe
Completing the globes
There are many Montessori companies that sell Geography materials. There are also numerous websites that offer free resources for Geography works as well. The key is to do a little research, find out what you think will work best in your particular classroom or home school, and remember to take into consideration the ages and stages of the children you will present the works to. Another key thing is to make it fun, inviting, and engaging; and the kids will have a ball learning about the different continents, countries, and cultures of the world!