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History & Geography (Upper & Lower Elementary)

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When children first enter the Montessori environment prepared for children from six to nine years of age, they are introduced to the study of history through a series of great stories. (Please see the section Science, Technology and Engineering) This is fitting as history is in essence a series of ‘stories.’ In Italian, one word, storia is used for both history and story, that is for the re-telling of events that unfold over time.

Each of the great stories is like and unfolding drama. Each act links back to the last, and foreshadows the next. Each introduces another area of study.

  • The story of the formation of the universe opens up the geography curriculum.
  • The story of the coming  of life  begins the biology curriculum.
  • The story of the coming of humans introduces the study of prehistory.
  • The story of communication in signs enhances the study of language.
  • The story of numbers enhances the study of mathematics.

Together, the last two stories in the series provide a point of departure for the study of civilizations.

Although these stories are presented as part of the history curriculum, they reveal the overlap and interplay between all the subject areas, in this way exemplifying the concept of cosmic education. The sequence of the stories follows our understanding of the process of evolution, from the formation of the universe, to the coming of life, the coming of human beings and then the coming of civilization. To present these concepts in this order builds children’s understanding incrementally, helps them become aware of the inter-dependence of life, and prompts big questions. Not that these are asked of children, but children have voiced such big questions as:

  • Could humans exist if there had been no life?
  • Could life exist without the formation of the Earth?

Instead of asking these questions directly, their orientation to the universe, and their place in it, and the questions they ask about is develop through independent exploration.

In the story of the coming of humans, emphasis falls on the work and service of early humans. Unlike conventional history, there is less reference to the deeds and exploits of famous individuals, but rather a focus on the nameless and faceless ordinary humans, the uomini senza volta, who in their efforts to survive and make life easier for themselves contributed to the progress of the people of the world, and to the benefits we have inherited. To help children explore this ‘everyday history,’ they are given a chart of fundamental needs as a guide to explore the lives and contributions of humans in different places and different periods of time.

When children eventually reach the study of human civilizations, they are introduced to the coming of civilization through the advent of written language and numbers. These momentous human inventions are presented to the children as gifts passed down from our ancestors, an inheritance representing many generations of work

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