The Five Great Lessons
In the Montessori curriculum, the study of history shows the students how all subjects are connected. It explores how, for all life forms, the needs of the individual and group and the cooperation between them contribute to the whole. All subjects can be linked in this approach to the overall study of humankind and the universe we live in.
There are five Great Lessons of the elementary curriculum. The Great Lessons are bold, exciting, and are designed to stimulate imagination and curiosity. The student is introduced to large concepts - the largest of all being the beginning of the universe. Then they can be shown how all the smaller ideas fit into this framework.
The Great Lessons
The First Great Lesson weaves a tale of the origins of the universe and our own planet. Using charts and experiments directly related to the basic physical properties of matter it leads the child to questions in physics, chemistry, astronomy and geology.
Follow-up work the students have done includes parts of volcanoes, rotation and layers of the earth, the continent Pangaea, latitude and longitude, and studies of water and air.
The Time Line of Life
This time line represents the beginnings of life on Earth from the simplest forms through the appearance of human beings. A great variety and magnificence of life is presented as well as their interrelatedness.
The students have enjoyed works with the timeline as well as examining different periods, the Clock of the Eras, different animals of the earliest periods, and the climate and conditions that affected changes between the eras. The 1st years enjoyed making a model of a trilobite.
The Coming of Humans
Continuing the exploration of life on Earth, this time line shows the development of humans from the earliest beings through the use of tools.
Students are introduced to the fundamental needs of humans and are examining the interdependencies in human culture as well as the history of many aspects of human needs such as clothing, transportation, light, and defense.
The lessons then branch to our immediate history and the study of the cultures of our world. The children have heard the stories of the voyages of Columbus, the trials of the first European settlers and their interaction with Native Americans. The 2nd year students are researching North America and its people, while the 3rd year students have worked on Europe and Asia.
The History of Writing
This follows the development of writing from its appearance in primitive cultures to its role in modern society.
Some of the follow-up lessons included looking at cave paintings, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and overview of Cuneiform, Phoenician, Sumerian, Greek, and Roman writing. The 2nd years created their name in hieroglyphs while the 3rd years created an animal pictograph similar to a cave painting.
The History of Mathematics
This lesson involves the use of mathematics as refinement of the human mind and as a response to the specific needs and shared needs of human groups.
Lessons in math are a daily occurrence, and the students often agree that math is a favorite subject. Charts of early numbering systems and the development to the decimal system we use today are available to the students to examine.
Maria Montessori’s development of the elementary curriculum allows each child to follow the interests that the Great Lessons inspire. Whether it is the examination of the fossil of an Ammonite, exploring the water cycle, learning the discoveries of scientists such as Pythagoras or Linnaeus, or refining their knowledge of telling time, the interrelationships of all things in our universe is at its center.