Image copyright, The Montessori Foundation, used with their permission.
The integrated thematic curriculum is a hallmark of Montessori education and one of its great strengths. The Montessori curriculum ties together studies of the physical universe, the natural world, and human experience. Each lesson leads to another in a Spiral of Learning, with the curriculum building carefully over time. This model differs significantly from a traditional education model of compartmentalized subject areas where topics are sometimes covered only once at specific grade levels.
Using the Montessori method, literature, the arts, history, social issues, political science, economics, science and technology are taught in a way that complement one another. There is a heavy emphasis on the interrelatedness of reading and writing. Some examples:
- The 3-6 child is presented with maps of the world to trace and color. Strengthening their pencil-holding fingers, they use a tool to punch out the shape of the continents. The young elementary student begins to learn the names of the continents, where they are located and what makes them unique. The older student learns about what Maria Montessori called “The Fundamental Needs” of all people, such as clothing and shelter, and how the people have historically used their environment to meet those needs. Literature, including poetry, short stories and fables, are studied along with music and traditional dance. Children research and write about aspects of the people and places they are studying, and they grow in appreciation of people’s similarities and differences. They may taste the food, write a letter to a pen pal study various aspets of the natural environment and create piece of related art.
- Geometry comes from the Greek word meaning to measure the earth, therefore, the Geometry curriculum encompasses many subjects. Students learn the names of shapes and the identification of point, line, surface and solid objects. Simultaneously, the geometry studies introduce etymology of terms, history of concepts, mathematical computations and real life applications. When the use of a protractor is introduced, its done so from a historical perspective of the ancient Sumerians who’s sailors charted their journey’s by the stars.
A Building Process
In the preprimary and primary years, lessons are taught in a simple and concrete fashion. These same lessons are reintroduced as the child grows and taught with increasing complexity and abstraction. For example, while the young child learns the one-to-one correspondence of a number chain, the older child learns what we do with numbers, and the elementary student studies that history of mathematics.
This integrated approach powerfully reinforces learning and builds true understanding and interest in subject areas. Montessori children learn lessons in rich context and internalize this integrated approach for their self-directed learning.