What a special time of year this is! The twinkling lights make the long nights beautiful, everyone is thinking about others, kitchens are alive with wonderful aromas, there is a party on every street and the mail brings daily greetings from loved ones.
At school the usual geography lessons give way to studies of winter holidays around the world. The whole school participates in celebrations of Hanukkah, Las Posadas, Diwali and Christmas. Special guests add the details of authentic foods, decorations, stories and music, and students and teachers notice the similarities. No matter the religion, country, language or custom the celebrations always center around family, friends, love, gratitude and peace.
Living through the World Wars, Maria Montessori saw that when children learn to celebrate (not just tolerate) cultural diversity, share limited resources and solve problems peacefully they might grow up in a world without war. While training teachers in India she met with Ghandi who said, “Madame Montessori, you have very truly remarked that if we are to teach real peace in this world we shall have to begin with the children.”
From these thoughts came the strong Montessori geography curriculum that begins in the toddler class. An important component of this curriculum is the incorporation of guest speakers who come to class to share their experiences in another land. The presentations are very brief but include something to see, touch, taste/smell, hear and do usually including children’s songs, stories or games. We want each child to understand the world by becoming a part of it.
Peek inside our classrooms and be delighted.
Peeking into classrooms this month you’ll see Christmas trees decorated with Stars of David, beaded wreaths, Ojos de Dios and the sparkles and colors of Diwali. The kitchen is warm with latkes, pan dulce, rice pudding and Christmas breads and cookies. Our annual winter play is an original whimsical story put together by teachers and students incorporating elements of various winter holidays. We focus on celebrating with songs, food and kindness rather than overindulgence.
These children will likely develop their geography knowledge by travelling the world once they are grown. The fear of unknown cultures will not hold them back. If they are like past graduates they will not only visit other countries, but identify needs, roll up their sleeves and pitch in to help. They will be global citizens and with any luck at all they may find the answers to world problems we have been unable to solve so that a future generation may enjoy the season of peace all year long.
Duna Strachan, AMS
Soaring Wings International Montessori School
Park City, Utah USA