As educators, Maria Montessori implored us to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field where we sow seeds that grow under the fiery energy of the child’s imagination. She said: “Our aim therefore is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his inmost core.”
The Waseca materials were born out of an exciting phenomenon I witnessed in my elementary classroom when I first sowed the seeds of biomes to my students in conjunction with geography, botany and zoology. I saw language came alive with researches on animals, art projects and dramatic presentations that spun off the theme. It was the most dynamic learning experience I have ever witnessed. Each child in the class was shining with their accomplishments, eager to learn and empowered to be creative. Ever since those years, I have been attempting to share and develop materials that would provide structure and stimulation so that event might be replicated and expanded.
While the cosmic curriculum lays a foundation for the idea of a cooperative and interdependent evolution of life, environmental education is a missing component of the Montessori curriculum. The Biomes Curriculum attempts to fill that hole, using the guiding principles of the Montessori Method. Biome study is a unique approach to geography that invites you and your students to approach the study of a continent according to the plants and animals that live there along with human cultures that seek to meet their basic needs within their biome. This approach encourages an integration of various disciplines traditionally isolated in education. The physical geography of a continent is shown as interconnected to the botanical and zoological species that adapt to it. Human culture is presented in its relationship to the biosphere. We, either, adapt and live in harmony as indigenous cultures have done for thousands of years or, as modern cultures, we harvest resources and seek to modify the biome we live in. This approach to continent studies encourages young learners to see their relationship to the world in a new way that departs from the traditional anthropocentric view of political geography.
By studying different biomes within different continents, it is likely that children will develop a strong understanding of how life adapts to different conditions found within the eight biomes presented. As Montessorians, we understand that as the indirect aim of this material. The direct aim is the development of critical thinking skills and a motivation to read, write, and communicate information. While learning the names of plants and animals and information about them is fun and empowering for children and will, inevitably, happen, please keep in mind that something more lasting and momentous is in process. Hopefully, these materials will generate enthusiasm for learning.
We have the opportunity to make a lasting impression on the perceptions of the very impressionable children under our care. Maria Montessori lived during a time of world wars when peace was the preeminent concern. While peace is still an issue in our times, the health of the planet is also at risk. We can help them to establish a connection to the natural world, an understanding of its guiding principles and an awareness necessary to create a sustainable future. If we work together, sharing information and ideas and inspiring one another to act, we can start a peaceful environmental revolution. We can change our world by changing our perception of it.
Sharon Duncan .