Geography, the study of our home, the Earth, opens the door to the elementary curriculum. It sets the stage for the unfolding of the Earth’s story, from its inception to its present state. We begin with the story of “The Creation of the Universe” to give a vision of the whole. Then we move to more detailed studies of the Earth and its place in the universe. Geography is thus fully integrated with the physical sciences. In fact, as children learn about the Earth and its place in the universe, they form an intellectual framework for all their studies. From the non-living world to the succession of life forms, to human beings and the development of their unique abilities, children study all the sciences and humanities in relation to one another.
In the study of history and geography, we inspire the children to explore. Maria Montessori called her course of studies for elementary children “Cosmic Education”. There are two principals involved in this concept. First, we always begin with a study of “the whole”, which gives the children a unique vision and a holistic foundation for their education. Second, we emphasize that each part of the cosmos is related and contributes to the whole. As the children study geography and other subjects, they become interested not merely in the world and how it functions, but in their individual roles and what part they might play in the continuing story of humanity.
After geography lessons, the children’s questions are greeted with enthusiasm. They lead to conversation, experiments and reading. Research and reports may follow. In this way the children’s interest and understanding develop. They actively engage in the study of the sciences, using the resources available within the classroom, around the school environment, and in the community. For example, “the age of volcanoes” section of the creation story often leads to a study of extinct volcanoes and the “Ring of Fire”, or it could lead to the study of the rock cycle. Children may initiate further studies beyond the classroom, such as a visit to a natural science museum or an interview with a geology professor. The older children may also plan field studies away from home that support their explorations of study.