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Cross-Curricular Learning

Cross-Curricular Learning
Gwen Shangle, Assistant Head of School


Montessori education brings all aspects of its curriculum together, interconnecting lessons and presenting unique opportunities for our instructors to teach cross-curricularly, which is incredibly advantageous! Cross-curricular instruction applies a deeper meaning to lessons for our students—it strengthens their understanding of complex concepts and provides more interest and excitement around a subject.  

This past week, I had the pleasure of observing a Botany lesson in one of our Lower Elementary classrooms. Students were studying root structures by learning new vocabulary that described them—seamlessly tying literacy into a dynamic, hands-on science lesson. Students examined adventitious roots while looking at complex diagrams, all the while discussing the etymology of this new word—the word’s own roots!—and how it could be used in other contexts. 

At Gladwyne Montessori, the teacher intentionally makes room for these discoveries to be made. During this lesson, for example, our Lower Elementary Guide, was naturally able to ask her small group leading questions and listen thoughtfully to each child’s comments, taking as much time as was needed for them to feel they had explored the topic. 

As an extension to this work with roots, the same students explored roots in their Literacy lessons, focusing on the book Living Bridges by Anne Sibley O’Brien. This book takes a narrative look at how many cultures use roots and the branches of living trees to make huge bridges for pedestrian use. The students were not only impressed by each culture’s ingenuity in harnessing nature as such a resource, but they were also excited to construct their own natural structures and began discussing at length how they could accomplish such a feat!

Although some areas of a Montessori curriculum may seem discrete, the classroom environment makes them all accessible to students, who are then able to see how materials and subjects complement each other and how similar themes arise—for instance, our students can literally see an application of mathematics in almost every other subject they explore. Recently, I observed a group of Elementary students watch as their teacher literally cut apart the sections of a basketball to show how flat maps are made to represent the Earth. This Guide then incorporated Geometry, graphing and technology to elevate the lesson so the students could understand more about the different types of maps and how misleading and even flawed they can be in their design.  

All different types of education systems, from pre-kindergarten to the university level, have found cross-curricular connections to increase high-level problem solving, student engagement and many executive functioning skills needed to practically apply knowledge effectively. Most graduate school programs now include an intentional exposure to other disciplines based on these proven, positive outcomes. 

This year, I have witnessed shelves filling up in every class, some spilling into the hallways, so children can continue to choose follow-up works that entice and motivate them. We are enormously proud to see our students’ shelves (and minds!) overflowing with what they have learned!

How lucky are we to be steeped in a Montessori methodology that promotes this real world way of thinking and learning at the earliest of ages!


Gwen Shangle, Assistant Head of School
Gladwyne Montessori

  • curriculum
  • elementary
  • learning
  • literacy
  • montessori
  • roots