Finding Their Place in the World

Finding Their Place in the World
Gwen Shangle, Director of Montessori

The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.”

- Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Earlier this week, our social media accounts highlighted a Primary child painting maps as part of our geography curriculum and I was inspired to take this moment to elaborate on the depth and significance of geography here at Gladwyne Montessori. 

Many teachers feel geography has lost its place and space in education, but that’s not so at our school—as we mentioned earlier this week, geography is the most all-encompassing subject in the Montessori Cultural Curriculum. 

As Montessorians, we teach every subject with the utmost intention. Lessons always start with the “big picture” of what is being conveyed, which directly contradicts traditional schools where children are encouraged to focus on the smallest detail and then build upon it. The gravity of this teaching methodology is perhaps best reflected in our geography lessons. 

In Primary, children study the sandpaper globe and fit together The Puzzle Map of the World, recognizing the Earth as an entire planet before getting into the details work. Geography lessons begin with physical entities like the globe, landforms, rocks and minerals because they can be seen and touched, which make them more digestible for younger children. They trace and draw and paint our Earth’s land and water forms over and over again until they gain a deeper understanding of how our world comes together. This serves as a foundation for our young learners to more fully comprehend the more theoretical concepts of geography, like political borders. 

Political geography studies how humans have adapted to the Earth, emphasizing settlement and activity. Students in their Elementary cycles focus on political geography, like continents and countries, before moving beyond political boundaries to study cultural commonalities and differences. The Five Great Lessons are introduced in Elementary and students study The Coming of the Universe to understand the origins of our planet and research The Fundamental Needs of Humans, which emphasize the oneness of our species.

Ultimately, Montessori geography lessons teach our children about the interconnectedness of people, building the basis for our Peace Education. Geography lessons act as a springboard for our students, leading them to recognize the basic needs that all people share while appreciating the diversity of how different cultures satisfy those same needs. Throughout each program cycle, we are able to go deeper and deeper into the meaning behind the lessons, the humanity of our world and how each one of these young learners fit into the vast landscape of our Universe. 

Gladwyne Montessori alumni not only end up with a vast knowledge of what is often considered a lost curriculum area, but a deep respect and understanding of humanity and all its beautiful diversity in the world. 


Gwen Shangle, Director of Montessori
Gladwyne Montessori

  • elementary
  • geography
  • maps
  • montessori
  • primary
  • universe