There are some parts of the Montessori classroom that seem to get all the attention: the beautiful Practical Life materials, the engaged constructions in the Sensorial area, the precise Math lessons or the carefully sequenced Language materials. But there's another area of the classroom that's often overlooked: the Cultural Materials.
The Cultural materials introduce the child to his or her place in the world, offering the child opportunities to learn about place and community, to compare our experiences here with the lives of children abroad, and to understand all the factors that contribute to those experiences: art, music, dance, fashion, food, topography, climate, and more.
A core quality of the Montessori materials is their capacity to represent concretely challenging abstract concepts. The Cultural materials make concrete the relationships of all the parts of the earth, starting with simple globes the child can explore. The first globe, the Sandpaper Globe, shown here, represents land on the Earth with rough surfaces and water on the Earth with smooth surfaces, so the child can feel the areas on the face of the Earth which are both land and water. The Colored Globe presents the land in its continental divisions, introducing the child to the distinctions between continents and beginning to code these continents in particular colors. The child can use this map to learn the name of each continent. Eventually the child will explore the large puzzle maps, which open the surfaces of the globe to lay flat and include puzzle pieces for each continent.
These early materials allow the child to satisfy their inherent curiosity about our planet and their place within in. By starting with simple comparisons, between land and water or between the different continents, on a globe that is the right size for a child to carry and manipulate, the materials help the child to understand the geography of our planet. These same globes will be used to introduce the relationship of the Earth and the Moon, the effects of sunrise and sunset and, most beautifully, the passage of time over the course of each year of the child's life.
Seemingly simple, the Cultural materials, beginning with the Sandpaper and Colored Globes, respond to the child's intrinsic motivation to learn about the world and inspire the child to learn more about our differences and commonalities across the planet.