As Montessori learners develop the ability to measure and "tell" time, they are increasingly motivated to use these skills beyond daily routines. We know children are fascinated by large numbers, including large measurements of time across generations or even eons. In the Elementary classrooms, children are introduced to the structures of timelines, then apply those structures to endless materials, both teacher-prepared and student-designed across geology, geography, botany, zoology, anthropology and more.
Elementary aged children are predisposed to learn about culture and society. Driven by their own social connections, they seek to understand the ties that bind humans across cultures. The Montessori timelines offer children a way to place their own development within a rich, expansive narrative of the development of all life on the planet, one that leads ultimately to their own lives and to the influence and responsibilities they carry.
The Elementary timelines, including concrete representations of the evolution of the planet, the appearance of human life on earth, the development of tools, are often presented with the Great Lessons, inspiring children's curiosity through stories that encourage children to research and read to fill in the details. Other timelines compare the life cycles of the various classes of our taxonomy, or the development of language, or other concepts. These are often built on the same scale, to allow children to compare timelines to each other. Imagine the impact that comparing the life cycle of a worker bee, around six weeks, to the life cycle of a queen bee, just under five years, will have on a child interested in bee colonies. Or the wonder inspired when we compare the life cycle of a butterfly, around seven days, with the life cycle of a gecko, around seven years. When these are presented on the same scale, the gecko's life timeline may travel out of the classroom and down the hallway, while the butterfly's timeline will be easily captured on a small strip of cloth. On a child's birthday, the classroom might explore a timeline of that child's life, placing photos from his or her infancy, toddlerhood, early childhood and early elementary development in sequence along a pre-measured timelines. When multiple children place their own photos on the timeline of a child's life, they can see both the similarities and differences between and across human development, in a personal, relevant exploration.
Children will eventually be invited to create their own timelines, following the development of a topic of their choosing. In doing so, they'll practice the precision of measurement. They'll practice their researching skills and discern which information is most useful to include on a timeline. They'll make connections between the cause and effect of various influencers. They'll learn about social trends, natural patterns, and their role as stewards of both the environment and the societies we create within it. The timelines match learner development, cross multiple content areas, build individual capacities and connect learners to the world beyond their classrooms, and they do so within a larger, integrated narrative about the creation and evolution of the universe and of the unique role humans play within it.