A Montessori education is a spiraling curriculum – one where students see the same topics throughout their school career, with each encounter increasing in complexity and reinforcing previous learning. An example is found in the land and water forms that students study from Children’s House through Elementary.
The youngest students study eight land and water forms that are opposites; lake (water surrounded by land) vs island (land surrounded by water), for instance. These are studied by filling plastic models with water and learning the language to define them. This meets the needs of three to five year old children for gross motor activity, control of movement (taking care to carry and pour water carefully) and their receptivity for language and acquisition.
In Elementary, these eight forms are compared side by side to their two dimensional counterparts (painted cards) and students are now introduced to thirty additional land water forms.
They are told compelling stories about these features as they occur across the globe. The children model them, write definitions to accompany their sculptures, and research where they occur in the world. Third year students create land and water form systems sculpturally after sketching them on paper.
Eventually the cards are combined to represent a coastline and students design an imaginary island which involves locating their island on the globe with the appropriate latitude and longitude for their features. They create the topography of their island, and decide on the population (human, animal and plant), what the economy of the island will revolve around, and what kind of government there will be.
We make a “glacier”, dragging it through sand “mountains” to create a “valley”, and notice the deposition left when the “glacier” melts. A stream table shows how a “river”, making its way down a “mountain”, carves out a bed and ultimately deposits debris, creating a “delta”. Experimentation allows students to see how the velocity and volume of the “river” impacts erosion, transportation and deposition.