Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children should be equipped with knowledge to become fully developed individuals, who are able to adapt to their time, place and culture. She advocated for cultural subjects to be studied in class, to allow children to learn about the world. This included the study of geography, history, music, art, science and more, with a focus on helping students to discover the interrelatedness of all things. She therefore created broad-based materials that can be incorporated into a curriculum by teachers.
The Cultural Studies component of our House on the Hill Montessori curriculum is designed to develop and further enhance the children’s natural curiosity. It helps them to gain an appreciation for nature and discover all things around them. Lessons are built around themes, with a series of learning activities that include as many subjects as possible.
In this article, we will share how the botany curriculum was integrated into a thematic lesson, helping to feed the children’s curiosity and wonder about the natural world. The children were learning about the classification of vegetables, and we integrated this into a cultural subject where the children eventually learnt how to make Siguemchi-namul (Korean Spinach Side Dish) by themselves.
We hope that seeing how we break a lesson down into different components and themes to aid learning will help parents who want to bring Montessori into their homes.
Break down of a lesson
The theme was Classification of Vegetables. The children were learning all about leafy vegetables, specifically, spinach! Using the hands-on approach, the children learnt about the parts of the vegetables by preparing the Korean spinach side dish known as siguemchi-namul. (Our healthier, child-friendly, House on the Hill recipe can be found at the end of this article.)
Each child was given a leaf to examine the details.
By carefully picking the roots, leaves and stalks off the spinach vegetable, they persevered to fill up the salad bowl with the leafy main ingredients. At the same time, they were able to examine the detailed parts of the vegetable. This was followed by the introduction of the Montessori’s leaf puzzle to teach and illustrate the different parts of the leaf.
The last part of the lesson was to prepare the dish, and enjoy! The children discovered the preparation stages of making a salad, including washing, blanching, dipping, squeezing to drain the water out, as well as chopping. They added the seasonings of garlic, sesame oil and sesame seeds and mixed them all up for their healthy salad. They loved eating this special side dish they made for themselves for lunch!
There are many indirect aims that the children can learn through this activity:
1. Language (such as names of the parts of the leaf, the name of the ingredients needed for the dish).
2. Practical Life and Fine Motor Skills (such as picking the roots, leaves and stalks off the spinach, washing the leaves, getting ready the utensils need).
3. Mathematics (such as classification of the parts of the leaf, counting, procedural steps to preparing a dish).
4. Appreciation of Nature (such as admiring the lines on the leaf, the roots).
Besides the above mentioned, such as puzzles and matching, botany can also be introduced through:-
2. Nature walk
3. Flower arrangement, and dissection
4. Flower and leaves painting and printing
The Cultural Studies curriculum allows children to absorb the environment surrounding them, learning in a systematic and organised way, which helps them to grow in stages from one level of complexity to another. Do consider how you can incorporate this part of Montessori curriculum into your every-day lives!
House on the Hill’s child-friendly, healthy Siguemchi-namul (Korean Spinach Side Dish)
– 1kg spinach
– 3 teaspoon sesame oil
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– Sprinkle of sesame seeds
Serves about 4 to 6 pax in a family
– Pick the stalks and leaves and place them into the bowl
– Wash the spinach, making sure there is no dirt or pest left
– Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 45 seconds to 1 min (depending on the size of the leaves and stalks) – requires adult supervision
– Take them out and dip the spinach in cold water
– Squeeze the water out of the spinach between your palm
– Chop the spinach up into bite sized portions
– Season the spinach with garlic, sesame oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Enjoy this healthy side dish together!