Elementary History


History, in our elementary program, is not a list of dates nor is it a randomized assortment of topics and themes. History is a unified story of the modern world- the explanation of “How we got here,” to the student. It is an unbroken chronology rich with arts and inventions, people and institutions, its arc of events, conflicts and, most of all, ideas.

Teaching history serves three purposes: 1) present the facts of world history clearly and accurately 2) discuss the significance of events thoroughly 3) aid in understanding people in all parts of the world, through all points in time.

Geography is closely related to history because the lives of men are related to the geographic settings in which they lived.

History in our classrooms

“Knowledge can best be given when there is an eagerness to learn, so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sown.”

Maria Montessori, To Educate the Huamn Potential p. 3

The five Great Lessons are big-picture history lessons that serve two main purposes. The first, is that these lessons integrate all of human knowledge into a framework that children can access and refer back to throughout the six years of elementary.

The second purpose of the great lessons is to serve as a source of inspiration. To help the children understand the heroes that came before and where they fit into these great stories.

These are closely related to the idea of Big History.

“I consider it a crime to present such subjects as may be noble and creative aids to the imaginative faculty in such a manner as to deny its use, and on the other hand to require the child to memorize that which he has not been able to visualize.”

Maria Montessori, To educate the human potential p. 10

All humans throughout time and space have had the same fundamental needs, what has changed is their ability to fulfill those needs.

The Fundamental Needs charts and lessons are a cornerstone of the history curriculum, because history is the study of people. In order to understand history, you must first understand people.

These lessons begin with concrete physical needs, like food and shelter, and expand to spiritual needs, like relationships and philosophy.

“We do not cultivate admiration for these past and present adventurers and explorers for the sake of paying them with our gratitude, for they are beyond our reach; but we want to help the child realize the part that humanity has played and still has to play, because such realization leads to an uplift of soul and conscience .”

Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential p. 55

Lower elementary children study a variety of civilizations, both past and present, to better understand how other people have fulfilled their fundamental needs.

We teach children the beginner skills of how to ask and answer questions about the past. We stoke their curiosity for history so that in the upper elementary course, we can study cultures thoroughly.

“So a critical faculty of mind was awakened, and a thirst for first-hand knowledge which was carried on [by great Greek philosophers.] There were great educators whose methods we should follow today; they kindled a flame in a few that spread to the many.”

Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential p. 73

We take an approach that is chronological and focuses on ideas. We have an emphasis on Western history to help orient the children to the culture they currently live in (our school is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia!).

Writing is a critical part of solidifying understanding in history, and history is often grist for our writing curriculum. Students enter middle school with an incredible rich, solid understanding of where their world came from. They have:

  • A complete outline of Western history, held in a way that is both chronological and meaningful.
  • The context of historical knowledge to go into much more depth on any topic in history (Western or otherwise).
  • A nuanced understanding of what it takes to understand an aspect history in more depth.
  • A particular understanding and appreciation for intellectual history, for the development of enduring ideas that shaped and continue to shape our world.

History & Geography Curriculum

Sandpaper land and water forms

Lower Elementary

Great Stories
The Coming of Human Beings
Timelines of Human History and Progress
Fundamental Needs of Humans

Natural History
Context for Human History
Earth’s Eons and Eras

Human Life on Earth
Broad Scope of Human History
Timeline of Discoveries and Inventions
History of Artifacts
Fundamental Needs of Humans

Exploring History
First History Research
Constructing a Timeline
The Calendar
Analysis of Civilizations

Globes & Maps
Working with Maps
Continent, Country, State, and Ocean Names
Cardinal Directions and Compass Rose Map Features

Land & Water Forms
Models of Geographic Features
Connection to Physical Geography and Ecology

Costs and Benefits
Goods and Services
Consumers and Producers
Function of a Bank

Human Interdependencies
Where Do We Get Our Food?
The Flow of Goods

My Local Community
Characteristics of Urban, Suburban, Rural Communities
General Principles of Democracy in Communities
Function of Community Rules and Laws
Connection Between Geography and Resources

American history timeline cards

Upper Elementary

Great Stories
The Coming of Human Beings
Timelines of Human History and Progress
Fundamental Needs of Humans

Research & Timelines
Timeline and Research into the History of Humanity

Human Life on Earth
Three Phases of History: Nomadic, Agricultural, Urban/Industrial
Interest Research
Connection to Ecology: Spread of Vegetation
Connection to Ecology: Biomes
Location of Cities Near Resources

Migrations of People
The Story of Humans Migrating
Drying of the Deserts, Movement of Glaciers
The Hunt: Following the Herd
Billiard Ball Movement
Nomadic Horde
Infiltration and Fusion
Clearing of the Forest
Seaborne Migration

World History
Creation of Timeline with Important Dates, Events, People, Patterns, and Maps for Early Societies and Civilizations:
Ancient Greece
Medieval Europe
Age of Exploration

United States History
Creation of Timeline with Important Dates, Events, People, Patterns, and Maps for:
Native Americans
European Exploration
Colonial Times
Independence and Expansion

Geographic Features
Fluency with Maps (including Informational, Topographic, and Digital)
Memorization of Continents, Oceans, Major Countries, States
3D Models of Geographic Features and their Formation

My Own State
Historical Periods
Government of State
Chronological Context and Timeline
Further Research from Student Interest

Producers and Consumers
Goods and Services
World Trade and the Flow of Money
Interest Rates
Inflation and Deflation
Human Capital

Major Political Systems of the World
Concepts of Rights and Freedoms
Processes, Rules, and Laws
Branches and General Structure of the US Government
Research Based on Student Interest

Education for life

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