Montessori in Morocco – A Presentation to Children in Portland, Oregon

Physical Needs of Humans (A Morocco example of a Montessori lesson)

4 presentation

This is a picture of my daughter Ursula, sharing our Morocco presentation with her two children, and other students at Childpeace Montessori in Portland. I had been working at a Montessori school in Casablanca, and then traveling through Morocco with my hostess and her family. My grandson’s Montessori teacher in Oregon teacher asked if I would share some of this experience with the children as I would be stopping in Portland, Oregon on the way back to California. So I prepared a “Moroccan” experience based on the study of Needs of Humans. Since these 3-6 children are at the movement/senses stage of learning I tried to include interesting

The children entered the dark room (there were no windows in this room so it was perfect), light provided by candles, to the soft musical of the Oud  and other instruments typical of the Middle East dark, walked around the Moroccan Berber carpet and other items, such as a silver-colored tray and pot for making mint tea. Then they quietly gathered to see the pictures. They asked questions and contributed to my explanations of the pictures, and even learned some Arabic words, such as the correct pronunciation of “Morroc” (Morocco ). As they left the room each child was handed a mint leaf to taste, a typical herb for the most popular tea in Morocco, and said, “Shokran” (the Arabic for “Thank you”).Montessori children learn from an early age that humans have much in common. This is made clear through the study of the basic physical needs for food, shelter, clothing, and transportation, and how they these needs are met because of the environment. This is not just an academic study, but children know that their own of these needs by creating and serving food, caring for the environment, caring their own shoes and clothing, and sometimes even cleaning their own vehicles, a tricycle or family cr. In a Montessori 3-6 class there are often folders with collections of pictures from around the world that show clothing, transportation, homes, and food is various climate zones of the world such as cold climates, deserts, tropical areas and so forth.

Here is a quote from the book The Red Corolla, Montessori Cosmic Education (for age 3-6) which presents many of the cultural lessons for children at this age. From the chapter, “The World of Geography and History.”

There are several direct aims of the geography and history part of the child’s Montessori experience: to foster an interest in the physical environment of the world, to foster an interest in other people and other cultures, to foster an interest in events going on around us, and to begin to understand the fact that time passes and things change We always keep in mind the fact that one rarely destroys what one loves, and the introduction of the world in this way prepares for a future where our planet and all kinds of people are understood and respected and loved.

Cultural geography at this age introduces the idea that humans eat, dress, build their homes, and travel as a result of the climate where they live. The child first experiences these things in his own home and in homes he visits, and with the clothing, the food, the transportation of his own family and friends. He is interested in facts and learning names or parts of the home, objects in the home, vehicles, clothing, and food. This naturally expands to include what other people in the world eat today, what they wear, how they travel and what their homes are like. 

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The Experience
Because these children, age 3-6, are in the motor/sensorial period of development (learning through movement and senses) I kept this in mind when preparing while I was still in Morocco. The children were free to move and touch. Here are examples of experiencing through their senses.

Sight – pictures of the PowerPoint, candles, the puzzle map of Africa with the Morocco piece laid out next to the puzzle map of Morocco (Morocco puzzle piece next to the map), my Moroccan clothing and jewelry displayed), everything on the large Berber rug that was a gift to me, other objects.

Touch – touching the clothing fabric, the carpet, all of the objects—and the mint leaves shared as the children silently and slowly left the dark room with the music still playing

Taste – the mint leaves as they quietly left the room at the end

Sound – the recorded music of Moroccan instruments playing on the computer

Smell – the candles

Here are a few pictures from the presentation:

1 washing hands

FOOD –  The traditional way of washing hands before a meal – as we did.

THE MEAL – taken on the floor, delicious dishes scooped up by pieces of large, flat loaves. Everything is shared by the family or group. Here we were guests at a madrasa (school) way out in the countryside.

2 Djellaba

CLOTHING – The lovely colored djellabas women wear – seen all over the country. They provide beautiful protection for the hot sun – that is the point to be made for children at this age, 3-6 years.

3 donkey

TRANSPORTATION – A man transporting goods to market on a donkey, the picture taken from the car as we crossed the Atlas Mountains. The ensuing discussion revealed that fact that traditional means of transportation had its own slow, quiet, gifts. I think the children were really enjoying the silence of our shared experience. Montessori tells us that children do love silence. This was a good example.

HOMES – This is a typical Berber home, the point is that homes like this were a good protection from the hot sun in this are of the world.

There were more many more pictures, and a magical feeling in the air at the candle glowed, the candle smells senses, and the music provided the authentic background, all brought into a classroom in the United Stages. I think this beautifully made the point that all humans have the same needs, the differences are caused by where a person lives. It was an experience I will not forget.

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