In addition to being one of Italy’s first female physicians and a renowned educator of children, Maria Montessori was an ambassador of peace whose efforts around the world earned her the friendship of leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nobel Peace Prize nominations. Montessori deeply believed that a peaceful world is what children need and want in order to fully develop their minds and spirits. Because of this, peacefulness and social awareness have always been an integral part of Montessori Education.
Even our youngest students begin to learn about their place in the world through what Montessori describes as “the Cultural Materials”—works focused on geography, culture and science. A three-year-old may learn the names of the continents through her practice with the Continent Map. A six-year-old may be creating her own Map of Africa by tracing the pieces of the Africa Puzzle Map, painting it and labeling it. A nine-year-old may study his family’s cultural roots by following their travels from ancestral Egypt to present-day New Jersey and presenting a report with images, artifacts and family stories. The whole school may respond to a crisis—earthquakes, tsunamis, famines— with fundraisers, cultural projects and letters of encouragement and goodwill. All the while, students at the elementary level and beyond marvel at the Cosmic Lessons, which teach with awe and reverence the history of the universe and humankind’s efforts within it. Through all of these experiences, children gain a sense of the incredibly rich natural and human diversity of our world, and develop their roles as stewards of peace within it.