My daughter is obsessed with learning about Australia.
While I insisted on exploring our North American continent box first, it wasn’t long before we were doing a full fledged Australia unit study and exploring our Montessori Australia continent box.
Montessori Continent Boxes are one of my favourite Montessori Materials and an awesome way to explore geography with kids.
The concept behind continent boxes is that they are self-contained units that contain many items to provoke greater exploration of a continent. The items should be as varied as possible to give the children an awareness of the breadth of the continent’s culture and have a better chance of capturing their own interests.
I had a wonderful friend send us many items for our Australian continent box in a bit of a culture exchange, but you can easily use homemade items, items purchased at local “expat shops,” check out eBay, or order from specialty online retailers.
Contents of our Australia Continent Box:
- Australian money
- 3 part-cards of Australian landmarks
- Australian snacks
- Wiggles CD and DVDs
- Cancelled Australian stamps
- Travel pamphlets
- Cultural matching game
- Down Under Toob
- Australian Animals 3-part cards from Imagine our Life (free download)
- Posters of Australian animals
- Pictures of Australian flowers (I would have loved to trade laminated flowers with my friend but Australia has strict laws about foreign vegetation entering the country)
- Australian animal stickers
- Alluvial Gold from Beechworth, Victoria
We also have the Australian Continent Map which is presented alongside the box (but too large to fit in the box) and several of our favourite Australian children’s books. I’ve also shown Ella pictures of me as a little girl in Australia, and, we borrowed Australian animal rubbing plates, an animal puzzle, and a kangaroo costume from a friend!
(We almost purchased a bamboo didgeridoo from a local fair trade shop, but Ella decided she didn’t like the sound of it. We may attempt instead to make our own.)
Because a Montessori continent box is to be explored at the child’s own pace, I’ve prepared a few activities and done a bit of research on a few Australian topics that I think she might become interested in, but I’m really trying to allow Ella to direct the course of her learning with this one. So far we’ve made lamingtons and attempted some Aborigine-inspired dot painting.
You can present a Montessori Continent Box in a couple of different ways:
- On the shelf. If your child is used to having all of his or her work set out on shelves, it may be most natural to set out all of the materials at first, and then after a week or two of natural exploration, place the items in an easily accessible continent box.
- Present the items. You can present each continent box (one at a time) and go through each item individually. This ensures that each item is given adequate attention and you can outline any expectations for “special” materials.
- Discovery. Set the box out and allow your child to naturally approach and explore the contents. You can explain materials as your child shows an interest, or wait for them to ask questions.
While there are Montessorians who will insist that only one of these ways is correct, you know your child best.
For me, I know that Ella will be more interested in a work if I set it out attractively — whether on shelves or stylized on a table (like a Reggio provocation) — and only provide explanations or further information when she shows deep interest in something. However, I can put on Australian music, present carefully selected Australian books at storytime, and weave tidbits about Australia naturally into our day.
What would you include in an Australia Continent Box? What are your favourite ways to explore geography for kids?
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