Thursday, February 4, 2010

Inspiring Cultural Curiosity: A European Continent Box

What is more appealing than a treasure box?  Especially one that is just the right size, filled with intriguing objects, and beautiful to boot!  As part of my cultural curriculum I have a few of these "treasure chests", and each one contains goodies from a specific continent.  The idea is that the youngest children can get a box out to play with the objects.  When they are a bit older, we introduce the idea that all these items come from a specific continent.  With the oldest children we identify which countries the objects came from.  It is our way of making geography tangible.  Let's take a look at the contents of my Europe box.


The box is a sturdy leather one with metal handles on the side for easy carrying.  I thought the Fleur de Lis motif was particularly appropriate for this box!

An overview of the contents


Yes, another matryoshka!  I think every Montessori classroom has one.  This particular beauty I found in a small mountain town in a shop that specialized in Russian goods.  She's beautifully hand painted and as far as I know, the only one exactly like it.  I made a drawstring bag for her to rest in to help protect the paint -she's standing on it in this picture :)


I found these little guys in a thrift store ($.88).  Surprisingly, they are too small for the kids to put on their own feet!  I have adult sized ones as well, but they don't fit in the box.  

I live on the outskirts of an historic district know as Czech Village.  Of course, there are lots of shops specializing in Czech and Slovak products, which is where I found this lovely wooden lady.  Her arms are strung on so they actually move!  She is patiently waiting for me to make her a resting bag as well.


Years ago I was given this great little ceramic tea set.  It wasn't in the box for the longest time because I couldn't figure out how to store it so the pieces didn't get broken.  After much thought I decided to make felt envelopes for each piece.  To keep the felt envelopes together I made another drawstring bag.  The kids are actually quite good at getting the tea set pieces back into the envelopes.
It is wonderful to see the students being so gentle and careful with these objects.  Children really do react differently to objects made of natural materials.  And when you place beautiful things within easy reach, they can't help but want to touch, explore and imagine!

It is almost possible to say that there is a mathematical relationship between the beauty of his surroundings and the activity of the child; he will make discoveries rather more voluntarily in a gracious setting than in an ugly one.  ~Maria Montessori

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