History for Kids? Yes!
“How will I ever learn history when every day the world keeps making more?” laments Billy in a recent Family Circus cartoon. Two things. First, a wave of sympathy for him because we have all felt that way as we learned history in pieces. Second, it’s great to see a second grader thinking about history. When I worked with student teachers in traditional school settings, they insisted history was not part of the mandated curriculum. Well, maybe it was supposed to be included in the one hour of the week set aside for social studies. But no one had a clue how to teach history to second graders. Most were amazed when I introduced some of the first Montessori history lessons that provide iconic frameworks for understanding the passing of time we call history. For example, the Clock of Eras represents all time since the Big Bang on a 12-hour clock, with the appearance of humans occurring in less than the last minute. Carl Sagan, and more recently Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” programs, did a similar thing with the 12-month calendar. Rolling out a very very long roll of black felt with a sliver of red for human history at its end comprises a similar concept. The student teachers found that these lessons provoked deeply felt questions and meaningful conversations about history with the children.
I have long been eager to make the Montessori history lessons widely available to elementary teachers. With the help of the Great Works people in Denver, the history lessons I transcribed in my Bergamo training course have been digitized and now appear on this website for downloading. I have collected the many many lessons into separate file folders to make them more accessible, hoping interested teachers can quickly find what will be most useful for their students. All the lessons with calendar and clock time are suitable for first graders and necessary before a lesson like the Clock of Eras can be meaningful. What seems most important is to provide young children with frameworks for understanding all the history they will encounter in their academic future—and most of all, their important place in time.