In Montessori classrooms, we go to great lengths to make connections between cultures and countries across the globe and throughout time. Rather than isolating people through their differences, we celebrate the commonalities we all share.
One way that this is accomplished is by using the Fundamental Needs of People to compare how cultures across the world and through time have met their needs for survival: nutrition, shelter, clothing, belonging, defense, transportation, communication, self-expression, the healing arts, and spirituality.
On this last need, our class discussions become especially rich. We ask questions that provide opportunities for deep reflection: Why is it that so many cultures from so vastly different regions of our planet have celebrations this time of year that involve light? Our conversations reflect an understanding of the need for sunlight for warmth, as well as energy for growing crops for sustaining a community. We discuss the literary image of light as being one of hope and possibility, and of darkness one of wasting and despair.
What children take away from these conversations is that humans develop practices that are grounded in their most basic needs. If we look first to these needs as we approach understanding our various ceremonies, we may find that we’re not that different after all.