Studying Geography and Culture at the Primary level builds on students’ natural curiosity about the world, its people, and environments, while broadening their understanding and acceptance of the diversity on our planet. NMS engages in a school-wide continent study each semester, working its way through North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania (Australia) in a three-year period, matching a students’ time in a Primary or Elementary classroom. When the school returns to study the same continent three years later, a student will be able to build on their earlier learning experiences about that continent with broader skills and maturity!
Each Primary classroom creates a booth to teach about a particular country in a continent.
At the Primary level, each classroom selects a country within the continent of study to explore more deeply. The goal is to make the country come alive in all its aspects, from traditional to modern cultures, from food to industry, animals to arts, languages spoken to natural resources. The diversity within any country we learn about, as well as the differences from our own city, state, and country are all opportunities for children to expand their knowledge and appreciation of the world. Hands-on learning experiences about the country frequently include cooking and tasting a dish from the region, trying one’s hand at an art or craft from the country, and learning greetings or some basic words in the native language. A class may also work together on a group project to create a poster-sized national flag, a 3D relief map of the country, or an animal image or diorama. We always invite parents, other family members, nannies or au pairs, and our own students who are from the continent or country we are studying (or who have traveled there) to come in to class as a speaker and give us more first-hand insight into the area.
3D relief map created by a Primary classroom studying Papua New Guinea
NMS’s continent study program also allows us to extend students’ learning beyond our own classroom walls. The specialists plan curriculum so that students sing songs, create artwork, and even learn popular sports from the continent we are studying. Primary, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary students all share their work with each other at the culminating Cultural Celebration, where each level visits displays hosted by other levels and gets a chance to discuss the projects and cultural items presented.
In Art Class, Primary students created volcanoes as a project related to Oceania.
The Cultural Celebration also traditionally includes a performance related to the continent of study for the school to enjoy. Past performances have included Chinese acrobats and an African drumming and dancing troupe. Last week, as we wrapped up our study of Oceania, we enjoyed a concert and presentation on the Australian didgeridoo.
Local musician Paul Sedgwick wowed us with his own handcrafted didgeridoos.
Even as we “finish” a semester focused on one continent, we know there is no end to our learning. Each day, we continue to experience new aspects of cultures other than our own—this is the real spirit of cultural studies at NMS!