Why I'm not an advocate of these types of photos in Montessori classrooms

Posted by Montessori Kiwi on

In Montessori classrooms it is common to introduce children to continents and countries and to introduce them to feature of the continents. in doing so we are expanding the child's knowledge of the world the child lives in. This includes looking at plants, places, animals and people.

One thing that I have noticed is that many countries and continents have inhabitants introduced in a uniform national dress, with one picture that represents the people of a country. The message to the child viewing the picture is 'this is a typical picture of an inhabitant in this place.'
The problem is that these pictures are not a true portrayal of the typical person you would come across in that country 364 days of the year. For example it is typical for such pictures of New Zealand to have a Māori child (the indigenous people group of NZ)  dressed up in a flax skirt. On any given day during the year you would be hard pressed to come across a child or adult dressed like this walking down the street except if they are performing at a cultural concert.

If Montessori is about creating respectful peaceful global citizens we need to move past one dimensional figures  that show homogenous stereotypes of a country. For example in many such pictures I have seen of European children, the children are white. Europe has a growing number of migrant and refugee families who are not white and these people are rarely portrayed.

The other thing that comes to mind is whether our equipment is reflecting the image of the children in our classrooms. For example the Japanese child in my class might very rarely wear a Kimono. If the only portrayal of Japanese people is a child dressed in a Kimono the picture is not likely to truly reflect her everyday life.

I think the solution to this challenge is reasonably easy. We can find pictures of people from the country or continents we study by a simple internet search, perhaps looking  at reputable news sites and copying pictures from there. By doing so we will help our children learn that the vast majority of countries have a diversity of people and that this is typical and normal! Additionally if we do have pictures of children in a specific national dress we need to make it clear to the children that this is one type of clothing some people may wear in that country on some days.
I think it is also important to think of authentic ways to integrate minority and indigenous views into our classrooms.

Happy Montessori-ing!
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