July 2020 I've seen a growing number of Montessorians change their 'Australia' cards to being called Oceania but not changing any of the content, so basically still just kangaroos and pictures of the 'Opera House'. This is not helpful either. If your cards are going to be about Oceania please ensure they talk about all the places in Oceania!
December 2020: I've got some answers to common protests and questions here
I've been thinking lately about Montessori for social change. I have been encouraged and provoked by the discussion I have been having in a couple of Facebook groups. I love our world wide Montessori community! You can see my responses to some and not so common questions and responses in my follow up article here
As many of you have read, I have quite distinct thoughts on how our cultural geography areas should promote diversity but how about our puzzle maps?
In most Montessori 3-9 classrooms people have a collection of puzzle maps that generally consist of the following:
- A hemisphere map
- Puzzle maps of the continents
- A puzzle map of the country the child is currently living in.
One of these continent puzzle maps I think is controversial is the 'Australia' puzzle map. I wonder if you are aware of what the Australia puzzle map is missing?
The Australia puzzle map usually has removable parts for the states of Australia, New Zealand (where I live) and Papua New Guinea, but what about the rest of the Pacific Islands?
The Pacific Islands are made up of three major groups: Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. Do your continent boxes have representatives of these three groups? These islands cover over 10 000 sq km. Many were colonised by the French, British, US or Japanese or even New Zealand!
Including the big countries that we have on our Montessori Australia map the Pacific Ocean is home to 40 million people. Sadly most puzzle and pin maps in our Montessori classrooms do not show these countries or places and I think it is time they did.
Imagine if we had a puzzle map that did not include Argentina or Canada or Iraq on it.
These countries all have a similar size population to the Pacific Islands (Including Australia and New Zealand) yet many of the Pacific islands are missing from many of our Montessori geography core equipment and in many puzzle maps I have seen their existence is marked by a couple of black unnamed dots on a puzzle map or a sea of blue. I have rarely seen a child recreate a puzzle map with the little 'black dots' and show Samoa, Tonga or Tuvalu for example.
The Pacific Islands are sadly bearing the brunt of climate change in our world today and many face sea level rise issues. Sea level rises impact on the ability of countries to grow enough food to feed as well as decreasing the actual space of the islands themselves for people to live on. Sea level rise in the Pacific has caused saltwater infestation of crops and an increase in natural disasters.
Have a look at these pictures
from a recent article by National Geographic which show the impact of climate change on the Pacific.
In my classroom, we were fortunate enough to have this puzzle map.
(I am not getting paid for linking to this puzzle map I just think it is awesome :) )
The great thing about it was that it was a true representation of Moana
/Oceania and all its countries. In the usual Australia puzzle map Australia dominates with its size on the Puzzle however the puzzle map above puts things in perspective much like the Gall-Peters projection map
puts all of the continents into perspective. I would say the above map should be in our classrooms more so than the Australia puzzle map.
Another thing that links to this topic is what to call 'Australia.' Australia is a country however we traditionally teach it as a continent, I feel we should change to calling this area of the world Moana or Oceania which clearly describes that the area is dominated by Ocean and not by a country. It also gives a space for equality and equity in that all the people of the Pacific are recognised.
Oh and let's not forget to mention that perhaps NZ isn't in Oceania it might be part of the continent of Zealandia!
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