Montessori Encyclopedia: Land & Water Forms

In the Montessori classroom, the materials and activities are carefully selected to satisfy a specific developmental need of the child, and to feed a child’s natural curiosity about the world around them and their drive to discover.  Children love interacting with objects which they find in their home and outdoor environment, and they love multi-sensorial exploration!

The five areas of a Montessori classroom include Sensorial, Language, Math, Cultural Studies and Practical Life.  Within the Cultural Studies area you will find materials that explore biology (zoology and botany), geography (including cultural geography), physical science (physics, astronomy, earth science) and the arts. 

Cultural Studies are intended to develop the child’s curiosity about the world around them, help them understand where they live in the world, and encourage respect for the global community as well as a sense of the interconnectedness of our world.   Cultural studies aid a child’s quest to answer the questions of “Who am I?’ and “Where did I come from?”

Today, we are going to explore one of the very first physical geography lessons that a child learns in the Children’s House classroom.

boy playing with land and sea at preschool

The Sandpaper Globe

The sandpaper globe is an iconic object in the Montessori classroom.  A small globe with water surfaces painted blue and land areas covered with sandpaper, it is a child’s first visualization of the shape of earth and the distribution of land and water. 

The teacher explains that if we were high up in the atmosphere were to look down at the earth, it would look like this globe.  It would be round, and we would be able to see “land” and “water”.  Water covers most of the surface of the planet Earth!   The child quickly learns to identify what is land and what is water.  After this, they are ready to be introduced to the land and water forms

Land & Water Forms

The land and water forms are a set of ten trays that are introduced in pairs. Since the work involves water, and the extension involves the use of small objects (that belong on land, water or in the sky), it is a favorite with students!

As the teacher introduces and defines each land or water form, the child pours water into the tray to fill the bodies of water. He can then both see and feel how the land and water work together to create the various land and water forms.


boy learning about land and sea at preschool

Island and Lake.  An island is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by water.  A lake is a body of water surrounded on all sides by land.

Archipelago and System of Lakes. An archipelago is a group of islands that are located close together in a body of water.  A system of lakes is a group of lakes that are located close together across a piece of land.

Cape and Bay.  A cape is a piece of land that extends deep into a body of water and is surrounded by water on all sides but one.  A bay is a body of water, that is surrounded by land on all sides but one. It connects to a larger body of water such as a lake or an ocean.

Peninsula and Gulf. A peninsula is a piece of land extending far into the water, and is almost completely surrounded by water.  A gulf is a body of water extending far into the land and is almost completely surrounded by land.

Isthmus and Strait.  An isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two large pieces of land.  A strait is a narrow passage of water connecting two large bodies of water.



Pin It