Fundamental Needs of Humans, Montessori RD

  • History, 6-9+
  • In a Montessori education, children develop a sense of peace and unity with the world. That is the result of the way contents are approached, from whole to parts. An example is the study of the Fundamental Needs of Humans. Children learn to sort “needs” from “wants.” They observe how civilizations have constantly sought to satisfy the very same needs that are material or spiritual: clothing, nutrition, shelter, defense, transportation, health, community, religion, cultural, art…
  • For the purpose of introducing the Fundamental Needs of Humans, Montessori Research and Development offers a refreshing approach where fundamental needs are presented by exploring “cradle of civilizations.” These cradles are based on a variety of regions, and its inhabitants, which developed independently. In the material description, I will list the cradles of civilizations explored.


  • The cradles of civilizations present in the materials are:
  • The Early Humans
  • The Harappan Civilization of the Indus Valley
  • The New Kingdom of the Ancient Egypt
  • The Babylonians of Mesopotamia
  • The Aztec Empire of Mesoamerica
  • The Han Dynasty of Ancient China
  • Two more Western civilizations are presented:
  • The Classical Athens of Ancient Greece
  • The Roman Republic of the Ancient Rome
  • Each of the civilization above are explored using:
  • 1 booket (map of region, description of each need, picture, dates)
  • 8 description cards, 8 labels, 8 illustrations, 1 map card, 2 wallcharts
  • Each civilization presents 8 fundamental needs:
  • clothing, food, shelter, defense, communication, water transportation, land transportation, physical health
  • A 16-foot-long vinyl timeline covering 10,000 BCE to 2100 CE
  • 8 satin ribbons to represent each civilization
  • 8 dry-eraser tabs to use with ribbons and create important dates labels

How it works

There are 2 presentations: VERTICAL, where you present 1 need across all 8 civilizations. HORIZONTAL, where you present all 8 needs of 1 civilization. The work is first introduced on the working mat, then taken to the timeline for chronological representation.
  • Step 1 – We discussed the timeline features, and prepared the ribbons with dry-erase labels dated with the beginning and end of each civilization. The children enjoyed carefully stretching the ribbons across the timeline. This requires grace and coordination for sure.
  • Step 2 – We first worked with the description cards of all the civilizations, and maps. They provide a quick introduction about each civilization. Using a globe, we identified the current location of places such as Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, or Mesoamerica (see picture below).
How to present the materials for the children
  • Step 3 – For this lesson, I prepared 8 three part trays and labeled each tray after a “need” (clothing, Food, Shelter, etc…). We selected the 3 part cards tray that contains “clothing” as a fundamental need. We laid out all the pictures, labels, maps using their respective chronological order (booklets contain dates). We read the descriptions of the clothing, observed the pictures closely, spoke about fabrics, and ways to make fabrics. For example, we liked to learn that linen was made out of flax seeds. It was interesting to learn that specific fabrics or color were only allowed to be worn by important or wealthy people.
  • Step 4 – After reading and discussing a specific need across all 8 civilizations, we would bring the picture cards to the timeline where we could lay all the cards out in their respective periods. It really helped the children to gain awareness of where each civilization flourished, and where they might have co-existed with one another on Earth.
  • Step 5 – After having completed all 8 vertical presentations, the children were invited to work on an horizontal manner. They selected all needs from a specific civilization. They matched the labels to the pictures, and read the descriptions. They wrote a short report describing the needs of this specific civilization. They will later explore this civilization through external materials.
  • Next will be the first Great Lesson, and its amazing impressionistic experiments to demonstrate the laws of the universe. In its manual, History Manual Vol. I, Montessori Research and Development provides 20 command cards for students to conduct these experiments independently.
8 ribbons – Each represents one civilization existence on the timeline

This experience has been made possible thanks to Montessori Research and Development for entrusting me with this material at no cost. This is an unbiased review to help educators and parents see the material used in a learning environment.

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5 replies to “Fundamental Needs of Humans, Montessori RD

  1. I am curious about the use of the words “horizontal” and “vertical”. We have had many discussions about this in our program. Can you help me understand why it is called the “vertical” presentation when it lines up horizontally on the timeline? Thank you for clarifying.


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