Our Connection with Early Humans

By Carol Palmer – Tawhai Teacher – 9-12 Primary

After our recent 9-12 camp where we focused on the ways we meet our Fundamental Human Needs and the ways early humans would have met these needs, a friend, and Wā Ora parent, commented that she had ‘never understood why you guys are so obsessed with early humans.’

My answer was this:

The early humans were the first explorers, discoverers and inventors.  They figured out how to meet their fundamental needs, such as shelter, food and water in the most basic of circumstances; everything we know, have discovered and created since, is built on the work of those who came before us.  At Wā Ora, we are teaching the children to appreciate the work of all people – those who make small, but meaningful, contributions to our everyday life.  We want them to appreciate the farmer, who discovered that the graphite used to mark sheep, could be sawn into sticks for writing; and the person who later realised that binding that soft metal stick in wool or leather would make it more durable, leading yet another person to think of encasing the graphite in wood, which would then lead still more people to work together to mass produce these tools. This means that many generations later every school child has a pencil that can neatly mark their paper without breaking or making their hands dirty.

Ours are the everyday heroes and in learning to appreciate these people and understand that every single manmade item in our lives has a history of invention, refinement and production, children see just how many people’s work goes into ensuring our needs are met.  It helps instil a sense of gratitude and appreciation to the humans who, all around the world, work to produce all the material assets.  Our job as Montessori teachers, is to build a sense of gratitude and love for all people. One of the ways we do this is to show the children how many people have put love and work into providing for us.

We are not so much obsessed with early humans as obsessed with all humans – beginning with the early ones.  When we talk to children about our fundamental needs, we want them to realise that there are a few key requirements that all human beings, regardless of time, culture or geographic location share.  The very first human beings, and every human being that lives now, share the same material needs and spiritual needs. We have these needs in common and whilst we have very different ways of meeting them, the fact that we all share them helps the children see that we are not so different. It gives a sense of affinity with people throughout the world, young and old, past and present.

And to know someone, is to understand them. And to understand them is to love them.  And to foster this love and gratitude towards all people, of all time, is to bring us a little closer to peace.