Every year I’ve been in a Children’s House classroom I’ve taught my kids about Ramadan. I’ve had at least one kid from a Muslim family in the class each year, but I think even if we didn’t I would explain to my kids what it’s about. We do so many other celebrations in class from Chanukah to Chinese New Year, so I don’t see why talking about Ramadan can’t be another one of those cultural experiences. I’ve had some teachers be wary of Ramadan, but there are ways to teach what the month is about without entirely focusing on the religious aspects and some great Montessori work to go with these methods of learning. Ramadan is about peace after all and is a month devoted to kindness and charity and Montessori is entirely devoted to peace.
Fun kid anecdote: last year one of my kids went home after learning about Ramadan and when his family was having dinner announced he couldn’t eat till sunset because he was celebrating Ramadan, which just warmed my heart.
Last year we did a whole unit on the Moon and Moon cycles since the Islamic calendar is lunar based and Ramadan starts with the new moon and Eid is ushered in when the next new moon is sighted. We borrowed a work from Elementary that was phases of the moon and learnt each one and then painted our own moon cycles which we put up on the wall. Kids would come in each day telling me what moon they had spotted in the sky the night before and it was an awesome astronomy lesson as well as educating them about some parts of Ramadan. There’s a Moon Unit here to get you started.
We have also had tasting sessions to link Ramadan to our sensorial section of the classroom. Dates are an essential part of Ramadan and are what is used to commonly breakfast for most Muslims. The last two years we’ve had a date tasting session during our morning line time, where we first talk about where dates are from, how they grow and finally how they are harvested and dried before we can eat them. You would be surprised how many children love the sweet taste of dates and we usually end up using them as a snack. But you can also bake with them and make cookies in your food prep area. Another great food prep exercise is making samosas, which you can do easily using flour tortillas instead of samosa pastry if you wanted. It’s a great fine motor activity with the folding of the shell of the samosa, the filling and then the sealing and samosas can be baked in the oven instead of being deep fried and had during lunchtime or at snack time! The pea and potato filling can be lightly spiced for the children’s pallets and is a great way to have them taste different spices.
When you get nearer to Eid you can start to include making henna designs in your art area. We have had kids draw around their hands on paper and then make their own designs within the hand silhouettes. We talk about what henna is made from at line, and look at designs people have on their hands either from print outs or in a book. Then as Eid draws nearer we bring in henna and do designs on the children. The younger ones like to have their henna done but I have had older kids put their designs on their friends. Henna does not take that long to dry and stain anymore and the pattern will fade within a couple of weeks. You can get kid-friendly all natural henna very easily online or at your local South Asian grocery store.
Islamic Art is very geometric based and ties in very well with the geometric cabinet and the metal insets. I love to have some cards out with examples of Islamic art on them for the children to look at and we talk about what shapes we see and match them to the ones in the geometric cabinet. We try and recreate the patterns on a rug using the geometric cabinet and then finally the children are able to make their own geometric art which they can color in any method they like. Mosaics are common and it’s nice to have interesting paper sources on hand for them to use as ’tiles’ in place of ceramic. They have a wonderful time with this work and it’s creative and really makes them think about shape placement.
Diamond Montessori has a lot more great ideas for how to celebrate Ramadan in your classroom and has a great list of book suggestions. If you try any ideas please let me know how they work out! Have fun celebrating Ramadan in your class!