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What Cosmic Education Isn’t
What it is
Since it has been … necessary to give so much to the child, let us give him a vision of the whole universe. The universe is an imposing reality, and an answer to all questions…. All things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity. The idea helps the mind of the child to become focused, to stop wandering in an aimless quest for knowledge. He is satisfied having found the universal centre of himself with all things.
– Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential
Yesterday I took my toddler out for a walk in our neighbourhood in his pushchair. Consider the following things I did or saw or interacted with
- I walked on a path
- I saw lots of autumnal trees and walked on leaves
- I helped a couple of school children who had kicked their ball to the other side of the road
- I saw some builders refurbishing a building
- I went to the shop and bought myself a soft drink where I interacted with a shopkeeper who was from a different culture to me. I asked him how his day was and conversed with him about friendship and he told me how it was difficult to have friends when you worked the hours he did.
The Cosmic Education of Montessori encourages me not just to think of myself, but of the people, places and environment I find myself in. For example, the soft drink I got from the shelf didn’t magically materialise in the fridge in the shop. It was manufactured, bottled, packaged, driven, delivered and put on a shelf. All by different people – who all hold equal worth in humanity, have different skills and who have lives and communities of their own. All this so I could get a caffeine hit (necessary with a 14 month old toddler!).
How would I share this experience with the children I currently interact with? How do I help them to see the connections in their world and integrate their knowledge so they can be respectful caring citizens of planet earth?
INTEGRATING COSMIC EDUCATION INTO YOUR PRACTICE
THE 3-6 CLASS
At the early childhood level, Cosmic Education isn’t as prominent in Montessori literature as in the 6-12 curriculum. However our classrooms and teaching require us to help students see the connections in their life and environment daily. It is not enough to have a ‘cultural day’ once a year or to have a classroom with all the ‘correct’ equipment. This comes back to Montessori’s idea of the ‘prepared adult’ which is just as important as the prepared environment. As a prepared adult we ensure that we ourselves are prepared by the words we say and how we act so as to help students make connections. We want our learners to make connections and see the unity in their environment. A couple of examples:
Cultural/Zoology- Parts of the frog
- Non fiction books about frogs in the class that are read out loud to the child
- Talking about local places that have frogs and if possible sharing pictures and inviting students to talk about their experiences with frogs
- Making a list of different parts of speech to do with frogs such as adjectives and verbs
Sensorial: learning the words tall, taller, tallest with a specific piece of equipment
- Making links to the people in the class. ‘You are tall, Sam is taller, I am the tallest’
- That tree is the tallest tree I can see outside. I wonder why it is the tallest tree? Have you seen a tall tree before? Where?
THE 6-12 CLASS
At the elementary level, we have the Great Lessons. These by themselves are not the entire Cosmic Education Curriculum. You would have seen by my discussion so far that Cosmic Education is about making connections. We have to make it clear to students how their learning in one area connects with another area. This could be as simple as discussing how they could show the population of a certain country on the checkerboard. Our equipment and classrooms have connections built into them. However we cannot assume that a child will ‘get it’ just because they are sitting in our classroom. Here are just a couple of ways I have integrated Cosmic or ‘connecting’ education into my classroom:
Great Lesson on the ‘Coming of Humans’
- Putting children into mixed age and ability groups and having them make a piece of clothing or type of shelter from a certain period.
- Making links from the fundamental needs to current events such as the refugee crisis ‘What fundamental needs do these people need?’ ‘Who is helping them to get these?’ This is also a great journaling activity
A piece of purposely broken equipment
- Discussion around how the piece of equipment got to our class. Who has used it before us ? (as in previous classes or children?) Who will use it after us? (our brothers and sisters and friends) Who made it? How did it get here?
MAKING IT NATURAL
For me, it is all about making the links to our connected universe naturally and speaking about them often. A great way of doing this is by talking naturally about yourself and things you have done or experienced. Here are just a few things I have talked about with my students:
- a miscommunication at a Pizza delivery company meant a single pizza order was delivered to me 3 times due to someone not reading the docket correctly (I linked this to the story of language)
- visiting a zoo and looking at my favourite animal – the elephant and talking about how even though it seemed big to me I remembered that some dinosaurs were even bigger. I modeled my ‘wonderings’ out loud to the students: ‘I wonder why there aren’t more big animals around any more?
- I went on a field trip with some 2-5 year olds recently to an aquarium. When we got back, we did lots of art work about the sea animals they saw and talked about the animals as we worked.
YOU CAN DO IT!
I believe all Montessori teachers have the capacity to be not only great teachers but great role models of how we can connect with our environment and each other in healthy respectful ways. You don’t have to be a super star teacher you just have to be a reflective teacher!
If you need more ideas you might be interested in my ‘Discussion guide for Elementary Students’. You can access it here: https://www.
Lisa is a Montessori Teacher who has experience teaching in Public Montessori and mainstream classes primarily with 5 year olds to 9 year olds. She is currently retraining to be a pre-school teacher with the aim of establishing her own Montessori preschool in her city which is a low socio-economic area. She met her husband at University but it took them 9 years to get together. Their first date is a matter of humorous contention. On the day in question Lisa thought they were going out as two friends for dinner – at the end of the date her now husband said that the dinner had been for another reason to discuss whether they could ‘undertake the process of dating’ – Lisa said yes. The dinner is something that they both now giggle about because of the language Nate used! Lisa fills in her spare time(!) by making Montessori and New Zealand teaching resources. You can find her huge range of Montessori materials here: https://www.
If you have any questions, you can contact Lisa at montessorikiwi @ gmail. com