Cosmic Education

Cosmic education is Maria Montessori’s term for the elementary age children’s holistic study of the history of the universe, the coming of life, the evolution of plants and animals, the coming of humans, and the development of civilizations. Throughout this study, components of geography, history, zoology, botany, and earth sciences are woven and from which mathematics, language, and the arts are derived. Cosmic education emphasizes love and service as unifying principles, giving the children a sense of the meaning and purpose of their own and every other creature’s life on earth.

Elementary aged children are in a world of abstract, and the instruction given to them must appeal to the imagination. Children in this plane of development have a reasoning mind that can grasp the facts of the universe, from whole, to parts, and back to whole again. In order to get inside the facts, the child needs reasons for them. They ask questions like “How” and “Why” to understand the existence of things and with the tool of their imagination children will come to understand the world, the universe, and human society.

At the beginning of the year, a series of Great Lessons is told. Each story opens a strand of the curriculum and infuses it with the radiance of meaning so that nothing is dry or unrelated, but rather, everything shows the interconnectedness of the universe. These narratives or “Great Lessons” span the history of the universe from the origin of the solar system, earth and life forms to the emergence of human cultures and the rise of civilizations. Aided by impressionistic charts, timelines, and in some cases scientific experiments, the child’s study of detail in reference to the Great Lessons leads to awe and respect for the totality of knowledge.

Studies are integrated not only in terms of subject matter but in terms of moral learning as well, resulting in an appreciation and respect for life, moral empathy and a fundamental belief in progress, the contribution of the individual, the universality of the human condition and the meaning of true justice. There is an emphasis on research and in-depth study using primary and secondary sources as well as other materials. This involves the children’s planning their own trips to ‘go out’ and make use of community resources beyond the four walls of the classroom.

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