Dr. Maria Montessori’s development of Cosmic Education came out of her observation of children. She recognized the characteristics of elementary children by how they interacted with one another and listened to the questions children asked. Cosmic Education begins with the presentation of the first great story, which tells the story of the universe, and hopefully gives the children a sense of awe, wonder, and connection. With this presentation, the children have a place to begin organizing the information about the world around them and can begin to study the past in order to understand the present and where they fit into it.
“If the idea of the universe is presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying… The knowledge he then acquires is organized and systematic; his intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him, and his interest spreads to all, for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which his mind is centered.” (To Educate the Human Potential 6).
The second plane (ages six to twelve) child’s imagination takes them beyond the story that is being told. During the telling of the second great story, the Timeline of Life, a child said, “It’s like the earth was preparing this big party. Just for us.” The child’s wheels were turning, and they were thinking about the preparation that Earth had gone through just for them to be able to enjoy. The third great story goes on to explain that humans came with a mind to think and reason, a great capacity to love and care for one another, and hands that can create. Elementary children have a great curiosity surrounding those who came before us in history. Through these stories and explorations, and their unlimited imagination, children begin to recognize their responsibility and capabilities as human beings.
When Cosmic Education is in place, the classroom allows for a child’s exploration beyond a prescribed set of exercises, worksheets, and walls with determined outcomes.
Cosmic Education is interdisciplinary lessons, stories, and studies that leave impressions and spur curiosity. The Montessori elementary classroom is meant to capture the child’s attention and ignite their imagination. Within this context, the children can see their possibilities, gifts, and potential within the community and world around them. Possibility and potential cannot be taught, told, or formulated for a child. It is only through their own discovery and self-construction that this can be found. This can be messy and loud. Fully exploring requires the children to be able to move, share, talk, and debate about the discoveries and truths they are finding.