This is an excerpt from an article printed in The NAMTA Journal, Global Citizenship: Uncovering the Montessori Mission, Volume 40 Number 2, Spring 2015.
Susan Mayclin Stephenson tackles a large subject, Cosmic Education, which Montessori defined as a “unifying global and universal view[s] of the past, present and future.” Stephenson takes the reader from birth to the end of the elementary age with examples of how the child grows into an understanding of Cosmic Education through their experiences at home and at school. Central to her thesis is the theme of discovering one’s cosmic task, which depends on “fostering…curiosity and compassion toward other beings.” Stephenson concludes with examples from around the world and illustrates how children are born with this tendency toward compassion and how it is experienced from birth through age twelve within Montessori environments.
—David Kahn, Editor of “The NAMTA Journal”
New Book: The Red Corolla
The complete article has been reprinted in the book The Red Corolla, Montessori Cosmic Education (for age 3-6+)
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The word cosmic today usually means something very large or having to do with the universe. But the word comes from the Greek kosmikos, from kosmos, meaning order. The term Cosmic Education in Montessori lingo refers to a child’s gradual discovery of order, a unifying global and universal view of the past, present, and future. It is the coming together of many components of knowledge into a large vision or realization, as in a mosaic, of the interdependence of elements of the solar system, the Earth, planets and animals, and humankind. The character of our time is sometimes referred as the information age; today’s children are bombarded with facts and information with no way to make sense or bring this information into some kind of order. Cosmic Education helps a child make sense of all the information and is more important today than ever before.
These principles of Montessori education are usually discussed in reference to the second plane of development, the years 6–12. But such an idea is not something Dr. Montessori invented for the elementary child as an academic curriculum. As usual, she “followed the child” and the child’s interests. This does not begin at age six.
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The discovery of Cosmic Education and one’s cosmic task depends on fostering the curiosity of the human being and the natural tendency to feel compassion toward other beings beginning at birth. There is evidence that natural curiosity and feeling responsibility for others, or compassion (the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it) begins long before the child enters the elementary class. Wanting to be useful and helpful and caring about the happiness of others is not something that needs to be taught; it is a basic part of the human make-up and can be observed even in the very young.
Speaking at the University of Amsterdam in 1950, Dr. Maria Montessori said,
It should be realized that genuine interest cannot be forced. Therefore all methods of education based on centres of interest which have been chosen by adults are wrong. Moreover, these centres of interest are superfluous, for the child is interested in everything.
A global vision of cosmic events fascinates children, and their interest will soon remain fixed on one particular part as a starting point for more intensive studies. As all parts are related, they will all be scrutinized sooner or later. Thus, the way leads from the whole, via the parts, back to the whole.
The children will develop a kind of philosophy which teaches them the unity of the Universe. This is the very thing to organize their intelligence and to give them a better insight into their own place and task in the world, at the same time presenting a chance for the development of their creative energy.