One of the fundamental concepts introduced for children in the second development plan, between the ages of 6 and 12, is the notion of cosmic education.
Cosmic education is introduced to children aged six to twelve as a representation of the whole world and the universe as a whole, with the aim of making them feel that they are a “cosmic agent”: the child is invited to embrace the whole world, broaden their point of view, look more broadly than the environment of their home, their school and their close knowledge.
Understanding that he is part of a whole allows him to better take into account his personal fundamentals, which helps him to forge his own values and beliefs.
Maria Montessori witnessed two world wars, experienced poverty and injustice in Italy and continued her mission in India. She stressed the importance of educating children to change the world – a world in which peace must be seen as a way of life, as reflected in the following excerpt from her book Education for Peace:
The child should no longer be considered as the son of man, but rather as the creator and father of man showing the way to a better life and bringing us light. When we speak of peace, we are not talking about partial peace between peoples separated into nations, but about a permanent way of life for all humanity.Maria Montessori, Education for Peace.
Montessori education was then considered not only as a method of education, but also as a new way of life to create the future man who is today’s child.
So how can we help the child to be the future man who will continue to preserve peace in the world and make it a better place for future generations?
Maria Montessori stated in her book Educating Human Potential, addressing all educators, guides and teachers:
The teacher should not work in the service of a political or social creed, but in the service of a complete human being, capable of exercising his freedom, will and judgment disciplined, not perverted by prejudice and not distorted by fear.Maria Montessori, Educating Human Potential.
This objective is thus the basis of the Montessori Guide’s work for its work with children between 6-12, through the implementation of cosmic education.
Cosmic education in Montessori pedagogy
- What does the term cosmic education mean?
- How is it related to the second Montessori Education Development Plan?
- How does cosmic education prepare children to exercise their freedom and self-discipline?
- How does cosmic education manifest itself through the environment and the material introduced in the background?
- And what are the results of cosmic education?
Although Maria and Mario Montessori have worked hard on the concept of cosmic education, what is meant by the “cosmic” concept is not new. The concept has been used since the time of Greek civilization: the conviction that harmony exists in the cosmos and in the world, that everything it contains contributes to the creation of this world through the interdependence of each of the animate and inanimate elements that constitute it.
And among these living elements, man, who we believe was created to have a mission in this world, that of fulfilling his “cosmic task”.
Indeed, all living and inanimate elements have a “cosmic task” to fulfil: the plants that give oxygen, an essential element for the survival of all living beings, the first small gelatinous creature that seemed to purify the ocean and that led to the creation of life in the ocean, the insects that pollinate the flowers and thus ensure the multiplication of plants, the sun that helps these plants and flowers to grow, etc.
And indeed, if we look at what surrounds us, we find that everything that exists works to ensure cosmic harmony.
Man himself is also an agent of creation – a cosmic agent.
Endowed with hands to work, a mind to think and a heart to love, man recognizes his cosmic task by satisfying his natural needs and works to build and create new things by exploring the nature in which he was born.
Prehistory is a good illustration of humanity’s adaptability and the trend that has enabled it not only to survive, but rather to build entire civilizations. With its particular type of intelligence, Man understands that it must have a cosmic task.
History amply demonstrates that man has continued to create and invent although his natural needs for food, shelter and habit have been met: in fact, man is never “satisfied” and he seeks better living conditions.
Let us return to the example of prehistory: from raw meat, through the discovery of fire and cooked meat, to the labels of “forks and knives”: civilization and the influence of culture have interacted to help all humanity to fulfil its mission and its cosmic task which is unlimited, as long as human beings respect the trends that guide them.
Man thus started from nature, which allowed him to satisfy his “basic” natural needs, and then worked on the development of new tools, which led to the creation of a being capable of detachment from nature, so that humanity does not only depend on nature but can also rely on man’s work. This work that man continues to do is an illustration of his cosmic task guided by his natural needs and human tendencies.
Let us return to the child: therefore, within the framework of this cosmic education, it is necessary for the child to recognize the work of the human beings who preceded him, and to be grateful to them for what they have created.
Maria Montessori emphasizes that children are the key to better understanding and valuing the accomplishment of each person’s cosmic task.
She essentially associated the concept of cosmic education with the children of the second plan, through her profound observations and analysis of their natural characteristics. As the children approached the age of six, Montessori noticed that they had changed physically and psychologically; the absorbent mind faded, replaced by the spirit of reason, the sensitive periods disappeared to open the way to human tendencies, and sensory exploration is now becoming imaginative.
We are dealing with “new” children: it was therefore necessary that a new learning approach be implemented to meet the characteristics and needs of these children. Montessori added that the child in the former stage of his natural development (3 to 6 years old) was in the phase of absorbing his environment, while the child in the 6 to 12 years old phase is confronted with the acquisition of culture and his readiness to explore the world as a whole.
Che is the child’s thirst and intellectual hunger in the second plane: he wants to know the reason for things, he is eager to learn more and more as Maria Montessori said in her book Educating Human Potential :
This is the period when the seeds of all knowledge can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate in the crop.Maria Montessori, Educating Human Potential.
Based on her observations, Montessori noticed that children in the second tier tend to ask more “why and how” questions to broaden their knowledge and acquire a global vision of the world; they want to know everything.
It is therefore important to think about how we can help these children meet their intellectual expectations, their thirst for knowledge, and provide them with the necessary and sufficient support to help them develop their imaginative exploration.
Many people choose as a solution to force the child to keep quiet and learn what we adults consider useful for him or her. In doing so, we destroy his spontaneous interest.Maria Montessori, Educating Human Potential.
The child does not limit himself, he considers the whole universe, and that is why forcing him to start with the small image to go towards the larger concept would ruin the child’s interest to discover more. On the contrary, the global vision of cosmic events fascinates the child. It is therefore necessary to start by introducing this global vision to help him go into details later on and help him decode the small elements of a large puzzle of which he likes to discover more and more pieces day after day.
We need to help the child understand that everything is interconnected, develop his or her sense of exploration and creative energy.
One of the main assets for this is the child’s imagination and sense of reason, which should be broadened rather than restricted according to predefined lessons that do not take into account his or her great potential to understand the universe around him or her.
Objectives of Montessori cosmic education
Cosmic education underlines the importance of the child’s self-building process, which must be continued and developed.
It is an approach to encourage children in the second tier to do more research and detail, to help them feed their minds simply by guiding them and giving them the overall vision to start the decoding process and go deeper into the details.
In doing so, the child begins to expand his or her potential. He is now immersed in culture and open to the whole world to get answers to his questions and satisfy his intellectual knowledge.
Maria Montessori said:
If we take the child from childhood and allow him to develop his psychological powers and potentialities, placing him in relationship with other men and allowing him to achieve what humanity has accomplished, then we will have taken the first step in the formation of the superman to whom humanity tends.Maria Montessori, Educating Human Potential.
In this perspective, we have seen that when cosmic education is implemented, children are introduced to the idea of cosmic task to understand the interconnection between all the living and non-living elements that constitute the whole universe.
The harmony that exists in our cosmos is explained at length through the implementation of cosmic education. To better help the child as he is immersed in the whole picture and feels part of the cosmos, we must tickle him, nourish his curiosity.
In order for children to define their cosmic task and better understand how to carry it out, their work must be freely chosen and not imposed. The child must be responsible for making free choices and continuing to discover for himself, and the environment in which he evolves must meet this need and encourage his intellectual skills to enable him to flourish and develop.
Cosmic education in its approach shows that the intellect of the child in the second plane develops strongly and the harmony of this development is reinforced by experiences in the environment: therefore, the child does not need taxation in education, but rather the freedom to work as long as he wishes and as hard as he feels the need.
If knowledge is imposed, it will easily be forgotten, but if it is freely chosen by the child, it will be preserved forever. In addition, the child models his intellect to always know more and satisfy his unlimited thirst for knowledge.
The main objective is to guide the child to the world and give him the opportunity to explore it through his own free activity, the cosmos is presented by giving the child a clear vision of how cosmic energies interact in the creation and maintenance of the world.
Another asset of cosmic education is the belief in the child’s potential and its contribution to the improvement of the planet. Montessori considers the child as the future, as a cosmic agent with the potential to pursue what his ancestors invented.
Maria Montessori stated that “education depends on the conviction of the child’s power and the certainty that the child has in him the capacity to develop as a being far superior to us”.
This strong belief underscores the strong belief that all adults must be guided in their interactions with the child. Without this conviction, the child will not be able to explore and express himself freely to better understand his cosmic task, he will be manipulated rather than guided.
It is cosmic education that helps the child to get the answers to all his questions:
- How were we born?
- What was our world?
- How did this plant grow?
- Why are the leaves of plants green?
“How” and “why” are the eternal questions of children in the 2nd Development Plan.
That is why they are generally fascinated by listening to real stories about the universe such as the 5 “Great Cosmic Stories” of Montessori pedagogy.
It is an “impressionist” teaching material, whose graphics stimulate their imagination and encourage them to ask questions about more details.
Montessori education at this age aims to highlight the interconnection between disciplines and find the link between the subjects introduced. The child is not introduced to mathematics as a separate subject.
The child, for example, must understand the story behind the use of numbers. Each discipline and concept is introduced with its link to another discipline.
- When we talk about family and number categories, we also talk about the family of the nominal sentence
- The geometric figures introduced also highlight the cultural background behind them.
The lessons are like keys to open the door to detailed images and grasp the child’s interest in digging in more detail.
Another example: the study of basic needs leads the child to work with the basic need for clothing and to notice the evolution in this field, to recognize the great work and inventions that our ancestors did, these “unknown heroes” as Maria Montessori calls them, whose creations have helped humanity to progress and build civilizations.
Maria Montessori highlighted the success of these unknown heroes in transmitting to children a sense of gratitude and also the responsibility to pursue their mission of being a creator.
Finally, as we have seen, the child is eager to grow and work at his own speed, he is the master of his own development. Our role is to sow the seeds that will germinate at the end of his efforts of his work commitment.
Thus cosmic education helps the child to reach a higher level of self-satisfaction and inner discipline: a calm and disciplined child, aware of his own learning process, seeking to develop on his own, guided by the will to satisfy his thirst for knowledge.
Results of cosmic education
Cosmic education is designed to stimulate children’s imagination.
The power of their imagination allows children to travel through time and space and explore everything in the universe. Maria Montessori focused on the concept of cosmic education for these children because she firmly believes that “the secret of good teaching is to consider the child’s intelligence as a fertile matter, a land in which seeds can be sown, to grow under the heat of the burning imagination… the goal is to touch his imagination.”
The main intention of education is centred on the child and his interest, to help him understand the universe and question himself:
If there is harmony between all the living and non-living elements that make up the cosmos and each element has a cosmic task to perform, then what is my cosmic task? To which law do I have to answer and why?Maria Montessori
Once the child reaches this level of questioning, we can be sure that he or she is on the right path to develop and recognize himself or herself as a cosmic agent capable of making a contribution to the world, of participating in the creation of a better future by following the path of the “unknown heroes”.
There is no “recipe” to follow except the one that follows the child’s interest by giving him or her the opportunity to explore and pursue research.
For children who have had the opportunity to experience all that the second development plan had to offer them and to immerse themselves in the approach to cosmic education, the result will be, as Maria Montessori states in her book Educating Human Potential:
We affirm that the 12-year-old boy or girl who was educated in one of our schools knows at least as much as at the end of high school, and the realization of this learning did not cost pain or distortion of the body or mind.
Our students are equipped with their whole being for the adventure of life, accustomed to the free exercise of will and judgment, illuminated by imagination and enthusiasm.
Maria Montessori, Educating Human Potential.
Thus, in addition to having reached at least the same academic level as they would have reached in other contexts, thanks to the cosmic education to which they have been exposed, they have acquired increasingly broad knowledge and have developed an endless love for learning, which will be their tool to explore more and more, develop their personal skills and become future independent, autonomous and responsible citizens.
Indeed, the child has been introduced to the notion of law; a law that should not be forced but rather understood and appreciated because it contributes to maintaining harmony in our universe.
The child will have understood that there is order in the universe and that all living and non-living elements follow these natural laws and that as a human being, he has a role to play and must conform to a law, that of his cosmic task.
Cosmic education gives the child a real appreciation of the world in which he lives and to which he belongs, it strengthens his sense of belonging, makes him aware of his cosmic task and helps him recognize the role of previous generations, feeling a sense of gratitude and responsibility for what they have contributed and what he must do to preserve the cosmos and be an active positive cosmic agent.
Everything has its place in the universe. Everything follows its own laws. Everything makes its own contribution… Since I am part of this universe, I too must have a place, have laws to follow, have a contribution that I can make… What is it? What is it? What did the others do for me? Who were they? Who were they? Why did they do it? What were the obstacles in their path? How can I thank them?”Maria Montessori, Educating Human Potential.