Monthly Archives: April 2019

Picking-up rocks…What’s THAT have to do with Cosmic Education?

Hey, that’s nice gneiss! Say it out loud: “nahys nahys”. Don’t believe me? Check it out at dictionary.com! Yes, these are beautiful specimens: Nice gneiss!

We headed out to Palm Springs to find it. Besides, Palm Springs is a super beautiful and relaxing spot for a quick getaway only a couple of hours from home! We knew that the wash we’d found not far from Palm Springs would be a good place to find the gneiss we needed for an upcoming project. Discovered in our efforts to walk the San Andreas fault line last year, we’d found all manner of cool rocks, especially nice gneiss. OK, I’ll stop!

It took a lot more work to find than we’d hoped; many of the beauties like these were too big for our project, but the walk was refreshing in the late afternoon as the desert sun dipped below the horizon and the cool breezes began to blow.

When asked, we often say we got into our business of rocks, minerals and fossils because we like to find ways to share our love for rocks with students. It’s part of our quest to promote Montessori Cosmic Education. But really, what does picking-up cool rocks have to do with that? This morning I got a sweet reminder.

A few weeks ago I picked up a book I’d read at the very beginning of my Montessori journey: The Universe is a Green Dragon, by Brian Swimme (© 1984. Bear and Company,  Inc. Santa Fe, NM) This story of the Universe and our place in it never fails to bring me back to the heart of why I do this work. Today’s passage delivered both renewed clarity and inspiration: “Our life and powers come forth through our response to allurement.”

Writing as the teacher Thomas, Swimme goes on to explain, “Pursue these interests further and you learn….how contemporary patterns of activities are shaped by history…You will carry within yourself the complexity of the world in a manner unimaginable to your previous self. You will know that you are not disconnected from the life of the world….You will learn the first glimmer of the profound manner in which humans bind together the entire social order through a heightened awareness.”

Swimme was referencing a connection different that my “allurement” to rocks, but in generalizing the context, I understood that my passion for understanding the earth and her history is my personal connection to the cosmos. Sharing this awareness through Cosmic Education is a bit of my cosmic task. This morning I am grateful for the passage, and the experience of nice gneiss, for the reminder.

Claudia Speaking at the AMS National Conference in DC

Cosmic Education: Using Brain-Based Strategies

Cosmic Education, the all-encompassing curriculum that is at the heart of Montessori elementary, is designed to create a sense of awe and wonder for the universe in which we live. Yet, in our high-stakes-testing world, Montessori teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to include those experiences that can have a real impact on their students’ learning…and that breaks my heart!

As a result, I’ve made it a personal focus to support teachers by providing ideas for making Cosmic Education the center of their practice. The 2019 AMS conference, now named The Montessori Event, was my most recent opportunity to share strategies for including what we know about brain function and learning in our lessons and activities for Cosmic Education.

I sympathize with the teachers who feel pressured to focus on math, reading, and writing to prepare for the tests, – goodness knows I faced it when I was in the classroom, too – but, I did my best to keep Cosmic Education and Great Lessons in the center of my teaching practice ala this graphic by Grazzini and Miller. I trusted that if I kept my students inspired while providing activities that would simultaneously hone their skills, they would do well on the tests and, more importantly, develop a love for learning whatever their hearts’ desired.

This presentation used aspects of the Time Line of Life to take participants on a journey deep into the Cambrian Period seas, where their joy might encourage more study. Participants laughed and problem-solved their way through the pretend ancient seas, using their ideas based on an image of four ancient creatures’ bodies (anomalocaris, pikia, horn coral, and halucigenia), to imitate their movement through an ancient sea.

Using card material I’d prepared ahead of time, they next got an opportunity to collectively learn about an area of their choosing: volcanoes, tectonics, dinosaurs, metamorphism in rocks. Based on the feedback, these simple activities inspired lots of ideas about how to connect the activities to the same math, reading, and writing skill practice teachers need to provide, but in a context that would inspire wonder and connection to learning about the long history and beautiful planet we call home.

In the end, like most teachers, I want my students to have the skills that will allow them to learn whatever their hearts desire. But my greater mission is to help them love where we live, to find their place in its history, be deeply connected to its care and find the inspiration and peace it provides us all.