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.