There is literally nothing more wonder-filled for children than the natural world. So, it stands to reason that the heart of Montessori Cosmic Education is to provide as many opportunities to encounter that world as possible. Dr. Montessori recognized, through ongoing observation, that humans naturally want to learn and develop mastery over the skills that allow them to keep learning. But her greatest and most unique awareness, perhaps even more than the innate desire to learn, was how connecting students to the natural world would fill their minds with curiosity, their hearts with desire, and their souls with the passion and commitment to create a life connected to the interdependent Universe: to take their place in it and make their contribution to it.
This is why the Montessori introductory
lessons to any subject begin with getting up close and personal with the “real
thing.” In my classrooms, a “keeping it
real” mindset made inspiration easy!
The dry creek bed that filled children’s pockets with stones, also filled their imaginations with wonder about the Earthly power that caused the mountains to rise thousands of feet all around them; travel brought exotic places to life; experiments and play with natural elements filled their hearts with joy. All that was left for me to do was continually connect students to the skills that would allow them to keep going, to keep wondering, to keep learning on their own!
Stories from children who grew up in those classrooms reinforce my belief that it was the real experiences that made the greatest, most long-term impact on their lives and their future endeavors. One of those students was on my mind all week while I visited the annual Fossil, Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson. There’s no doubt that being around the spectacular formations filled my own soul with amazement, wonder, and a desire to know more about how they came to be.
As a little girl in my husband’s 6-9 class, Ramona (not her real name) heard all the great lessons and embraced the experiences that came along with them. She’s the little one in the striped shirt, watching with anticipation as I swung the full water glasses on a tray to demonstrate centripetal force. When her mom shared that she’d been accepted to college, we naturally wanted to know which of the many subjects that had appealed to her had made its way to further collegiate study. Her choices: a chemistry major with a focus on geology…WHAT?
Why chemistry? How did chemistry fit with geology in her thoughts? She told us she’d loved all the work with rocks and minerals our classes had offered her; her first-hand examinations of the many specimens we brought and displayed had made a lasting impression. As she learned of their chemical composition and crystalline structure based on that chemistry she needed to know more. She became fascinated with how chemistry affected the many color variations and character of each crystalline formation.
While we had introduced those concepts before she left for high school, it was in high school that the study of chemistry deepened and became her passion. She remembered the Clock of Eras; the deep time and perfect conditions that made the nearly infinite variation in the rocks. Chemistry was the story in stone that would bring geology and mineralogy together.
Ramona’s passion to understand more about the crystalline formation inspired her investigation of metaphysical properties, possibly related to the chemical combinations as well. She became skilled in making jewelry with the stones that drew her attention, creating her own line with an eye not just to their beauty, but also to the inner peace they might bring. Each lovingly written description of her creations demonstrates care and respect for the stone placed into that necklace or bracelet.
…and you’ll never work a day in your life! So the phrase goes. For me, this is Cosmic Education at its most personal level. Ramona’s story shows us the true meaning of Cosmic Education: connection to the Universe that has genuine meaning and purpose for one’s own life. As you explore the natural world in Cosmic Education, I hope you’ll think of Ramona’s story. It’s just one beautiful example, among thousands, of how Montessori’s wisdom, made real in a classroom, spoke to the soul of a child.