22 April 2018 is Earth Day – a time to remind ourselves of the task of the child as the cosmic agent for mankind and its future.
Montessori, in her book Education and Peace, refers to the child as ‘both a hope and a promise for mankind’. Yet, whilst the future of the Earth and its inhabitants rest with today’s child who will be the adult of the future, the responsibility of today’s adult as the educator of today’s child also needs to be considered.
So how do we support the child’s Cosmic Education?
As with everything Montessori, the manner in which this is approached depends on the child’s developmental plane.
To the young child we give guides to the world and the possibility to explore it through his own free activity; to the older child we must give not the world, but the cosmos and a clear vision of how the cosmic energies act in the creation and maintenance of our globe.
In the first developmental plane, we must give the child ‘the world’. How do we do this?
The world to the child in the spiritual embryonic stage is colour, size, dimension, form, sound, touch, taste and smell. In the early years of unconscious learning, the child takes in all these sensorial impressions and stores them in the unconscious absorbent mind to later be classified and organised.
In the years of the social embryonic stage (the conscious absorbent mind), the Sensorial materials invite the child to classify the early experiences achieved. Montessori referred to these materials as the ‘keys to the universe‘. Explorations of the sensorial materials lead in turn to the development of language in context of the quality learned, which opens a whole new world of colour, shape, dimension and size in the child’s immediate environment. The cultural materials of Knowledge and Understanding of the World open the child’s mind not only to the Solar System, but also to the Earth, its geographical terrains and biological furnishings, including the rich diversity of its inhabitants. The Literacy and Maths materials introduce the child to the communications systems needed to become the true ‘explorers of the universe’.
Once the foundational work has been achieved in the absorbent mind plane, we continue this work in childhood (6-12 years):
Let us give him a vision of the universe, an imposing reality and an answer to all questions.
The once absorbent mind of the preschool child, is now the reasoning mind of the elementary child. The imagination of the elementary child makes it possible to extend the child’s knowledge of the what happens beyond the child’s current knowledge of ‘the world’.
The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim, therefore, is not merely to make the child understand and still less to force him to memorise, but so to touch his imagination and to enthuse him to his innermost core.
Where the child in the first plane used the senses as the explorers of the environment, the child of the second plane uses the power of the imagination and reason to expand these horizons. For this purpose, Montessori felt that the five Great Lessons needed to be delivered through storytelling with dramatic effect.
So, as we pause and reflect on Earth Day 2018, let us consider how we, the adults of 2018, can give an ‘aid to education’ by being agents of social change in our own rights when opening the world and the universe to today’s children so that they can be the cosmic agents of tomorrow.
– Susanne van Niekerk –
Stephensen, M.E. (2013) Cosmic Education. The NAMTA Journal. 38(1) pp.119-132