The Elementary Curriculum: Cosmic Education

March 8, 2016

Excerpted from 'What is Montessori Elementary?' by David Kahn

"Everything invented by man, physical or mental, is the fruit of someone's imagination. In the study of history and geography we are helpless without imagination, and when we propose to introduce to the child, what but imagination can be of use to us?" -- Maria Montessori

The [elementary-aged child] has the mark of a philosopher. Wonder is intrinsic to her learning. The stars, nature, technology, and social life induce great questions: Where did I come from? What are the stars made of? What is my purpose for living? What is justice? What is happiness? What is right and what is wrong?

In Montessori elementary, the chid's own questions provide the basis for exploration of the world. Because these questions are heeded and nurtured, the child really connects with knowledge. Subject matter, then, is made relevant to the child's personal quest, providing an inner motivation. A Montessori elementary education does not give the child a collection of trivial facts but rather bestows a vision of interrelated knowledge and a love of learning.

The elementary-aged child wants to know everything. He has a natural tendency to explore the expansive "cosmic" perspective within disciplines such as the sciences, the arts, and social studies. To study is to be immersed in nothing more or less than the infinite domain of the universe. The "cosmic" perspective does not mean, however, that Montessori elementary ignores the "basics" of reading, writing, and arithmetic. During the preschool year, the Montessori child has already acquired a beginning literacy of letters, numbers, and writing. In the elementary years, these basic skills are polished in the meaningful context of a "big picture". The child's own philosophical spirit motivates skill mastery.

Maria Montessori wrote that "human consciousness comes into the world as a flaming ball of imagination." A child's imagination provides the mental impetus for exploration of the universe. Montessori education speaks to a child's imagination and sets her off on a lifelong voyage of discovery.

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