“Cosmic Education” is the foundation of the Montessori curriculum at the elementary level. It is designed for the child in the second plane of development, who is beginning to ask questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” While traditional education starts with the individual and broadens (my neighborhood, my city, my state…), cosmic education begins with the big picture and narrows (the universe, the solar system, Earth…). Dr. Montessori believed that by presenting the child the “big picture,” children have a context with which to understand themselves and all subsequent learning.
The cosmic curriculum is based upon five “great lessons” and corresponding “key lessons.” These are the Story of the Universe, the Story of Life, the Story of Humans, the Story of Numbers, and the Story of Language. These are what Montessori called “impressionistic lessons,” designed to inspire interest and spark imagination. Here the Montessori guide becomes a storyteller. Our job is not to teach this information but to guide the children into an area of study by stimulating their imagination and interest. Dr. Montessori wrote:
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.
These great lessons encompass astronomy, chemistry, physics, geology, geography, history, anthropology, and more. They provide a gateway for future learning and a starting place for the child interested in the fundamental question, “Who am I?”