You may hear the term “Cosmic Education” when discussing the Montessori Elementary curriculum. But what is Cosmic Education, and how is it valuable to the child’s experience?
Cosmic Education is an educational approach founded by the Italian physician-educator Maria Montessori in the first half of the 20th century and developed in detail by her son, Mario Montessori, after her death in 1952. It is rooted in the principle that a knowledge of the universal whole allows us to understand the value and purpose of its parts, and how their individual stories form a larger narrative.
In the last 50 years, many scientific discoveries regarding the universe have been uncovered. Maria Montessori was a visionary with great insight. Even in her time, she could foresee the potential unfolding of scientific knowledge and its impact to future generations. In her 1942 work, To Educate the Human Potential, Montessori stated:
“Let us give the child a vision of the whole universe… If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder… The knowledge he then acquires is then organized and systematic; his intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him… No matter what we touch, an atom, or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the wide universe.”
The result of this educational approach, at both the elementary and the university levels, is a curriculum that unifies all the subjects of human knowledge into one, coherent, continuous, and comprehensive study.
Historian David Christian continues this approach in his course work today, explaining:
“Big history surveys the past at all possible scales, from conventional history, to the much larger scales of biology and geology, to the universal scales of cosmology. It weaves a single story, stretching from the origins of the Universe to the present day and beyond, using accounts of the past developed within scholarly disciplines that are usually studied quite separately.”
The importance of the Cosmic Education approach is beautifully demonstrated in Christian’s The History of Our World in 18 Minutes, the introduction to his Big History university course, seen here as presented at the TED conference in March 2011.