What Is Cosmic Education?

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.

101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children

Parents often wonder what they can do to reinforce Montessori principles in their home and daily routines. This list, 101 Things Parents Can Do To Help Children, was written by Early Childhood Montessori Guide Barbara Hacker, and is full of practical tips for all facets of life.

Individual Ownership of Learning

When parents are choosing Montessori education for their child, they are trusting their child to take his learning into his own hands. The environment is designed to allow students to discover and learn on their own. The materials are self-correcting and are used until the child says, “I did it.” This type of learning is very different from traditional learning. In a traditional learning environments, information is housed with the teacher. The teacher instructs the child what is important to learn and through rote effort, the child memorizes the information. To confirm that the student learned the information necessary, the student takes a written test. Weeks later, though, students have often forgotten or have a diminished memory of what they were taught. In the Montessori environment, children discover the answers themselves, so information and learning is housed within them. They may then draw connections between the newly learned information and other topics and events in their lives.

This article on mariamontessori.com highlights one family’s experience with individual ownership of learning. In seeing their son Wyatt’s newly developed writing skills, his parents questioned, “Who taught Wyatt how to write?” Wyatt’s response: “I did.”


Day of Service

Foothills Montessori School is proud to initiate its first “Day of Service”,scheduled for April 8th. The entire student body will participate in several acts of service, reaching out to seniors, service men and women and children suffering with serious health issues. We will come together as a whole to turn our collective eyes on a variety of people in our community who are suffering due to childhood illness, being a lonely elderly person, or a soldier dealing with the stress of duty. We recognize that even a small gesture of kindness and acknowledgement can have a positive affect and for a moment in time, help lighten the burden of another.

Foothills Montessori School is philosophically built on four pillars of values including; academic excellence, universal values, global understanding and service. Service is a mindset that is cultivated when time and effort is given to purposely make a difference in the lives of others. It is a form of altruism that arises out of a state of satisfaction and becomes a driving force for the benefit of all. It allows our student body the tangible opportunity to look beyond the borders of our school and to touch the hearts and minds of others in our community.

We are approaching this inaugural service day from a couple of directions. First, we are collecting used (in good condition) books to be distributed to Whitney Elementary School, used eyeglasses, which with the help of Lens Crafters will be given away to people who need but can’t afford them. We will also be collecting Children’s (and young adult )DVD’s and CD’s to be given to the Children’s Heart Foundation and The Ronald McDonald House. Secondly, we will involve the entire school in making thank you cards to be distributed to our service men and women and birthday cards acknowledging our local seniors. We will also be decorating brown paper bags to hold lunches that are given to families staying at the Ronald McDonald House located in Las Vegas. Another donation opportunity we are looking for is for all size clothing to be donated to local shelters.

We thank you for your continued support as we reach out to help and serve the local community!

Highlights of Our Year

Our top moments from the 2013-14 school year — and what we are looking forward to in the few months ahead.


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Process Precedes Content

“As a child becomes familiar with the expectations in a Montessori classroom, they develop a sense of internal order helping them navigate through the multitude of decisions they make on a daily basis.”


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Process Precedes Content


“As a child becomes familiar with the expectations in a Montessori classroom, they develop a sense of internal order helping them navigate through the multitude of decisions they make on a daily basis. Part of the core foundation of a Montessori classroom is ‘freedom with responsibility.’

“A Montessori student enjoys the freedom of choosing a variety of work, once they have learned the specific steps of using the materials and to work at the level matching their experience and abilities.

“Often, it takes time and practice for a child to use the materials in the way they were initially presented by the teacher. If a child is not engaging the materials in a concise way, it becomes vital for the teacher to continually model the way it needs to be done. The child needs a clear view of how something is done in order to achieve mastery of the skill.


“If the child is left with an unfinished impression of how to do something, they are not enjoying the higher level of confidence they could experience by following a process that is tried and true. Integrating a process of how something is done is the foundation for learning. We know that a sure, steady organized approach to a work is going to net a better experience for the child and increase the likelihood of them using the materials independently again.

“Even at home, it can be helpful to encourage your child to take their time with any tasks you might ask them to do. Maybe putting their toys away in an organized and consistent process could help foster the habit of slowing down and doing something with full attention.”

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From the P2 Blog

Middle School On The Move

Our Middle School Students are always doing and learning so much that it’s hard to keep up. And Middle School Head Teacher Ms. Erica chronicles it all every two weeks on her amazing blog — subscribe today to get posts by email.

Here are just a few highlights from last week:

  • Students visited Opportunity Village and had a blast singing, dancing, doing comedic improv and more. Student blogger Logan writes: “If there is one thing that I learned from this trip, it would be that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, how you talk, or the way you walk, every human on the face of this planet has something in common with everyone around them. So, all it takes to make a make a friend is to smile and say Hello.” READ MORE AND SEE PICTURES HERE (password protected).
  • E1 celebrated Pi Day with no less than ELEVEN different mathematical “Pi Stations,” including PiTunes, Pi-doku, Pi Graphs and Radial Radii. And of course, there was pie.
  • Students are learning all about Asia and are focusing on the geography, culture and architecture of the Middle East. From the blog: “This week we looked at pictures from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, and Armenia, which illustrated a little of the architecture, beautiful landscape, and cultural diversity of a region with both European and Asian influences. One seventh grader admiring the photos of Dubai said, ‘I want to go there. I want to go everywhere!'”
  • Students created a chronology of World War I that included biographies of key players and tracked American involvement. They even built their own “weapons”!
  • In Language, students are reading and analyzing various novels including Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. From the blog: “This novel first appeared during the era which historians label ‘the McCarthy period,’ the post-war political climate characterized by xenophobia, blacklisting and censorship. Many of the issues explored in the novel cannot be separated from the historical period in which it appeared. Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns. This novel commands lively discussion.”
  • Math studies included illustrating exactly why, as Pythagoras claimed, a^2 + b^2 = c^2!,.
  • “Middle schoolers are in the thick of the Circulatory System, and are anxious for our upcoming dissection of cow hearts! This dissection will give them a very clear picture of our recent studies: heart chambers, valves, the aorta, the vena cava, pulmonary vessels, the path of blood, and more! It doesn’t matter how many diagrams or books we have to share; nothing compares to holding an actual heart in your palms and learning through that type of hands-on experience. We hope you can join us for the big day!”
  • And finally, gardening: “Thank you to Marnie and Teri for helping us begin our new round of gardening! After the eighth graders’ trip to Star Nursery, the middle schoolers planted our basil and peppers on the outskirts of our box. Do you know what’s going in the middle?”

Phew! To read more and see more pictures, don’t forget to check out Ms. Erica’s E1 blog. And try to keep up!

*Don’t forget to stop by the Foothills Montessori School parking lot this Saturday from 8 AM to noon for a special sale to benefit Roos ‘n’ More, a local family-owned rescue-oriented zoo in need of donations. Student Maddie Hoggan writes: “Last semester, one of our field trips included visiting this zoo and it was one of the most memorable field trip experiences I’ve ever had. Two veterinarians that have a love for unusual animals own the zoo and they help provide care for animals that come there. Most of these animals, because they are so fond of humans, love to be held and played with. Recently, the zoo has been shut down in their transition to becoming a commercial property due to the size of their septic tank and lack of paved walkways. They will not reopen on site until they’ve raised the $300,000 necessary to address the issues. We hope our Parking Lot Sale can be a part of achieving that goal. We hope you drop by on the 22nd!”


Concentration in the Classroom

“It is the gift of the Montessori education that a child is methodically shown the process for doing a job, moving in the classroom, or taking care of their body …”


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Concentration in the Classroom

“Children are born with an amazing capacity for learning and interacting with their parents and their peers. It is the gift of the Montessori education that a child is methodically shown the process for doing a job, moving in the classroom, or taking care of their body (eating and washing hands, putting on a jacket).

“All of this attention to ‘how’ the work is done reinforces the idea that if you slow down and pay attention to the order of the task and to the way your work is laid out, then you will get it done with more ease and in a less stressful way.


“To the untrained eye, it may not be obvious why a teacher would sit one on one with a three year old and carefully watch them transfer items from one bowl to another. Yet the grasp of the item is important (as it leads to the coordination of holding a pencil, the fundamentals of writing). The transferring of the items from left to right is also important, as it trains the young student’s eyes and mind to move in the same direction they will be using when they read words on a page.

“We are also mindful of the way the materials are handled by the student; are they engaged with the specific task at hand or are their eyes wandering away from the job to look around at their friends? Can they develop the concentration to be fully present with the task at hand? All of these core behaviors create the template for learning, not only from an academic view; but for how all information is received and processed internally. It is a lens for living their lives.” — From the P2 Blog