During the strife and turmoil of World War II, Dr. Montessori developed her view of cosmic education. Although interned in India as an Italian enemy alien throughout the years of the war, the Indian Government allowed her to continue her work training teachers in her method. It was while in India that Dr. Montessori became even more committed to a global vision of humanity, arguing that only through the accurate education of our children will world peace be achieved.
Dr. Montessori saw the child as the instrument through which our full progress as human beings is possible. She believed that cosmic education is the child's gradual understanding that everything on earth is connected with the past, the present and the future. Through imagination, the child is able to view the whole world around her thus providing a framework for integration of further knowledge. The child becomes aware that the universe evolved over billions of years and this it is based on the law and order through which all plants, animals and other product of creation are maintained. Gradually the child discovers that she is part of this order and a participant in the ongoing life of the universe. "If children can see their own lives in the framework of the cosmos, if each one can see the role he or she must play in its unfolding, life will become more meaningful." (Nurturing the spirit (1996) page 97)
Dr. Montessori believed that we are here to help evolve the cosmos and that each of us has a specific purpose. The role of a Montessori school, therefore, is to foster a cosmic education through the development of an environment that awakens a sense of self-worth and wonder, and to teach observation, creativity, evaluation and decision making skills. The expectation is that children will become important productive participants in an interdependent, culturally diverse world because of the education they receive in a Montessori classroom. The basic premise of cosmic education allows us to tie in and relate all elements of the curriculum to each other, so as not to teach any one subject in isolation.
Cosmic education in our classrooms is introduced and developed in several areas and with a variety of materials in botany, zoology, geography, history, art and music. These subjects can be presented concurrently but the individual exercises within each subject conform to the Montessori principles for all materials and lessons (i.e. simple to complex, the whole before the parts, etc.)
The outcome of cosmic education for children is the gradual development of thankfulness for the world around them and an understanding of their place in it. They will begin to understand that they have been given many gifts from ancient and modern people and an understanding that most things we have today are the direct result of earlier times and people. Montessori children acquire a tremendous background in the sciences. They also develop wonder, gratitude, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of responsibility to others, to the earth, and to future generations.
"If the area of the universe is to 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, a feeling loftier than aan interest and more satisfying, the child's mind then will no longer wander, but becomes fixed and can work. The knowledge he then acquires is organized and systematic; his intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him, and his interest spreads to all,for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which his mind is centered.....No matter what we touch, an atom, or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the wide universe." (To Educate the Human Potential (1 989) page 6)
Montessori, M. (1989), To Educate the Human Potential, Clio Press, Oxford, England.
Wolf, Aline D. (1996), Nurturing the Spirit,Parent/Child Press