Natural Selection

Have you ever wondered why we are so darn opposed to plastic and processed food in Montessori schools? Both items are the norm in American society as well as most of the developed world. It can seem impossible to find anything made for infants and toddlers that isn’t made of plastic and even more impossible to feed a child for the whole week without food from boxes, bags, or individual pre-wrapped packages. Despite these cultural truths, we still expect and encourage the use of natural materials for our children’s work as well as for their bodies. You may find yourself asking, “Why?!”

The answer lies in something that we Montessorians call “Cosmic Education”. Sounds like some crazy hippie stuff, right? Okay, well, it kind of is but the root of it lies in physics. Montessori, at the fundamental core of the philosophy is about one thing: connection. Everything we are doing here is focused on helping ourselves, and the children in our classrooms become more connected creatures. We are helping children form foundational understandings of their place within the universe and the universe’s place within them. I’m starting to sound like a hippie again…

Carrot

It’s true, though, we all do have a place in the universe and we are all comprised of the same matter and energy as everyone and everything else, including the universe itself. Natural materials and wholesome, real foods are the beginnings of Cosmic Education. Connection with the natural world starts with what we put in our bodies and what surrounds us in our daily lives. In Montessori we work to lay this foundation by having beautiful classrooms that are filled with wood, metal, glass, fabric, plants and natural light.

Eventually, this transforms into the formal Cosmic Education curriculum that is at the core of Montessori Elementary. This is when the children learn what is called the “Five Great Lessons.” These lessons are the History of the Universe, the History of Humans, the Timeline of Life, the History of Language, and the History of Numbers. In these Great Lessons, the children begin to understand the math, science, and history of their connection to the universe and one another. It becomes significantly more simple to understand that the Periodic Table of Elements is essentially an ingredient list for everything in the universe if one has experience with and connection to the natural properties of the universe.

The funny thing about the work we do for Cosmic Education is that I sometimes wonder if it is more for the adults than for the children. They are amazingly good and slowing down and paying attention to the things that are truly interesting and really matter (stock quotes, grocery lists, and traffic reports not being among them). How many times has your child pointed something out to you that you would have never seen on your own? Children have a connection to the natural world that is inherent, leading me to believe that connection to the natural world must be an inherently human trait. As adults, we become so obsessed with advancement that we forget about connection. Our children provide us with the opportunity to slow down and reconnect with the natural world. Cosmic Education provides us with the opportunity to intentionally stay focused on this so that our children don’t lose it as they grow older.

The other day I was rushing into the school with my daughter, passing many other parents also rushing to unload their children from the car and get them to class. Somehow I managed to slow down enough to notice a child studying a bush in front of the school very closely. He then leaned in and gently drank the drops of rain sitting on the leaves. It was a stunning moment of beauty that reminded me how disconnected and unobservant we can be as adults. When is the last time you drank rain water? I was probably about as old as this boy.

Many people find their way to Montessori as a career because they are seeking a connection with life that was lost somewhere along the way and the structure of the philosophy is such that is requires us to be still, breathe, observe objectively, and connect with ourselves, others, and the universe (alright, I admit it, I’m a hippie). When your child’s teacher encourages you to puree your own baby food, put your child in cotton underwear, avoid screen time, or purchase toys made of wood instead of plastic please know that it is not about judgment. We are simply working to ensure that everyone in our community has an understanding of the path to Cosmic Education and an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a child, who would likely choose to watch a ladybug over a video most of the time anyway. Take a moment with your child, breathe some fresh air together, and let him teach you how to drink rain drops from a leaf. The connection you will make will be incredible.

           

“It is only against the background of our place in the universe, our relationships with other living organisms, and our understanding of human unity within cultural diversity, that we can attempt to answer the question, ‘Who am I?’”-Dr. Maria Montessori

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~ by vegucationmama on June 5, 2013.

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