Purpose of This Blog

Devoted to Guiding Educators Towards a Centered and Intentional Montessori Practice.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Weaving the Cosmos

Imagine a time when our ancestors’ senses were so finely tuned as to keep them constantly alert and watchful and curious; a time when our fossil human relatives had not the distractions or conveniences of today’s world, but lived in and for the moment. 

The knowledge housed in their active animal minds was not, could not, be built from experiences held in isolation. Their very survival demanded that they were constantly learning, always making connections between their natural surroundings, their companions, and the rhythms of their own bodies. For these early humans, they were both of the universe and truly in it - that is, living parts of the flowing and changing cosmos. 

And then, somewhere in our recent history, these closest of ancient human ancestors developed the intellect and desire to learn more beyond what was necessary to satisfy their most immediate physical needs. 

They became conscious.

When a being can cogently reflect upon its own thinking, really exciting things begin to happen: questions emerge, experiments occur, and a sense of place and purpose develop.
Now, some two hundred thousand years or so since our own species first appeared on the planet, we have the chance to purposefully rekindle that ancient way of interacting with the world in our schools. 

In how and what we teach, 
we can share with children their part in 
 - and connection to - the cosmos.

Maria Montessori believed that to teach children was to share with them the fullness of the universe; that it is not solely separate chunks existing independently. Though we are most often housed in linearly designed buildings, we do not have to think, create or teach in boxes. It does not preclude us from creating deeply resonant learning experiences for our students. If anything, such containers highlight the importance of reaching way back, to a way of knowing that involves making connections, and seeing the whole from its parts. Montessori's approach to teaching, and the integrated curriculum she promoted, is designed to allow for such interplay.
That we guide children through truly separate content is an illusion.

 Each strand is connected to the others.

The cultural lessons help to frame and connect the classroom community. 


 ...as described by Math and Geometry.

Social Studies... 

...as described by Language Arts.

Children recognize the connections between subject areas as avenues are opened to them that allow for self-directed inquiry and exploration, as well as opportunities to demonstrate understanding. Knowledge gained from one set of experiences serves as an asset as the children move on to explore parallel studies. Deliberate exposure to distinguishable works, connected to greater themes, deepens the children’s integration of this holistic perspective.

Juxtaposing content awakens new meanings.

We can create an intentional interplay between the disciplines. We can build authentic learning environments through demonstrating the interconnectedness of it all, teachers and students alike living a thirst and quest for understanding.  

Many strands...

...woven together...

taken as one.


  1. hikerannie@hotmail.comAugust 25, 2012 at 8:13 PM

    I agree completely, though I could never have expressed it so eloquently, so elegantly (in the broadest sense of the word). Where do you find the charts? Did you create them? I do think placing language at the center is paramount, and that would be language across the continuum of symbolized thought. The peace symbol is a fitting conclusion with promise. So you.

  2. I thought it is very well done. I was thinking it would be interesting to include parts from the great lessons. They all start with and from wonderment and possible explanations for looking at things with curiosity. Of course they also show connections and interconnections through the subject matter.

    Your post is also a great reminder to teach with a sense of wonderment and to remember we are having conversations with the children not giving "lessons" as traditionally thought.

  3. Yes, I love the idea of including the Great Lessons as examples of the richness we can create within our classrooms and our schools.

    In its first iteration, I created the slides used here for a parent education evening - using language that many families would understand. As I present it here, both text and slides, is how I shared it during a recent staff in-service.

    Next steps for both parents and staff would be to expand the "wonderment" that can be reached by having them feel the potency of the fundamental impressionistic lessons.

    Thanks, Matthew!

  4. Intriguing post. Thank you.

    Just a quick question for you-- Are the following your words? If not yours, whose? Maria's?

    "Juxtaposing content awakens new meanings."

    "In how and what we teach,
    we can share with children their part in
    - and connection to - the cosmos."

  5. Hi Sheryl -

    Yes, those are my words. What are your thoughts?



  6. I want to ask if I may quote you. See above.
    Your words support work of mine that I will soon be self-publishing.
    I'm happy to send you more information for your consideration if you let me know your e-mail address.

    I have always quietly thrilled at the mysterious, wonder-evoking sense which Montessori conveys.

    You, I bet, have read Nurturing the Spirit by Aline D. Wolf. ?

    "Imagine a time when our ancestors’ senses were so finely tuned as to keep them constantly alert and watchful and curious; a time when our fossil human relatives had not the distractions or conveniences of today’s world, but lived in and for the moment." [This causes me to reflect on the story of The Clan of the Cave Bear.]

    Thank you.

  7. Sheryl -

    Sounds intriguing! I'd love to learn more about your work.
    You can email me at: radicalmontessori@gmail.com

    Looking forward to continuing our conversation,


    (p.s. Yes, Wolf's book is close to my heart. I do also find Auel's work fascinating!)

  8. Thank You Seth for the visuals, so powerful.

    I was Imagining what the learning outcome would be if the order of the visuals were rearranged so that the end visual was the first visual. What would the learning outcome be then? The same or different. Imagine what the learning outcome would be if the quadrants in the end visual were labelled Autonomy (personal freedom) Sharing, Equality. These are the core social values held by (acccording to anthropologists) in the Hunter-Gatherer period of humanity written in the first chapter of Peter Grays book "Free to Learn".

    Pivotal thinking, pivotal practice = Peace Education