DIY Cosmic Nesting Boxes
A child is born into this world to a community, and Montessori Cultural and Science lessons teach little citizens that we are all part of a larger global community which is interconnected to all life on earth. A child recognizes his/her family first, and as s/he grows, the world around the child and the role s/he plays in it expands. Montessori Cultural and Science curriculum starts with the whole (i.e. the universe, The Big Bang and the birth of galaxies) and works towards the parts (i.e. our planet Earth, the continent child lives on, home country, neighborhood, and so on) eventually leading to discussions of the anatomy of the body, atoms, and energy. Such a presentation, from broad to specific, allows a child to form a foundational sense of this big picture perspective in order to mentally organize new information. Within the big picture of the universe, everything the child learns is perceived as interconnected parts of a whole, so the information gains relevance, which is a crucial part of capturing a child’s attention and curiosity. In a traditional Montessori environment, you will see a gorgeous tower, consisting of ten nesting boxes with corresponding labels. As the word ‘nesting’ depicts, the nine boxes are nestled within the largest nesting box, and the presentation commences with the introduction of the largest nesting box. However, these Nesting Boxes are extremely expensive, so I am showing you a DIY alternative to present a Montessori Cosmic Education lesson.
“Let us give him a vision of the whole universe. The universe is an imposing reality, and an answer to all questions…. All things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity. The idea helps the mind of the child to become focused, to stop wandering in an aimless quest for knowledge. He is satisfied having found the universal centre of himself with all things.” Maria Montessori; To Educate the Human Potential.
To illustrate this big picture perspective, we are using Montessori Pink Tower. You would start from the bottom up, with your largest block representing the galaxy (the biggest). You can download for your personal use labels PDF here. Some labels such as “My Country” have a space for your child or you to fill and customize. Some of the books that we referenced while discussing this are National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space and National Geographic Kids Beginner’s World Atlas.
A simple version of this activity is presented in a Montessori classroom to children three to six years of age, although older children in a Montessori elementary classroom ( 6- to 12-year-old), use this same model during the lessons of “Cosmic Education” but in much depth. Cosmic Education during the “second plane of development” similarly begins with the whole (i.e. the universe) and works toward the parts, (i.e. individual cultures, history, geography, biomes, life forms, etc.) (To learn more about the Montessori Pink Tower presentation, read here.)
If you do not have Montessori Pink Tower you can use upside-down paper or plastic cups. Here, you would reverse the order: starting with energy and an atom on the bottom, and then gradually stacking the cups on each other, finishing with the Galaxy label.
Start a discussion with your child about the Galaxy and solar system and continue “zooming” in by describing the planet, continent, country, state, city, house address, and so forth. Explain to your child that this organization begins very broad and becomes very specific.
By recognizing that we are all part of a larger global interconnected community, we can instill in our children an understanding that all humanity must be agents for peace, respect and harmony. “Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child.” – Maria Montessori.
You can see this activity on Instagram here.
The 5 Great Lessons
A series of ‘Great Lessons’ are a cornerstone of Montessori education designed to foster a deeper understanding of the world around us and our place within it. They are part and parcel with a ‘cosmic’ perspective or ‘Cosmic Education.’ Each story opens up an element of the curriculum and feels it meaning so that nothing is dry or unrelated, but rather, everything shows the interconnectedness of the universe.
There are Five Great Lessons and each one related to certain learning highlights and a curricular focus.
- Great Lesson 1. Coming of the Universe and the Earth ~ curriculum: Physics, Geography, Astronomy, Chemistry
- Great Lesson 2. Coming of Life ~ curriculum: Biology, Zoology, Botany, Nature Study
- Great Lesson 3. Coming of Human Beings ~ curriculum: History, Cultural Studies and Sociology, Innovation and Discovery
- Great Lesson 4. The Story of Writing ~ curriculum: Reading, Writing, Language, Drama and the Performing Arts
- Great Lesson 5. The Story of Numbers~ curriculum: Mathematics and Geometry
These narratives, or Great Lessons, span the history of the universe from the origin of the solar system, earth and life forms to the emergence of human cultures and the rise of civilizations. Aided by charts, timelines, and scientific experiments, the child’s study of detail in reference to the Great Lessons leads to awe and respect for the totality of knowledge.
Cosmic Education underpins the child’s knowledge and understanding of their environment and the world. It also introduces the possibility that humanity might have a ‘cosmic task,’ to better the world for future generations. This approach develops an awareness in the child that everything in the universe is connected and interdependent, forming a harmonious whole and that they are contributing parts to that whole.
Studies are integrated not only in terms of subject matter but in terms of moral learning as well, resulting in an appreciation and respect for all life, moral empathy, and a fundamental belief in progress, the contribution of the individual, the universality of the human condition and the meaning of true justice. Children learn how to be true global citizens. There is an emphasis on research and in-depth study using primary and secondary sources as well as other materials. This involves children planning their own ‘outings’ and making use of community resources beyond the four walls of the classroom. (Resource https://www.cloverschool.com/cosmic-education/)