The Five Great Lessons
The Cosmic Curriculum serves many purposes for the elementary child. Dr. Montessori designed the elementary curriculum, as she did with each level of education, to serve each child’s developmental stage of growth. There are many psychological changes taking place in the elementary child.
Dr. Montessori states, “Psychologically there is a decided change in personality, and we recognize that nature has made this a period for the acquisition of culture, just as the former was for the absorption of environment.“ (To Educate the Human Potential, p.4) The child of this age has extreme capabilities and desire to understand and accept knowledge. They are driven by wanting to know the “how” and “why” of the world around them. The elementary child also has an innate desire to distinguish the difference between what is just and unjust. Therefore, providing a natural ability to use their cognitive skill to work through moral issues, he needs more than “just the facts”.
For these reasons, Dr. Montessori created the Five Great Lessons of the elementary classroom with a specific design and delivery. The five lessons are the creation of the universe, the time line of life, the time line of early humans, the history of writing, and the history of math. “It is important to note that neither the first Great Lesson, nor any of the subsequent stories, supports a specific religious approach; they favor neither the creationist nor evolutionary theories of the earth and the life upon it. They are in fact compatible with all major religions and theories of creation.” (Montessori Today, p. 61) Each lesson is first given in the form of an impressionistic, dramatic, although factual story told by the teacher. These stories are delivered in a manner that is to spark the child’s imagination and encourage them to use their developmental desires to understand more of the story. The story offers just enough, but not all of the information about a topic so that the child has a need to discover more.
Each lesson is accompanied by stories, time lines, experiments, and charts used to aid the child in further discovery of information. “The law and order of the universe gradually become clear to the children through each successive story. The interrelationships within the universe, which these stories convey, are a major reason for their appeal to elementary children.” (Montessori Today, p. 58, 59)
The true purpose of these amazing lessons (I like to refer to them as stories), is to ignite the child’s sense of wonder, offer to them the understanding of their interconnectedness to the world and all things within it, to seek to discover their place in this world.
All sciences are experienced through these Great Lessons. Follow up work offered to the children include, experiments in chemistry, geography, zoology, biology, geology, etc. The basic knowledge is not different than conventional teaching. However, the delivery is that to inspire the child and the opportunity to allow the child to be uninterrupted in their study of a specific subject is what makes the difference.