May I ask some questions?
Have you ever read an article about a person or a group of people who had a problem and you asked yourself, “What could I do to try and fix it?” Have you ever answered that question and then acted on it in an attempt to help? Have you ever picked up trash as you were walking down the road because you wanted to take care of the environment? Have you ever volunteered your time for a cause that does not benefit yourself? May I ask, why do people do things like that? Why do people help others, people they don’t even know? Why do people help the environment, even if they didn’t contribute to the problem?
I would argue that it stems from the ability to empathize with another’s feelings or situation tied with the ability to recognize that there is an interconnectedness that exists in the world.
You may not have realized it or perhaps it is a factor in why you chose a Montessori Education for your child, but this belief in developing empathy and an awareness of the world is a key component to the philosophy. In the Elementary years, we hope that the children have developed an interest in the world around them, a knowledge base of information, and an understanding and desire that they have the ability to solve problems and effect change in a positive way. Just this year, the Upper Elementary students in the Coco Plum classroom at our school finished reading the book, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry about the Holocaust. A question the students asked at the completion of the novel was if that still happens today and another student shared their knowledge of the shooting that occurred at a synagogue in Pennsylvania the week before. Ms. Ashleigh delicately guided the conversation and was aware that they were affected by the history of the world as well as affected by the situation unfolding in current time. The children, 9 to 10 years of age, wanted to do something, felt compelled to do something, even if it be small in size. The Coco Plum class, in all their innocence and love, wanted to make the Jewish community feel better in some way, they decided to use the newly acquired popcorn machine to figure out how to make popcorn and deliver it to the synagogue located down the street in Key West.
It may sound simple. It is. But it is an authentic example of cosmic education, a core Montessori belief, in action. Seeing something. Feeling something. Doing something.
But that is elementary. Our children are toddlers. How do we tackle the huge concept of Cosmic Education with our tiniest of people? Just like any other concept in the toddler community, we don’t jump to the end result, we know it is a process so we go to the foundation. Children learn to read, but in toddler we provide language. Children learn to multiply, but in toddler we sort one at a time. Children learn to write, in toddler we grasp objects. It starts with building blocks. It is a process. So where do we begin teaching Cosmic Education with toddlers?
We want our children to learn empathy. We want our children to engage in selfless acts. We want our children to problem solve. So in toddler, we give voice to our feelings and the feelings of others, we model acts of grace and courtesy, and we provide time and space to make mistakes, view problems, and try solutions.
If you notice your child watching another child cry. Notice with them. Provide language around the situation. Connect what you are observing with their own experiences and offer opportunities to support. “Your friend is crying. He feels sad and he is crying. I wonder what made him feel sad? Sometimes when I am sad and crying, a hug from a friend makes me feel better. Do you think he would want a hug? We can ask if he would like a hug?”
If you see trash on the ground, your child leaves toys out, model selflessness by helping and providing language. “I see trash on the ground. Trash goes in the trash can. I will pick it up to keep the environment clean.”
If something breaks or spills, talk through the situation and include your child in the process. “I spilled water on the ground. Now the ground is wet. I wonder what I could do to clean the floor? I can dry the floor with a cloth to keep my friends safe.”
It may sound simple. It is. But it is the beginning of cosmic education.
Seeing something. Feeling something. Doing something.
“A child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”- Maria Montessori
In the spirit of cosmic education, The Toddler Community wants to use our annual fundraiser to not just raise funds for the children in our classrooms but other children somewhere else. Children helping children. Every year we take pictures of the children’s artwork thus far, the collaborative painting done at the art easels in both the Mangrove and Pigeon Plum classrooms, and create a gift set of thank you cards to be sold to raise money for classroom materials. This year we want to share the money raised with other children in classrooms in need of Montessori materials. For the month of December, we will be selling the sets of thank you cards, so if you would like to and can participate in purchasing a set or more, please do so.
It may sound simple. It is. But it is the beginning…..
Ms. Liz and Ms. Sonia