by Jill Dianne Bittinger

Providing for Social Emotional Needs of both Students & Teachers

The challenges of today’s educational climate are all too evident through the statistics of drop-out rates of both students, and teachers.   The Educational Leaders who understand that it is more than knowledge alone to be instilled in the learning environment are the ones leading the way towards revised curriculum and strategies to cultivate connection to Body, Mind and Spirit for overall health and well-being.   The Transformed Education team seeks to grow and unite these communities.  We are sponsoring summits with educational leaders to strengthen this movement, and offer consulting and programs to promote this vision.

Within the consensus of many, we see that we live in a time in which there  is great tumult in the world. People often feel disconnected, disillusioned,  and caught on a wheel of simple survival. Through many paths of traditional education, we raise our young into this environment, saddling them with a  tremendous amount of “knowledge” to hold on long enough to feed back to  the test, then release and forget (unless they find they need to ask Siri and  be reminded). However, for many, there is a felt sense that something  is amiss—a sense of yearning, calling to us through the voice of intuition. It recognizes the level of corruption, control, confusion and conflict  within our present culture and asks if education, as it has been, is doing the  best it can to uplift both the individual and collective society.

How do we invite them to Love Learning?

The growth of ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum  Development), and its leadership in conveying the necessity to consider  Whole Child Education, speaks to the fact that educators throughout the  world are hearing this call —and seeking to answer it! Through this forum  of organized and intentional change, ASCD empowers us with vision, curriculum and community to believe that our voices, innovation and activation, can make the difference our system is calling for. Transformed  Education seeks to align with and support this valiant effort.

Whole Child Thinking implies a unified vision of the disparate parts. Clarifying and utilizing a shared  language towards visionary goals of unification is an important step. What words shall  we use to unify around transformative concepts that can unite and inspire  an elevated and shared vision of life and our role in it? It is an evocative  question that calls not just to the mind, but to the Spirit within. The  current educational climate denies uniting terminology that honors this Great mystery. God, Great Spirit, or Higher Power are terms to be kept  separate from Traditional Education. So, how do we reach into the realm of the inner Spirit, alive within each  one of us, in the educational context? This essence is worth reaching in  that it motivates and energizes our actions, inspires the mind, uplifts the  emotions, and connects us to our hearts. Addressing these realms expands  education to serve a vision both personal and collective.

Invite a Planetary Consciousness

Fundamentally, we are called to a Planetary Consciousness. This global  consciousness is one in which we can recognize the inherent precious interconnectedness all planetary life shares. It can address the unique  role humans have to either destroy or preserve the web of all earth based life.  As educators, it is valuable to come to the big picture of our global family waking up to the vastness of our universe in order to inspire a noble vision of  what education can be. As educators, we can aid in awakening within a desire  to positively affect the good of the whole, empowering the good of the whole through cultivating the unique talents within.  So then, how do we best facilitate a Planetary Consciousness? 

Gratefully, Maria Montessori has helped show us the way through her  introduction of Cosmic Education. Rather than re-invent the wheel, we  can benefit from the roots already deep and strong within the work of this  pioneering educator. We need not have to convert to her entire system of  schooling in order to benefit from this tree of knowledge, a legacy proven  over a hundred years in continents all over the world.


Principles of Cosmic Education

Maria Montessori held the unique perspective that it is a teacher’s responsibility to provide the stimulating, enriched environment and contextual stories that elicit  children’s curiosity. Children’s natural tendency to bring the quality of  wonder, with fundamental questions of “Why?” and “Who am I?” lend  themselves to the early years of school through this route. Cosmic  Education is an effort to convey the sense of being a part of a vast and  complicated network of energies, all interconnected with one another.  Rather than shying away from the big questions, the perspective of Cosmic  Education embraces the story of the beginning of the universe and  introduces the child to the realm of metaphysics and astronomy. It invites  the exploration of the stars and our solar system—encouraging the  exploration of physics and chemistry. The cosmic education view then  narrows its perspective, introducing the story of the Earth, through geology  and geography. Then the story of life upon this Earth through nature and  biology. It takes a look at the development of Humans. It examines the  major shifts that came with the development of language and its written  forms, then numbers and math systems, all from the vantage point of stories with uniting themes.

Maria Montessori believed that the world was a highly ordered and  purposeful place and that children who were educated properly would  become normalized into this order and purpose. War and poverty,  ignorance and injustice, were viewed as deviations from that purpose.  Cultivating peace in the important and tender age of early education can  take place naturally through cultivating a deep sense of gratitude as they  gain a sense of wonder for the miraculous interdependent relationships  upon our planet; relationships that are informed from, and honor, the natural world. 

Above all else, Cosmic Education is intended to be purposeful. It is meant to provide children with a clearer understanding of the natural world and, thus, themselves. I agree with Montessori that it will be the children who receive a Cosmic Education in childhood that will be better prepared to enter adolescence as independent, confident, responsible, and emotionally intelligent individuals. Achievements will be multifold—balanced in physical, intellectual and social realms. Such children are better prepared to make responsible decisions and act on them in a responsible way.

Seeing through the lens of our relationship to the Cosmos gives us the  language to embrace the unifying principles within a spiritual perspective that unifies  concepts in Science, Nature, Art, Math and Culture.

The Power of Story

STORY offers us a fundamental road for engagement. Wired within us, story engages  because they make concepts relatable and engage the imagination. When we use the power of story, we give students permission to step into an experience they can relate to. Cosmic Education invites us to  use the power of story. It invites us to consider our own personal  story, and our collective story.  What are we writing upon the pages of  time?

Dr. Maria Montessori understood the power of story to captivate and  educate. It is through story that she developed The Great Lessons for  Elementary age student. She gave five impressionistic, dramatic stories, to be delivered by the  teacher to inspire students to self-selected work. The Five Great Lessons  stimulate deeper questioning and discovery-based work based on the  stories: 1) The Beginning of the Universe, 2) The Coming of Life to Planet  Earth, 3) The evolution of Humans, 4) The evolution of Language and  Writing, 5) The evolution of numbers and Math. (We are presently working  to suggest a Sixth Great Lesson in order to address the new scientific  learning since these were developed.) After the stories, the students are  given lessons to explore and discover for themselves in the areas they’ve been stirred to wonder.  The teacher, or Guide,  discusses with the students the  constructs and assessment rubrics for their self-selected work. 

As an institution passionate to educate teachers with this mindset, the  North American Montessori Certification (NAMC) program helps us to  understand that Cosmic implies that it is comprehensive, holistic, and purposefully oriented towards the development of the whole person. The  aim is to prepare individuals to be independent, confident, decision-makers  that are able to benefit the whole of society. 

Rather than teaching the curriculum as separate parts, abstractly and  disconnected, the Great Lessons provide an all-encompassing, holistic  vision of various disciplines combined. This work supports the view of the  world and universe as a highly organized and purposeful place. Children  are able to draw connections as the narrative unfolds naturally from the  whole to the part and back to the whole again. The Great Lessons tell of  how each particle, substance, species, and/or event has a purpose and a  contribution to make in the development of all others, inviting each person to  explore and develop his or her unique purpose. This attitude is carried forth  by a deep sense of gratitude that the Montessori classroom purposefully  generates.

Cosmic education is intended to help each of us search for our  cosmic task as a species and as individuals. To do this, we must  understand ourselves in context. 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?”   S. Beydler

Artist unknown—please help identify

Cosmic Education also includes the intentional aspects of Montessori’s  ideas for Peace Education. The curriculum for the entire Peace Flower  includes: Self-Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Environmental Awareness,  Community Awareness and Planetary awareness.  Two things necessary for raising peaceful human  beings, Maria Montessori believed, were an awareness of interdependence  and the sense of gratitude that comes from that awareness. The inspired  perspective of Montessori Education invites us all to such noble aims and  the actions that may arise from them.

How do we now embody and  activate these powerful concepts in order to reach a global scale?

We do so through naming the workable strategies that can get us there. Strategies that move the learner beyond concrete and  abstract knowledge of content area and into a plane of appreciation for the  beauty and depth of the cosmic knowledge itself—the undeniable unitive  principles that weave our universe together where today’s science and spirituality are meeting. 

As this conversation broadens to consider voices beyond the Montessori realm, we see that other significant Educational leaders have strategies  that coalesce with these principles. One of these leaders calls for no less  than a revolution in education, Sir Ken Robinson.

Sir Robinson, similar to Montessori, calls for us to step beyond the  mechanistic view of education—a machine that we need to get all the  parts lined up on— and instead into a humanistic view. He invites us to  recognize education not as a mechanical system, but a HUMAN system— full of people that either want to learn, or do not. Each brings their personal  story to it. Education is a uniquely human experience and is therefore an  inherently organic system. In the context of our discussion, we could view  this in terms of the microcosm and the macrocosm. If we do not honor the  organic child at the hub of all learning, how can the expanded learning be  truly meaningful?

Robinson makes the call for education to value and cultivate the following  conditions: a sense of possibility, a broader range of opportunity, a  cherished relationship between teachers and learners, possibility for  creativity for both, and administration that does not command and  control but facilitates this climate of possibility. 

Robinson points out that we are poised upon a stage of coming revolution  in order to have life sustained upon our planet. Yet, because of the present conformity, most people have no idea of what they are capable of. Because  of its European foundations, our present educational system has been  based upon a model of the division of thinking and feeling. Recognize that  what it truly means to be a person includes both knowing AND feeling  offers us break through territory. It inspires activities that connect ourselves  with ourselves and invite a deep personal connection with the Great  Mystery.

ln Conclusion

In conclusion, we may realize that Education, in its truest sense, is not  about what we put in, but about what we draw out. What have we drawn  out of the individual, child or adult, in the educational process to truly  prepare them for the realm of tomorrow? A realm that we cannot yet fully  know. May we invite the student of tomorrow to cultivate and express his or  her unique gifts, think critically, keep an open heart and open mind, and  express creative thinking in compelling ways.

An education capable of saving humanity is no small  undertaking: it involves the spiritual development of man,  the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the  preparation of young people to understand the times in  which they live. —Maria Montessori Education and Peace

As the teacher invites the students into inspiration, so too s/he is  given license to follow such inspiration. For all ages, this article  invites you to explore the question of activating this  consciousness.

The Foundation for Cosmic Education for All

Image by Stephen Coburn 

YOU are a dynamic part of an AMAZING, organized, creative  UNIVERSE! A cosmic mystery that holds the living Miracle of  Life! As boundaries between nations and states vanish from our view in space, so too do all abstract boundaries when we  look through the unifying lens of what we learn to  consciously share, this incredible planet in space, our home,  the Earth.


An Introduction to Cosmic Education. Blog: 4-12-17 Montessori Acadamy.

Children of the Universe. Michael Duffy and D’Neil Duffy. Parent Child  Press, Inc, Jul 15, 2016

Cosmic Education: The Heart of the Montessori Classroom. For Small  Hands blog

The Purpose of Montessori Education. Grazzini, Camillo. https://

Montessori Elementary Curriculum: Cosmic Education and the Five  Great Lessons, NAMC Blog, 8-6-10

The Timeless Human Spirit. Montessori, Renilde. Beydler, J.A.  Montessori Guide.

NAMC Teacher Training. What is Montessori Cosmic Education? The  Keystone of Montessori Philosophy Explained.

Educating the Heart and Mind. Robinson, Sir Kenneth. https://

How to Escape Education’s Death Valley. Robinson, Sir Kenneth https://