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From a speck of dust to the cosmos

I can remember it like it was yesterday. The first time I was exposed to one of the most fundamental tenets of Montessori education was the spring of 2001.  Kim McMaken-Marsh, who taught Lower Elementary students at that time, spoke to a bunch of us new LMS parents:
“I became a Montessori teacher because I want to change the world. Yes, I want to change the world…I teach a child that she is of the greatest importance and that she can make a difference everyday to make the world a better place, and at the same time I teach her to understand the vastness of the universe, and that she is but a speck, a tiny speck, in this infinite place.”
Kim said more than that, but that is the essence of what I remember. Cosmic education. How will my son’s teachers do that for him?
Teachers who attended the annual American Montessori Society conference in Dallas in March, Wakiko, Diana, Stephen, Izzi and Biff, were inspired to inspire the rest of us on Thursday about the essence of Montessori education – the creation of the universe and the role of each of us and each of our children in that “infinite place.” So I learned more about how teachers here do that:
  • The life cycle of a caterpillar/butterfly;
  • When the sun rises in the east, my day begins, and when it sets in the west, I am home and calm and ready to sleep;
  • On my birthday I walk around the sun (a candle or a light) the number of times the earth has rotated around the sun since I was born;
  • A three-dimensional spiral shows me the dot that I am and the 13,000 people who depend on me in the future for their own life;
  • That I am made of star dust, and so are you, from so long ago;
  • The black line, the 30 yards of cloth to represent the timeline of the universe with only the last half inch to represent life on earth;
  • I can hear a story about homo habilis and how he saved Stephen from the crocodile and remember the importance of that early human;
  • The part of the great river that works hard and without pay or recognition so that my vital organs allow me to live;
  • The story of the crinoids saving life in the oceans.
(That’s part of the “how.”)
And so our children see the world differently and with more complexity, a richer more memorable way to see our importance and insignificance.
This collides for me with the ubiquitous remembrances these days of a tragic event in Boston history when two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Marathon. I read that one of five children in the Greater Boston area who were not even at the finish line suffered anxiety from knowing someone who was maimed or died that day or from being “in lockdown” a few days later.
We understand the bombings wreaked havoc on the lives of many, and we also understand the havoc and tragedy that occurs in so many places and over long stretches of time all over the world. What to do with that juxtaposition?
So I try to heal the little one next to me, and I contemplate my cosmic task – why I am here and what I can do – to change the world. I cannot help but feel that my boys, with their wonder and wisdom of the world since they were in Children’s House, will do that better than I.