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Andrea Lulka

What a beautiful conversation is happening here!


This is my first time contributing to the Network, and I’m here because Jennifer thought I could add some insight. I feel that the original document does a wonderful high-level job of explaining the importance of understanding the Planes of Development when creating or implementing any kind of Montessori (or in more general terms, child development when creating any kind of evidence-based) curricula, pedagogy and program. One of the things that makes Montessori unique and incredibly powerful is the continuum of the program – that there is something in place that meets the child at his/her place in time from birth all the way through age 18 (for now). If I knew how to insert images, I would share the charts that Dr. Montessori created around the Planes.


When we train in Montessori, we train to work with particular age groups, because we must understand that age group deeply and thoroughly in order to serve them. With the understanding that content always comes after approach, philosophy and most importantly the support of the self-construction of the child, the content to which the children are exposed in the earlier levels creates a very solid base of concrete knowledge and information in terms of the cosmic story. This allows the child to explode into a fascinating exploration of the universe and its story as he/she transitions into the elementary years, and this exploration, once begun, does not really ever end…


We begin in Nido and Toddler (ages 0-2.5/3) by allowing the child ample time to simply BE. To explore their relationship with the world in very concrete terms. At around 9 months of age, the child begins to understand that s/he is a separate being, still connected to all other things. This happens through movement and through the senses. The sensori-motor experience is of prime importance here, and the Montessori approach to this age level emphasizes independent exploration of natural objects along with deep connection to the child’s caregivers.


In the Casa (3-6), we begin to explore more deeply. The first ‘official’ exposure to the cosmic story through the materials is the sandpaper globe, which shows a child a unified vision of Earth – land and water alone, which the child explores through sight and touch. We move on to the geopolitical structures and boundaries, while simultaneously exploring the basic elements of water, air, earth and fire. This gives the child an integrated exploration of the beauty of both the natural world and the diversity of human existence and culture. When we get to the point of exploring various land and water formations, the children can easily make the connection that transportation, shelter, food and clothing will be affected by geography. We talk about how different animals can only be found in certain parts of the world, and we examine closely the parts and function of these parts of the 5 classes of vertebrates. Now, all of this is done in full integration with exploration of movement, sensorial impressions, mathematics, oral and written language, the creative spirit, the relationship between community and self, the natural world itself (by actually being outside!), and so much more. There is nothing that stands alone in a quality Montessori environment.


All of these things and studies will lead the child to a natural understanding of evolution once they begin their work with the timelines and hear the Story of the Coming of Life in the Elementary, because they already have a context in which the new information will fit very nicely. They know (even if they have not articulated the knowledge) that the pectoral fin of the fish is placed on the body in the same way as the wings of a bird, the forelegs of a salamander a horse and a lizard, and the arms of a human. They know that the tadpole loses its tail along the way. They know that anteaters have a long tongue so they can get in the anthills, and that polar bears have think, hollow, transparent strands of fur to keep the heat in because they live in very cold places. It would therefore be no surprise to hear that mammals evolved from fish, which evolved from bacteria, or that the environment guides evolution, and that the living beings within ecosystems depends on each other for life. And once a child knows this – deeply and truly as Montessori kids tend to do – it is very very easy for them to step into a role of stewardship. Dr. Steven Hughes says that Montessori creates brains that are primed for systemic thinking. Which means that as they work through the Elementary, the children are learning how systems work in every possible way – how everything is connected to everything else… and that something includes their own selves.

As they reach the adolescent years, we continue the cosmic story by giving the teenager ways to connect to nature, to their community and to the greater stories of humanity and the universe at large. Their main work is to create a personal and social identity, and to do so with the deep understanding that a Montessori child has of his/her place in the universe is a powerful powerful thing indeed. So we give them opportunities to challenge themselves, to prove their inherent worth, and to be valued by their community (both the classroom community and the community at large) so they can value themselves as well. My son is beginning this work now, and it is thrilling to watch as he unfolds the various aspects of his personality and explores how and who he wants to be in this lifetime. We also give them quiet time – which they rarely get nowadays – to meditate and process and allow their bodies and brains to rest and grow and integrate the incredible changes they are experiencing. These quiet times actually connect them to their community and environment in much deeper ways. 


What excites me most though, about Cosmic Education in the Montessori way is the way it heightens the natural sense of awe and wonder with which we are born, level by level, age by age, never letting the momentum slip, challenging and creating and connecting. The only way we can do that is to truly understand each and every child in front of us – the various tenets of Montessori philosophy (the Planes, the Sensitive Periods, the Universal Human Tendencies and so forth) give us a starting point from which to find the universal and the uniqueness of each child… and that is the single most beautiful connection I have ever encountered in my life.

Thank-you for including me in the Network!