« The Universe is the Day’s Programme. »
Our teaching system is focused on a child’s educational pathway, the development of their skills through the projects they create and will share with their friends in class.
We ask ourselves the question as regard the motivation needed in every form of learning.
Is it enough to let children hatch their projects so that the work they do on them leads to their developing all the skills they need to adapt to life in the best way possible?
At the same time, we set out to follow children along their pathway and to stimulate their imagination for general knowledge, which holds the keys to our understanding of the world.
Maria Montessori entitled this educational project “cosmic education”. The Greek root of the word “cosmic” is antonymous to “chaotic”. The sense behind this project now becomes clear: presenting children with order in the universe, a universe addressed in its each and every facet. Similarly, we can understand why her vision of help given to children was termed “scientific teaching”. She was not the only person who wanted to make pedagogy a science, but she is unique in the way she wanted to transmit culture based on the best available form of understanding, namely science.
Our educational project, the main themes of which we have outlined below, is grounded in questions of culture that every primary school child asks him- or herself about the universe and its phenomena.
Cosmic education will unearth an intrinsic interest in a child whose natural curiosity has not been blunted. To cut a long story short (because this is a long story), we can sum up the cosmic educational project in five chapters: “the origin of the universe”, “the appearance of life”, “the advent of human beings”, “the invention of writing” and “the invention of numbers”. Taking a closer look, it is clear that through this project we are beaming the whole universe onto a child while cutting it up into parts that reproduce the classic fields of knowledge, namely: geography, biology, history, language (French) and mathematics. In this sort of intellectual setting, a child is well and truly at school, wouldn’t you say?
The educator, through his or her skill, art and personality, sets out to create a mood likely to trigger in every child the motivation to learn and to work. Everything a child can deliver as a project or a question can be written into cosmic education. Cosmic education expands and extends every question about immediate reality to an explanatory substrate. For example, if a child is interested in his or her new bicycle, the teacher sees an interest likely to broaden the subject to means of transport, stretching back to its origins. So indirectly, the child will be invited to join the whole of humankind for whom transport has always been a preoccupation.
How do we apply cosmic education? In early primary school, it is at the beginning of writing and in the history of humankind, a period when oral tradition was particularly strong. Telling a child stories creates magic moments that fill him or her with moving spiritual alacrity (as long as the story itself is inspired). It is also the means preferred by the teacher to create a mood, to inspire an in-depth context for work: by way of “great stories” – others will say great fables or great lessons – we are going to recount the universe and all that it holds in terms of beauty and wonders. These stories contain all the knowledge of humanity, making it possible to realize any project worthy of interest for the child. The educator will thus be able to call on a whole panoply of tools with which to trigger and broaden the interests of each child.
We should emphasize here that “great stories” are a starting point used to create a mood; no work ever stems directly from great lessons. However, a whole series of activities, from the most concrete to the most abstract, are tied in with them, depending on whether the child is at the beginning of primary school or about to move up to secondary schooling. These activities arouse interest in specific aspects from which a child will be invited to take the initiative for a given work. In this way there may be as many works as there are children, but a guiding theme will link them together. The skill and art of the educator will consist in creating this mood for work and in going deeper into the queries raised by children, in stimulating, encouraging, creating expectations and establishing boundaries… everything that relates to the primordial concerns of a good educator. The school year will always begin with the great story of the Origins of the Universe, irrespective of level of schooling.
So what is the point of all this? Is it possible to kindle, as it were, the flames of curiosity and wonderment as to the grandeur of the human enterprise, the immensity and the beauty of nature whilst setting in motion a spirit of responsibility in our children? We believe so, having observed them year after year. It is clear that the magnitude of these stories stimulates a vital momentum in our children.