— by Jennifer Morgan author of Born With A Bang: The Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story
Once upon a time there was no earth. Earth-to-be was part of a cloud of stardust floating through space. The cloud shrank and flattened into a disk shape that began to spin and grow tighter and tighter until WHOOSH! . . . the center flared into the sun, and the planets, including earth, formed in the outer part of the disk.
How precious earth becomes for children . . . and all of us . . . when we hear the story of how our earth was born out of stardust. The story evokes such a powerful sense of connection, not only with our own special planet, but with the universe as a whole and the great cosmic adventure that we’re all part of. Inside the greater cosmic story, we can’t take earth for granted. It wasn’t always here. Its existence and its capacity to support life rests upon the epic of evolution that brought it into being and the balance of complex interrelationships. Through the story of the universe, we lift off of earth — just as astronauts have done — and see our home as more unique and wondrous than ever.
Maria Montessori recognized early on the importance of teaching elementary age children the story of the universe as a context for all subjects. “If the right idea of the universe be given to the child in the right way,” she wrote, “it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him an admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying. The child’s mind will no longer wander but will become fixed and can do work.”
Not long before her death in 1952 she developed the Cosmic Education Curriculum which became the philosophical foundation of the elementary curriculum. It is based on the idea that studying the great cosmic adventure, the greatest story of all, gives context, meaning, and a sense of connection and excitement to everything. “It is not enough,” she said, “for the teacher to love the child. She must first love and understand the Universe.”
Five Great Lessons provide the “scaffolding” for Cosmic Education:
- The Story of the Universe
- The Story of Life
- The Story of Humans
- The Story of Communicating in Signs
- The Story of Math
The first Great Lesson, The Story of the Universe, tells the story of the big bang through formation of the solar system. The Story of Life tells the story of earth nurturing life into being that becomes more and more complex. The Story of Humans starts with the evolution of the very first humans and tells the story of human evolution up to today. The Story of Communicating in Signs explores even more deeply human cultures and language while the Story of Math is specifically about math. All subjects are placed on this Great Lesson Scaffolding, thus showing the interrelationships between all subjects.
Within cosmic education, ecology and love of the earth are not taught as separate subjects but are interwoven into everything.
To help tell this story, I wrote the Universe Story Trilogy, illustrated by Dana Lynne Andersen, and published by Dawn Publications. Born With a Bang covers the first Great Lesson, the big bang through formation of the solar system. From Lava to Life covers the second Great Lesson; and the third book, Mammals Who Morph, covers third Great Lesson and also touches on the fourth and fifth Great Lessons as well.
Now there is another helpful tool for teachers, the Cosmic Story Cards and Timeline based on Born With a Bang, recently published by Wasecabiomes.org. The package consists of: 1) a large teacher card set with a picture image on one side and a simple story line on the back, 2) a smaller card set for students to sequence, 3) an even smaller card set for sequencing on the timeline, and 4) a timeline. The package which retails for $95. The card sets are a great complement to the book. After telling the story to the class, students can internalize the story and sequence the cards on their own. They can read the book before or after sequencing the cards. The book is a more complex version of the story and makes a great way for students to deepen their immersion in the story. For more information about the Cosmic Story Cards and Timeline, go to www.wasecabiomes.org and select “The Big Picture.” You can also call Waseca at 866-546-8833 for a catalog.
For information about teacher trainings and school visits, go to my website at www.universestories.org. And if you have any feedback regarding the books and/or the Cosmic Story Cards please write to me through my website.