This issue of Communications pays tribute to the memory and fine mind of Camillo Grazzini, long-time director of training at the AMI training centre in Bergamo, who died earlier this year. “Cosmic Education at the Elementary Level and the Role of the Materials” beautifully illustrates his deep understanding of Cosmic Education and its implications for the Second Plane Child. This article is based on a paper delivered at the AMI International Study Conference on “The Child, The Family, The Future”, held in Washington, D.C. in July, 1994.Camillo Grazzini recounts his close collaboration with Mario Montessori concerning work done with children at the elementary level. He describes how Mario Montessori would extensively lecture ‘on the psychology of the elementary age child; on the environment, materials and work of the teacher in relation to the child of six to twelve; [Mario] would also give lectures on the cosmic fables as psychological keys to the exploration of culture. These cosmic fables are:1 God Who Has No Hands—the story of the creation of the universe, etc. and, therefore, the greatest vision of the whole that can be offered to the child (introducing geography in particular)2 Story of Life—both the appearance or coming of life and the evolutionary succession (introducing biology)3 Story of the Appearance or Coming of Man—(introducing human history)4 Story of ‘The Ox and the House’—which is the story of the alphabet (for language)5 Story of Numbers or of Counting—(for mathematics)6 Story of ‘The Country/Nation of the Great River’—commonly known as ‘The Great River’: the story of the human body (for human physiology and anatomy).’Mr Grazzini illustrates some of the activities carried out under Mario Montessori’s guidance when study groups ‘prepared materials for each of the subject areas in a different part of the room. These materials were designed to correspond and appeal to the sensitivities and tendencies of a child of the second plane of development: imagination, culture, morality, etc.’The interdependencies of the various subjects studied were exemplified, and a concrete three-dimensional image of Maria Montessori’s words was created. ‘One of the purposes of education is to relate the studies (or subjects), one with the other, around the Cosmic Centre. For you cannot understand biology without understanding chemistry or physics, and you cannot study life without its environment, which brings us to geography. (…) And every subject is a more detailed description of the one fundamental principle’.
This issue sees the conclusion of the series of four San Remo lectures, delivered by Maria Montessori to the 8th International Montessori Congress, August, 1949. The title of the Congress was La Formazione dell'Uomo nella Ricostruzione Mondiale [Man's Formation in World Reconstruction].In this lecture Montessori acutely identifies the suffering of humanity and its limitations in trusting the child. ‘Our work will most surely be inspired by our reflections with regard to the child; above all, the perception of the child as the constructor of civilisation and progress will imbue us with the faith to follow a new road—a road that, we are convinced, leads to the solution of humanity’s gravest problems.A bewildered humanity has long been searching for harmony, for a point of understanding where hope and the common interest may converge. Humanity has not yet found this point. Many say that to reach an accord we should begin by eliminating all racial and national prejudices. However, is it possible to disregard elements that appear to be essential to our life and that of others? Reconstruction cannot originate from a negative formula which demolishes the essential structures of social organisation that have prevailed in the world until now.’
This article by Victoria Barres ties in appropriately with Montessori’s own San Remo lectures. Victoria argues that Montessori in 1950, ‘still energetic despite her eighty years, participated in founding meetings of UNESCO institutions. One task was to create the International Institute of Education to promote international peace through education. Discussions abounded about reconstructing Europe, linked to educating the ‘new man’. Finally Maria Montessori, politely but firmly, told members that for decades many others, including herself, had devoted enormous energy to raising such issues as the links between education, peace and world reconstruction—the very issues under discussion. Yet war continued to be viewed as a response to violence, with little analysis of the consequences of war. War not only weakened the population’s health and welfare but also planted the seeds of future discord.Maria Montessori insisted that if humanity wished to succeed in establishing solid foundations for world peace, it had to focus on the prevention of war.’
Moral development is a subject that throughout history has been widely discussed, advocated and oft times despaired upon. Today, in our complex society, it continues to be relevant. In his article on “Montessori and Moral Development”, Greg MacDonald takes the reader through the child’s developmental planes, dwelling on the insights and discoveries made by Maria Montessori as well as her practical observations and suggestions for the child and the adult alike.Greg clearly shows that ‘The Montessori theory of moral development is a component of Maria Montessori's child development theory. (…) throughout the world children seemed to develop according to a pattern that was common to all. The timing of any part of the pattern's appearance in any one child was unpredictable. However, it seemed that children within a particular age range tended to behave in the same manner, manifesting a common pattern of behaviour.Eventually, Montessori developed from these observations her concept of the “Four Planes of Development”. Children, she stated, appeared to pass through four stages of development. Each lasted for about six years. Each manifested different physical development, different behaviours and different learning powers. 'If these periods be considered separately, the typical mentality of the children in each appears so different that they might almost belong to different individuals.'Maria Montessori concluded that if we were ‘to best serve children, then we should tailor what we do with them to their plane of development. Their needs were different at each plane’. (…) ‘As she observed children, Montessori also forged a theory of moral development. New manifestations of moral development occurred in each of the four planes of development’.
In the Montessori Secret, Monica Sullivan Smith invites the reader to look at “Montessori” with different eyes and a different mindset. She argues that the basic Montessori philosophy can be beneficial in any environment, taking it out of the traditional classroom and school.‘The Absorbent Mind and the Sensitive Periods; the Stages of Development and the Human Tendencies; the Child as the Teacher, the Adult as a Guide and Education as an Aid to Life: all are recognised as some of the most basic principles applied in the Montessori prepared environment. When we hear the word “Montessori” most of us think of such things as the pink tower, the perfectly prepared practical life exercises, the ellipse (for walking on the line), and golden bead materials. We are so quick to equate “Montessori” with prepared environment. In reality, Montessori developmental principles are true of every child, at all times, no matter what environment he is in. Dr. Montessori’s own work, which was not confined to a particular space, materials, or to children working only with a trained teacher, should give us inspiration for expanding our horizons.As Montessori educators, we have not just our ability to prepare our Montessori environments and devote our lives to what we believe to be the best educational approach in the world, but also wonderful “secrets” about children that the general public can apply in their own work with children. It does not take a great deal of effort to help others understand, for example, the manifestations of sensitive periods, or the characteristics of the stages of development. By working with other professionals, those trained in Montessori can help others learn to observe children through “Montessori eyes” and respond to their needs more effectively.’
...In Education and Peace Maria Montessori states 'As for peace, it has never been the object of an orderly and ongoing process of investigation that goes by the name of a science; on the contrary, a clear concept of peace does not figure among the countless ideas that enrich our human awareness.' The essence of peace remains undefined and no sensible human being would spend time and energy, let alone passion, on chasing an ignis fatuus. The perception of peace is nebulous and subjective, both collectively and individually. Usually it is understood as an absence or cessation of greater or lesser sources of disquiet that beset humanity-war being cardinal among them.
...The first formative years of the child are of exceptional importance in the formation and evolution. They embody a nucleus of energies and capacities that must be assisted to develop wholesomely, for if they deviate, the consequences are irreparable.We know that in this period man's positive as well as his negative qualities come into being and that the sum total of these qualities will characterise the adult.(...) We have the possibility to form the citizen of the world and the study of the young child is fundamental to the peace and progress of humanity.The child does not absorb things haphazardly; he has a strict inner guide. He follows unalterable laws that determine not only events, but also the time when these events will normally take place. At two years of age, for example, all children speak, the African child, the Indian child, the European child; they speak African languages, Indian languages and European languages. And apparently there are no teachers, there is no curriculum to be followed, there are no exams. It is an invisible teacher that instils knowledge into the pupils without their being aware of it. It is a marvellous thing.The school, conceived as an institution for the cultivation of humanity, assumes an aspect totally different from that of the modern schools where teachers dedicate all their efforts to making the children study. The school, in my view, should be considered as a help to development. The hunger of developing minds is akin to the hunger of a starved body.Children want to know everything and ask an infinite variety of questions and their unfortunate teachers, as a rule, know so little.
Montessori Internationales Ausbildungszentrum (MIA e.V), the AMI Teacher Training Centre in Germany, hosted, for the first time, an international conference. The interest from Germany and Europe in general was vast and speakers addressed a 'full house'. One fifth of the participants came from outside Germany, i.e. from the Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. Tobias Fürstenau, a communications expert specialising in Montessori topics, covered the conference and wrote a report especially for AMI.Lecturers from various countries addressed an audience of about 250 Montessori professionals and other teachers. The weekend of January 9 to 11 was packed with reports and practical demonstrations on how, for all levels of child development, the Montessori Method is implemented today.The conference speakers emphasised how Education for Peace could be a possible solution to many of the world's future problems. They expanded on the need to allow young people to grow up in a prepared environment, so that they are able to develop their personal and social capabilities and competencies. This would equip the children to manage their future life, and care for this world. They want to be part of our future society, and will be. They want to take a positive attitude and play a role in their own future, and they will. They are ambitious to learn all about nature and human existence, and they do learn.The following keynote speakers gave presentations: Lilian Bryan provided a deep insight into the phenomenon of normalisation.David Kahn reported on the theory of flow of Csikszentmihalyi's findings, who himself was stunned on finding out he had been beaten to the post by Montessori so many years ago.Practical demonstrations on how to present complex mathematical operations or the cycles of night and day on earth were given by Dr. Peter Gebhardt-Seele, the only German AMI elementary teacher trainer (for 6 to 12 years).Bilingual education principles and practical demonstrations were presented by Lynne Lawrence, AMI primary teacher trainer in London, together with Maria Roth, Germany's only AMI primary teacher trainer (for 3-6 years).Furthermore, workshops were held on the following topics:• the prepared environment for 0-3 year-olds by Cordula Lehrer• the prepared environment for 3-6 year-olds by Maria Roth• Montessori work with the aging adult by Bianca Mattern• people with special needs by Lore Anderlik• how to work with parents of children in Montessori institutions by Bärbel Klaukien• theory and examples of Cosmic Education by Anne Dunne• religion in the context of Montessori by Claudia Schmidt.
During the Conference "The Child as Builder of Humanity", held from 26 to 28 September 2003, in Sydney, Australia, Takako Fukatsu and Victoria Barres gave a joint presentation on Montessori initiatives outside the classroom, around the world. An important aspect was the consideration of how "Montessori Principles Contribute to an International Movement of Social Reform".Montessori was intrigued by several fundamental questions: can physical health be achieved separately from emotional, intellectual and spiritual health? Are there links between "inner peace" and "outer peace"? Can ordinary people contribute to peace? For Montessori, these issues were linked to the harmonious development of the child.Dr. Montessori's principles are used successfully in families and schools. Not all people, however, are fully aware that Montessori advocated a movement of social reform for children, whom she called the "forgotten citizens". Schools were a means to reach her goal of helping children develop harmoniously in healthy environments; they were never an end in themselves. Families, communities, and countries needed to understand the child's developmental needs, so that they could provide appropriate environments that would allow all children to develop their human potential. Montessori used her lectures, training courses and publications as means to reach the general public and shape opinion.