Montessori’s vision of Cosmic Education is to understand the interdependency of all life on earth and, indeed, the universe. Created in 1985 by Joanna Macy and John Seed, The Council of All Beings is a time for us humans to come together and take on the persona of non-human beings on earth. It is a reflection of Cosmic Education as it fosters compassion for the hardships facings other living things. Often, the hardships are caused by humans and the Council of All Beings gives voices to those who don’t have a voice.
Montessori Cosmic Education and Connections Between Living Things: Hold a Council of All BeingsTo hold a Council of All Beings, invite the students on a nature walk. Listen to the nature sounds around you. Look closely at the beauty of the earth around you. When you return to the Montessori classroom, explain that we are going to be having a Council of All Beings where the students can speak for the living things on earth. Ask the students to choose which being they will represent. Though animals are the most popular, they can choose plants, rivers, oceans, wetlands, mountains, glaciers, soil, fungi, etc. Next, ask the students to create a mask of their beings. This well help them indentify with their beings. Masks can be made from paper plates, using grass, leaves, and twigs to embellish them.
After the masks have been made, invite the students to bring them to circle. With soft sounds of nature in the background, the Montessori teacher acts as the facilitator and introduces the exercise as a place to speak for a non-human being in a sharing circle called the Council of All Beings. She tells the students that humans are not part of the council be cause their voices are strong and now it is time for the other voices on the planet to be heard. The teacher begins by welcoming the Council.
We come together because our planet is in trouble. Our lives and ways are in danger. There is much that needs to be said so that others may hear.
There are three steps in a successful Council of All Beings. Examples:
Greetings & Introductions.
- I am polar bear, and I speak for all polar bears.
- I’m bumble bee and I speak for all pollinators.
- I have to swim farther and farther to find food. The ice is melting and I have no place to rest. I am drowning because I am so tired. My children are left alone, starving, unable to take care of themselves.
- So many insecticides cover the flowers. They are killing us as we try to gather the pollen we need to survive. Without us, many crops will not be pollinated and they will die.
- I, polar bear, offer you the majesty, strength, and solitude of one who lives against the odds.
- I, Bumblebee, offer you my sweet honey to sweeten your lives.
On that North Carolina night, as the Council of All Beings drew to a close, we sat in silence watching the embers of the bonfire die out. Many of us lay back on the sand to look at the stars. Not a voice was heard as each of us thought about what had just happened. Suddenly, three shooting stars flashed across the night sky. The collective “oohs” and “ahhs” echoed a deep appreciation for the natural wonder that had just occurred, when out of the darkness a young voice called out “The perfect ending to a perfect night”.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, September 30, 2009.