Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Montessori Cosmic Education and Connections Between Living Things: Hold a Council of All Beings

The most important thing we can do is to hear inside ourselves the sounds of the Earth crying. - Thich Naht Hahn
NAMC montessori cosmic education connections between all life council of all beings children in animal masks
A few years ago, my upper elementary Montessori class spent a few days on Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, camping and having class on the beach. We learned about the Wright brothers and built and flew paper airplanes, studied coastal dune environments, learned about simile, metaphor, and onomatopoeia while writing poetry about the ocean. We gathered the huge seashells that are common on the North Carolina coast, built sand castles, and played in the waves. But the most poignant part of the trip was our final evening. We gathered at sunset on the beach and made s’mores and as it grew dark we invited the Council of All Beings to join us. What happened next among these 50 children was nothing short of amazing.

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 Beings

To 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.
Concerns, Fears.
  • 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.
Beings Offer Their Gifts to Humans.
  • 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.
At the end of the Council, the teacher thanks the beings for participating. The masks are gathered and can be displayed on a wall or bulletin board to serve as a reminder of what was said during the Council. You may wish to invite the students to put on their ‘human’ masks as you return to your classroom activities.
NAMC montessori cosmic education connections between all life council of all beings children at sunset
The Council of All Beings serves as a way to discuss what is happening in our world today. It has greater connections to the Montessori Curriculum through Cosmic Education, the Five Great Lessons, Cultural and Physical Geography, Botany, and Zoology. It can serve as a catalyst for projects and activities which reach beyond the classroom, with your students making a difference in the world around them.

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”.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, September 30, 2009.


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