A Parent’s Perspective on The Fundamental Needs of Humankind

I just finished watching the latest AIM webinar entitled, The Fundamental Needs of Humankind, and what really “sank in” for me is this: all of the different topics within the elementary-level curriculum really are connected. Maria Montessori refers to this as the “Cosmic Plan.”

The secret of success is found to lie in the right use of imagination in awakening interest, and the stimulation of seeds of interest already sown by attractive literary and pictorial material, but all correlated to a central idea, of greatly ennobling inspiration – the Cosmic Plan in which all, consciously or unconsciously, serve the Great Purpose of Life." - Maria Montessori

It’s always been a bit mind-boggling for me (as a parent and not a teacher) to imagine how the educational curriculum is selected. How, from all the wide world of subjects and topics, does one choose what should and shouldn’t be taught, and when, and in what order? But after watching the webinar, I understand what Montessori meant by “attractive literary and pictorial material, but all correlated to a central idea….”

Mary Ellen Maunz, M.Ed., Founder, Program Director, and Janet Nordemann, M.Ed., Elementary Program Faculty, presented a beautiful chart, which is an amazing teaching tool for elementary-aged children. The chart is an introduction to the fundamental needs of mankind. It was interesting to realize that these basic needs have remained the same throughout history and regardless of location. What does change, is the way humans meet these needs by “utilizing what they have in the place (and time) they live,” as Mary Ellen Maunz explained.

According to Montessori, children ages 6- 12 are hungry for knowledge. When you begin with a big picture perspective, the child can see how everything is connected. This makes the information more relevant to the child. He can see how one thread of information leads to the next; he can follow that thread to the components that interest him most; and he can discover what his own part is and how this information relates to him.

"If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying. The child’s mind will then no longer wander, but becomes fixed and can work. The knowledge he acquires is organized and systematic; his intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him, and his interest spreads to all, for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which his mind is centered." - Maria Montessori

In the webinar, Janet Nordemann gave an example using the topic: bread. One of the fundamental needs of humankind is, of course, food. If you begin by exploring questions such as, what are the different types of bread, you quickly move on to the different types of grain, which leads to various climates, which leads to geography, which leads to cultures, and traditions, and history, etc.

Once that first spark of interest is lit in his imagination, the child will follow that interest. The trick is to offer that tantalizing nugget that hooks the initial interest…

A global vision of cosmic events fascinates children and their interest will soon remain fixed on one particular part as a starting point for more intensive studies. Thus, the way leads from the whole, via the parts, back to the whole. The children will develop a kind of philosophy that teaches them the unity of the universe. This is the very thing to organize their intelligence and to give them a better insight into their own place and task in the world, at the same time presenting a chance for the development of their creative energy.” - Maria Montessori

The beautiful Fundamental Needs of Humankind Chart is just such an “organized and systematic” tool to capture the child’s imagination. It offers a visual, easy to understand way to organize teaching materials, both for you and for the child.

"…the Cosmic Plan can be presented to the child, as a thrilling tale of the earth we live in…. Illustrated as it must be by fascinating charts and diagrams, the creation of earth as we now know it unfolds before the child’s imagination…." (To Educate the Human Potential, p. 2)

If you' like to learn more about the Fundamental Needs of Humankind chart follow this link.

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