Today, we are presented with much information regarding the protection and preservation of our planet and all of its living creatures: plant and animal. One hundred years ago, however, Dr. Maria Montessori was already calling for educating our children to make a difference on our planet, posing the question,  “All creatures who live on earth have a cosmic role to play…I would now like to pose a question: does man not also have a cosmic mission to fulfill on earth?” (Education and Peace, Maria Montessori, page 67).  Her answer, of course, was that certainly man does have a paramount role to play on earth with protection of the planet, its living creatures, and promoting peace. Therefore, in order for the child to understand his valuable place in the world, Dr. Maria Montessori offers the child biology: the scientific study of life and living organisms, which includes their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution and distribution.
Encourages Children to Examine the Whole, then Explore its Parts:
Montessori believed that we must offer the child the holistic study of the universe through the cosmic curriculum, including its plants and animals. (To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori, page 5). Therefore, the child is presented live specimens of animals and plants, which may include the care and study of classroom pets, nature walks around the school’s campus, and field trips for further exploration. Montessori addresses the importance of this practice stating, “Instruction becomes a living thing. Instead of being illustrated, it is brought to life.” (From Childhood to Adolescence, Maria Montessori, page 19). This child is excited by the close observation of real plants and animals and the biology curriculum of the Montessori classroom seeks to satisfy his needs.
Following the child’s study of the live specimen with the introduction of the “big picture,” he can then investigate the “details” with the examination of the parts and functions of the specimen. The child begins to learn the nomenclature regarding the study of plants and animals.  Through the study and acquisition of the appropriate vocabulary, the child begins to explore the functions of these parts. The child soon becomes deeply interested in ordering his intellectual mind through classification. To support this sensitivity in the study of biology, he is introduced to the scientific examination and classification of plants and animals within the five kingdoms. This study is more abstract and thus, follows the concrete study of live specimens, their parts and functions. Montessori states, “Reality is studied in detail, then the whole is imagined. The detail is able to grow in the imagination, and so total knowledge is attained.” (From Childhood to Adolescence, Maria Montessori, page 18). The child constructs a bridge from the concrete to abstract in his exploration of biology.
The Child Develops a Reverence for Nature and Understands the Interconnectedness of All Living Things:
Because Montessori brilliantly recognized the innate interest of the child for his natural surroundings, her observations led her to take that interest the child already possessed and develop a curriculum to further excite and educate him. We can build upon this spark of interest in order to help the child understand not only nomenclature or functions of parts, but the importance of valuing and respecting the whole of nature, including lessons and discussions regarding protecting our planet and reducing our own carbon footprint. Montessori states, “The child who has felt a strong love for his surroundings and for all living creatures, who has discovered joy and enthusiasm in work, gives us reason to hope that humanity can develop in a new direction.” (Education and Peace, Maria Montessori, page 58).
Montessori’s biology curriculum facilitates the child’s development of that spiritual force which includes the reverence for all living things and respect for our relationship within nature. Montessori addresses the importance of understanding the inter-connectedness all living things and states; “The maintenance of life on earth depends on many species, each one of which has a special, specific function…Everyone knows, for instance, that the disappearance of one species in a certain place upsets the balance, because the lives of all species are interrelated.” (Education and Peace, Maria Montessori, page 67). Therefore, through the biology part of Montessori’s cosmic curriculum, the child develops a sense of veneration for nature, all living creatures and how each has their unique place in the continuous evolution of life. The children excitedly embrace the cosmic role they hold within the function of earth because they have been exposed to Montessori’s scientific study of biology. It is our hope and mission that these children become the peacemakers and caretakers of our planet.