Apple Montessori Blog

Discovering Our Cosmic Task: Why Apple Montessori Elementary Takes a (Really) Big Picture View of Education


Helping children discover and develop their cosmic task is one of the four cornerstones of Apple Montessori’s educational philosophy. Of the four, it’s the one that usually requires more explanation. If you’re not immersed in the world of Montessori, you’re probably not used to thinking about a child’s education as cosmic or even sure what it could mean.

A cosmic education and a cosmic task are what make education meaningful, so let’s go over what it means and why we’ve made it a core part of our program.

What is Cosmic Education?

When we talk about a cosmic education, we don’t mean we’re covering astrophysics. It’s a way of understanding the world and our place in it.

There are two components to a cosmic education. First, developing a global vision and learning to tell a cosmic story. And second, discovering our cosmic task.

Telling a Cosmic Story

Every curriculum is divided according to subject matter and discipline. That ensures everything gets covered and it helps keep students focused on the topics at hand.

The trouble is, conventional schooling presents these different disciplines as if they were completely isolated from one another. Children will learn math, science, history, and art, but they’ll rarely (if ever) have the opportunity to see how they are connected.

Montessori schools, however, take a cosmic approach that shows students just how all those different subjects fit together. In the end, they’re all important to understanding our place in the world and how we relate to everything – as part of a community, that is part of a nation, that is part of a global world, that is part of a solar system, that is part of a vast and infinite universe.

Every part of the curriculum is telling this story from a different angle. Each of them is like an individual puzzle piece, and telling the cosmic story is our way of helping students put those puzzle pieces together.

Discovering a Cosmic Task

Telling that cosmic story shows us how vast and interconnected the world is. And knowing that raises another question: where do I stand in this big picture?

The Montessori method allows students to pursue their own interests and passions. Discovering their cosmic task means seeing how they can use those interests and passions to benefit others and their communities – whether it’s bringing joy through their art or improving the world through their love of science.

Having a cosmic task gives children a real sense of purpose. It gives them a constant reminder of why they matter and it gives meaning to the activities they pursue every day.

A Cosmic Education Makes a Difference

Making a cosmic education a part of our educational program isn’t just about telling a bigger story; it also has important benefits.

Works with Every Child’s Natural Traits

Every child is unique. But there is one way in which they’re all the same. No matter who they are or what walk of life they come from, every child is both naturally curious and naturally compassionate.

Cosmic education is perfectly in line with these natural tendencies. By telling a cosmic story and helping students discover their cosmic task, we draw on, nurture, and respect every child’s curiosity and compassion.

Motivates Learning

I can still remember the first time I sat in a classroom and thought “Why am I even learning this?”

Discovering one’s cosmic task is all about orientation. It’s about understanding where we belong and how we fit into this world.

It was an elementary school math class and the material had become so abstract that I couldn’t figure out what the symbols and numbers were meant to represent. I was probably multiplying fractions or trying to figure out the square root of something or other, but whatever it was, we had come a long way from counting cubes and adding them up.

Because I couldn’t figure out why we were learning abstract math, I lost interest in it pretty quickly and it affected my performance in school (to this day, I’m not the best with numbers).

That wouldn’t have happened if I had a cosmic story. There’s a reason to learn all that abstract stuff. There’s a reason it’s important. But if students are just given problems out of context, it’s hard for them to see the point of working through them.

Learning is always more interesting when we see the point of what we’re doing. And seeing the point is what telling a cosmic story is all about.

Improves Well-Being

Right around the time they enter elementary school, children start becoming aware of just how big the world is. They’re now confronted with the fact that there is a vast world beyond their familiar surroundings that they haven’t even begun to explore. They’re also getting a sense of just how small our planet is against the vast backdrop of our galaxy, let alone the universe.

That vastness can be fascinating, awe-inducing, and deeply inspiring.

It can also be demoralizing. Many people feel that this vastness robs their life of meaning – how could they be important if they’re just a little speck on a tiny blue dot in an endless universe?

Unfortunately, children are not immune to that kind of existential angst. Even if they avoid it early in life, it can still worry them in later years. That’s one of the reasons we help them discover their cosmic task.

Having a cosmic task gives our lives direction and purpose. It helps us understand what we contribute to the world. With it, we always know that our lives and our actions are meaningful.

Empowers Our Students to Change the World

This is also the age when children start to develop a really strong sense of right and wrong. They’re also becoming aware of some of the unfairness and injustices in the world.

Being upset that something is wrong but not knowing what to do about it is a recipe for feeling helpless. Having a clearly defined cosmic task, however, helps children see just how they can help make the world a better place.

Everyone has their own set of interests, but children who also have a cosmic task see how they can make their passion a force for good. That’s a powerful feeling and it sets them up to become agents of change.

Creating Cosmic Context

Good education creates context. It shouldn’t just give students and an encyclopedic dose of facts. It shouldn’t just teach them to be good at taking tests. It should help them understand themselves, their lives, and how they relate to everything around them.

Taking a cosmic perspective gives our students that context. It gives them the tools they need to find their place in the world.