I was recently reminded of how important it is to know the “whole” and not simply its discrete parts. A fraction only makes sense when you know the whole. If offered a chance to participate in a 50-50 raffle and 10 people are putting in $1 each, many people would not join in because they can only win $4 more than they contributed. However, if 1,000 people are putting in $1, more may take a chance because they have the opportunity to win more money, even though the odds of them winning are actually lower.
The same is true in school. We live in an age when information inundates us; it is literally at our fingertips. How do we determine what children should know? How do we decide what to teach or how their time in school is structured? We could continue to do what schools did when we were young, and that is what most schools do. Or, we could look at the whole and work together with children to learn about the parts that make up that whole.
Maria Montessori said the teacher and the child must first learn to love and understand the universe. That seems like a daunting task, for the universe is enormous and multifaceted. However, learning about the universe and its enormity helps us begin to understand ourselves in context, or how we make up a part of the whole, for each of us is a critical part of the world in which we live.
It is wonderful to work alongside children who are looking at the world and realizing its vastness while simultaneously recognizing that children throughout the world are a part of the same world, a fractional part of the whole. They recognize the ways in which they are the same and embrace the differences working to fit all of it into the puzzle of the whole world. When children have the opportunity to ask questions, delve deeply into something that matters to them, manipulate ideas and wonder “what if,” they are learning. Through this discovery, they recognize their part and that they matter. One drop of water is a minuscule amount. Many drops taken together sustain life. Our children make up the whole that will create and form our future. Recognizing the importance of the whole world and not just their tiny corner matters.