Discover the significance and captivating storytelling of the Montessori Great Lessons with experiments and detailed scripts.

Montessori First Great Lesson

During the start of a school year, the First Great Lesson is presented. These are impressionistic lessons that introduce children to the way our earth was formed, the history of our solar system and galaxies in general!

First Great Lesson in the Montessori Lower Elementary Classroom

Imagine for a moment that you’re a tiny spark floating through the vastness of space. Suddenly, you hear a rumbling sound, and you see a giant ball of fire hurtling towards you! You panic, thinking that this is the end, but then you realize that the ball of fire is actually the sun, and you’re just one of the many planets orbiting around it. Phew!

That’s right, the first great lesson in Montessori’s lower elementary curriculum is all about the creation of the universe and our place within it. Through a series of captivating stories, hands-on experiments, and awe-inspiring visuals, children are introduced to the wonders of the cosmos and the interconnectedness of all things.

But it’s not just about teaching kids some fun facts about space (although that’s certainly a perk). The first great lesson lays the foundation for all of the learning to come, helping children develop a sense of curiosity, wonder, and reverence for the natural world. It teaches them to ask questions, think critically, and seek out answers for themselves.

With this lesson, you’ll capture your kids’ imaginations and spark a lifelong love of learning. Plus, you might just learn a thing or two yourself!

Why Teach the Great Lessons

The first great lesson in Montessori’s lower elementary curriculum is an essential component of the Montessori approach to education, and for good reason. By introducing children to the story of the creation of the universe and their place within it, this lesson instills a sense of awe and wonder that can inspire a lifelong love of learning.

Through this lesson, children are encouraged to ask questions, think critically, and explore the world around them. The first great lesson in Montessori’s lower elementary curriculum teaches children that they are not separate from the natural world, but rather an integral part of it. By learning about the creation of the universe and the origins of life on Earth, children begin to understand the interconnectedness of all living things and the importance of preserving the delicate balance of our planet’s ecosystems. Children learn to see themselves as part of a larger ecosystem, connected to the natural world and all of its wonders. This can foster a deep respect for the environment and a sense of responsibility to care for it.

In addition to the intellectual benefits of learning about the universe and our place within it, the first great lesson can also have emotional and social benefits. By instilling a sense of wonder and curiosity, it can help children develop a positive attitude towards learning and a thirst for knowledge. It can also foster a sense of empathy and interconnectedness, as children learn to see themselves as part of a larger community.

Overall, the first great lesson in Montessori’s lower elementary curriculum is an important foundation for all of the learning to come. By teaching children about the creation of the universe and their place within it, it can help them develop a deep sense of curiosity, wonder, and respect for the world around them, setting them on a path towards lifelong learning and exploration.

Keep in mind

The goal of the Great Lessons is to leave an impression on the child(ren) and to create a sense of wonder (they are impressionistic lessons). The lessons tie in the different subject areas from the Montessori lower elementary subject areas. What is more, they are an introduction to many concepts.

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, it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying.”

To Educate the Human Potential, p.9.

The goal is not for children to memorise the scientific concepts introduced. The general knowledge obtained from these lessons, the interest peaked, sense of wonder, are instead the focus. Who knows! Maybe some students will be so fascinated, they will begin their own projects, whether it would be a research report, an art project, or whatever else they come up with!

These lessons focus on the questions – “How did it start?” “What was happening in the beginning?” Second plane children are absolutely hungry for knowledge, and their reasoning mind is always asking “How?” And that’s what we will dive into!

Script

The Great Lessons are meant to be presented multiple times. Each time you offer them to your students or children, you can see where the follow-up work takes you! It will be a unique experience every time!

For a comprehensive set of scripts, I recommend our carefully curated
Great Lessons Storytelling Course.

I have also used a combination of scripts that I put together to serve the needs of my family. We have the Montessori Research and Development scripts are in their albums. I have paid for the albums and we have all of them at home. Of course, these albums are pricey!

Another very useful resource is the book The Deep Well of Time by Michael Dorer. This book contains scripts as well as wonderful tips to make your storytelling engaging for your students!

I was also fortunate enough to have had training and have several friends who are trained elementary guides! This allowed me to think about my children’s specific needs each time we go through the stories. Remember, the Great Lessons should be told more than once! You can tell the same story multiple times, adding or taking away certain details based on the needs of your children at the time.

If you have not had Montessori elementary training, I really recommend watching some videos of Montessori guides conducting the lessons before you do so yourself.

A few examples of such lessons are:

When telling the Great Lessons, try to convey excitement in your voice! Add moments of silence, tension rising as the story continues, and be aware of your facial expressions. One lesson from my trainer that I will always remember comes to mind here:

Montessori guides are the story tellers of truth.

During my elementary training, we discussed the role of the guide at length. The trainer told us that as Montessori guides, we are the story tellers of truth. Isn’t that beautiful?

It is our responsibility as adults to nurture this passion for learning in the child. And one way that we can do this is with the Great Lessons!

How to present the Great Lessons

If you need some extra guidance when it comes to presenting all of the Great Lessons, there is a fabulous programme that my friend Sharlie from Montessori for the World put together. She is a Montessori guide with years of experience teaching elementary! Her programme can help you figure everything out!

From the demonstations, to the script, and even how to foster excitement via your storytelling!

Join the Great Lessons Storytelling Course here

The First Great Lesson

The First Great Lesson is meant to introduce the children to the creation of the Universe! Everything from our Earth, to our solar system, to galaxies, and the start of everything!

Experiments can accompany the presentation of the First Great Lesson. You can present the demonstrations when telling the story the first time. Alternatively, some Montessori guides recommend first presenting the demonstrations over the course of multiple days. Then, you can focus on storytelling during the First Great Lesson.

Afterwards, children should be offered an opportunity to explore the materials, which delve deeper into physics and chemistry. The experiments should not be too complicated and should require a minimum of adult intervention.

Safety disclaimer: children should be monitored at all times when conducting experiments and safety should be considered at all times.

Big Bang

Invite your children to join you for a very special story!

First, you can ask your children to look outside. What do you see?

We can see grass or a bird. Maybe some clouds? A car? A tree?

This story is very special and took place before all of those things! Before you and me, and the trees and even before the stars! We will explore the story of the start of everything!

A long, long, long time ago, there was nothing. It was so dark and so black. But suddenly – BANG!

Pop a black balloon.

To prepare:

Use a funnel to fill the balloon with confetti. To make our confetti, we used scrap paper and a hole punch. Alternatively, you can collect some leaves and use a hole punch to make confetti for a more environmentally friendly alternative.

This balloon popping marks the big bang!

Be warned! There will be a fun mess from this activity! We were covered! Cleaning up afterwards is just practical life work!

Light

Now there was light! Demonstrate this to your students by lighting a small candle. This shows how we went from darkness and nothingness, but now we have burning, hot light for the first time!

Remember, we still have the particles from the balloon popping scattered throughout the room, too!

Particles

At this time, we had many particles! They were very chaotic and going everywhere!

We can demonstrate how particles began forming in the early universe. For this, you will need:

  • Marbles
  • A clear container with a lid

Place some marbles in a clear container. You can shake the container to show the children how the marbles bump into each other and then bounce away.

This represents the particles that bounced against each other after the big bang. These particles were very, very fast and they couldn’t stick together! When particles stick together, they can form larger bodies of matter.

After the big bang, the universe began to cool a little bit. Now, particles could stick together. When particles started sticking together, they could form elements!

Particles coming together

Add water to a bowl filled with paper confetti. Note how the small papers will move around without any external force! Some will form clumps and others will repel – just like particles eventually started to come together in order to form stars billions of years ago!

Density

All of the things in the universe experiences pressure based on how heavy or light they were!

You will need:

  • Clear container with a lid
  • Honey or syrup
  • Oil
  • Water

Syrup is the heaviest and went down!

You can shake up the container. Ask them – what do you think will happen after some time? Everything will settle and the layers will separate eventually again.

That’s because there are rules and laws for everything in the universe that they must follow!

States of matter

You can demonstrate different states of matter in many ways.

Did you know there are more than 3 recognised states of matter now? For this demonstration, we are focusing on 3 common states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. However, you can discover more about plasma (a fourth state of matter) in the follow-up lessons and posts we will cover.

We used: 3 clear containers with lids containing: ice, water and nothing representing solids, liquid and gas respectively.

To demonstrate gas, I also had a bottle of perfume. I sprayed the perfume in the class. We discussed how we couldn’t see the perfume, but we could definitely smell it! You can discuss how the gas doesn’t have a shape or specific size, but it does go into the room! We know this because we can smell it.

Laws of Attraction

You can show the children how somethings are attracted to each other and come together. Other things are opposites and don’t come together.

You can gather a tray with sand and a magnet. Show how the magnet is not attracted to the sand. The sand does not stick to the magnet. But! If you sprinkle in some iron fillings into the sand, the magnet will pick up the iron!

Volcanoes

Show how the earth experiencing so much pressure and it was so hot! There were many volcanoes.

You can demonstrate a volcanic eruption!

Books

Reference books for adults:

  • Children of the Universe
  • Deep Well of Time

Useful books for the classroom:

Do you need a more concrete guide to the Great Lessons?

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