Within the first few weeks of school, Lower Elementary students experience the First Great Lesson of Montessori: The Creation Story, sometimes referred to as the The Beginning of the Universe.
The Creation Story
The Creation Story is the First Great Lesson in the Montessori tradition. The Creation Story orients the student, providing a backdrop for all of the scientific, cultural, and practical life learning that Lower Elementary students engage in.
This lesson is an interactive, engaging experience for the students, that covers a variety of topics relating to the origins of our universe, our planet, and life itself. The lesson consists of a series of experiences guided by the voices, actions, and props of the teachers. Teaching teams work together to create an immersive experience by using relevant backdrops, well-timed readings, and coordinated demonstrations of key ideas.
Creation of the Universe
The lesson begins with the advent of the Universe. The growth of our current realm of being, from an imperceptibly small singularity. Students are invited to imagine the extraordinary distances that have grown between celestial bodies, by extrapolating. Students start by learning about the speed of light, and how long it would take light to reach all the way around the world (far less than one second). From there, students imagine how far away something must be fore it to be measured in light years. Defining these scales, and letting the students ponder distances that had once been completely abstract, prepares them for the leaps of logic and research that they will make in the coming years.
Moving through the lesson, students learn about the vast scale of the universe, the number of identified stars, the relationship between sizes of planets, and the distances between these bodies. They learn that if each star were a grain of sand, they would be enough to cover the entirety of our home state, over, and over, again.
Beyond the celestial, the lesson moves into the physical world around you. The next steps explore concepts like density, states of matter, and state change. We observe the differences between ice and water; between liquids, gasses, and solids; and what defines each of these segments. Liquids of varying densities are poured into a single container. The properties of different states of matter are tested–sloshing water, snapping a stick, and watching as air is "poured out" of its container.
Growing ever-closer to home, we now examine how all of these phenomena have helped shape our home, planet Earth.
Students explore the concepts of oceans and continents with the help of the sandpaper globe. Relating to the concepts of density explored before, we examine why denser metals have settled toward the molten core of the planet, while lighter solids, liquids, and gasses, strive towards the outer reaches of our planet.Students love to explore the representation of a volcano allowing these gasses and molten elements to escape to the earth's surface.
Finally, we explore why the earth is shaped the way it is today. Like an aging piece of fruit, different elements of the planet have different consistencies, and the surface adjusts to compensate for that. Much like the wrinkled skin on an old piece of fruit, when the areas beneath the surface adjust, valleys and mountains are forged.
After following the lessons through the timeline of creation, students are ready to engage in discussion about the composition of the world around us, and how we interact with it. This is the basis for all of the cultural, scientific, and practical life work they will undertake going forward with Lower Elementary.