Monday, August 27, 2012

In the Beginning...

First let me say that I love the first week of school.  Being in a public Montessori school is not that different from being in a private one.  The reason?  Children.  Children are eager to learn, enthusiastic, helpful, funny, and compassionate.  The child comes with everything necessary to be a valuable member of the classroom community.  The Montessori environment is always child centered and therefore the "public/private" issue is a non-issue.

That being said, I was so disappointed that Hurricane Isaac arrived and canceled the second Monday of school.  I was looking forward to one of my favorite Great Lessons.  Maria Montessori called it "God with no Hands".  I do a version that is called "The Big Bang".

I want to stress to all of you who are kindly reading this, this is an impressioistic lesson, it is meant to give the child an impression.

We set the stage by drawing the blinds, turning off the lights, and making the room as cold as possible.  We have a black balloon hanging in the center of the circle, it is filled with a bit of glitter.  We solemnly gather the children around the rug and I begin our story.

Over the past few days we have been studying the creation stories and myths of many cultures.  You have even written your own creation stories.  I want to tell you a creation story that scientist believe happened 14 million years ago.  Because it is a scientific story it is called a theory.

You will have to use your imagination.  That is how scientists work.  They use their imaginations and then find proof of their theories in the natural world.

This theory begins before you were born, before your parents were born, before your grandparents, before George Washington, before the dinosaurs, as a matter of fact, before the earth and the sun ever existed.  As a matter of fact it begins like all the creation stories we have read, "In the beginning..."

It was darker than the darkest night imaginable, light does not exist yet, it is so dark you would not be able to see your hand if you put it in front of your eyes.  It is also colder that ice.

In this blackness and coldness a singularity existed.  It was small and very heavy.  It contained the four forces of the universe, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force and gravity.

In a flash, gravity split off from the other forces (pop the balloon, turn on the flash light).  Tremendous heat emerged from this singularity.  Everything that is in the universe today was formed from this explosion which scientists call the Big Bang, even though it did not make a sound.

As the particles began to cool, hydrogen atoms began to fuse together to form the stars, bits of dust floating around the stars became planets. The particles were following the laws of the universe.  One planet contained the ability to make water.  That planet cooled enough to bring the right elements together to form life.

So when you look around you remember you are made of the same elements as everything that makes up the earth and when you look at the stars remember that the same elements that are in the stars are the same ones that you are made of.  Remember that you are made of stardust.

There are many lessons that follow this presentation about atoms, elements, stellonuecleosynthesis, gravity, states of matter, formation of the earth, and volcanoes.  But this is the big picture of the universe. All students find this lesson worthwhile which is why we present it every year.  It is the beginning.


  1. Hi Debbie, this is Selby's mama, Liz. Thank you for sharing the resource of your blog with us. As a parent, it gives me great comfort to have this insight into my daughter's learning environment and educators! I can't wait to hear her recounting of your Big Bang lesson when she returns home from school today. And I look forward to going through your archives here and learning more about the Montessori method. Thank you, again. ~ Liz Sniegocki

  2. Thank you Liz, I hope you become a member and a regular reader. I will try to explain some of the Montessori principles in my blog. The Big Bang lesson kicks off our science curriculum. We will study states of matter, gravity, atoms, elements, astronomy and the solar system in the next few weeks. Keep in touch.