Age: 7 & 10

Science Co-op Session 1 Week 4: Montessori First Great Lesson


  • First Great Lesson Presentation
  • Van Gogh Starry Night Art
  • Break
  • Moon Log

After 3 weeks of background presentations, this week was IT, the First Great Lesson.  This presentation was already done two school years ago, in Fall 2016.   I’ve never quite liked the lesson the way it was taught to me because I don’t have the best classroom management skills yet and dealing with kids who go off script when you show them the experiments while you’re busy telling the story throws me into a loop, and then I start rushing and things fall apart.

This year, I decided to change things up by using the story as told in The Deep Well of Time.  The author advocates telling the story by doing all the presentations in the weeks leading up to the lesson, then make the story an oral story, without reading from the book.  Alas, I could not memorize the whole story.  So I did read from the book, but tried to tell it as much as possible without reading straight.

The other thing I changed was to tell the story in English so that I’m not stumbling over words and shortening the whole story because I don’t have the words for them.  Thankfully, all the children in the co-op actually could benefit from more English exposure.

First Great Lesson Presentation

First, we ushered the kids into a dark room in the house.  We started by reminding the children of the three presentations we had in previous weeks, Colder than Cold, Solid/Liquids/Gas, and Density.  Then I reminded them today I was going to tell a story.  I asked them to just listen to the story without feedback this time around.

A long, long time ago, before you were born, before your mother was born, before your grandmother was born, before your great great great grandmother was born…..There was once a time when this building we’re in had not been built.  In fact, there were no buildings at all.  No buildings anywhere in the whole world!

Even before this time, there was a time when there were no people, no people at all, anywhere.  Before that time, there were no animals and no plants, and there were even a time before that when there was any life at all.  There were no living things anywhere.

I’m not sure why I never learn you should not sprinkle stars when you talk about the Big Bang moment, because the kids will want to pick it up and you would have lost them for awhile.  Next year!

Amazingly they were mostly enthralled by the story except the younger kids (5 year old) started getting fidgety by the end.  It is a very long story.  I brought out the posters at suitable moments and it is amazing how without the experiments drawing their attention, they do look at it very closely.  The other change I made was to sit on a little chair while the kids sat in a circle around me, a suitable distance away.

The earth is a tiny speck when compared to the size of the sun

You can see the other charts in the presentation in my original post last year.  The children are always suitably impressed that the Earth is only a tiny speck when compared with the size of the sun.

In the The Deep Well of Time, the author mentioned that there should be no followup activity after the presentation other than music, drama, and other arts.  You kind of want the story to sink in and evoke their imagination.   I had always felt like it was a let down after such an amazing story that the kids just run off to play.  So this year, after the story, I asked the children to re-enact what they heard through a “play”.

They were all over the place and couldn’t recall much without my help.  But they had fun.  When I asked Astroboy to do his daily debrief at dinner time, it was apparent that he only remembered the parts that he acted out.  So it is helpful!

Van Gogh Starry Night Art

Eclectic Mama had a 星期八 magazine that has a 2 page activity on painting the Starry Night on a sandpaper.  The children first learned that Van Gogh was actually sick so he saw swirls in the starry night and thus painted it that way.

We gave them 100 grit sandpapers and asked them to imitate Van Gogh’s style of drawing.  Of course, none of the kids wanted to actually draw Starry Night, even though hey, only every other blog post on this activity shows paintings after painting of Starry Night reproduction.

You start by drawing an outline of trees, sun, mountain, fill it in with oil pastel, then choose a similar color and draw in swirls.  The kids also figured out they can smudge the oil pastel to get some effect.  But I had to remind them that their fingers might hurt on the sandpaper.

Two kids drew the solar system since we talked about the creation of the Universe today.  Other kids drew Pokemon and other animals.  I guess next time, if I did expect them to reproduce Starry Night I have to make that very clear in the beginning.


That night, I crashed at 7:30pm and went to bed with the kids.   I was so busy I didn’t take many pictures.  But was so stressed out about giving a good presentation I was mentally exhausted.  However, I think the kids enjoyed their great lesson and we will repeat our story again when we do the second presentation: Coming of Life.

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