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Five Great Lessons

Lessons so big, they don’t fit in the classroom.

The Lower Elementary hallway is a flurry of activity as Third Years have taken over the space with their Timeline of Life work. Part of the Five Great Lessons of Montessori, the Timeline of Life delves into all plants and animals that have ever lived on our planet—from the tiniest of microorganisms to the largest of reptiles.

It has been fantastic to watch our Third Years working together on the Timeline of Life, discussing eras, periods and epochs and which animals appeared on Earth during which time periods. We have all enjoyed observing their exclamations of excitement and the energy they have for this work. (If your Third Year starts asking for a pet trilobite, you’ll understand why.)

The five Great Lessons are unique and important to the Montessori Elementary curriculum. They are intentionally bold and visual as to inspire the imaginations of the 6‒9-year-old child. The lessons provide a departure from the Lower School curriculum where presentations start small and move gradually to broader conceptual understanding. The Great Lessons start with the biggest idea of all—the Universe—and then move into the smaller ideas that make up pieces of the whole.



The Five Great Lessons are:

The First Great Lesson: The Beginning of the Universe and Earth

  • The Universe
  • The Solar System
  • Composition of the Earth
  • Volcanoes
  • Rocks
  • Chemistry: The Three States of Matter
  • Creation Stories

The Second Great Lesson: Life Comes to Earth

  • Bacteria
  • Plants (classification and parts of: ferns, conifers, and flowering plants)
  • Fossils
  • Trilobites
  • Dinosaurs
  • Living and Nonliving
  • Classification Work
  • Kingdom Animalia (Classification and parts of: insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals)
  • Oceans and Ocean Life
  • Supercontinents (Pangaea, Laurasia, Gondwanaland)
  • Continents
  • Mountains
  • Oxygen & Carbon Dioxide

The Third Great Lesson: Humans Come to Earth

  • Ancient Civilizations
  • Fundamental Needs
  • The History of:
    • Tools
    • Food preparation and Storage
    • Clothing
    • Shelter
    • Transportation
    • Medicine
    • Defense
    • Art
    • Religion/Spirituality

The Fourth Great Lesson: How Writing Began

  • History of Writing
  • Hieroglyphic and Cuneiform Writing
  • Different Alphabets
  • Different Writing Systems (letters and characters)
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • The Printing Press

The Fifth Great Lesson: How Numbers Began

  • History of Numbers
  • History of Mathematics
  • Different Number Systems
  • How ‘zero’ came to be
  • The invention of the Calendar
  • Systems and Units of Measurement
  • Economic Geography