First Great Lesson: Experiments on the Laws of the Universe

Thursday, June 22, 2017

It’s that time of the year in our home wherein we're doing "The Great Lessons". Maria Montessori’s plan for the framework of elementary education is cosmic education and cosmic education is attained via telling the five great stories and followed by key lessons. These stories are typically told in the beginning of the Montessori school year for lower elementary and repeated ever year. This is our second year of the great lessons and I decided to document it so you can replicate it in your homes as well.

Montessori For Everyone has a beautiful summary of what The "Five Great Lessons" are all about. This post is all about the First Great Lesson: The Beginning, and we'll showcase the experiments to demonstrate the basic laws governing our universe.
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The Story: God with no Hands

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For the story, Mavi and I read the book Born with a Bang. Our Geological Times and Universe Trilogy activities were inspired by this series.  For the First Great Lesson, we are using the book Born with a Bang, the first in the series.

The Experiments:

We’ve done most of the experiments here before, but I love to do it again and this time in line with the cosmic education of Montessori Elementary.  I learned about the sequence of the experiments from (1) Montessori Teacher Collective, (2) saw it in action and inspired by What We Did All Day and The Learning Ark and (3) Miss Barbara.

Three States of Matter

“Then God gave some other instructions. Each of the tiny little particles was given a special love for certain particles and a special dislike for certain others. Some were attracted to each other and some were not. Just like human beings, they like some, and refuse to have anything to do with others. So they form themselves into different groups.” – monteaco.com

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This is to demonstrate the three states of matter: the solid (strong bond between particles), liquid (loosely bonded), and gas (so loose that there’s no definite shape nor defined volume)

I asked Mavi to observe the bottle and describe each matter based on his observations.

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Forces of Attraction

In this experiment, I punched some papers and we scattered them in the water.

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“Over the next 5 billion years the particles continued to join together unable to resist the force.” – missbarbara.net

Observe the bits of paper, of how they move in the water without external force (no touching, no blowing). Some come together, and others repel, this is the force at work. We’ve seen this phenomenon in the bits of paper and Mavi was fascinated! The same phenomenon applies on how galaxies and stars were formed billions of years ago!

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Model of Liquid

“'Thus you shall flow and spread, filling every hollow, every crevice in your path. You will push downward and sideways, but never upwards.' That is why, though we can put our hands in water, we cannot put them inside a rock.” – monteaco.com

This is an experiment on how molecules in liquid behaves. We don’t have ball bearings, so we used mung beans instead. So we moved, twisted and changed the bottles into different direction, and the beans just keeps on filling the spaces, just like any liquid!

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States of Matter and Heat

This experiment is to demonstrate that materials change state at different temperatures. Here I prepared a candle, a wooden peg and an ice. We exposed them to heat and after a few seconds, the ice started to melt. Then, a few minutes later the candle started to melt as well but the wooden peg remained unchanged. Mavi reported these results based on his observation and I asked him what does this mean? His answers were more related to time (it takes a while to heat up), and I just have to explain further what it means, we need more heat to change the candle and most especially the wooden peg.

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Hot molecules expand and they become lighter, while cold molecules shrink and become heavy. Thus in the story, the blazing hot Earth cooled down and became the planet that we know.

Liquid Settle According to their Weight

The heaviest particles settled into the center of the planet. We used three different types of liquid: water, oil and honey. This is to demonstrate that the heaviest particles settle at the bottom.

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“They became solid because of the great pressure Earth exerts on its core. The mantle, between the core and the crust remained liquid and it was very hot. This molten rock wanted to expand; it wanted to rise up to where it was cooler, but the crust was blocking its way. So it burst out!” – missbarbara.net

And that’s the first part of our First Great Lesson! We will continue with the second part, and it’ll be all about volcanoes!

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