Monday, October 8, 2012

First Great Lesson: God With No Hands

I took a photograph of my kitchen when it was set up for the first Great Lesson, God With No Hands.  We hope to remodel this kitchen some day.  It is moments like this that seriously give me an urge to put in soapstone countertops like a traditional science lab.  If you are unfamiliar with the Great Lessons or their purpose in elementary Montessori you can read a nice summary in this post at Montessori for Everyone.

In addition to the six experiments or demonstration that take place during the telling of the story, we also made use of four impressionistic charts to help bring the story to life. I used a version of the story that I cobbled together by combining the version in the KotU album with another version an online friend of mine created by rewriting Miss Barbara's story in a more biblical way.

The first impressionistic chart you use during the story is The Earth Compared to the Sun.

This is shortly followed by a demonstration of The Three States of Matter.  The above jars are filled with either air, water, or ice.

The next demonstration uses a large bowl of water and paper punches to illustrate the Forces of Attraction.

The boys learned that some molecules cling closely together, some cling loosely together and that some do not cling together at all.

The third demonstration uses a jar full of BBs to illustrate how the molecules of a liquid will roll over each other.

Me Too was allowed to listen to the story.  He really enjoyed the jar of BBs.

State of Matter and Heat:  We used a cupcake tin together with wax, solder, a metal nut, and ice cubes to demonstrate that different materials change states at different temperatures.

I would recommend you use separate metal containers in a pan as per the instructions in the albums rather than a cupcake container on your gas stovetop griddle.  Separate containers will allow you to REMOVE materials from the heat after they have changed state.  Our way meant that the next demonstration was "how to remove the batteries from the smoke alarm."  You can see the wax candles in the top left cupcake hole was starting to smoke as I snapped this photo.

Chart:  Dance of the Elements

The boys learned that hot molecules expand and become light while cold molecules  shrink and become heavier.

The next demonstration showed that Liquids Settle According to Their Weight.

This was Kal-El's favorite part of the story and he has repeated the experiment (using olive oil, water, and molasses) many times since I told the story two weeks ago.

The sixth demonstration involved the volcano.  I did not do the volcano with ammonium dichromate, sulfer, and a match as is traditional.  I didn't feel like making my own volcano just yet. So, I used a pre-made volcano by Learning Resources ; a mixture of red dye, dish soap, and vinegar; and baking soda. I explained to the boys that there are a lot of different ways to do volcano models and that we would work our way through them one level of difficulty at a time.

Authentic or not, the volcano was a big hit.

The story concludes with the explanation of two more impressionistic charts.

Volcanoes and Cloud

Volcanoes and Water

Montessori Monday


  1. Great stuff! Maybe I am a geek, but those Impressionistic Charts look good enough to hang up in my living room. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Great work! I hope the boys loved it! It was by far the girls favorite Great Lesson! It looks like you did an amazing job!

  3. Love it! Thanks for sharing this. It looks like it was inspiring work:)

  4. It looks like they enjoyed it!

    One tip on the volcano with the baking soda and vinegar (just in case the boys haven't already thought of it - which they may have!). Take a magnifying to it when it is "bubbling" and have them describe (or draw) what they see. Don't give them any hints about what they might see -this is a development of observation ;)

    My co-op children LOVED doing that last year - ALL year - even when the result didn't change one time!

  5. Great work!!!! Love your kid face at the volcano!! And I just LOVE THAT CHARTS!!!! SOOO BEAUTIFUL!!! THEy looks like paints!!! Great work!!! Congrats!! I hope you enjoy too!!!

  6. What a helpful and amazing post! I teach Godly Play over at Explore and Express ( and have been curious about these lessons. Thank you for providing the on-line links to the stories! Would you be able to share the more biblical version that you pieced together? If so, my e-mail is: sheilaingermany"at" As a Christian educator who is also very interested in teaching children ways to combine their scientific knowledge with their faith, I find this topic fascinating! I would love to dialogue more with you about this topic and link to this post in one of mine.

  7. Great post!
    Where did you find your charts? They are beautiful!
    Do you plan on blogging the rest of the great lessons?

    Hope so.



  8. Thank you everyone!

    As you will see in today's post, I did NOT make the charts :)

    Anon. I *will* be posting on the great lessons as we go!

    Sheila, Thanks for stopping buy! You might not have noticed, but your blog has been listed in the Godly Play section of the "Ultimate Montessori Blog List" in my left sidebar for quite some time :) My version is literally a pasting together of Jessica's version and my friend Sarah's version which is a pasting together of Miss Barbara's version and the book of Genesis. Since NONE of that work belongs to me, I cannot share it. I will put together a list of links to some things that are similar and let you know when I've posted about it.. I believe everyone has to cobble together a story that matches their religious beliefs. If I had to put a label on my beliefs about this topic I would probably say that I am a Creationist but not a young Earth creationist. I believe that the Bible is 100% true but I don't believe that man can understand 100% of it. I tell the boys that we don't know if God meant at 24 hour day or if a day was "longer." When I show the boys the long black strip I will be referring to the "work" God did rather than the "time" as some often do. I believe many scenarios are possible and am grateful that a complete understanding of creation isn't a prerequisite for salvation. Would be happy to discuss this further and would love it if you linked to me :)


    We can't wait to try that!

  9. Hi Jessica, I wrote you an e-mail - I hope I have the right address. Let me know if you don't get it and I'll try again.

  10. This is an awesome post! I LOVE what you did with the first Great Lesson ... and the charts look beautiful in the photos! I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page and pinned it to my Montessori Elementary Activities and Ideas Board at

  11. I had fun revisiting your post! I featured your post and Dance of the Elements photo in my Montessori-Inspired Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Activities post at

  12. How do you store these charts? I also purchased them and they are gorgeous. Do you just roll them back up, or do you have them stored flat somehow. Aren't the kids supposed to be able to access them after the story. Just wondering how you set that up, thanks.