Monday, October 21, 2013

First Great Lesson 2013

Today the boys heard the First Great Lesson for the second time.  I titled this post "First Great Lesson 2013" because it occurred to me that we will be doing this presentation every year for six or seven years and it would be nice to know which post was which when it was all said and done. 

 If you are looking for nitty-gritty details on how I give this presentation you'll want to read last year's post.    They really took me seriously when I would ask them to "imagine" something, as evidenced by Me Too's thoughtful expression in the following photo:

 I think last year's study of particles made a huge difference in their understanding of the lesson this year.

While some of last year's unbridled excitement at seeing BRAND NEW SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS set out was missing, the increased levels of understanding and thoughtfulness on the boys' parts more than made up for it.

Another difference this year was that Me Too was officially "an elementary student" as well and was old enough to take the lead on some of the demonstrations.

This is one demonstration I still haven't gotten right.  Last year I put the three solids (a birthday candle, non-lead solder, and a bolt) each into its own section of a cupcake tin and put the cupcake tin directly on the burner.  There are two mistakes there.  One was using a birthday candle instead of plain candle wax, the other was that the cupcake tin didn't allow me to remove individual items as they changed states.  So, the birthday candle melted first and then the remaining wick started to burn because it was stuck on the heat while I waited for the solder to melt.  This year I used plain candle wax and put each substance inside oven-safe, one-cup, glass dishes and put each of those dishes inside a pan that I put on the burner.  Somehow the glass dishes prevented the solder from heating enough to melt.  I tried adding water to the pan to create kind of a double-boiler and the solder still didn't melt.  I removed the dish of candle wax (melted by that point), dumped out the water, and put the solder and the bolt each in their own cupcake liner inside the pan.  This eventually melted the solder but also started the cupcake liners on fire.  Very exciting.

One thing I did do right this year was the organization.  I was able to prep for this lesson in about five minutes because there was actually a drawer in the school-room cabinet labeled "First Great Lesson" that had my bolt, solder, jar of BB's, and candle wax in it so that I didn't have to search all over the house for these items.

Kal-El asked if I would clean up the volcano right away.  He knows it comes apart and has a diagram of the "parts of a volcano" inside.  He wanted it clean so he could work with it.  The volcano has a prominent spot in our school room every day, however it was only upon hearing the First Great Lesson again that he was inspired to open it up again and draw the above diagram.  

I am all prepped to present the Second Great Lesson.  I could do it as soon as tomorrow, but will probably let the boys ruminate on the First for at least a day.  I do plan on doing it this week.  In the meantime, I have a lot of irons in the fire.  If you follow me on Facebook you probably already know that I have been up to my elbows removing wallpaper from  Me Too's bedroom.  As it often does, that project has snowballed.  The walls were so damaged from the poorly-prepped wallpaper job AND a previous jacking of our home's foundation that I had to have some good drywall experts in to fix nail pops (EVERY nail was popped) and skim the walls.  Now that I'm into the actual painting I realize that I have out the caulk as well as the same trim and wall paint that we have in our school room and hallways. When I got out the chop saw and the nail gun to put up a new piece of trim in Me Too's room I started thinking...  What better time to install faux-wainscoting on the stairway?

No, it's not done!  I have about eight tubes of caulk and a whole lot of paint to deal with (not only do I have to paint the boards and the caulk but the panels between the boards will also be white).   However, at the same time I have THIS going on in the garage:

I'm almost done painting the first 1/3 of the boards I need to install a planked ceiling in Me Too's bedroom.  One more coat and I can spend the next few days with my arms holding a nail gun up over my head.  This is what happens when I'm caught up on Montessori projects.

Yes, that is a bass drum in our garage.  Don't judge. And yes, that is a target for bow-and-arrows taped to it.  What?  You don't have one?  You can also see a glimpse of Me Too's new (Craigslist) desk in the background.


  1. Caught up with Montessori projects, huh? You're giving people hope!!! ;)

    It is always interesting to see what Legoboy will latch onto with each telling of the story. It hasn't failed yet - he's in "fourth year" of elementary and has heard the story at least 10 times that I can think of off the top of my head.

    I wonder if metal dishes would work better with the melting items? Wider condiment cups? (I found mini-pie tins at Goodwill one day - too big for our burner, but your burner is awesome!)

  2. Shoot. I cursed myself. Ever since I said "caught up on Montessori projects" I keep thinking of things I should do. This morning I saw Kal-El trying to write "experiment cards" for himself and I was reminded that I REALLY need to make the experiment cards. Sigh. I also have the whole "pin map" project hanging around like a dark cloud but I feel like that isn't an emergency.

  3. Nah - if they're doing it themselves, you're off the hook ;) Just add a few extras in here and there ;)

    Pin maps - not done much on those in our home because Legoboy doesn't seem to "need" them - a couple times, we've taken a map copied onto a plain piece of paper and taped it to cardboard for him to poke a few pins with quick labels stuck on - then he creates his own map off of that and we move on.

    I like the pin maps, but they are one area that we've just not needed. Now, I have a couple of children upcoming (tutoring) I'll be creating them for though. They need them to memorize some information for school requirements. :)

  4. this is wonderful. I love seeing how each family/classroom does the Great Lessons differently, yet the same.
    I have never done the one you had problems with that has a candle, solder and bolt. I assume that is for the three states of matter. The one I do has an ice cube (changes to gas), crayon (changes to liquid), nail (stays a solid). If you are having trouble with the materials you are using, maybe try a different material. Im no expert, but I too have had problems with some demonstrations not working as stated so I just change them a bit but keep the same concept. It can be frustrating when you set up a whole Great Lesson only to have one or more of the demonstrations flop. Luckily, there are so many other things that its easy to just move on.