Elementary-age children are naturally fascinated by the interrelationships of things, ideas, and people. That is why The Montessori School of Raleigh (MSR) employs the Five Great Lessons developed by Dr. Maria Montessori to set the stage for intellectual, spiritual, and psychological development. Central to the curriculum for students in grades one through three (Lower Elementary), the Great Lessons form a framework for academic studies established through epic stories about:
- the origins of the Universe
- the inception of life on Earth
- the development of human life, culture, and accomplishments
- the history of language
- the history of numbers
The first Great Lesson is a combination of imaginative story and scientific exploration of the elements of our universe and usually happens at the start of a new school year. It is meant to be impressionistic and appeals to the child's curiosity and imagination—inspiring the student to want to learn more.
This lesson leads to the study of:
- Astronomy: solar system, stars, galaxies, comets, constellations
- Meteorology: wind, currents, weather, fronts, erosion, water cycle, clouds, glaciers
- Chemistry: states of matter, changes, mixtures, reactions, elements, atoms, periodic table, compounds, molecules, chemical formulas, equations, lab work, experimentation
- Physics: magnetism, electricity, gravity, energy, light, sound, heat, friction, motion, experimentation
- Geology: types of rocks, minerals, landforms, volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics, ice ages, eras of the earth
- Geography: maps, globes, latitude/longitude, climates, land/water form names, continents, and country research
Each year in their multi-aged Lower Elementary classrooms, children listen to The Story of the Universe and the other Great Lessons as part of a spiraling curriculum. As each child hears these stories again in first, second, and third grade, the stories mean something different as the child matures and is able to apply more knowledge, deepen understanding, and make new connections.