Dr. Montessori and others developed the Great Lessons as an introduction to all topics, providing a ‘big picture’ to demonstrate how the sciences, art, history, language, geography are interrelated. Through the Five Great Lessons, children become aware that the universe evolved over billions of years, and that it is based on particular laws that order the ways in which all the plants, animals, and the rest of creation is maintained.
The Five Great Lessons are traditionally presented in early primary (6-9 years) using impressionistic stories, and are presented every year so that children see them more than once. Unlike the 3-6 environment, where the child is introduced first to “small” ideas that gradually widen into larger concepts, the primary child is introduced right away to large concepts – the largest of all being the beginning of the universe. With this ‘big picture’ in mind, junior primary children have a larger framework on which to hang smaller ideas as they discover them in their independent research.
There are Five Great Lessons that are used to paint a broad picture before moving to more specific study:
First Great Lesson: the Coming of the Universe and the Earth
Second Great Lesson: the Coming of Life on Earth
Third Great Lesson: the Coming of Human Beings
Fourth Great Lesson: the Development of Written Language
Fifth Great Lesson: the Development of Number Systems and Mathematics