Thursday, July 03, 2008

Montessori Summer Activities: Star Gazing and The First Great Lesson

NAMC montessori summer activities star gazing first great lesson looking through telescope
Looking for something to do this summer? Why not take a thought from the First Great Lesson (The Beginning of the Universe and the Earth), and go star gazing across the clear, dark summer sky?

Before you venture out, it might be a good idea to review the concept of how in the beginning, there was nothing but darkness and a cold that was beyond any cold you could imagine. And then…BANG!!! A great explosion happened and all of the new things in the universe broke apart into hot matter that spread farther and farther into space. This hot matter became the very first stars.

Another idea would be to bring in stories of the creation of the universe from other cultures. This is a great way to compare and contrast cultural ideas and to talk about how all people have ideas about how the world was created. Invite the children to act out the creation stories for family and friends. Here are a few ideas:

Montessori Summer Activities: Star Gazing and The First Great Lesson

NAMC montessori summer activities star gazing first great lesson star cluster
Next, go to the library to check out books on the constellations. This is a great time to talk about how the constellations were named from classic mythology. Compile your own book about local constellations and their mythological beginnings. Children love to re-tell stories, illustrate them by hand, and design a cover. This could be read aloud as you wait for it to get dark.

Older children might like to research the difference in surface temperatures of different stars. They could create a chart discussing major stars in major constellations, the surface temperature and the color of the stars.

Stars are a common theme in music and literature. Listen to a recording of “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Disney’s Pinocchio and sing along for some summertime entertainment.

When You Wish Upon a Star
Writer: Leigh Harline; Lyrics: Ned Washington

When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you If your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do (Fate is kind, she brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing) Like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in and sees you thru
When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true
As with any Montessori experience, having a prepared environment is key. With the right preparation and a cooperative sky, you’ll be sure to have an enjoyable and comfortable evening.

MATERIALS:
  • Star finding devices (such as flat, circular Planisphere)
  • Compass
  • Mats or blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Flashlights
  • Insect repellent
  • Hot cocoa, cups, and snacks
STEP 1: PICKING THE SPOT
Before it gets dark, scout out a good viewing spot. Since you’ll be walking in the dark with children, look for an open space with easy access and no thorny bushes or other dangerous obstacles. When you find the perfect spot, arrange your area so it’s ready when you arrive.

STEP 2: THE MAIN EVENT
At dusk, return to your viewing spot, settle the children into their bags and turn off the flashlights. You may want to use the star finding devices to locate stars and constellations or ask the children to find and name their own constellations. Leave some quiet time for just feasting your eyes on the heavens. You may see shooting stars or orbiting satellites.

Star gazing reminds me of summer evenings spent with my grandmother. She was always the first to point out the first star and get us to make a wish:

Starlight, star bright I wish I may, I wish I might Have this wish, I wish tonight…

Here’s wishing you and your family a very special evening, watching the stars and the planets, and feeling connected to this wondrous universe.

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, July 3, 2008.

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