The Lower Elementary class started our cultural studies with the Big Bang! We prepared for this by introducing children to large numbers through concrete materials.
First, I brought representations of ten thousand, a hundred thousand, and a million into the classroom. Next, I spray painted the outlines of a million, ten million, a hundred million, and a billion onto the grass in the playground. We then proceeded to stretch our minds to conceptualize a billion (24+ feet cubed) and see it full of our golden bead units (around the size of a pencil eraser). Also, the class had refresher lessons on the three main states of matter and the common characteristics of all living things.
We talked of how all particles were in gas form due to the extreme heat after the explosion, and, how when things started to cool down, particles were attracted to one another and began to collect and merge together. The lesson on the Big Bang was accompanied by numerous experiments and of course a loud explosion with confetti raining down on the group.
I gave the kids large numbers to ponder; 12.7 billion years since the Big Bang, the Sun’s formation 4.6 billion years ago, the Earth’s formation 4.5 years ago, the speed of light being 186,000 m/sec, the Earth is 25,000 miles around (which means light can travel more than 7 times around in the snap of a finger), that light from our sun takes 8 minutes and from the furthest star in the Milky Way 900,000 light years to reach us, and that there are 150-250 billion stars in the Milky Way. We talked of how our Sun was formed and how the Earth was originally a super-heated gas ball that took 700 million years to cool down to the point water would fill the valleys and oceans of a now shriveled and shrunk Earth.
The kids loved imagining a volatile Earth with a thin crust and constantly erupting lava and gases which would cool down, get heavy, and fall back into the super-heated mix; a time of poisonous gases and black clouds that blocked the sun. I ended the lesson after the Earth had water covering much of the surface and the cloud dissipating to allow the sun to once again kiss the Earth’s surface. I promised the kids that our next lesson would be on how the right conditions came about for the first forms of life to be created. They asked “dinosaurs?” We will get there, but, first, I will teach them of the earliest anaerobic life forms which brought oxygen to our world. I will also be giving an overview of the timeline of life, both linearly and in a circular clock form. I’ve already given lessons on volcanoes and started them on igneous rocks. The stage is set for lessons on the planets, weather, the Kingdoms of Life, geography, and so much more!