Montessori Centre International (MCI) has been working with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots education programme. Roots and Shoots encourages children to implement practical positive change for people, animals and the environment by providing resources and activities; ideals that closely align with Montessori pedagogy.

Here is the story of the Earth and its Life, one of the resources MCI created for Roots and Shoots, with activities for digital storytelling, home learning and classroom exploration.

Today, we know that it has taken billions of years for life on Earth to evolve from tiny individual cells into the myriad of plants and animals that we see today. Sometimes, changes to the environment were gradual and enabled plants and animals to adapt, while at other times environmental change happened rapidly and whole species have disappeared.

This lesson plan is designed to bring the story of evolution closer to the daily lives of children. For Montessorians, it is always important to ‘plant seeds’ and discover new ideas. By letting the seeds germinate and inspire, the child will experiment, hypothesise and problem solve.

In Montessori primary classrooms, children are introduced to these stories in the ‘Great Lessons’. View the video ‘Montessori’s First Great Lesson: The Formation of the Earth’ here.


Activity 1 – The dance of creation

Typically, this would be an interactive story with children holding onto the cloth or parachute. As many people are social distancing at the moment, this could be recreated on a video call, or on a smaller scale in the home.

Using a black circular cloth or play parachute, tell the story of the Earth using the text below as a model. Use coloured soft balls to roll and move the black cloth; moving, swaying and shaking to represent the emerging, unstable Earth.

The Hadean and Archaean eons

Long, long ago the Earth was a very hot place where volcanoes erupted and threw hot gases and stones high into the air. The Earth shook and shook as more volcanoes erupted. Meteorites hit the Earth. The heavy rocks sunk into middle to make the inner core of the Earth and the lighter rocks floated to the surface making a crust. Underneath was a boiling hot melted rock which pushed up through the crust erupting like volcanoes. As time went on and the Earth rotated, it very slowly cooled and water appeared. The water slowly trickled over the rocks: it fell from the sky and gradually, over a very long time, filled the hollows and rushed down from the volcanic mountains to make the seas. This was the beginning of our planet the Earth – made of rock, volcanoes and water. It was not ready for plants and animals – as this is the next exciting part of our story as the Earth cools.

Recommendation: Earth Story by Eric Madden is an excellent background for making this story come alive.


Activity 2 – Make a volcano

This activity can be completed either at home or in the classroom; you’ll need paper, flour and water to make the volcano, paint to decorate and a designated space, as it can be a little messy!

Make a volcano from plasticine, papier-mâché or other durable material, insert a container in its crater and use bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and red food colouring to simulate volcanic eruption.

The Spruce Crafts has a great set of instructions on how to do this, and you can find lots more information on how best to make your volcano with a google search. Encourage the children to imagine the sensations during volcanic eruption – the heat, smell, fear.

Recommendation: Why not listen to The Planets by Gustav Holst whilst making the volcano?


Activity 3 – Impressions of volcanoes

Watch the “All About Volcanoes for Children” video from Free School, including footage of different types of volcano erupting.

Now invite the children to either:

  • Paint their version of a volcanic eruption.
  • Create music reminiscent of a volcanic eruption using percussion instruments.
  • Write or tell a story imagining what it would be like to be caught up in a volcanic eruption.
  • Research – find one volcano on each continent or investigate the volcanic eruptions which were reported in the last three years.

For older children (6+), the project can be expanded to include the story of life; a timeline representing the different eons and eras of life. More information can be found on the full resource on the Roots and Shoots blog: Story of the Earth and its Life