The Great Lessons Play

Two years ago, we had a new principal and she wondered how to engender school spirit in a Montessori School. I thought about this and decided to write a play that would include all the Lower Elementary - we have 6 as actors and use the 4 Upper Elementary students as narrators, stage hands, and general helpers. I wrote a general outline, the Upper El classes each took a part or two and researched and expanded my outline and then I edited theirs - with permission, of course. I have included this play, but I hope that it inspires you to write your own if you are so inclined.

The Birth of the Universe

Based on the Great Lessons of Maria Montessori

Stage Direction: Upper El students then read:

Welcome to The Birth of the Universe: a play based on the Great Lessons of Maria Montessori. At the beginning of our play, all the lights will be turned off to represent the darkness of space. Please do not be concerned. We hope you enjoy the show!

Part I: The Beginning

(Lights off after sitting down)

Stage Direction: The first group of students filed on stage and sat down. The lights went off and then balloons attached to electric filaments popped.

The lights then came back on. The students all blew bubbles as particles. They stood and formed groups that spun slowly as molecules. They stopped and picked up pictures of stars and comets that they had created. They then sat back down as they died. One child stood up with a picture of a Supernova they had drawn. All the students stood, joined hands and spoke together, " What was to become of the supernova?" They all had on black tunics with black hats they had made.

N I:      In the beginning (count to 30) there was nothing.....
N II:      There was no light, no stars, no planets.
Nothing as we know it existed.
N III:      Then, something mysterious unexplainable happened.
ALL:      The Big Bang! (pop balloon) (Stage hands flash lights) (lights on)
N IV:      With the big bang, particles were created. (let them blow bubbles)
(count to 30) The temperature was so hot that the particles
could not come together.
N V: It didn't cool off for a very, very, long time. Finally the
universe was cool enough for the particles to form the first atoms.
N I: (wait until molecules form) It took another 2 billion years for these
atoms to clump together enough to form the first stars.
N II: (Wait until they pick up stars)
Many, many stars were born, shone
brightly in their galaxies and then died.
(Wait until they die)
This went on for many billions of years.
N III: Until one year a very special star called Taimet was formed.
N IV: (Wait until Tiamet shows star. Count to 20) Tiamet lived in the Milky Way.
N V: Tiamet formed, shone brightly and then died in a fiery blast called a supernova.
on stage:
What was to become of the supernova????

Part II: The Solar System

Stage Direction: The second class filed on stage and moved slowly around. At the time when the narrator says "most of the particles", a large sun was pulled up by pulleys and all the students went behind this sun. They came out in groups spinning as the narrator read about their planet. Hula hoops held them together. They were dressed in varying colors of tunics for each planet made from pillow cases. Bow and leave.

Narrator: All the particles of Tiamet were spread out at first. Soon the force pulled most of the particles in, but some escaped the sun's force. These particles outside the sun's force started to pull each other together and they made the planets. The nine special planets that were formed started to revolve around the sun.
Sun: The sun is a medium, yellow star. The surface of the Sun is sometimes marked with cooler, dark patches called sunspots. About one million Earths would fit into the Sun.
Mercury: Mercury is the planet closest to the sun. It is small and hard to see without a telescope as it is so close to the brightly, shining sun. It is a rocky planet.
Venus: Venus is named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty. While Venus, also called the morning or evening star, looks beautiful in the sky, it is not a planet you would want to visit. The atmosphere contains sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide and it is the hottest planet in the solar system.
Earth: Earth ranks fifth in size among the planets. It is the third planet from the sun. It is the only planet known to contain life. Earth has the most oxygen of any other planet. We call it our the pearl of the solar system.
Mars: The nickname of Mars is the Red Planet. When you look at Mars it has a reddish color. If you were to stand on Mars the color of the sky would be pink. At one time there was liquid water on the surface of Mars, but it is now frozen in a polar ice cap.
Jupiter: Jupiter is the fifth planet in our solar system. It was the first planet discovered by the Italian astronomer Galileo and the first of the gas giants. Jupiter is the largest of all the planets. Over 1,000 Earths could fit inside Jupiter!
Saturn: Saturn is named after the Roman god of farming It has seven large, flat rings around it. Each ring is made up of ice particles and rocks. Saturn may not have a solid surface or crust.
Uranus: Uranus takes its name from the Roman god of the sky. Uranus appears to roll along its orbit on its side, while other planets spin more or less like tops. It has a ring system. Some of the rings are so black that light can't pass through them.
Neptune: Neptune is named for the Roman god of the sea. It is almost a twin to Uranus. It is one of the coldest places in our solar system. It also has a ring system as do all of the gas giants.
Pluto: Pluto is named for the Roman god of the dead and is the last planet in our solar system. It is the smallest planet and it has the largest moon. Pluto is so far from the Sun that if you stood on Pluto, the sun would only appear to be a bright star in the endless night of space.

Part III: Earth

Stage Direction: The third class filed on stage. They were dressed in red, green, blue and brown tunics. The inner core stood and flexed their muscles then pushed their hands together forming a core. The outer core moved around the inner chanting hot rocks. The mantle moved around the back showing the different movements of plate tectonics. Some slid sideways, some pushed against others and some went under others. Then the air floated around all. They all returned to a circle at the end and one student with streamers on her hands popped up as the volcano.

Narrator: When Earth was formed it was just fire and gases. Atoms of the elements started shooting out into the coldness of space where they cooled and then fell back to the fiery Earthscape. In time Earth was cool enough for the formation of the different layers to take place.
Inner Core: The inner core's temperature is between 9,000 and 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The boundaries of the inner core stretch about 800 miles around and begin 4,000 miles below Earth's surface. The inner core is made of solid iron and nickel due to the tremendous pressure at Earth's center.
Outer Core: The outer core is made of nickel and iron, but it is in a more liquid state. The inner core is about 1,400 miles thick and temperatures range from 4,000 to 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mantle: The mantle is about 1,800 miles thick and is made of a molten mixture of elements like oxygen, silicon, iron and copper. The temperatures range from 7,000 degrees at the inner edge to 4,000 degrees at its outer edge.
Asthenosphere: The asthenosphere is where the lithosphere meets the mantle. It is a thin layer that is melted, syrupy rock that allows the crust to move.
Lithosphere: The lithosphere or crust is the part of Earth that we see and touch with our feet. It is the upper, brittle part of the mantle.
Crust: The crust varies in thickness from 16 to 56 miles. Some of the rock is 1 to 3 billion years old and some has just erupted out of volcanoes. The crust is broken into plates . When faults or breaks in Earth's crust move, we experience earthquakes and when there is a break in the crust, the hot molten rock of the mantle push to the surface as volcanoes. Earth seems ageless, but it is always in the process of transformation.

Part IV: Life Begins

Stage Direction: The stage had a simple backdrop showing a turbulent Earth covered in water with an orange atmosphere.

The next class entered and some laid down while others went off stage.

One student stood and she acted out remembering and then others stood and floated around the stage. Another student pointed at the sun which was still hanging as he acted out eating. He motioned to the students backstage to come out and eat this new food. The original students died off except for a few that hovered at the edges of the stage.

As they act out eating the sun, a new backdrop was revealed showing a more peaceful Earth with sun shining down and beautiful blue waters.

Narrator: After one and half billion years, our Earth was a churning, toxic, electric place. The seas were part water, but they were filled with countless other minerals washed from
the rocky crust, and the air was filled with poisonous gasses.

Gigantic, lightning storms raged over Earth's surface for millions and millions of years. There were lightning bolts - each bigger than all the lightning bolts we've seen in all our lives put together.

Then one day, something special happened. Just the right amounts of these elements gathered in just the right place of the murky seas, and they were hit hit by just the right bolt of lightning. Tiny Aries was born! The first living creature - alone in the seas, alone on Earth, alone in the solar system. Aries was special because she could do one thing all other cells could not. Aries could remember and because Aries could remember how she was made, she could make others like her.

Soon Aries' children filled the seas and ate all the minerals that had made the waters so murky. The water became clear and blue, but food was running short for Aries' children.

Then one day, one of these cells discovered that it could eat the energy of the sun. Now cells again had enough food so life survived in a new way. This new way of eating , however, caused another problem. The air was filling up with oxygen and oxygen was poisonous to Aries and her children.

The new cells figured out a way to use this oxygen for energy. This incredible new energy made it possible for the next great stage of life. All of us though, owe our thanks to the first - Aries.

Part V: The Variety of Life

Stage Direction: The previous class left and the next class entered. One side of the stage kept the backdrop of blue waters and the other side had a brown cloth with plants growing. Some Upper El students came out with flower and fern faces at the proper times. The actors were dressed in amazingly creative costumes that parents had devised and the students put together and painted.

The jellyfish were dressed in white sweat pants and shirts. They held large umbrellas that had streamers coming down.

The Asheia was a large pipe painted green with legs attached.

Trilobites were cardboard figures with masks.

Sea lilies were dressed in sweat pants and shirts and had a hat with streamers and gloves with streamers that they waved in front of their face.

The snail had hoses like you use on a drier wound in a circle and attached to his back.

The starfish was a cardboard figure that the face peeped through.

The fish were made of bubble wrap and went head to toe.

The sea scorpion was cardboard.

The spider was a stuffed pillow with stuffed legs.

The dragonflies had decorated bike helmets on their heads and wings.

The igthystega was a costume that we modified - we added a headdress from that drier hose to give the long neck.

The butterfly had a headband with antenna and beautiful wings.

They came on stage as the narrators read their parts. One side of stage was the sea and one side was the land. Some crossed over onto land. Some quietly hunted others. Some went extinct by going to the side of the stage. When the lemur came on stage, everyone froze and the human came up. The human walked around and looked at all the life with wonder. Then everyone left except the human who remained on stage while the narrator read.

Narrator: In the deep, deep blue seas of the Paleozoic Era, sea creatures started to appear. They had multiple cells and were mostly arthropods. The Cambrian Period saw a great explosion of diversity with almost every type of life that would ever develop, appearing.
Jelly Fish: Jelly fish with umbrella shaped bodies appeared on Earth 600 million years ago. Jelly fish are Coelenterates or Cnidarians that had tentacles up to 60 feet long, with poisonous stingers and translucent bodies. Coelenterates eat and eliminate from the same opening.
Asheia: The Asheia was the only unjointed arthropod. It looked like an ugly bug. It spent all its time walking on the sea's bottom looking for food.
Trilobites: 570 million years ago , an amazing arthropod, the Trilobite, swam the seas. In fact, the Cambrian Period is often called the Age of Trilobites. They ranged in size from 1 inch to 6 feet. Their name means three sections. You might think these three sections corresponded to a head, body and tail, but actually they refer to three lengthwise sections. Trilobites were an amazing, groovy species.
Sea Lilies: Criniods were so bountiful in Ordovician seas that this period was called the Age of Sea Lilies. They fed on calcium in the water and had three basic parts: the stem, the calyx and the arms. Sea Lilies were thought to be extinct, but then a modern variety was discovered in the 19th century.
Snail: Snails are mollusks that have teeth on their tongues and have one foot that moves slowly. They have stalk eyes and feelers that are right next to the stalks. They decompose rot by eating it and filtered lime from the oceans. The first snails lived in the seas, but later moved onto land.
Star Fish: The starfish is an echinoderm. These creatures have regenerating limbs and had separate holes for eating and eliminating. Their five arms had little suction disks uses to pry open shells. Then their stomachs would come out through their mouth to digest their food.
Fish: Armored fish were slow, bottom dwelling animals that were covered with a heavy armor of thick, bony plates. They used armor for protection, but large predators like the Sea Scorpion could crush their shells, so they slowly evolved into streamlined fish without shells that used speed for protection.
Sea Scorpion: The Sea Scorpion was one of the biggest arthropods as it grew to 10 feet. Its favorite food was probably the trilobites, but its claws could crush even the armored fish. It is thought that the Sea Scorpion's voracious appetite could be why the Trilobites went extinct.
Narrator: In the Mesozoic Era, some animals began to creep out onto the land. Here they joined the plants that had already established a home.
Spiders: The spider was the first carnivorous arthropod. It appeared in the Carboniferous Period. It had 8 legs and is the only creature that can spin a web. When an insect flies into the web, the spider sinks its teeth into the bug like a kid sinking his teeth into a sandwich. All the good organs and blood are then sucked out.
Dragonflies: Dragonflies had wingspans of 30 inches. Wings were a big help to insects when in danger. It also had sharp eyes that could see moving or still insects from very far away.
Igthyostega: The first amphibian was heavy and clumsy on land, but very good in water. Its skin was covered with scales. Amphibians developed the ability to breath with lungs. They could not, however, go far from water as this is where they laid their eggs.
Butterfly: The swift flying, colorful butterfly had four stages of development. First it's an egg, then pupa and finally the adult. This process is called metamorphosis. The caterpillar hatches out of the egg and then becomes the pupa which hatches as a butterfly.
Ichthyosaur: This strange creature was the first reptile to lay its eggs on land. They breathed through nostrils with lungs. It looked a lot like today's porpoise. Its food was fish, squid and belemniods. Its nickname was fish-lizard.
Dimetrodon: 225 million years ago in the Permian Period, dinosaurs appeared. Dimetrodons were carnivores that had huge sails on their backs. They probably used their sails to warm up their bodies in the sun.
Velociraptor: Dinosaurs ruled the Earth throughout the Carboniferous Period. This raptor had a gigantic claw on its toe and a mouth chock full of blade-like teeth. It also had an amazing brain which allowed it to out think its prey.
Pterosaur: 190 million years ago, reptiles took to the air as insects had before them. They had wings made of thick skin. The largest Pterosaur had a wingspan of 36 feet.
Archaeopteryx: This feathered animal may have been the first bird. They could flap their wings so they were not as dependent on air currents. The claws on their wings had slowly disappeared.
Mammals: About 65 million years ago the dinosaurs died off and the mammals took over Earth. They developed bodies that could live in the cold. They had better eyesight than any animals before.
Smilodon: Just as all animals that had come before, the mammal now grew to tremendous sizes. Smilodon was a huge cat that was in a way like a dinosaur, because it had claws that could rip right through your body. You're probably glad that it's extinct.
Lemurs: The lemur was the earliest primate. It had thumbs, fingers and climbed trees for protection. They had larger brains than other animals and had eyes on the front of their face. They had nocturnal vision which means they could see very well in the dark.
Humans: Around 2 million years ago there came a special mammal. It was intelligent and learned how to make tools and control fire. They learned how to adapt their environment to their needs so they could live in all the biomes of the worlds.

Part VI: Be Thankful

Stage Direction: The next class read their own thanks into the microphone and then formed a line on stage. We all came back in singing the song. We sang it again while everyone applauded and then filed out still singing. We had it printed in the program so that the audience could sing along.

Narrator: These new animals called humans developed math and language. They learned how to love and care for others. This love has extended to Earth and all its creatures. We all have a special duty to cherish our Earth and care for all it inhabitants.

Actors say what they are thankful for and walk on stage holding cards that say all the things we have to be thankful for - the algae that began life, the cyannobacterai that gave us oxygen, and so forth.

Thanks a Lot

Thanks a lot, thanks a lot
Thanks for the sun in the sky
Thanks a lot, thanks a lot
Thanks for the Earth so fine
Thanks a lot , thanks a lot
Thanks for the whispering wind
Thanks a lot, thanks a lot
Thanks for the birds in the spring
Thanks a lot, thanks a lot
Thanks for the moonlit night
Thanks a lot, thanks a lot
Thanks for the stars so bright
Thanks a lot, thanks a lot
Thanks for the wonder in me
Thanks a lot, thanks a lot
Thanks for the way I feel
Thanks for the animals
Thanks for the land
Thanks for the people everywhere
Thanks a lot, thanks a lot
Thanks for all I've got
Thanks for all I've got

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Copyright © 2007 Barbara Dubinsky