Planets, Stars and the Cosmic Dance: ILM Students are Introduced to the First Great Lesson


The First Great Lesson at ILM

“Daddy, did you know that the Universe began 14 billion years ago?

And after a really really really long time, our sun will explode and the universe will end?”

ILM parents are flummoxed when they hear these wondrous comments from their 6 & 7 year olds. However, these far reaching thoughts are not surprising to their Montessori Teachers. After all they’ve just been presented the First Great Lesson.

The Montessori methodology is phenomenal. In which other curriculum are first and second graders introduced to:

– The Wonders of the Beginning of the Universe.
– How life began on Earth.
– How is it that we humans can so effectively speak and count. When did we learn or teach ourselves to do that.

These and several other mind-expanding discussions are explored in the series of The Great Lessons.

What are the Great Lessons?

The Great Lessons are the Hallmark of the Montessori methodology. These are Five Lessons related as dramatic stories complemented with props and experiments to make the experience highly memorable. The lessons are bold, exciting, and are designed to awaken a child’s imagination and curiosity. At the end of the lesson, the child is struck with the wonder of creation, thrilled with new ideas, and left overawed.

Each lesson focuses on one miracle of the universe. The Montessori Teacher creates a narrative with student participation, encouraging children to chime in with answers and punctuates the new Concepts with experiments or physical demonstrations.

The five great lessons are:

First Great Lesson – Coming of the Universe and the Earth or “God with No Hands”. In this Lesson, we explore the Big Bang Theory and how the universe began.
Second Great Lesson – Coming of Life
This is then followed by how life began with simple, single celled Organisms, to Multi-Celled Organisms, to Dinosaurs all the way to Man.
Third Great Lesson – Coming of Human Beings
A story around how the first Human Beings were based in Africa and then spread all over.
Fourth Great Lesson – Communication in Signs
A story of How and when did man begin communicating. Right from cave paintings to hieroglyphics to the language that you are reading this blog post in.
Fifth Great Lesson – The Story of Numbers
A story around how and when human beings began to count. Exploration around the different number systems, specially the Sumerian, Egyptian, Roman to the Arabic numerals we use today.

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Charts & Props Galore

The First Great Lesson at ILM:

On 15th of July ILM students got acquainted with the wonders of the universe. The First Great Lesson was presented to them by Preeti. The new entrants were enthralled. The older children (who had already attended the Great Lesson in the previous year) developed an even more comprehensive understanding of the “limitless space”.

Darkness, Extremes and the Big Bang:
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A room was darkened to give the experience of the beginning of time.

They were asked the first question, “What do you see at night?”

The replies came thick and fast “Stars, the moon and darkness”

Preeti explained that in the beginning there was nothing. The darkness was darker than night. The coldness was colder than ice. At this point the kids were asked to hold ice cubes on their palms. They dropped it after a few seconds claiming they couldn’t. They were then asked to imagine how intensely cold the beginning of the universe would be.

Then a balloon with a bright spot was placed in front of them. Preeti continued with an explanation of the Big Bang. She questioned, “What would you do if you had too much energy?” They students sang “We would jump!”. Some actually did.

Preeti paused and allowed them to settle down and then in a flourish she pricked the balloon. It burst with a resounding thwack. That peaked the excitement in the room. The point (pun unintended) introduced to children that the speck of the universe exploded. Why? because it couldn’t contain its potential energy anymore.

Light & the Particles Experiment:
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Confetti as Particles

Next, it was time to talk about particles – the byproduct of the Big Bang. After the explosion there was so much heat that the tiny particles started swirling around. They came together and joined to form larger masses. Or flowed away from each other.

To illustrate the “force” at work, confetti was dropped in a tub of water. Some of the bits stuck together. Others repelled.

The children sagely commented, “Yes. Even we have group preferences. So particles have them too

The Enormity of the Sun & Speed of Light:
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What is Big, Orange and 50 Million Years Old?

No epic is complete without the hero. And soon enough it was time to introduce the sun. Preeti weaved in tidbits the fact that the sun is fifty million years old and that a single flame from it can contain 22 Earths.

There were oohs and aahs all around.

The story continued.

The planets were born from the elliptical movement of large particle masses. And the sun got its little family of eight members.

Did the students know that the sun is just one gaseous ball and that every twinkle we see in the night sky is another star of our great spiral galaxy? They sure did. The largest galaxy is Andromeda – the knowledge came from poised Nuha.

Did the students know why the sun appeared so small? Of course! It is very far away. In fact its warmth and light takes 8 minutes to reach the surface of the earth. Just to drive home the significance of the distance Preeti stated that light can actually travel seven times around the earth in one second. Whereas we can manage that feat in 10 days and 10 nights of continuous travel.

That was a “go figure” moment. The children pondered the implications.

Exploring the Earth in Greater Detail:
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Drawing Parallels with the Layers of the Earth

A keen ILMite asked, “If no one was around to witness the birth of the earth, how do we know it was created?”

Preeti welcomed the astute observation and explained that all the information they are learning is based on calculations of great thinkers who assumed a certain truth (the earth was created) and then worked backwards to prove it.

She also reminded them of the nature of solids, liquids and gases. The first has particles that love each other and are best friends. They rarely stray away and hold their shape. The second has particles that value their freedom. They do move around but never leave the group. Gases are strangers! The particles can rush into every nook and cranny in every which way…..

When the earth was new and wild, it was primarily composed of hot gases. But as it revolved around the sun, it started cooling down. The particles huddled together to keep the chill away. And this made them grow heavier. They dropped to the center where there was heat and in the process were propelled to the surface again. This back and forth continued till there was balance. The solid core, the liquid mantle and the thin crust emerged.

Next Preeti mixed blue water, oil and honey in a test tube. The honey sunk to the bottom while the oil floated on top. The layers corresponded to the layers of our planet. Masooma was not satisfied. “What about the earth’s atmosphere? Where is that component?” she enquired.  Six year old Ali reminded her that there is after all air filling the rest of the test tube. So that kind of justifies the demonstration.

The Wrap Up:

Preeti closed the session with the simile that the new, cooler earth was as wrinkled as a boiled potato jacket. The valleys became the ocean beds and the peaks became the mountain ranges.

The discussions the day after were epic. ILM had tiny geologists and future astronomers investigating everyday phenomenon and recording observations in their journals. Someone asked her best friend to “obey the rules” because humans are made up of the Big Bang particles which always follow the norms.
Now this is sass we love!

Thank you Preeti for your hours of research that led to the stimulating and highly successful First Great Lesson! Here are more pictures for you to enjoy.



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Assisting with the Big Bang


Engrossed little ones

Engrossed little ones



The Magic Continues

Orientation for Pre-Primary Parents: Understanding the Montessori Method

Round garden discussion

Round Garden Conference!

The Montessori method is popular!

It is widely acknowledged as one of the most progressive paradigms of education for children. But not everything about the amazing practices and strategies propounded by Maria Montessori makes it out to the public. Let’s just say the image of ‘Montessori Education’  scratches only the tip of the iceberg.

This is the reason why ILM organises parent orientations to help guardians and caregivers understand exactly what their little ones learn, imbibe and inculcate at school and how the apparently simple principles taught can have a major impact on accountability and performance later down the line.

This time around the Orientation happened for the parents of all new and returning pre-primary students. On a sunny Sunday morning, the session kicked off with a brief discussion about the goals and the vision of ILM by our esteemed trustee Navaid. This gradually evolved into an interesting conversation that even touched on the parallels between Khan’s Academy and the Montessori method. If you are interested in learning more about the astonishing similarities between the two, you can read this post.

Next Came “Meet The Teacher” Introductions:

A school is never a solitary endeavour. And teachers are inextricably intertwined with everything the students attempt while at their place of education. The Montessori method gives special emphasis to instructors and how the children relate to them. Thus a round of instructions was due!

Sunitha, an MCA and  IIMS certification holder in the Montessori methodology shared the unique story of her involvement with ILM. She was intrigued by the principles her son was picking up at school because to her they eliminated all the ‘drawbacks’ of conventional learning. She has poured her energy and boundless enthusiasm into helping us improve our holistic approach to education and is committed to doing so for the foreseeable future.

Sujatha, ILM’s primary facilitator came to us in the last academic session and her appointment has definitely been a coup. She is a veteran with ten solid years in the Montessori environment and her stints with the prestigious Golden Beads Montessori and Head Start Montessori make her the right person to create a well prepared Montessori setting for her charges.

Sneha may be a new addition to the ILM team but she is an experienced Montessorian with six years at Head Start Montessori in her kitty and the invaluable insights from her time as the facilitator of children’s culture study in Seoul.

Arpita, our innovative and bubbly pre-primary teacher was deeply missed. But we are happy to report that she has broadened her horizons by starting her own Montessori school. ILM wishes her luck and success.

Diving Into Rules, Classrooms & Vocabulary:

Post the introductions the parents were given the opportunity to explore the day to day activities that are a crucial part of how the Montessori environment operates. They were introduced to a few best practices pertaining to the student’s dress code, punctuality, extra curricular participation and more so that they can smoothen the transition from the familiar cosiness of home to the more independent and stimulating Montessori ambience.

Next on the agenda was a tour of the classrooms. The ILM team collectively walked guardians through them, drawing their attention to the layout, the myriad colours and textures that are meant to improve intake of sensorial inputs, the key materials that students engage with to improve various areas of their competence and most importantly the crucial distinctions that characterise the Montessori vocabulary. Parents were requested to use the term ‘work’ instead of ‘play’ and ‘material’ to replace ‘toys’. This is an attempt to ensure that they can bring home the Montessori environment and continue to reinforce it for their wards.

Supplementary tips to support the learning experiences introduced in the ILM program were also shared. Caregivers were gently reminded to refrain from contradictory practices like teaching their little ones English alphabets while the Montessori methodology likes to progress with phonetic sounds instead.


At the end of the day there were questions volleyed at the ILM team which they handled with pro grace. Parents left satisfied that the welfare and the physical-moral-intellectual development of their children were in seasoned hands. Hands that have sent many a little feet on their way to success.

Here are a few images to revive the memories.


Classroom material learning

Montessori Materials Galore


Materials galore

Montessori Language Materials – How ILMites learn to Read and Write


Parents engaging

Parents Intrigued


What their kids learn

ILMites are introduced to Botany in Pre-Primary!



Math Isn’t Scary Here


The ILM gear

EPL or Exercises of Practical Life materials


Questiona volleyed

Bring on the Questions

ILM Whiz wins Essay Competition!

ILM Children Enjoying Their Morning News

Oh dear! Trump’s at it again.

Have you ever seen such an inspiring sight?

Tiny tots engrossed in reading newspapers?

Sitting in neat little rows and exchanging tid-bits they find interesting as they follow stories with rapt attention?

ILM has a novel tradition. Mornings start on a note of awareness with students diving into current affairs in the Curious Owl (India’s first current affairs newspaper for children) or international news in the Hindu Young World.

We like to think that it is this take on adult perspective that helped ILMite Maryam Fatima Vakil get published in the Curious Owl and with the distinction of being the youngest entrant in their essay competition.

She chose the interesting topic, ‘You woke up one morning and looked in the mirror. You are suddenly an adult. Write about your day‘ and imbued it with a mix of child like fascination meets adult cognisance of whats happening around her. You can read her handiwork below.

Maryam Fatima Vakil's Entry

This isn’t the first time that ILM Students have been published.  Just sometime back, Nuha Faizal did us proud with her imagination and her color palette, when her art was chosen by Malyalam newspaper ‘Madhyamam’.

Congratulations Maryam! Keep weaving magic with your words.

Dear Blog Readers and ILM Parents, please drop in a few words of encouragement in the comments below.  Your remarks will motivate Maryam endlessly as well as inspire other students to hone their craft and scribe imaginative stories.

The ILM Summer Camp led Children into a World of Fun, Learning and Friendships

ILM 2016 Summer Camp

  ILM 2016 Summer Camp

There wasn’t a single cell phone in sight.

Neither were their any complaints.

Cartoons and television sets were not missed. Neither were sugar loaded snacks.

It was a blessed travel back to simpler times.

When children really engaged with each other.

And enjoyed activities that built their stamina, concentration and camaraderie.

The 2016 ILM Summer Camp was a huge success and had tiny tots from a myriad schools mingling with our little gems. They left impressed by the out of the box thinking and independence that characterise us as an institute.

When the mercury hit a record high over 5th and 18th of May, the ILM school grounds reverberated with the enthusiastic shouts, squeals and giggles of kids who had the time of their lives enjoying sports, story telling and calligraphy. Whatever the experience had promised to be, it turned out more rewarding than anyone could have anticipated.

Learning Sports The Pro Way:

These sessions were led by Avishkaar Sports and the inimitable Bobby Singh. The kids got to try their hands and little feet at football, basketball and traditional board games.

Football was chosen by ILM and Avishkaar because it helps children be bold and fearless. It is a driven game that requires passion but also instils values like team spirit and graceful winning. It was a wonderful sight seeing little ones encourage ‘opponent teams’ and smile broadly – no matter what the outcome. We believe that as a sport football really helped develop stamina and perseverance in the Summer Camp attendees.

Learning the nuances of football

Learning the nuances of football

Basketball was an obvious part of the line-up because of its coordinated movements. It is not only a full body workout, it also involves sudden starting and stopping as per the position of other players and it automatically sharpens focus and concentration.

The kids also delighted in sessions of Marble Solitaire and Pachisi which pushed them to strategize, plan, think logically and use basic mathematics to outplay their partners.


What’s up partner?

There was no sense of aggressiveness or disappointment. The kids took away lessons from their efforts and came back to give things a shot with a better plan of action. And that was exactly what ILM had hoped to achieve with the introduction to these sports.

Wellspring of Imagination: Story Telling with Malini Krishnamurthy

No Summer Camp is complete without dreams of fancy and adventure.

It has been scientifically proven that creativity and imagination are more important to eventual life success than the conventional IQ. And there is no better way to help children get back in touch with their ‘anything is possible’ side than through storytelling.

The classics were carefully chosen because of the morals and take-ways they offered. Malini is a wizard with words and she imbued each story with life, transporting the tiny tots to the towering beanstalk of Jack’s land or bringing to life the saga of Vikram and Betaal.

Who goes there......

Who goes there……

The reading list comprised of:

  • Jungle Book  by Rudyard Kipling – A story of courage, love and finding your own identity
  • The Enormous Crocodile & Fantastic Mr.Fox  by Roald Dahl –  A collection of shorts that taught kids the art of motivation when everything falls apart
  • Horton Hatches an Egg by Dr.Suess – This conveyed the importance of making promises carefully and never breaking them.
  • Panchatantra and Vikram Betal  – These stories brought forth important human values for contemplation.
  • Hansel and Gretal by Brothers Grimm & Jack and the Beanstalk : These evergreen stories stressed the importance of embracing the unknown, courage and quick thinking
  • Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson – This cherished classic with its poignant interactions between the monkey and the butterfly gave important life cycle lessons.
  • Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson – Another Julia Donaldson treasure, Gruffalo rhymes throughout and is a captivating story of how a witty mouse escapes terrifying (and hungry) forest creatures.


Introduction to Calligraphy with Malvika Jaishankar:


The Pensmen of Tomorrow

Calligraphy is not really a rage amongst children!

But had we given our attendees what they are comfortable with, we couldn’t have expedited their progress.

Calligraphy in fact is ideal for kids under the age of 10 because it has so much to offer their age group.

  • It allows them to work with a unique and dynamic medium that doesn’t feel artificial. It opens up their desire to experiment and ‘go with the flow’.
  • Calligraphy is basically rendering the characters they already know in a much more elaborate and fancy way. It is a no stress introduction to innovation by taking what is available and making it better.
  • Lastly calligraphy vastly improves penmanship. It can pull a child up from a 3 to an 8 on the cursive writing scale.

Malvika structured the sessions beautifully. Overwhelm wasn’t a problem and each and every child enjoyed the pen with this wonderful art. The first day was dedicated to free movement and pattern formation. The kids were taught to hold the special chisel edged markers gently and correctly with the tip positioned on the paper. The goal was not to get them producing perfect calligraphic forms but to show them the potential of the tool that could create lovely strokes.

The attendees took to prospects like fish to water and were soon experimenting with different colors and fonts including the:

  • Chubby Bubble which is a cute and non traditional option that is easy to form because the fonts are enclosed within rounded characters.

Chubby Bubble

  • Box Writing which is a shape based font that inspires children to experiment and create new characters.

Letter Box reg & text

  • Creative Cursive which is a classic, italicised calligraphy font that isn’t complicated but looks utterly polished on rendition.
  • The 3D Block or ‘Shadow Effect’ which gives kids the power to add simple shadows and bring an “off the paper” three dimensional effect to their characters.


  • More ornate Gothic British font which looks sophisticated and is the culmination of the attendees’ pattern  and hand movement practices.

British Gothic


In every activity the cooperation, willingness to learn and aptitude of the kids shone through. 2016 is just the beginning. ILM will be back with many more iterations of its Summer Camp, each chock full of playful yet instructive sessions that deliver valuable skills and life lessons to its attendees. Getting off the couch can be really fun and we leave you with more pictures to prove that!

“And then there were none!…”


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Following the Bliss


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We can Fly!