The Long Black Strip is an impressionistic lesson meant to inspire wonder, awe, and gratitude surrounding the beginning of the universe and in particular, how very little time humans have been present on Earth. Meant to make a big impression and relay humility, the Long Black Strip lesson is given with fewer words; it is not meant to be a reiteration of the Great Lesson The Coming of Life. Learn more about what this lesson conveys below.
Often cited as the most powerful lesson one can give in the Montessori classroom, the Long Black Strip not communicates the passage of time in such a concrete, visual way: a linear representation of of time. As one child slowly unrolls the long black cloth strip, another moves beside him, placing a stone on each significant event. In this case, there was another student (not pictured) off to the side, narrating the lesson: “This black strip represents the age of Earth, from its very beginning… At first Earth was a fiery ball… And this went on for a long, long time… Earth was covered with volcanoes. And this went on for a long, long time… “
1 centimeter = 1,000,000 years
10 meters = 1,000,000,000 years
30 meters represents 3,000,000,000 years, the average accepted length of earth’s history (in 1939). Now we know it is approximately 4.6 billion years.
As the child unravels more and more of the fabric, he comes closer to the end. The Long Black Strip can barely fit inside the long Elementary hallway, and reaches from one Lower Elementary classroom, past the Upper Elementary classroom, and all the way to the doorway of the other Lower Elementary classroom! At the very very end is a tiny white strip, only about 2 inches long, meant to represent the amount of time humans have resided on Earth: all of humanity: cave people, Egyptians, Greeks… you and me! It is a sight to see, regardless of age. In fact, as an adult, this is a lesson that still inspires awe and wonder in me!
This lesson is meant to evoke an emotional response, and does it ever!