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Montessori History

Montessori Great Lesson: Coming of Life and Timeline of Life

This is the "Coming of Life" story, one of the Montessori great lessons, with a presentation on the Timeline of Life and free PDF printables and worksheets.

In this post, you will find:

  • An introduction to the Coming of Life and Timeline of Life
  • The Story of the Coming of Life: Introduction (Video Presentation Part 1)
  • The Story of the Coming of Life: Timeline of Life (Video Presentation Part 2)
  • Montessori Timeline of Life Presentation: A Video of the Material
  • Suggested Montessori timeline of life activities
  • Worksheets to help with mastery

The Montessori great lesson Coming of Life is one of the narrative, impressionistic stories that serve as an introduction to many, many lessons in the elementary curriculum.

In telling the Coming of Life story, the Montessori Timeline of Life material is often used. It charts the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras, and the various plants and animals that appeared and eventually disappeared along the history of life on earth.

The Montessori Timeline of Life lesson is a natural springboard for many of the most interesting topics in biology — from simple to complex, from ancient to urgently current — such as:

  1. The classification of plants and animals
  2. The needs of plants
  3. The parts of plants
  4. The parts of various animals
  5. The fundamental needs of man
  6. Adaptation
  7. Habitats
  8. Ecosystems
  9. Paleontology
  10. Geochronology (the science of dating rocks and fossils)
  11. Evolution
  12. Extinction
  13. Conservation

Note: The stories and presentations in this post are based on traditional Montessori materials but the worksheets that follow are based on the best currently available science.

Montessori Coming of Life Videos

The story of The Coming of Life is told in two videos below, while the third video is a clip panning slowly through the Timeline of Life chart (material).

The Coming of Life: Introduction (Video Presentation Part 1)

Play Video

The Coming of Life: Timeline of Life (Video Presentation Part 2)

Play Video

Montessori Timeline of Life Presentation: A Video of the Material

Play Video

Timeline of Life on Earth: Highlights

HuntersWoodsPH Montessori History Timeline of Life Billions of Years Ago
HuntersWoodsPH Montessori History Timeline of Life Millions of Years Ago

Selected events:

  • 4.6 billion years ago – formation of the Earth
  • 4.5 billion years ago – formation of the Moon
  • 4.4 billion years ago – first appearance of liquid water on the Earth
  • 4.2 – 3.2 billion years ago – first life on Earth
  • 2.5 – 2.4 billion years ago – Great Oxygenation Event – when the Earth’s atmosphere and the shallow ocean first experienced a rise in oxygen, enabling the subsequent development of multicellular forms but also leading to the loss of most of the planet’s obligate anaerobes
  • 1.85 billion years ago – eukaryotes appear
  • 1.3 billion years ago – earliest land fungi
  • 1 billion years ago – first non-marine eukaryotes
  • 750 million years ago – first protozoa
  • 630 million years ago – global glaciation due to first land plants?
  • 550 million years ago – first fossil evidence of comb jellies, corals and sea anemones
  • 530 million years ago – first known footprints on land (lobster-sized centipede-like animals)
  • 525 million years ago – earliest graptolites
  • 511 million years ago – earliest crustaceans
  • 510 million years ago – first cephalopods (nautiloids) and chitons
  • 500 million years ago – jellyfish have existed since at least this time
  • 485 million years ago – first jawless fishes
  • 450 million years ago – first conodonts and echinoids
  • 444 – 400 million years ago – Ordovician-Silurian extinction – 85-86% of all species lost
  • 420 million years ago – earliest ray-finned fishes, trigonotarbid arachnids, and land scorpions
  • 410 million years ago – first signs of teeth in fish
  • 395 million years ago – first lichen and stonewort; first known tetrapod tracks on land
  • 383 – 375 million years ago – the Late Devonian extinction – 75% of species lost
  • 360 million years ago – first crabs and ferns
  • 350 million years ago – first large sharks
  • 296 million years ago – earliest known octopus
  • 280 million years ago – earliest beetles, seed plants and conifers
  • 251.4 million years ago – the Permian–Triassic extinction event – nicknamed “The Great Dying” – 96% of all marine species and 75% of terrestrial species lost
  • 245 million years ago – earliest ichthyosaurs
  • 225 million years ago – earliest dinosaurs (prosauropods); first mammals (Adelobasileus)
  • 220 million years ago – first flies and turtles
  • 200 million years ago – the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event – 80% of species lost
  • 170 million years ago – earliest salamanders, newts
  • 165 million years ago – first rays
  • 155 million years ago – Archaeopteryx
  • 153 million years ago – first pine trees
  • 115 million years ago – first monotreme mammals
  • 100 million years ago – earliest bees
  • 90 million years ago – earliest snakes
  • 80 million years ago – first ants
  • 66 million years ago – the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event – 76% of species lost, including all of the ammonites, mosasaurs, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, and nonavian dinosaurs
  • 62 million years ago – first penguins
  • 55 million years ago – first whale
  • 52 million years ago – first bats
  • 38 million years ago – earliest bears
  • 25 million years ago – first deer
  • 20 million years ago – first giraffes
  • 6.5 million years ago – first hominins
  • 4.8 million years ago – mammoths
  • 2 million years ago – first members of the genus Homo (Homo Habilis)
  • 250 thousand years ago – anatomically modern humans appear in Africa

Montessori Timeline of Life Activities

Here are just some of the activities you can do with the Montessori timeline of life:

  • Review the clock of eras
  • Invite the child to name the plants and animals featured in the timeline and to state, if they can, the kingdom, phylum, and class of each animal.
  • Review the body functions of vertebrates
  • Identify the creatures that have already gone extinct and talk about what can cause plants and animals to become extinct.
  • Examine fossils, if available, and go to natural history museums when finally allowed.


  • The timeline is meant to be impressionistic. Don’t make it too complicated.
  • When the child asks a question that you can’t answer, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”
  • Impress upon the child that science evolves; that some “facts” — such as when life first appeared on earth — are only true until someone discovers evidence that proves otherwise; that uncertainty is woven into the very fabric of the scientific process; and that there are many things about the past that we may never be able to know for sure.

Note on the Worksheets

You can reduce the size of the worksheet by zooming out your browser screen. For Windows users, scroll down the mouse wheel while pressing the Ctrl key in your keyboard.

Timeline of Life on Earth (Montessori History Worksheet)

The Great Extinctions (Montessori History Worksheet)

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