By Carolyn Bohm – Rata Teacher
Science holds a valued place among Montessori’s vast collection of lessons and is a doorway to encouraging students to all other fields of study. Children are natural observers and explorers of the world around them. Their curiosity, wonder, imagination and eagerness to learn make them excellent scientists both inside the classroom and outdoors. The science lessons and opportunity for exploration is the backbone of the Montessori curriculum; a means to kindle their interest and encourage their own inquiry.
So, what is a scientist? “We give the name scientist to the type of man who has felt experiment to be a means guiding him to search out the deep truth of life, to lift a veil from its fascinating secrets, and who, in this pursuit, has felt arising within him a love for the mysteries of nature, so passionate as to annihilate the thought of himself.” Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method.
In the preschool environment scientific studies are sensorial in nature. When outside, a new discovery in nature will spark the child’s interest, resulting in a spontaneous lesson around what the new object is, what it’s called and what it feels, tastes, smells, sounds and looks like. After formulating a concrete understanding of objects in the natural word, children begin to take on the more abstract learning processes of planting seeds, watering plants and caring for classroom pets. They are also ready to look at the different parts of a plant or animal and begin giving names to these parts.
“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” – Edwin Powell Hubble.
In the primary classrooms, scientific exploration changes from sensorial observations to questions about “how” and “what if”. In this stage children are at the sensitive period for imagination and stories. The science curriculum in the primary classroom begins with the five great lessons, which create the framework for future science and history lessons. Further study branching off from these lessons is done in the form of hands on experiments, impressionistic charts and independent research. From these initial demonstrations and experiments, students move into more complex understandings, using the scientific method. As they come across topics that really catch their imagination or fascination, students use research as a means to further their own understanding of the world and share that knowledge with others.
Science is not merely a means to encourage students to study other curriculum fields or to create an excitement for learning, it is also a means of bringing the world together. Through the common goal of trying to better understand our universe, our planet and ourselves, humans collaborate and share information across languages and borders to further our collective knowledge base and this is the message of peace we want to share with our children.