Magazine article Montessori Life

Creating a Curriculum: That Fosters Scientific Thought

Magazine article Montessori Life

Creating a Curriculum: That Fosters Scientific Thought

Article excerpt

The basis for the Montessori Method of education is so scientific that you would assume every such classroom is filled with science experiments and lessons, producing a string of little scientists prepared to fix our ailing environment. However, despite the progress in technology since the time of Maria Montessori, our science curriculum has been pushed aside slowly as our focus has shifted to literacy and mathematics. The Early Childhood classroom has grown complacent with miniature life cycle lessons and attractive puzzles; the time has come to return science to a critical position in the classroom with a comprehensive and well-planned curriculum.

Fostering Scientific Awareness in the Classroom

Many great challenges can be overcome through a simple mind-set change. The idea that science is a discrete field limits its appreciation and scope. Observing a child explore and discover the growth of a lima bean as it sprouts and matures is proof enough that science is an unavoidable experience that defines our environment. The commentary of the child as he discusses his discoveries with a friend shows us that children are capable of amazing observations. The questions that follow, some of which occasionally stump the teacher, indicate that children are capable of identifying unknown elements and are willing to search for answers.

These critical signs are indications that children are not only capable of performing most tasks described in the scientific method, but also have the ability to comprehend the result of this process. Their reactions to this new information varies; some will remain quiet and thoughtful, while other rise immediately and find someone with whom to share this knowledge. The end result is a child who now understands one more element in a confusing and complex universe.

A teacher can create learning opportunities using the typical science experiments covering a variety of subjects. Three-part cards in botany, zoology, and planetary science are simple building blocks, and miniature experiments of matter and energy are attractive and easy lessons for children. The truth is that science does not have to be restricted to these basic exercises; in fact, the lessons on the shelf are extensions of the ordinary environment, removed from their proper context. The most effective lessons are always shown in context, particularly during the initial presentation, with observable results that children can connect with immediately.

Just as a teacher reads a book to a group, presenting background information and employing thoughtprovoking questions as he reads, the teacher should incorporate science in the classroom. Every day there should be at least one opportunity for a child to experience scientific fact or discovery within her environment. As teachers, it is our privilege to provide these opportunities and have answers prepared for the many questions that follow. Understanding these opportunities will satisfy more than just curiosity; it will feed an undeniable need to analyze new concepts and gain knowledge, and will help foster awareness of scientific thought processes in the classroom. Maria Montessori taught us that children need to understand their complex environment, and in doing so, will gain self-confidence and a calmness based on this understanding.

Scientific Thought

The discussion of how we analyze and test new ideas can get unnecessarily complex. However, the simplest illustration of the scientific method involves five steps, and this widely accepted process provides a basis for all explorations into complex systems and ideas. At first glance, the words used in each step may seem intimidating, but in truth there are similarities to common steps performed by many teachers as they sit down to present a new lesson with a group or an individual. The next section compares a common approach to developing phonemic awareness to the process involved in scientific thinking (see Figure 1),

Reading Comprehension Scientific Method

This comparison illustrates a simple concept: the scientific method is an analytical process that can be applied in different settings. …

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