“Understanding the classical sciences allows each of us to appreciate the beauty and harmony of the cosmos while equipping us to participate in the investigative process.” (p.179)
I believe that understanding the sciences is important to all students, but is especially beneficial to the believer. We know the creator of the extraordinary cosmos personally, so knowing His creation is (yet again) another powerful way to know Him and to make Him known. Our desire to know God better should lead us to wanting to know His creation better, because through it we can see Him.
As an adult, I know this. As a younger student, I did not. I allowed myself to settle the matter of science by knowing God created the universe and all it contained. But, wow, how I limited my knowledge of Him. How I limited my ability to praise Him. I do not want my little scholars to miss this chance, while they are young, to revel in God’s glory seen through His creation.
The Core teaches us, as classical educators, to start by helping children to identify scientific principles in four chief ways:
1. fostering curiosity through the development of observation skills.
2. defining and classifying terms that describe the universe.
3. conducting experiments and demonstrations to study cause and effect.
4. presenting the ideas of influential scientists.
Our job is “to teach young students to be keen observers to know how to utilize all their sense as they discover how the world works.” Remembering that you must first build the basics, which will allow for more abstract thinking later, teach your students to observe. What is observation? Nothing more than really seeing the world around you in detail. I love the example Leigh shares in The Core –
“Notice what naming can do when taking a walk with the family. When a creature crosses your path, you can simply think ‘bird.’ or you can observe the identifying features and think ‘kingfisher’ or ‘egret’ or ‘swallow’ as it flits by. Identifying the bird by color, size, and beak structure allows a parent to grab the child’s attention with the words, ‘Look! A female wood duck heading to her nest in that bald cypress…'” (p.184)
Our families can have these conversations when we’ve first developed the observation skills and secondly, defined terms (in one way, learning the names of the creation around us). We’re teaching them so much in this basic exercise: learning to look closely and to describe specifically. How many times have you been told to look at something “over there”? Only to ask, “Where?” and to be given the repeat instructions of “over there.” Talk about frustrating! We want to teach our children to look and give them the skills to define and classify. These terms gradually broaden to give our children an organized manner with which to classify. Following the story from above, you might teach them to classify a swallow first with birds, then vertebrates, and next under biology, etc.
With conducting experiments, it’s not so much the experiments themselves that matter, but learning the scientific method during those experiments that matters. The discussions centers “around these questions:
1. What is the purpose of this experiment?
2. What are the procedures to complete the experiment?
3. What are the materials needed for this experiment?
4. What did you learn from this experiment?”
Breaking the discussion into these questions allows the student to organize their thoughts beyond, “wow, that was cool!” and starts them thinking through the scientific method (question, research, hypothesis, experiment, result, conclusion).
Learning about influential scientists classically is best done through (can you guess?) reading. Besides great books, Leigh suggests science magazines which contain short reading on interesting, cutting edge material. We have a copy of Smithsonian Natural History on our coffee table and it is regularly being read by someone in our family. The Core recommends the following science books: A Handbook of Nature Study, Biology: 100 Reproducible Activities, Lyrical Life Science, Vol.3: The Human Body, National Audubon Society Field Guides (can
be bought individually also), The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, Usborne Internet-Linked Science Encyclopedia, and 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre and Incredible Experiments.
Excitement is catching. Have you been able to create excitement around scientific discovery in your home? If so, please share! I’m sure we could all learn from your experience. In the next few days, I hope to share specific ways our family explores science at home.