Most young children have a natural love of nature and the outdoors and a natural interest in magnets, electricity, and machines. Our job in the elementary years is to nurture that love and provide children with opportunities to explore the world around them. Elementary aged children should explore, observe, collect, and marvel at the natural world without parents being teachy about it.
If you look at what is actually taught in the elementary grades in science, you will realize that most of what children are expected to know can be learned in the course of exploring their environment. We believe that science in the elementary grades should consist primarily of:
1. Learning the names of things (nomenclature): types of cells, parts of a cell, types of plants, parts of a plant, parts of the body, major taxonomic groupings (major classes of living things), types of environments, stars and planets, rocks and minerals, chemical elements, physical properties (like osmosis, mass, evaporation, refraction).
2. Observing and collecting things: rocks, insects, feathers, leaves, flowers, and so on.
3. Identifying common plants, animals, rocks and minerals, constellations, and weather patterns.
4. Fooling around with magnets, circuits, rockets, chemistry sets, engines, and interesting experiments that develop the child’s natural interest in physical science.
5. Developing a general understanding of processes and systems like the food chain, the water cycle, various body systems (digestive, respiratory, circulatory, etc.), ecosystems, and more.
6.Nurturing what naturalist Rachel Carson called “a sense of wonder” about the natural world. (See How to Nurture a Sense of Wonder.)