“We often forget that imagination is a force for the discovery of truth. The mind is not a passive thing, but a devouring flame, never in repose, always in action.”
The study of living things, biology, is generally a fascination for students. It encourages curiosity in the world around them, which, in turn, promotes care and concern for that world. Students come in with a basic knowledge that there are animals and plants everywhere and they feel somewhat certain that they could recognize which is which if necessary. By the time they leave the 6-9 classroom, they are aware that there are four more classifications than just the two they knew and they can identify many life forms from each of the six kingdoms. Additionally, they are aware that some of the things they once thought of as rocks (coral) are animals; that things they may have thought of as plants (mushrooms) have their own kingdom; and, that one entire kingdom is made up of living things whose only commonality is that they all exist in water. This broadening awareness in their world helps shape the students’ perspective not only of themselves, but also of their place in the world.
“Anyone who has beheld not only the qualities of things classified in an orderly way, but also the gradations of each, is able to read everything that their environment and the world of nature contains.”
From the very first day of school, the students start classifying the life forms in their environment. Initially, there are animal riddles which are made in a three-part series—the picture of the animal, the label, and the riddle describing the animal. For those who cannot yet read, there are controls placed on the back of each card or these students can go to an older student who will help them find the labels for those animals that they can identify. From there, the students can write their own animal riddles, which helps them learn how to describe and characterize various animals. Then the six kingdoms are introduced, with examples of each, helping to provide a greater awareness of things they already know and things they have yet to learn. Animal classification is next; once again with pictures, labels and information cards that can be matched to a control of the animal classification chart. This chart is broken down into eight classifications ranging from Kingdom to Infra-Class. The students work with this chart often, placing pictures, labels, and information cards until they are able to accurately do so without the control chart. At that time, they are ready to delve into researching specific animals.
The research of animals begins with learning about the external characteristics of vertebrates. What these animals have in common and things that differ between them. The students then choose one animal from among the vertebrates and learn about how that particular animal satisfies its need to survive: where it lives, how it moves, how it eats, etc. They take this information and fill out a directed research sheet for their chosen animal. Once they have mastered this level, they are ready to take the information from the research sheets, write the information in complete sentences, and do a research report which can then be presented to the class. This process can be repeated for all chordates and non-chordates, as well as the living members of the Fungi and Plant kingdoms. Each one has a classification and identification process, which is mastered before moving on to the more abstract levels of research and report writing. The students can take this as far as they want to—including presentations with props and examples of the organism
In addition to having its own curriculum, biology is an integral part of other subject areas in the Montessori classroom. One of the first things the students learn upon coming to school is that each of them has a job to do everyday of the week. Two of those jobs are botanist—caring for the class plants—and zoologist—caring for the class animals. These jobs entail more than simply feeding and watering. The students must learn how much water and sunlight is needed for each plant and how much and how little food to give the animals to avoid overfeeding. In addition to the work done in the Practical Life area, biology and language are also very closely linked. Without a thorough understanding of grammar and sentence structure, the students would be unable to write the clear and concise reports necessary to sum up their research. Also, biology introduces the students to a whole new vocabulary, which broadens their awareness of the origin of words and helps them to determine the meaning of words they may not immediately recognize. With the students understanding of the hierarchy of numbers, the students are able to comprehend the vast differences in size between the miniscule bacteria and the enormous blue whale. While researching all about the various animals and plants, the students also learn where they could expect to find these life forms and in which biome they are likely to thrive. They then can locate these places on a map and discover more about the countries or continents they studied in geography. In art, the students consistently draw both animals and plants, becoming more and more precise as they learn more about art. They also learn about the various parts and anatomy of plants and animals as they become familiar with their basic shape. While learning about the life cycle of animals, there are activities in P.E. that drive the lessons home by having the students become various members of a food chain. Finally, the students may go on field trips to science museums and zoos where they are able to speak with biologists, naturalists, and other scientists as well as see the animals they have studied first hand.
“...it is true that we cannot make a genius. We can only give to each individual the chance to fulfill his potential possibilities.”
Biology is a vital part of the 6-9 Montessori curriculum. It provides an opportunity for the students to satisfy their curiosity while inspiring them to discover even more.
 Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. New York. Henry Holt & Co., 1995: p. 177.
 Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. New York. Henry Holt & Co., 1995: p. 183.
 Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. New York. Henry Holt & Co., 1995: p. 94.