Physical Science 6-9

Physical Science 6-9

“And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.” [1]

The physical sciences involve the study of all non-living things on Earth.  Students are fascinated by these sciences because, all together, they tell how the world works.  Now, when a student asks “why?” they learn that there is an explanation for the many questions they have about the world around them.  In the 6-9 year-old classroom, these sciences include:  astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, geology, physics, and chemistry.  From the very first lesson, the students learn the meanings of these words and all that is involved in the scope of their study.

The study of astronomy starts with the very beginning of the universe.  The students first explore creation stories from various cultures and then delve into some scientists' perspectives on the universe's origin.  From there they learn about the birth and death of stars, types of galaxies, the beginning of our solar system, and the formation of Earth.  They learn about spatial phenomena such as stellar dwarfs, supernova, black holes, comets, and asteroids--to name just a few.  The next lessons involve in-depth study of the planets and their satellites and then they move on to studying our constellations.  This study always moves right into an historical research of Greek and Roman mythology.

In meteorology, the students learn about the various types of weather and weather phenomena.  The initial lessons involve the study of the layers of the atmosphere, how they were formed, and their composition.  They also learn about patterns of various weather phenomena, where they usually occur and why, their causes and intensity.  The students find out why there are four seasons and why the northern and southern hemispheres have opposite ones.  Additionally, a  little bit of oceanography is incorporated when the students study tides, currents, and how the varying ocean temperatures effect the local flora and fauna.

The study of rocks and minerals, geology, takes the students back to the formation of Earth.  This time they explore, in depth, how the various types of rock were formed and learn the interconnectedness of the main three.  They move on to the study of minerals and learn how to test these minerals for hardness and density, texture and color.  Some students also discover more about the uniqueness of crystal and how it shares some characteristics with living things.

“It follows that the child can only develop fully by means of experience on his environment.  We call such experience ‘work.’”[2]

With physics the students work with the basic laws of the universe.  By studying gravity and learning that every single particle has its own gravity, they learn how and why the moon orbits the Earth, the Earth the sun, and why they do not simply float off into space.  They also learn that the larger the mass the greater its gravity and realize that that is why they have no trouble keeping their feet on the ground.  The students then experience the laws of physics by doing experiments utilizing the laws of gravity and energy.  These experiments involve friction, magnets, electricity, levers, velocity, and momentum.

In chemistry, the students learn about what makes up everything in the world around them.  They start by studying the building blocks--atoms, protons, neutrons, and electrons.  They then go on to use the Bohr Model and create many different elements, which they have learned are made up of atoms.  The study of the Periodic Table is next, learning what the symbols stand for and what the various numbers represent, such as the atomic weight.  After a thorough study of the Periodic Table, the students then research the twenty most abundant elements in the universe and the ones most abundant on Earth.  From there they study the classification of elements and why certain elements tend to combine only with elements of a different type.  Compounds and mixtures are then explored, with experiments available to make the differences clear.

Within the other subject areas, the physical sciences are a natural extension or enhancement.  The languages of the various sciences must be learned first before delving further into the lesson, which provides the students a broader vocabulary.  Math is used when discovering the numbers of neutrons and electrons in an element by using the atomic weight and number.  History is explored at the same time as astronomy when exploring the origin of the universe and when looking for patterns of weather throughout centuries.  The students can take their knowledge of the geography of the land to discover where the rocks and minerals they are researching can be found.

“He absorbs the life going on about him and becomes one with it…”[3]

As a whole, with the physical sciences, the students can experiment with their environment and become comfortable with the terminology and the study of those sciences.  The students are not intimidated and, instead, feel confident in further exploring these sciences.

[1] Montessori, Maria.  The Absorbent Mind.  New York:  Henry Holt & Co., 1995:  p. 8.
[2] Montessori, Maria.  The Absorbent Mind.  New York:  Henry Holt & Co., 1995:  p. 88.
[3] Montessori, Maria.  The Absorbent Mind.  New York:  Henry Holt & Co., 1995:  p. 101.

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