NATURE + SCIENCE
HOW TO TEACH
Your child’s questions should replace the learning objectives usually outlined at the beginning of a textbook lesson. Curiosity and a desire to learn is manifested in the form of questions, so your job as a teacher is to nurture a child’s natural curiosity, encourage inquiry, and utilize their questions to guide your lessons. The most effective way I’ve found to do this is by using the Question Formulation Technique (from the Right Question Institute). If you have not read my Question article, I encourage reading it before continuing on.
I prefer to begin a lesson or unit of study with a question focus to assess what my children already know, what they don’t know, and what they have a desire to know about the topic, but you can do it anytime during the course of your study. For nature study, the best question focus is the real thing. You can use one of the “Captain Ideas” instead of the real thing, but it simply won’t induce the same amount of genuine curiosity as the real thing. Once your child has brainstormed and decided on a few questions to focus on for their study, record them in their nature journal. During the object lesson, you can write down your child’s questions, or, if your child is having a difficult time producing questions, you can ask open-ended questions outlined in the “object lesson” portion of the lesson.
Make sure the questions are visible and/or reviewed at the beginning of each lesson, and that the child is encouraged to add questions to their list as they learn more. One way you can do this is by assigning one question to a nature journal page, and as the child discovers knowledge relevant to their question, they can add it to their page as their entry for the day.
Books + Things
Now that your child has a clear focus of what they want to learn, it’s time to look for answers. Living books and real things are the best lesson material (see Books + Things article). As discussed above, use the real animal, plant, or creature to ignite curiosity and questions. Children are encouraged and taught how to find answers to their questions by observing the natural thing and recording in their nature notebook. When answers are not (or cannot) be answered by direct observation and experimentation, go to books written by people with first-hand knowledge of the subject.
Narration + Discussion
One of the foundational tenets of a Charlotte Mason education is narrating after each reading. There are many benefits to this practice and most children thrive with this tool. However, oral narration may not work for all children. If your child freezes up, or simply dreads narrating, try asking your child to simply record something in their nature journal. Here are some sample statements that work well for nature journaling:
- I wonder…
- I notice…
- This reminds me of…
Constructing terrariums for the biome and special study topics you study that year is a fun way to apply knowledge learned. Object lessons and nature journaling are projects that naturally flow from nature study lessons. Children may choose to use different mediums to record their knowledge of the natural world, such as photography, videography, poetry, drawing, painting, and sculpting.