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Wanting to do science with your students? I love science, I find it very easy to teach, particularly in the younger years, but not everyone has a natural love of science. The question arises: How to teach elementary science. Let’s walk through some of the options you have for teaching science to elementary aged students.
Honestly, I find nature study to be easiest way of teaching science to elementary students. There is so much to explore and learn just be observing the world around you.
Observed the animals around you. These can be the squirrels in your local park or the spiders and bugs inside your house. You can visit the animals at the local zoo or at a wildlife rescue centre. You might want to visit a friend with a rabbit/guinea pig/dog or maybe go to a dog/cat/rabbit show.
Perhaps your co-op will offer an animal class or your local library offer a photo series of animals around the world.
You might want to sit down in your own backyard, block off a section of 1 or two feet and have your children count all the animals they find. Then you could walk down to the local stream or park and look for ducks, water striders, bugs, spiders etc.
You could easily do a bird study by setting up a bird feeder in your backyard. Find animals and take time to watch them, you’ll be amazed at what you learn.
If you can, bring along your phone, or a nature study guide, or a note pad (to write down questions for later) so you can answer questions that your children have.
An example of Nature Study
We have three squirrels in our back yard… grey (new youngster) white and black. Just by watching them we know that grey is a bold as brass and will probably cause trouble in the rabbitry this winter. White is easy going and knows to stay out of our way. She’s been around for the past two years and doesn’t cause any fuss for us. Black will get into mischief in the summer and if I leave a bowl of grain out for him in the winter he’ll get into that but won’t bother with anything else. Bold as brass grey is starting to chase black around but so far hasn’t ousted him from the backyard maple tree. Grey is still confined to the front yard… he is pushing hard though. By watching them we are able to learn so much about them, what they eat (did you know they will eat green tomatoes?), how they defend their territory (or to challenge for more), and all the sounds they make.
Other than getting out in nature, or alongside of getting out in nature are unit studies and lapbooks.
You take your child to the zoo and they get fascinated by tigers, or chimpanzees, or maybe the dwarf goats. You can find a unit study or lapbook on them. My son has long been fascinated by ants and spiders and his youth I commissioned an amazing ant unit study for him. He LOVED it. Learned so much. Now he raises ants and gains additional learning.
Some places you can go for materials.
- Amanda Bennett Unit Studies. Horses, tigers, dolphins, geckos, insects, oceans, volcanoes, seashells, caves and so much more. Go explore, and then come home and learn some more! (pay)
- Homeschool Share has all sorts of unit studies and lapbooks. (free)
- Lapbook Lessons – Animals and science to learn and do. (free)
- SchoolhouseTeachers.com – a variety of lessons, so many options, bug science, world of animals, curious science, disgusting creatures etc. with over 400 lessons there’s sure to be nature studies for you! (paid)
Pay Attention to Landforms, Soils and Plants
When you are out and about pay attention to landforms. Notice the pond, the creek, the hill, the way stones stick out of the ground. As you travel around pay attention to different trees and terrain.
When you are working out in your garden show your children what good soil looks and feels like. Have them experiments with sandy soil, clay and good loam. Does it make a difference if you add fertilizer?
Help them grow a row, or start a bean plant in a container, or maybe grow some cat grass for a loved family pet. Have your children test out if a plant will grow in the dark or what happens if light is far away from it. Learn about phototropism and more.
When you walk through a forest pay attention to the mosses, fungi, ferns and trees. Help your students see the different levels of a forest and then take an excursion on line and learn about the rainforest and its different levels. Expand their learning naturally.
Additional Online Sites
There are numerous places on-line if you need more of a curriculum, or places to learn or see experiments done.
- Mystery Science – has open and go science lessons. Sign up for a free year of science lessons. They have a limited number of spaces open.
- cK-12 – has an elementary division that you might find useful. These are flexbooks that you can use online or download as a PDF.
- In the Lab of Mr. Q you will find downloadable classic science texts. Provide a well-rounded science education.
- The Canadian Wildlife Federation has put together education units to help teachers.
- Nature Canada doesn’t have lessons but they are a wealth of information.
- PBS learning has a number of experiments to watch and maybe do.
- Canadian Geographic has a great kids area, and as an educator you can sign up for the cangeo education newsletter. They put together some great resources!
- Project Gutenberg has put together an elementary geography program.
- Easy Peasy has an all in one science curriculum. An excellent resource for your science needs.
- Guesthollow has a science and literature course.
Don’t forget other sources
Don’t forget to
- go to the library and raid their shelves for all things nature study-ish
- Watch youtube videos
- search websites with good information on whatever your children are interested in.
- Easy science experiment books…. there are lots on the market.
There is so much information available, make use of it.
For instance, I am hopeful to get my lad into a Biodiversity weekend. That might not work for your younger children, but I know in London we have groups that do forest school, another that takes regular walks in the local swamp, my son spent time with friends and family looking for minnows, crayfish and clams in our local streams, and of another group that does scavenger hunts in various local playgrounds. Make use of the world around us, and do science the easy way! Enjoy your explorations.
A book that might help you is the family adventure journal, or these nature cards. You might want to make some crafts from the things you discover making the crafty nature journal just what you need. I’ve pinned loads of ideas over on my nature study pinterest board. Give it a boo, you might be delighted by what you find.