General Principles for Science & Nature Study
I've read a large number of PNEU articles, I've read sections from Charlotte Mason's own writings, I've taken an online lecture/class on approaching science classically and I've read some articles about teaching science classically to better understand the most important ideas and components for building a science and nature study curriculum. From all of these resources, I've placed a lens on them to look at them closely to find what aspects would best fit a Charlotte Mason/Classical approach. And from this careful study, I've created a list of principles that I believe brings together the best of all that I've read and learned into a set. It is this set of principles upon which I will base my science and nature curriculum.
Overview of General Principles for a Science and Nature Study Curriculum
Observation is of one of the greatest and most foundational components of a good approach to the study of science and nature study. It should begin in the very earliest of years and will continue throughout. This can be practiced and supported through the following: nature walks, field trips and other activities involving the natural world, sitting quietly while in nature, conducting experiments and watching demonstrations.
Documentation, also foundational, extends the observation component into a thoughtful and reflected account of those observations. These records can be made through nature notebooks, science notebooks, nature and seasonal lists, special study notebooks and later formal lab notebooks.
Verification, necessary for the search for truths, will be needed as the student and the curriculum build upon the scientific method. The student will learn to make comparisons, study timelines of observations, compile notes and observations into charts, copy or create diagrams, give accounts and descriptions of singular and compiled observations, give accounts as natural science laws are demonstrated or introduced and to which the student then connects, trace developments, discern patterns, examine results and group or classify.
Experimentation will begin as the students move into the upper years. This level of science will be based upon the idea that the student has already spent a great deal of time practicing the above three components and are now ready to expand on their knowledge and skills by analyzing and questioning their studies. They will need to separate what is relevant from what is irrelevant, separate what is reliable from what is unreliable, question, infer, make predications, note cause and effect, generalize and incorporate new knowledge into understood known knowledge and natural laws. This will be supported with a formal lab notebook, a special studies experiment notebook and a special studies presentation (or you might substitute an entry into a science fair). This special study notebook and presentation will allow the student to express, persuade or defend their hypothesis and follow it to its conclusion.
Additionally, books and other resources will be of good literary value and interesting to offer the student more opportunities to make connections with natural science laws, make connections with the skills needed to study science and make connections with real scientists at work. Science journals will be read, annotated and used to generate a journal response paper in the upper years.
Some study will occur with the use of oral lesson, usually including demonstrations, to introduce or continue to build on the study of natural science laws. These laws will continue to be built upon in each successive year. The students will apply them as needed.