Kindergarten Science Lab
Jen Cardy, Primary and Specials Division Leader, recently had an opportunity to sit down with our Kindergarten Science Lab teachers, Wei Stanten (Left, P6 Teacher) and Sandra Fernandes (Right, P4 Teacher), to hear their thoughts about the learning that’s happening during that weekly workshop. Currently, their focus is on rocks with lessons and experiments centered around rock types and properties. Jen asked them to share some reflections on the intentions behind the workshop as well as their experiences teaching it.
Jen: Some folks wonder why we need a Science workshop for Y3s. Can you talk about how this work extends the Montessori science curriculum?
Sandra: The Science Lab workshop is a lot of discovery-based learning–the kids are learning a little more about physics and chemistry than they would get to do in mixed-age situations. The Montessori work has a lot of botany and zoology (biology), but during science lab, they get to take that further and go beyond classification. During the Science Workshop, the children ask questions, do experiments and tests, and discover new information. And, they get to do actual work with hands-on materials in a safe way.
Wei: Yes–the kids live in a natural world, surrounded by nature, and they have a natural curiosity for it. If you talk about things that are close to them, that they can see and touch, they are more interested. The whole point of the workshop is to nurture and enhance the curiosity that is already in them. So it’s very experiential, not theory-heavy, at this age.
Jen: Are there benefits for you as a teacher?
Sandra: Definitely! I think that as a teacher, I’m constantly growing and finding new ways to bring new information to the kids. We continue the whole idea of not knowing but discovering and learning from mistakes, which points us to new things. Science is always growing, and while we’re teaching the workshops, If we see new things in the news, we have space to talk about it in the workshop.
Wei: I am actually passionate about science and curious about a lot of things myself. There are a lot of things I didn’t learn in school at this young age, and as a teacher, I learned a lot by researching and teaching. With the kids, we have to break things down into simpler forms–I like it!
Jen: Do you have a favorite lesson, either something that has already happened or that you’re looking forward to?
Wei: I always like the density work we do–it’s such a cool visual. I also like when we talk about electricity because the kids are always amazed that the human body is a conductor. We have a very concrete way to illustrate the way a circuit works by making a closed circuit by holding hands. Then there’s the rocks. Rocks tell you a story! And when we test them, we’re thinking about the beginning of the Earth. We see rocks all the time, but without understanding what we’re seeing until we look deeper.
Sandra: I agree there are so many great lessons, it’s hard to choose. But, the kids do love learning about rocks. I particularly enjoy doing the rock cycle experiment where we take crayon shavings and apply pressure and heat for the children to actually see how the shavings are transformed into different types of rocks. That’s coming next this year! Yesterday we had 11 students working with rock testing kits and they were so excited about the discoveries their partners were making and asking each other questions. I love how focused and excited they get, and I love watching the wonder in the kids’ eyes.
Jen: What do the kids think about the extra science time?
Wei: They love it. We literally did an hour this week and still could’ve done more. I think they like that there’s a lot of movement and it’s hands-on. We try to balance the sitting, the hands-on, and then some writing.
Sandra: Yes, they absolutely love it. I think they also love it because science is everywhere in the world around them. They take home what they learn in the workshop and take it a little further, for example, creating their own rock collections and matching rocks that they find to what we discuss.
One year, we did an experiment with apple and lemon juice and the kids started bringing apples for lunch with lemon juice on them so they wouldn’t brown. They’re applying the information in their own ways. This year they love their journals and are carefully recording information in words and pictures–this is pretty unique.
Wei: There are a lot of big concepts that we can break down in Science Lab. The topics are deep, but we see they can get it! And they feel great about it when they do.