Science in the Elementary Grades

The purpose in teaching science, as in every other subject, is to give the child, through observation, a true knowledge and better understanding of God’s wonderful creation.

An authorized definition of science is a systematized knowledge based on accurate observation, regarding universal laws, theories, general principles or known facts,

After reading this definition, you will probably wonder how the young first grader can derive any good from a science course based on theories, universal laws and general principles. Elementary science 1-3 is really a course that contains few scientific principles but includes many experiences based upon observations. Thus, science in the elementary grades is better classified as Nature Study.

As the school doors open, nature study begins. Eager youngsters come with handfuls of squirming caterpillars, pretty leaves, bird nests, rocks, crayfish and even frogs and tadpoles. In fall there are enough flies around which serve as good specimens for observation and discussion.

The teaching of nature study will early endow the child with the ability to perceive color, form and music. Fall is the time in which trees change color and take on a new form as the leaves drop. The songful birds leave to find homes in warmer regions. Winter has many possibilities for nature study. Footprints in the snow can be the beginning of a unit on animals, their homes, the food they eat and how these animals affect our lives.

Spring ushers in another phase of nature study. The return of warm weather brings about floods, overflowing rivers and creeks. Our songful friends return, and now is the time to find out who they are, where they live and what they eat. It is an opportune time for a unit on birds and bird life.

It is not only the earthly creation that the child begins to observe. He notices the wonders of the heavens: the sun, moon and stars. God made the sun not only to shine by day, but the sun is needed for food growth. The moon and stars were created to give us light by night. The study of these great lights usually brings up the question of day and night and the rotation of the earth, and also the discussion of the four seasons.

A classroom filled with plants and some animals provides an interesting atmosphere for children. Much of tile naughtiness in the classroom is a result of lack of interest, and having to remain quiet for too long a period. A child that is finished with his work and has nothing to do, can often spend a lot of time quietly watching the goldfish, the tadpole or even a friendly pet someone has brought to school. The child will be interested in learning because he can observe.

Nature Study or Elementary Science is more than an aid to classroom discipline, it teaches the child to love nature. This love is not developed through drill or daily routine lessons. A nature study lesson is most valuable and interesting if taught as a result of some recent classroom experience.

Children enjoy a nature study lesson about some animal or plant they have found

and brought to school. This does not mean that the teacher never plans a nature study or science lesson. There is definitely an organized study in elementary science, for the teacher leads the children to observe the various things in nature that she wants the children to learn about and understands. In elementary science the children work on their own unit by bringing specimens or examples to class for observation and discussion.

After the children have learned about birds, animals, and food, they climax the

study of science or nature study by taking a trip to the museum, a hike through the woods on a warm spring day, or even spend a day at the zoo to watch God’s creatures in their natural habitat.

Children stand with awe and amazement as they observe God’s creation. The new knowledge of nature serves as a better understanding of the world in which they live and have a place. The young child learns how all things serve God and His Kingdom.

Originally published in:

Vol. 18 No. 2 March 1958